Europe train planner: Ultimate guide to traveling with rail passes in Europe

From Italian cuisines, and Parisian fashion to Swiss landscapes and Spanish architectural marvels, Europe offers varied experiences fit for history buffs, foodies, romantic couples, families with kids, and adrenaline seekers. Needless to say, the entire continent has an intricate system of rail networks, making country-hopping immensely easy. Anyone with the intent of exploring Europe, be it a single nation or multiple countries at one go, should consider Europe train passes. Read on to learn more about this useful travel pass to optimize your next European trip.

What are Europe train passes?

A Europe train pass is a travel card that enables multiple train journeys in the whole of Europe or a selected European country for a specific period. More often than not, these passes come with additional perks like access to public transportation, access to museums, discounted travel, etc.

Europe train passes vs point-to-point tickets

Europe Train Pass

Europe train pass

  • Unlimited train journeys within a time period
  • Flexible
  • Great inclusions like access to museums
  • Seat reservations are to be purchased separately
  • Discounted prices for certain age groups
Point-to-point Europe train tickets

Point-to-point tickets

  • Single journey
  • Limited to a particular time, date & train
  • Only the train journey is included
  • Seat reservations often included
  • Prices might be constant for everyone

Why buy Europe train passes?

Europe train passes
  • One-time purchase: Unlike individual tickets, a train pass is an easy one-time purchase that is incredibly convenient. 
  • Easy train-hopping: You can quickly get on a train of your choice without stress and connect from city to city with greater ease.
  • No ticket queues: Forget the hassle of waiting in ticket queues at the station and wasting time. 
  • Cost-effective: If you are going to use the rail network extensively, a train pass will be cost-effective as compared to individual train tickets.
  • Flexibility: Train passes offer greater flexibility with various customization options to tailor the pass to your needs and also let you hop on trains for spontaneous plans.
  • Bonuses: Europe train passes often have additional perks like access to museums or discounted travel.

Is a train pass the right fit for you? 

There are a few factors you should consider to ensure that a train pass is a cost-effective alternative to getting point-to-points. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Duration: How many times will you be traveling in trains? 

The more train journeys you make, the more a train pass will be of value. If you are using trains just once or twice, a train pass doesn’t make sense.

  • Destination: Where are you headed to? 

Individual tickets in Western and Central Europe are often pricy, making a pass more economical. Eastern Europe and the Balkans offer more affordable train tickets. Additionally, if you planning to travel between countries, or extensively within a single European nation, a pass might be a good option.

  • Budget: What is your transport budget? 

Make a rough estimate of the prices of point-to-point train tickets and compare it with the pass price. If the pass price is equal to or lesser than individual tickets, get the pass. However, do keep in mind that it is not just pricing that matters here, as the pass offers great flexibility to your travel plans as opposed to the rigidity of individual tickets.

What are the different types of train passes in Europe?

Eurail Pass
Interrail Pass
Swiss Travel Pass

Which pass should I choose? 

The place where you reside and the destination you are headed to are the deciding factors when it comes to pass selection. 

  • If you are a non-resident of Europe hoping to explore Europe, choose a Eurail Pass
  • If you are a resident of Europe taking the trip to visit your neighboring nations, choose an Interrail Pass
  • If you are headed to soak in everything that Switzerland has to offer, choose a Swiss Travel Pass. 

Eurail Pass

A Eurail Pass is a train travel pass meant for the use of non-Europeans. The pass is your key to access any train in Europe, and easily skip around the continent. Available in various options, you will have to choose between a Global Pass or a One-Country Pass, then a Flexi Pass or a Continuous Pass. The choice amongst these options ultimately ends up creating a pass best suited for your itinerary.

Types of Eurail Pass

Global Pass & One-Country Pass

Global Pass & One-Country Pass

As we already mentioned, to tailor the Eurail Pass to your needs, you first need to choose between a Eurail Global or Eurail One-Country Pass.

Eurail Global Pass

A Global Pass enables you to travel seamlessly between European nations via trains with a single pass. They are valid in 33 European countries.

Book Eurail Global Passes

Eurail One-Country Pass

A plan to explore a single European country extensively fits the criteria of a Eurail One-Country Pass. Access every train in your selected country with this pass.

Book Eurail One-Country Passes

Flexi Pass & Continuous Pass

Flexi Pass & Continuous Pass

Upon choosing a Global or One-Country Pass, you will have to decide if you require a Eurail Flexi Pass or Eurail Continuous Pass.

Flexi Pass

Eurail Global/One-Country Flexi Pass lends flexibility to your plans as you choose your travel days within a certain timeframe. The travel days needn’t be consecutive, making it ideal for paced-out journeys.  

Continuous Pass

A Eurail Global/One-Country Continuous Pass is ideal for travelers who are constantly moving. The pass is active continuously from the date of your choosing and remains so every day till the end of its validity. 

Customize your Eurail Pass 

  1. Choose Eurail Global or Eurail One-Country Pass as per your travel destination
  2. Choose Flexi or Continuous Pass depending on your itinerary
  3. Choose the validity period as per the trip duration or number of days of train travel
  4. Choose age-appropriate passes as per the age of your travel companions
  5. Reserve train seats if required
  6. Activate your pass before boarding the train

More about Eurail Passes

Eurail countries
Eurail routes & map
Seat reservations
Eurail Pass Countries

Europe Train Seat reservations

Interrail Pass

The Interrail Pass is a specialized train travel pass crafted for European residents, acting as the gateway to seamless train access across Europe, facilitating easy navigation of the continent. Offering a range of options, travelers must first decide between a Global Pass or a One-Country Pass, followed by the choice between a Flexi Pass or a Continuous Pass, resulting in an Interrail Pass finely tailored to their unique itinerary.

Types of Interrail Passes

Interrail Passes

Global Pass & One-Country Pass

To tailor the Interrail Pass to individual needs, the initial decision involves choosing between an Interrail Global or Interrail One-Country Pass.

Global Pass

The Interrail Global Pass lets you easily cross European borders via trains with a single pass, valid in 33 European countries.

Book Interrail Global Passes

One-Country Pass

Designed for those exploring a single European country extensively, the Interrail One-Country Pass provides access to all trains within the chosen country.

Book Interrail One-Country Passes

Interrail Passes

Flexi Pass & Continuous Pass

After selecting a Global or One-Country Pass, the subsequent decision centers on choosing between an Interrail Flexi Pass or an Interrail Continuous Pass.

Flexi Pass

The Interrail Flexi Pass is ideal for a more relaxed and intermittent journey. It offers flexibility by allowing travelers to select travel days within a specific timeframe.

Continuous Pass

Suited for continuous transit, the Interrail Continuous Pass remains constantly active from the chosen start date until the end of its validity.

Customize your Interrail Pass

  1. Choose between Interrail Global or Interrail One-Country Pass based on your travel destination.
  2. Decide on a Flexi or Continuous Pass depending on your itinerary.
  3. Select the validity period based on the trip duration or the number of days of train travel.
  4. Opt for age-appropriate passes according to your travel companions.
  5. Reserve train seats if necessary.
  6. Activate your pass before boarding the train.

More about Interrail Passes

Interrail countries
Interrail routes & map
Seat reservations
Interrail countries

Europe train pass Seat reservations

Swiss Travel Pass

Swiss Travel Pass is your all-in-one ticket to move around seamlessly in Switzerland. The Pass has extensive coverage of trains (even premium scenic trains), buses, boats, and cable cars that ply around the nation. Choosing these networks for connectivity is a cost-effective means to move around and the pass makes it even more convenient. The inclusions that come with the pass make it even more valuable. 

Swiss Travel Pass inclusions

Cable Car - Swiss Travel Pass inclusions

Types of Swiss Travel Passes

Swiss Continuous Travel Pass
Swiss Flexible Travel Pass
Swiss Half Fare Card

Using Swiss Travel Passes 

  1. Choose Flexible or Continuous Swiss Travel Pass as per your trip itinerary.
  2. Upon payment, you will receive email confirmation.
  3. The Swiss Half Fare Card & Swiss Continuous Travel Pass PDFs, attached to the email, will be activated automatically from the start date chosen while booking.
  4. Swiss Flexi Travel Pass requires activation at using the booking voucher receipt.
  5. Reserve your seat before your journey begins. For some trains, it's mandatory.
  6. For the Swiss Flexi Travel Pass, produce the activated travel day ticket digitally or physically upon inspection. Print out the Swiss Half Fare Card & Swiss Continuous Travel Pass PDFs.

More about Swiss Travel Passes

Swiss Travel Pass routes & map
Seat reservations
Swiss Travel Pass Map
Swiss Pass Seat reservations

Europe is famous for the exceptional landscape that meets your eyes as you travel along the tracks. In fact, there are designated trains to make this viewing even more pleasant. Taking these trains and routes is a travel experience in itself. Find some popular routes below.

Bernina Express - Train in Europe
Glacier Express  - Train in Europe
Cinque Terre Train in Europe

Cinque Terre

  • Route: La Spezia - Levanto
  • Country: Italy
Luzern-Interlaken Express

Luzern-Interlaken Express

  • Route: Luzern - Interlaken
  • Country: Switzerland
Bergen Railway in Norway - Europe Train

Bergen Railway

  • Route: Oslo - Bergen
  • Country: Norway
Salzkammergut Railway in Austria

Salzkammergut Railway

  • Route: Stainach-Irdning - Attnang-Puchheim
  • Country: Austria
Gotthard Panorama Express in Switzerland

Gotthard Panorama Express

  • Route: Lugano/Bellinzona - Lucerne
  • Country: Switzerland
Black Forest Line-Railway Trains in Germany

Black Forest Railway

  • Route: Konstanz - Offenburg
  • Country: Germany
Belgrade-Bar Railway - Europe Train

Belgrade-Bar Railway

  • Route: Belgrade - Bar
  • Countries: Serbia & Montenegro
West Highland Line in Scotland

West Highland Line

  • Route: Fort William - Mallaig
  • Country: Scotland & Great Britain
Little Yellow Train

Little Yellow Train

  • Route: Latour-de-Carol - Villefranche-Vernet-les-bains
  • Country: France
Duoro Railway line - Porto to Pochino Train

Douro Line

  • Route: Porto - Pocinho
  • Country: Portugal
Rhodope Narrow Gauge - Train in Bulgaria

Rhodope Narrow Gauge

  • Route: Septemvri - Dobrinishte
  • Country: Bulgaria

Check out more scenic routes covered by Europe train passes

Frequently asked questions

Does Europe have train passes for tourists?

Yes, Europe has extensive rail connectivity and these can be easily accessed by tourists with rail passes. You can opt for Eurail, Interrail, or Swiss Travel Passes.

What is the cost of train passes in Europe?

The cost of train passes will depend on the type of pass. However, prices start from €129.48.

How do I decide if I should get Interrail or Eurail Pass?

Your official residency decides if you need a Eurail or Interrail Pass. If you live in Europe, get an Interrail Pass; if not purchase a Eurail Pass. Read more about their differences on Eurail Vs. Interrail.

Can I access the 1st class with rail passes?

You have the option to choose between 1st class or 2nd class rail passes. A 1st class train pass will give you access to 1st class coaches.

What is a travel day with reference to train passes?

Any day that you have set aside for traveling by train is a travel day. The rail pass you have should be activated for a travel day.

Should I reserve a seat even with rail passes?

Train passes will give you access to most European trains without seat reservations. However, certain trains permit travel with a pass only if seats are reserved. Unless compulsory, you can choose to reserve seats.

How many countries can you visit in Europe by train?

Most European countries have an excellent train system in place. You can visit 33 European countries with a Eurail Global Pass or an Interrail Global Pass. Find your desired country train pass here.

Are there discounts for rail passes for certain age categories?

Yes, train passes offer reduced pricing for children, youth, and senior citizens.

What is not covered in Europe train passes?

Seat reservation costs are not covered by Europe train passes. They need to be purchased separately, if required.

Are train passes the best way to travel in Europe?

Trains offer extensive coverage across Europe with fairly frequent trains. Flights can be more expensive. You are also being more eco-conscious by opting for trains. Additionally, train routes across Europe are incredibly beautiful, making train travel a trip in itself.