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Based on my itinerary, should I buy a Eurail pass or individual tickets?


Hello! First time user of this great website.  I live in the USA and will be visiting Switzerland and Germany next month (June) for the first time.  I am also going to ride trains from city to city in Europe for the first time and hope to get some good advice on whether I should buy individual tickets (in advance) or a Eurail flexi pass.

After my group tour ends in Bern, Switzerland, my friend and I will need to take trains as follows.  I have included what I think is the price for each ticket based on my online research today:

6/20: Bern to Zurich, spend a couple of hours in Zurich  €26.50

6/20: Zurich to Munich  €57.90

6/22: Munich to Strasbourg, France  €57.80

6/24: Strasbourg to Baden-Baden, stop for lunch, then Baden-Baden to Heidelberg  ~ €44

6/26: Heidelberg to Frankfurt  ~ €22

 

We will be on trains on four different days, so a four-day Eurail flexi pass would be the choice if we buy passes.  We’re over age 60, so with the senior discount, the four-day pass is €255.

And based on the prices of individual tickets that I listed above, it’d be about €208 total.

I realize that on at least some of the trains, we would be required to reserve seats.  It appeared to me that in some cases, the seat reservation was free while in other cases it would cost a few Euros (about €5 from what I saw).  And, frankly, I’d prefer to reserve seats on each of those trains.  And I realize that we’d have to pay to reserve seats if we buy a Eurail flexi pass, so our total cost would be more than the €255 Eurail flexi pass (senior discount) costs by itself.

Even though it would (apparently) cost perhaps €50 or so more if we buy the pass compared to individual tickets, we’d have much more flexibility using the pass -- although we are very confident that if we purchase individual tickets in advance, we would take those specific trains (date/time).  Plus, buying several individual tickets (not all from the same website) would be much more time-consuming and perhaps difficult for a newby like me.  It seems so much easier to just buy the pass, even though it will cost a bit more.  To me, an additional €50 or so for the pass is well worth it for the extra flexibility and significantly less hassle/time compared to buying individual tix.

Also (different topic, but related), with the 2024 European soccer tournament being played in Germany during the time we’ll be there, should we be concerned at all about trains being too crowded or unavailable due to the (I assume) large number of people traveling in Germany to watch the soccer matches?

I’d be grateful for any advice from readers of this message thread.

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Best answer by thibcabe 28 May 2024, 22:29

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Great idea to take the train! :)

Note that the Bern - Zurich price is the half-fare one. It is always listed first as most Swiss people have that discount card. For tourists without that card it would be 53 CHF one-way.

Eurail would be good value for your trip in my opinion. If the budget isn't too tight I'd get a 1st class pass for a better experience. 2nd class is usually fairly busy in Germany and it won't get better with the Euros.

You get more flexibility with Eurail too as most prices you listed are advance ones (aka tied to a train). With the pass you can literally decide seconds before boarding which train you'd like to take!

Seat reservations are not a thing within Switzerland and they're optional in Germany. Only exceptions are some cross-border routes such as:

- Zurich - Munich (3€ through ÖBB) -> required in summer (tiny trains)

- TGV/ICEs into France (18€) -> required all year round

You could save a bit of money by avoiding the high-speed train into France but it'll require 2 extra changes and an hour more. If you wish to travel on the direct Munich - Strasbourg TGV (departure 06:49) definitely don't wait to book it: Saturdays are always popular. Otherwise change in Stuttgart (leave some margin).

For Strasbourg - Baden-Baden it makes much more sense to avoid the high-speed train* as they all skip Baden-Baden except one at 2pm. Instead take 2 regional trains and change in Appenweier. The overall journey is under an hour.

Seat reservations not possible on regional trains.

Feel free to ask anything! Maybe have a look at this guide too: https://www.seat61.com/how-to-use-a-eurail-pass.htm

*which doesn't run at high-speed across the border anyway.

THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU, thibcabe!!!!!  I greatly appreciate your advice.  I think I will take your advice and go with the flexi pass.  And thank you so much for your advice on some of the individual routes!!

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You’re welcome! Feel free to ask anything here. :)

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