RailEurope vs EURail: The Euro Rail Pass Showdown – Which Is Best?

 
RailEurope vs EURail

The Big Question: Which Is Cheaper and Better?

Buying a European rail pass is an excellent way to explore Europe – it may not be the cheapest option but it certainly is the handiest and the most comfortable way to do it.

For most people, the prices are not actually that outrageous and there is good value for money to be had if you are planning a 2 or 3 month trip and want to move around a lot and travel some decent distances.

There are two main websites when it comes to booking these passes, RailEurope.com and EURail.com.

So which one is cheaper and better? How much do these passes ACTUALLY cost? I thought I would do some of the heavy lifting research for you, that way you’re educated and ready to go for that next Eurotrip without having to fiddle around comparing all your rail pass options.


 

RailEurope vs EURail: Useful Info & Comparison Tables

Let’s cover off some basic questions first…

What countries are covered and can be used to travel around with a European rail pass?

I investigated passes offered by both sites, and both are for the same 23 countries as tabbed below:

RailEurope & EURail Countries

Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland.

Are you a European citizen? Uh oh!

RailEurope states: “Residents of Europe, the Russian Federation or Turkey are not eligible to purchase or use this rail pass.”

EURail states: “Only non-European residents can use a Eurail pass.” (Note from me: I checked their T&C’s and this ALSO applies to Russia & Turkey – sorry guys!).

Winner: Draw

For European Residents there are InterRail passes available – we won’t be looking into those today in this post. RailEurope and EURail are both designed for NON-EU citizens.
 

Let’s Review The Ultimate In European Rail: The Global Pass

We will do this all in USD to keep things easy.

What is a global rail pass? – It allows you to travel as much as you want for the duration of the pass. The same passes are offered by both websites, so who has the better deal? Let’s begin the price showdown.

Please note these prices are correct as of October, 2012.
 

Global Rail Pass Comparison

Global rail passes come in two forms, one for “Youth” and one for the “Adult”. I’ve compiled them both into separate tables below for a comprehensive table comparison.

Youth passes are available for those under the age of 26.

Youth Pass RailEurope EURail
1 Month $742 $744
2 Month $1046 $1049
3 Month $1290 $1294

Those aged 26 and over need to book an adult pass.

Adult Pass RailEurope EURail
1 Month $1139 $1143
2 Month $1607 $1612
3 Month $1982 $1988

Winner: RailEurope
 

Select Rail Pass Comparison

Let’s take a look at some of the Select Pass options from both websites and see who offers the better deal. All of these passes need to be used within a 2 month period (pretty standard for the Select passes) and have a set amount of travel days. You can also only use them between bordering countries (eg Germany/Austria/Italy or Italy/France/Spain).

3 Countries 5 Days of Travel

Youth

— RailEurope: $297

— EURail: $298

Adult

— RailEurope: $454

— EURail: $455

4 Countries 8 Days of Travel

Youth

— RailEurope: $421

— EURail: $423

Adult

— RailEurope: $645

— EURail: $648

5 Countries 15 Days of Travel

Youth

— RailEurope: $650

— EURail: $653

Adult

— RailEurope: $998

— EURail: $1,003

What is a travel day? A travel day lasts 24 hours, in which you can take as many trains as you wish (from midnight to midnight).

Winner: RailEurope
 

EuroRail Global or Select Passes: Which is Best?

Let’s do this as a Q&A conversation, shall we?

Do you want total freedom?

If the answer to this question is yes, then there is only one pass for you: the global pass.

This allows you to travel as much as you like, for as many days as you like for the period of the pass. If you plan to do a lot of travelling this can be a huge savings in transport costs. However, if you only catch the train 5 or 6 times, then this is not going to give you enough value for money.

Global passes are relatively expensive (see tables above), but the advantage is… total freedom to explore Europe with the extensive and awesome train system!

Are you on a bit of a tight budget?

If you have a solid idea of where you’re going and how many days you want to catch the train, the select pass can be the perfect solution for both convenience and budget.

Remember it only applies to bordering countries and you have a set amount of travel days. Still, with one travel day lasting literally the whole day – you can get the train anywhere, Europe is not is THAT big! 😀

The choice is yours…

The world whizzing by via a train window.

It all depends on how you like to travel and how many countries you plan on visiting. It’s possible to do a mix of a select pass, buses & planes as well but this means a bit more research and on-the-fly travel (booking bus tickets at locations, that sort of thing). A global pass means your transport is completely taken care of for the whole trip.

Winner: No-one, I just added this information in to help you choose a rail pass 😉

Further reading: 5 Reasons To Travel By Train In Europe
 

Website Ease of Use

When it comes to the websites, I much prefer the structure and layout of the EURail site. It’s way more user friendly when you’re researching prices and has a cleaner, more modern look and appeal.

However I do prefer the “Help” section on the RailEurope site, it’s quite comprehensive and explains things clearly.

Winner: EURail takes the prize for the better website. The way they display the pricing for tickets is superb and makes for easy comparisons between your options.
 

Discounts & Shipping

Both websites offer 15% discount for booking 2 or more passes at the same time. So if you’re going with a friend or two, make sure you book your passes together!

Shipping actually raises a few interesting points as both sites do it a little differently.

RailEurope offers free shipping based on the cost of the pass that you’re going to buy;

  • Over $499 – free shipping
  • Under $499 – $18 USD shipping

EURail always offers free economy shipping (but via registered mail, just will take a bit longer to arrive) or a standard track and trace shipping for $9 USD.

Coupons

Depending on what time of year it is and what’s on offer, both sites will often have coupon codes available. Whether it’s free shipping for RailEurope or literally cash or a percentage off the total – it’s worth looking! The coupons are not evergreen so I won’t list any here and there are not always some available, but a quick Google search will give you a few to try and see if you can shave some dollars off.
 

Conclusion: Do We Have A Winner?

Interestingly enough, the overall winner actually depends on which type of pass you’re going to purchase.

In terms of pricing, RailEurope always beats EURail even if it’s only for a few dollars. The best budget choice is actually determined by their difference in shipping structure.

Winners?

Please note that the below link for RailEurope is my affiliate link. If you decide to use it I get a small commission of any sale at no cost to yourself. As always, for anyone who uses the link I really appreciate your support!

For those buying a global pass worth over $499, it’s cheaper to go with RailEurope.

For those purchasing a select pass under the value of $499, it’s better to go with EURail.

So there we have it, this post took me way longer then I thought it would – hope you found it useful! Overland travel for the win!

If you’re planning an upcoming backpacking adventure, you might like to check out my super guide on the matter.

24 Responses to “RailEurope vs EURail: The Euro Rail Pass Showdown – Which Is Best?”

  1. Hogga says:

    FIGHT! Yeah… it seems like they’re pretty close to being the same in most respects… but I would’ve wasted a lot of time if you hadn’t done this. And I don’t like doing that… intentionally lol. Thank you!

  2. Last time I bought a pass I only bought it for two countries and regretted that I didn’t buy the Global Pass. I think the real winner is anyone who decides to explore Europe.

  3. Interesting comparison… I’m glad you did the heavy lifting and simplified things!

  4. sankar says:

    Planning to visit europe with my wife and daughter, covering italy, swiss, paris and amsterdam. we are pure veg. Can we try hostels listed out in your links or should we opt for package tours (which are bit expensive).

  5. Shay says:

    Thanks so much for doing the hard work! This and your budget post have been very helpful in helping me get ideas for my Europe trip!!

  6. Kristen says:

    is for continuous travel over 2 months and is it second class?. Cause the passes that cover 10 days over 2 months is about $600 and 15 days is about $800. Second class of course 🙂

    • Tom says:

      Hey Kristen, not sure I completely understand the question but global pass is continuous travel within the period of the pass (1 month or 2/3), and select pass gives you “24 hour travel days” to use within a period. So 5 days within one month, for example. Does that help?

  7. This article is fantastic! I am trying to research for a railpass in Europe for my upcoming trip to France and this gave me a good insight about rail tickets. I wonder when they’re going electronic so no need to worry about losing the ticket. 🙂

    • Tom says:

      Nice! I’m super stoked to hear that this article helped out with the rail ticket research. Hehe, electronic only rail passes would be neat! Thanks for the comment.

  8. rinakins says:

    hi Tom, this is neat, i’ve been searching high and low for train tickets for our european trip this Jun/Jul (which can be very confusing), so you comments just confirms my findings. Do you give advice if I send you my itinerary? (so that I know I’m doing the right thing ;o))
    thanks again Tom.

    • Tom says:

      Hi Rina! Sure I can let you know what I think of your itinerary, I do encourage coming up with one yourself though as choosing where to go is such a personal thing as it depends a lot on personal taste and what people want out of a trip. Let me just assure you there is no wrong way to travel Europe…do whatever you want – it’s your trip 😀

  9. Vagabond says:

    I have duel citizenship for England and the U.S. Does this mean I can’t get a eurail pass?

  10. Georgia says:

    Very confused as I thought I was looking at eurail and discovered it was raileurope, AND thus there are two companies/passes. It seems on raileurope you can buy point to point tickets, but cannot book one trip on eurail. My question is do they offer the same trains and trips /times between destinations?? Confused but my understanding is eurail AND raileurope passes use various (not all) train lines operating in each country. Therefore do they offer the same trips or is one better? Or better to just go directly to the company in the country you’re departing from and buy the ticket?? Any help appreciated

    • Tom says:

      Hi Georgia. You CAN book point to point with RailEurope etc, but the only reason to really use RailEurope/EURail is to get one of the global or select passes (not to book point to point trips). If you want to book ahead and know exactly the route you want to book, best to do it via the train companies website. A couple of common ones that you may want to look into booking ahead are the EuroStar (connects London to Paris/Belgium). Thalys (runs Amsterdam to Paris route) – it’s a high speed train but cheap tickets can be had if booking ahead. Hope this helps!

  11. Dennis Weckenman says:

    Looking at 2015 prices, Eurail charging 1560 Euros.
    At todays rate (1.20), that is about $1872.00. Rail Europe is charging $2012.00. That is $140.00 more expensive than Eurail.. Pretty significant.

  12. Beth says:

    Hey me and one other friend plan on backpacking Europe for two months next summer (july-sept). We want to buy a global pass because of all the countries it includes plus we aren’t on a tight timeline therefore we want to feel free. Do you think it would be more beneficial for us to use EURails or RailEurope ?

  13. Pagota Handa says:

    Excellent very good research. I am glad you did this Tom. Much appreciated.

  14. Ruthie says:

    My friends and I are trying to plan a couple weeks of traveling in Europe, and consequently I’ve been doing a lot of research. A lot of reviews I’ve seen though say that Rail Europe is a rip-off that takes people’s money. I really just need a real person to tell me what the truth is.

    • Tom says:

      It’s expensive and not required to enjoy backpacking Europe. But it is not a ‘rip-off’ – it is what it is, a pass that allows you to utilise the European train lines. Train travel is a fantastic way to go about your trip and a very enjoyable way to see Europe, but if you want budget the answer is buses.

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