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Hello, friends! Have you thought of including a train trip in your European adventure? It sounds romantic to sit and move through the Swiss Alps, under the English Channel or zoom from Paris to Brussels. You can enjoy the scenery, the countryside, and relax with a coffee and a good book. Train travel harkens old world charm and is now accompanied with modern practicality.
Advantages and Disadvantages
Here are a few advantages of train travel:
- No security lines
- No need to arrive more than a few minutes early
- Bring as much luggage as you want,
- Bring unlimited food and alcohol with you bring on board
- The seats are also larger and generally more comfortable than airline seatss
- You can get up and walk between cars
- On overnight trains there are sleeping car options for a small additional fee.
- And finally, When you travel by train you get a wonderful sense of the countryside and culture of each country you pass.
I’ve been thinking of train travel a lot as a friend asked me to help plan her train trip from Florence to Salzburg to Stuttgart to Dusseldorf. It will really give the flavor of a large swath of Western Europe! I thought I’d share my research and suggestions with all of you as it is a good introductory trip to the options available.
The main disadvantage of train travel in Europe is the cost. With so many low cost airlines, like Norwegian, Eurowings, and Ryanair, it is often less expensive and faster to take a budget flight than take the train. But then you miss out on that long exposure to the countryside, the culture, the comfort, and also the spontaneity of train travel.
Options for type of train tickets
The first step is to get a general idea of where you want to go and then you can determine whether it is worth purchasing a Eurorail pass either for one country, several countries, or for all of Europe. The determining factor in whether the Eurorail pass will be the best choice is how frequently you plan to go on the train and how far you plan to go in one day.
The Eurorail global pass has regular sales on the Eurorail site, especially around the New Year. You can grab a 5-day pass valid for any 5 days within a month for €270 right now. That works out to be €54 per trip, which can be a great price, especially for travel during the summer months. The pass will give you spontaneity of travel and be a good choice if you don’t want to worry about planning your trip ahead of time.
But it is worth checking the prices because especially during should or low season, individual tickets are usually less than general passes.
For example, if you only want to go two hours within Germany one day, it will not be worth it to use a day of the Eurorail pass for that. For the sake of example I will price the Florence to Salzburg, Salzburg to Stuttgart, Stuttgart to Dusseldorf trip.
Doing the math
This trip has three separate legs of the trip, or three days of train travel. Each day of train travel will take between 4 and 6 hours. To determine the cost per journey on the pass, just divide the total cost of the pass by the total number of trips.
For example, with the current promotional sale at Eurorail, a three country 5-day within 2 months pass will costs €464 for one adult and one youth (age 12-27). Youth under 27 are usually 50-75% of adult fares.
The €464 pass works out to €92.80 euro per five rides. But since they are only planning to use three, it comes out to €154.67 per leg of the journey.
Now to compare this to booking individual journeys:
- Florence to Salzburg: €132 for one adult and one youth, with an 8-hour train journey
- Salzburg to Stuttgart: €60 for one adult and one youth, with a 4-hour train journey
- Stuttgart to Dusseldorf: €160 for one adult and one youth for a 3-hour tip, or €40 for a 4 hour trip.
- Total for individual tickets on the fastest route: € 352 or € 232 for the cheapest option.
Clearly in this case, the best option is to book the individual tickets.
The best way to book
A good place to start in finding the best routes and pricing your journey is the German train website, https://www.bahn.de/p/view/index.shtml. There is an option to select your language. Most European languages are listed there, including English.
Thetrainline.com is another option with clear prices, timetables, and options available. However, I like to use goeuro.com to find the most affordable options, and usually book through goeuro.com. The prices are the same or even sometimes less than the official Eurorail website, and I find the website interface to be more clear and easy to use. They also provide options of trains and flights, in case you change your mind about train travel.
Schedule your trip
Once you’ve researched the options, you can usually book online and download a simple app to show the train ticket to the conductor on your phone. Just be sure to arrive at the station at least 15 minutes before your scheduled.
Usually the conductor will come and check your ticket during the beginning of each trip. Then you are free to enjoy the beautiful scenery and relax – you made it!
Depending on the country you plan to visit, there are very economical single country passes that will save you even more. Examples of this are Portugal, Croatia, and Eastern European countries.
While train travel in Europe is certainly scenic and conjures nostalgia for past times, it can also be a practical and economic way to comfortably move from place to place. With this guide in hand you will be armed with the information to plan your dream train trip through Europe.
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