Heading into Europe, I initially planned on getting a 3-month Eurail Global Pass. Three months of unlimited travel across so many international borders was a dream come true… especially for an American! However, upon further research, I decided against the pass, and here’s why:
1. There were limitations to Eurail’s “unlimited travel.” The Eurail Global Pass covers 28 countries, however some of the countries on my list weren’t included. With the Eurail Pass, I’d still have had to find separate transportation to and from Scotland, England, Macedonia, Kosovo, and Albania. In addition, train travel wouldn’t even get me everywhere I wanted to go in the covered countries; I needed to combine several methods of travel. I flew to Santorini, bussed to Odda (Norway), and ferried to the Croatian islands. Even mainland-based Dubrovnik isn’t accessible by Eurail. If I’d need to buy single tickets for other forms of transportation, I might as well just do that the entire time.
2. Extra reservation fees would add up. With a Eurail Pass, reservations are required when traveling on international trains, scenic trains, overnight trains and high speed trains. There are also certain countries, such as France, Spain, and Italy, that require reservations and supplemental fees, so costs can really add up. A friend I met who was traveling Europe at the same time as me (using the 3-month Global Pass) ended up spending $511 just in reservation fees!
3. I wanted to travel longer than then longest Eurail pass (three months). I had a feeling I’d end up staying in Europe for longer than three months, which is the maximum duration of a Eurail Global Pass. Turns out I was right. I ended up staying in Europe for over four months, meaning that a quarter of my travels wouldn’t have been covered by the pass at all.
4. I knew I could do it cheaper buying individual tickets. As a youth, I’d have been able to purchase a 3-month Global Pass for about $1500 USD for first-class or around $1200 for second-class. (Had I been over 27 years old, my only option would’ve been a first-class ticket for about $1800). While $1200 doesn’t sound that bad for 3 months of unlimited travel, being the expert budget traveler I’d become, I knew could do it for less.
And I did.
Below is a table of all my major transportation expenses in Europe. Red marks routes that would not have been covered by a Eurail pass because of the locations, and blue marks routes that would not have been covered because they fell outside of the 3-month mark. Note: all prices are in the USD equivalent at the time of travel (Aug-Dec 2015).
|$45||Athens – Santorini roundtrip||RyanAir|
|$48||Athens to Thessaloniki||Bus|
|$23||Thessaloniki to Skopje||Bus|
|$49||Skopje – Kosovo – Ohrid – Belgrade||Bus|
|$30||Belgrade to Bar||Sleeper Train|
|$8||Bar to Kotor||Taxi split 4 ways|
|$18||Kotor to Dubrovnik||Taxi split 4 ways|
|$27||Dubrovnik to Hvar||Bus + Ferry|
|$9||Hvar to Split||Ferry|
|$22||Split to Plitvice||Bus|
|$35||Plitvice to Pula||Bus|
|$131||Pula to Oslo||Ryanair|
|$30||Oslo to Stavanger||Train|
|$56||Stavanger – Odda – Bergen||Bus|
|$40||Bergen to Stockholm||Norwegian Air|
|$30||Stockholm to Copenhagen||Train|
|$24||Copenhagen to Berlin||Bus|
|$11||Berlin to Munich||BlaBlaCar|
|$22||Munich to Prague||BlaBlaCar|
|$22||Prague to Krakow||BlaBlaCar|
|$22||Krakow to Vienna||BlaBlaCar|
|$19||Vienna to Budapest||Bus|
|$15||Budapest to Ljubljana||BlaBlaCar|
|$13||Lake Bled roundtrip||Bus|
|$20||Ljubljana to Venice||Shuttle|
|$41||Venice – Florence – Rome – Milan||Bus|
|$9||Milan to Lugano||Bus|
|$13||Lugano to Lucerne||BlaBlaCar|
|$17||Lucerne to Interlaken||Train|
|$15||Bern to Geneva||BlaBlaCar|
|$13||Geneva to Lyon||BlaBlaCar|
|$7||Lyon to Paris||Bus|
|$21||Paris to Amsterdam||Bus|
|$42||Amsterdam to Dublin||Ryanair|
|$13||Dublin to Belfast||Bus|
|$43||Belfast to Edinburgh||Bus/Ferry|
|$2||Edinburgh to Glasgow||Bus|
|$20||Glasgow to London||Bus|
|$65||London to Portugal||Airport Bus + Ryanair|
|$34||Lisbon to Azores roundtrip||Ryanair|
|$30||Lisbon to Sevilla||BlaBlaCar|
|$40||Sevilla to Barcelona||Train|
|$594||Not Covered by Eurail|
|$600||Total Eurail Would’ve Covered|
As you can see, the total cost of my travel that would’ve been covered by a Eurail pass was only $600. Let’s pretend I’d gotten the second-class Youth Global Pass for $1200 and spent only $200 in reservation fees bringing my total to $1400… I may have saved myself $800 just by buying individual tickets! And that’s only compared to the youth rate, not even the adult pass!
Now, I will admit there is something to be said about comfort level and time/effort. Train travel in Europe is probably the most comfortable, not to mention scenic, method of transportation, and depending on the reservation process it can be a lot less effort to just hop on a train and go. But if you’re on a budget as I was, combining methods of transportation is by far the cheapest way to go. I combined trains, planes, busses, ferries, and BlaBlaCars (ridesharing), among others. And while trains were generally the most comfortable, most of my long-distance busses were very spacious and even had power outlets and free wifi! Plus, if you love planning and booking travel as I do, the time and effort spent booking transportation isn’t much of a hassle at all. It’s quite fun actually :)
So how did I find my deals?
I generally started by checking my favorite European travel-booking platform GoEuro.com. With GoEuro, I was able to plug in my journey and get results that compared flights, busses, trains, and even BlaBlaCar rides. Here’s an example of a search I did:
I often found great prices by just doing a little research and by being flexible with travel time. For example, in not-so-cheap Norway the average train from Oslo to Stavanger was $70-110. But I found a great deal for a second-class ticket on the less desirable overnight train for only $30. I also booked a few flights on Ryanair, which even with a checked bag were extremely cheap. I flew from Amsterdam to Dublin for only $22 ($42 including my bag)!
Ultimately, the best method of transportation for your Eurotrip depends on you. If you have money to spare for flexibility and ease, or if you plan on traveling long distances frequently, an unlimited Eurail pass may be the way to go. However, if you don’t mind putting in some research and want to travel shorter distances or move around less frequently, single tickets can be a whole lot cheaper. If you need some help starting out, GoEuro has a great resource on how to plan the perfect Europe trip, including figuring out the best method of travel for you.
Good luck, and let me know if you have any questions about transportation around Europe!
As always, keep on livin’ pura vida! ✌