Eurail 101 – Part 3 Five Railpass mistakes & how to avoid them

Hi Frugalistas!

Railpasses can be a great time and money saver, but there a few things to watch for to make sure you get the best value out of your pass.  Here some common mistakes and how to avoid them:

1. Not packing light

You need to be able to get your bags on and off the train and then store them on board.  That means being able to lift your bag up and down two steps that may be as high as 90cm (3 feet).  You also need to be able to lift it and have it fit into a luggage rack.  A 25kg (55lb) bag makes all of that tricky.  One carry on bag and it’s a breeze!

This big case fits a lot, but weighs over 20kg (45lb) when it is full. Not my idea of fun lifting it on and off trains!

2.  Buying a pass for far more countries than you need

Each country you add to a Railpass adds more cost onto the daily price of your Railpass.  Therefore it just makes sense to only buy a pass for countries you are planning on visiting.  For example (in Australian dollars, but it will give you an idea) for a ten days travel in 2 months pass you pay $489 for a first class Italy pass, $666 for a three country pass, $717 for a four country pass, and a whopping $820 for a global Eurail pass.  Don’t know about you, but $48.90 per day sounds a lot better than $82 per day if I’m only planning on traveling in Italy!

3.  Buying a pass for far more days than you need

Just as each country you add to a pass costs money, so does each day.  While the price per day does decrease for each extra day you purchase, the total price still goes up.  That means if you don’t use every day of your pass you waste money.  For example, a first class 3 country pass costs $486 for a 6day pass and $575 for an 8day pass.  Not a big difference per day admittedly, but combined with other savings strategies it can contribute to helping you get more out of your traveling dollar!

A Railpass is one of your big expenses on any trip, so make sure you spend your money wisely!

4.  Not reserving a seat in advance on popular routes

I have fallen for this one myself.  I got my pass and then waited a couple of weeks before I went to reserve my seats.  Imagine my shock when I got slugged over EUR40 to book a seat because all the railpass seats were taken!  Take heed, and don’t do it…..

5.  Not understanding how your pass works

This can be very expensive.  You do need to add update your pass each day before you travel.  If you get caught out you may be subject to an on the spot fine of anywhere between EUR50 and 100 depending on the country you get caught out on.  Ouch!  And easily avoided by filling in your dates each day before you travel.

It is also important to ascertain where the border is for your pass.  As I mentioned earlier in this series, the “border” for a German railpass is actually Salzburg if you are traveling from Munich.  If you only want to go to Salzburg that means you don’t need to add Austria to your pass (which would be a waste of money anyway) or buy a ticket from the national border to Salzburg.  If your guidebook doesn’t give you this information, check at the information or booking office before you board the train.  A booking clerk will happily sell you an individual ticket from the national border to your destination if you need to buy one.

Beautiful Salzburg – and getting there is free with a German railpass

Again, my usual rules of traveling light, doing your research & some planning, and avoiding “just in case” save the day (and the dollars!) on this one too!

Credits:  all prices courtesy of and were correct at time of publication


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9 Comments on “Eurail 101 – Part 3 Five Railpass mistakes & how to avoid them”

  1. Katisha 21/08/2012 at 3:00 pm #

    cool…this will be useful when I plan for my own Europe trip as I may have to do all my lugging my stuff by my own 😉

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 21/08/2012 at 3:02 pm #

      the steps up onto the train can be quite high at some stations, so yes, it is important you can lift your bag up onto the train and manage it by yourself.

      Thanks for dropping by

  2. janeisawake 21/08/2012 at 10:22 pm #

    Great post series! I’m still tossing and turning over what rail option to go for. Coming up to the 3 month mark soon, so i’ll be able to identify actual point to point costs!

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 22/08/2012 at 6:18 am #

      That’s the only problem with being organised – you have to wait for the prices to come up! I’m so pleased you’ve enjoyed the series and found it useful.

      Appreciate the feedback and support!

  3. Geek Goddess 04/11/2012 at 12:56 am #

    Headed for London this week. My friend lives far enough out of town that I needed a Rail Pass to get back and forth to London during the day.

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 04/11/2012 at 7:40 am #

      Hi Naomi, if you are planning on traveling round London by public transport make sure you get an Oyster card. Fantastically easy to get and use. I’m planning on posting on European subway systems this week.

      Enjoy your trip! I was there late last month for the first time in over 10 years and had a great time.

  4. fotoeins 19/08/2013 at 8:29 am #

    Love thinking about rail travel in Europe. Your post provides great reminders about a few pitfalls to traveling with a rail pass. It’s often easy to forget that in Germany, for example, the savings with a rail-pass increase with more long-distance journeys (anything longer than about 200 km).


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    […] 5 Eurail mistakes and how to avoid them […]

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    […] Five Common Railpass Mistakes and How to Avoid Them […]

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