Choosing and booking a rail pass
How do I know the right rail pass and how many days I should purchase?
We realize with so many options, it can be intimidating to figure out the product that’s right for you. We want to take the guesswork out of the planning process by providing some simple tools that ensure you get the most cost effective travel solution for your needs. First, we need to understand if you already know your detailed itinerary in Europe or if you only have a rough idea of where and when you’ll be traveling.
If you know the trips you’ll be taking and your dates of travel, you should use our rail booking tool and select the multi-city option. Enter your detailed itinerary and our system will search for relevant tickets, passes and reservations and show you the different travel options available. You’ll then be able to pick the type of solution that you’d rather use (pass or ticket), and tailor your solution by choosing your preferred category of service, time of travel, and ticket flexibility options for each leg of your journey.
If you only know what countries in Europe you will be traveling in, but would rather decide on a final itinerary later, use our passfinder tool. All you need to indicate is the countries you’ll be visiting, and the number of days you plan on traveling by train during your European stay. Based on this information, our tool will propose a selection of rail passes that cover your needs.
In addition to these great tools, here are a few more tips that may help you in your research. If you plan on traveling by rail for more than 3 days, a rail pass is often more cost effective. The most cost effective option will most likely be a pass that covers the exact region you plan on traveling. Once you’ve identified the right pass, you need to figure out how many travel days to pick. This depends entirely on your actual European itinerary.
The more you know about the train rides you plan on taking, the better you’ll be able to research which trains are running, how long each of those rides take, whether or not you’ll be traveling on night trains, etc… All these factors determine how many travel days you’ll need on a pass.
In summary: try to map out your entire journey and count how many days you’ll be taking the train in Europe. Once you’ve figured this out, you’ll know how many travel days you need to have on your pass. An important note: Some trains require travelers with a pass to buy a separate reservation. So once you’ve determined how many days you need on your pass, you’ll also need to determine which of those trains require reservations. Make sure to read our detailed FAQ article on the subject.
Lastly, whichever pass you decide on, keep in mind that we’ll always give you the discounts you’re entitled to based on your traveling party. When prompted online, make sure to correctly indicate the number of travelers for each age range in order to receive the most cost effective pass option.
Are there discounts available for rail passes?
Yes, many rail passes offer discounted options. The most common discounts are:
- Child discount: children between 4 -11 years of age usually travel for half the price of the regular adult rate.
- Youth Discount: If you or anyone in your party is a traveler between 12 – 25 years of age on the first date of travel, discounted rates are available for certain rail passes. These Youth Passes are generally offered in second class only, and dependent on availability within the specific country of travel.
- Senior Discount: Seniors over the age of 60 are eligible for a discounted rate on certain rail passes. These senior rates are generally on first class travel only.
- Saver Discount: Small groups of 2 to 5 people traveling together are eligible for savings of about 15% on certain rail passes offering the Saver option. In case of a group of six travelers, two Saver Passes may be issued for three travelers each. To sweeten the deal further, children receive an even greater discount on their portion of the Saver pass. The only rule is that the same travel days are applicable to all travelers in the party. In other words, if someone in your traveling party doesn’t travel on a day when the rest of the party is traveling, he or she cannot recuperate this travel day- it is considered used for all travelers on the rail pass.
- Group Discount: If you travel in a party of 10 or more, see our special group offers for a more customized travel solution. Rail Europe always ensures that you get the most cost effective pass to suit your needs. To do so, we ask you to enter the details of your traveling party at the time of requesting a quote. You may also have to enter the age of certain travelers, so we can determine whether they’re eligible for certain age-related discounts.
What if I have a group of 10 or more purchasing rail passes?
You should get in touch with our Groups Department who can arrange customized travel solutions perfect for your travelers. Visit our designated Group Department page to request a quote.
Can I share my rail pass with others (family, friends, or charity)?
No. Rail passes are strictly personal and non-transferable. A rail pass is valid only upon presentation of a passport. Therefore the name(s) printed on the rail pass must match the traveler’s identification.
Who is eligible to buy a rail pass? Can I buy one if I have a European passport and a green card from the U.S.?
Rail passes are available to anyone except residents of Europe, the United Kingdom, Morocco, Turkey or any of the countries of the former Soviet Union. If you’re a resident of these countries we can’t sell you our rail passes, but there are other similar options available to you such as the InterRail pass.
However, keep in mind that rail passes are issued based on residency and not citizenship. It’s the country where your primary residence is established at the time of purchase that determines your eligibility. Therefore, if you are a foreign national with a Green Card or a non-immigrant US visa, you can purchase a European rail pass from us. Our website can only sell passes to residents of the United States, Mexico, Central America, Canada and the Caribbean Islands. If you’re not a resident of one of these countries, please consider booking with one of our sister companies that serves your region.
How far in advance can I buy my rail pass?
A rail pass can be purchased up to 6 months before your first travel day. The only requirement is that a pass be activated (stamped by a railroad official) within 6 months of the original date of issue. Then your rail pass will be good for its full validity period (usually two months).
How can I compare the price of traveling with a rail pass and reservations to that of train tickets?
It’s easy. For most European itineraries, just go to our Itinerary page, and select the multi-city option. Then enter your itinerary; the rail trips you want to take and your dates of travel. Click “search fares” and let our booking engine research the possible travel options.
On the next page, you’ll see the list of trains running for the first portion of your trip, with fare options for each train using regular tickets. Above this list of train, you should see a box advising that our system is researching rail pass options.
If a valid rail pass or combination of rail passes is found for your itinerary, along with the necessary reservations, you’ll see a message prompting you to compare train ticket costs with that of a rail pass. Click on this button for a detailed comparison for your travel options of train tickets versus a rail pass/reservations, in each available class of service. The prices shown are the cheapest found for each travel option, inclusive of all travelers and for your entire train itinerary. These prices are a “starting price”, calculated by adding the cheapest ticket for each leg of your trip for the ticket option, and the cheapest rail pass covering your entire itinerary and including the cost of reservations where required.
Once you’ve decided whether you want to travel with a rail pass or ticket, you’ll be able to tailor it by selecting the time of each train you want to take for each portion of your journey. Keep in mind that choosing different schedules to the ones the system used to build your quote may result in an increased travel cost.
What information do I need to provide when booking a rail pass? Do the names on the rail pass and the passports have to match?
You’ll need to provide your name as well as your departure date to Europe. What will be printed on the rail pass is the name you indicate on the website after clicking the “add to cart” button. Once you’ve picked your rail pass and added it to your order, you’ll see a page where you can enter the name of each traveler that will be using the rail pass. It is necessary that the name you enter matches the one printed on the traveler’s passport (only first and last name), since train conductors in Europe may request to view your passport when controlling your rail pass.
For some rail passes, you may also need to indicate the first day you plan to travel by train with your rail pass in order to pre-activate it.
I made a mistake when I ordered my rail pass. How can I correct it?
Unfortunately, it’s not possible to modify any information on a rail pass once it has been printed.
If you have slightly misspelled a traveler’s name, you should be okay. Although we recommend that the name printed on the rail pass matches the name printed on the passport, the train conductor may use his discretion when controlling your rail pass onboard the train and tolerate a slight misspelling. If the error is more substantial, you may have to request a refund and purchase a new rail pass. A 15% penalty applies, in addition to a 7% administrative fee when refunding a rail pass. If you catch the error and call us right away (before your pass has been printed), we may be able to modify your order and print your rail pass with the correct information.
The only exception is if you bought the Rail Protection Plan when you placed your rail pass order. Then you’d be eligible to receive the full value of your original rail pass back and use it towards buying a new rail pass, with no fee or penalty incurred.
Do I need to book a rail pass for everyone in my traveling party, including children and infants?
You will need to book a rail pass for each adult and child. In the case of a saver pass, it’s one rail pass with each name listed on the pass. A child under 4 years of age and sharing a seat with an adult does not need to book a rail pass. If the child will occupy his/her own seat, a rail pass must be purchased for them, as well as a reservation when needed.
Can I purchase a rail pass when I'm in Europe?
With a few exceptions, rail passes can only be sold prior to your arrival in Europe and cannot be purchased locally. If you’re already in Europe and would like to purchase a rail pass, we may be able to accommodate you. Call us at 1-800-622-8600.
We can ship your rail pass to Austria, Belgium, Denmark, England, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland. The Shipping & Handling fee for orders sent to Europe is $36USD or $45CAD and delivery takes 3 to 7 Business days.
Can a rail pass be issued as an e-ticket?
No. At this time, all rail passes are printed as a paper document and must be shipped to you prior to your departure to Europe.