Railpass or point-to-point?

The key tips for railpasses are:

  • When comparing passes with point-to-point tickets, you'll often find passes cheaper than the full-price fully-flexible ticket that you'd buy at the station on the day, but more expensive than the cheap advance-purchase fares you can find online direct from the operators in advance. So if you have a fixed itinerary in mind, buying advance tickets on a no refunds, no changes basis is often the cheapest option. Only if you want spontaneity and flexibility is a pass worthwhile. However, even here, cheap fares in eastern Europe mean you shouldn't automatically buy a pass without checking what the normal price would be.

  • Railpasses don't cover Eurostar. Or rather there's a £57 one-way passholder fare, but this is more than the £39 normal fare you can get anyway without a pass if you pre-book. The £57 passholder fare may be cheaper than the public fare at short notice, but as passholder places are controlled by quota they can run out.

  • Remember you'll need to budget for reservations and surcharges. In France, Italy and Spain almost every long distance train requires passholders to pay a surcharge and reserve a seat before boaridng, and you can reckon on around 10 euros a trip in addition to the pass cost. This also applies to international trains to and from these countries. However, in Germany, Switzerland, Netherlands, belgium, Luxembourg, Austria trains don't generally require compulsory reservations, and you can just hop on and flash your pass when asked. In these latter countries, passes retain their tradiitonal 'convenience factor'.

2 years, 7 months ago
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Sept. 14, 2011


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