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Understanding the full cost of Eurail - Global pass plus reservations

  • 17 December 2023
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  • Keeps calm and carries on
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Hello,

We are a family of 4 from Australia travelling for 3 weeks (from last week of Jan to mid Feb) with our kids aged 15 and 8.

We aim to tour the following countries - London > Amsterdam >Paris > Barcelona > Rome > Milan > back to London. I am planning to buy a global pass with 7 travel days in one month. This ticket will cost $1390 usd for 1st class and $1000usd 2nd class.

However, I am confused with all the reservation fees that are bumping the prices up. The costs are surely adding up such that I am asking myself whether taking the plane or Eurostar is much better? Or maybe I cannot afford to travel and see other countries.

Can you please advise if there is anything that I might be missing? Can I avoid paying reservation on some of the route? Where can I get the cheapest accommodation? Lastly, am I making a wrong decision touring Europe with kids in winter? I am hoping to utilize the winter more for the travel.

Many Thanks!!

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Best answer by thibcabe 18 December 2023, 00:59

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London-Paris, there’s no way around the €38 (first class) Eurostar reservation fee - unless you avoid the train completely, and take ferry or plane.

The best you can do is minimise the booking fee on top, which is €2 per individual ticket if you buy it through Eurail, but only €4 per transaction if you use B-Europe.

Choose your dates and train carefully. You can make changes in the future, subject to availability, but it’ll cost you an extra €15 per ticket.

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Also, how do I search for destinations that do not require reservations?

It appears in the Eurail Trip Planner - there’s a option in the Filter for ‘no seat reservations required’.

Generally, I don’t recommend Eurail’s trip planner, because it isn’t always up to date. But it’s a good start for finding reservation-free itineraries.

I would always recommend www.bahn.com as the best, most up to date place to search timetables.

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Thank you and in the event that I buy a 2nd class global pass, I can always upgrade if I need to experience 1st class right?

No. Except in a few cases, you can’t do this.

It’s possible in the UK on some long-distance operators. I think it’s possible in France - it’s offered when making the reservation on some TGVs. But in general, you should assume not.

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Thanks for all your help. Purchased the 1st class global pass via Eurail, now booking Paris and looking for any tips to save on reservation fees?

Also, how do I search for destinations that do not require reservations?

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Thank you and in the event that I buy a 2nd class global pass, I can always upgrade if I need to experience 1st class right?

 

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You'll get bays of four facing each other in both classes, and you'll get ‘airline style’ in both classes. It's just that first class has three seats across the width of the train, second class has four.

These photos of Eurostar from London are from Seat61, which has lots of good photos of train interiors on other routes too.

https://www.seat61.com/trains-and-routes/london-to-paris-by-eurostar.htm

 

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It's 2*1 across the carriage so there are bays of 4 and bays of 2. Sometimes they're rare (Eurostar), sometimes they're common (Swiss trains).

You'll probably be able to use more space than 4 seats on Swiss trains. 1st class is rarely full as 2nd class is already expensive enough...

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Thank you very much - so is the seating in the 1st class mainly 2*1? with 2nd class mainly 2*2?

Given we are travelling as a family of 4, we would prefer the 2*2 seating so we are always together

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Some advice to save on reservation fees :

Eurostar Paris - Amsterdam costs something like 32€ in 2nd and 37€ in 1st class. Those trains also have a passholder quota and they definitely sell out days if not weeks in advance. Main alternative :

- TGV Paris-Nord - Lille-Flandres 10-20€ (almost always 10€)

- IC Lille-Flandres - Kortrijk - Antwerpen-Berchem

- IC Antwerpen-Berchem - Amsterdam

All those trains run hourly. Total journey around 6 hours, compared to 3h30 for the direct train. Possible to do the journey for free via Maubeuge : infrequent train from/to Paris though, 7h18 total journey.

TGV Switzerland - Paris : direct trains have a 29€ (2nd class)/39€ (1st class) fee. However by crossing the border on a regional train and boarding the TGV in Mulhouse or Strasbourg it only costs 10€ (limited fare) or 20€ ! Takes about 30 min longer, less if your accommodation is near Gare de l'Est anyway.

Eurocity trains between Switzerland and Milan have a 13€ mandatory reservation. You can easily avoid the fee by taking the hourly reservation-free regional train between Lugano and Milan. Doesn't take any longer but an extra change is required. There's also the scenic Bernina route available... :)

(Good night on my side!)

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Thank you very much for this, very appreciated!!. Does this route save on reservations? Also given 11 train journeys does this mean I need to buy unlimited travel for the month global pass? Also noticed this route takes off Barcelona and Milan?

I’m not sure it really saves money in the end but it will you give you more flexibility for sure. High-speed trains in Italy require a 13€ reservation but tickets are always available the day before/on the day as opposed to France where trains can sell out days or sometimes weeks in advance (rarely in winter outside school holidays though!).

Yes Barcelona is quite out of the way and reservations to get there are hefty (35€ coming from Paris). You pass through Milan at some point during my itinerary but it’s not really worth a stop in my opinion. Unless you have a specific reason to go there of course !

I wouldn’t get an unlimited pass (but you can for the convenience). A 7 or 10 days pass should be enough. You can always buy separate tickets in case. In the end you only have 3 weeks and won’t travel long distances every day (hopefully!).

EDIT : here is the Bernina Express link I forgot to add earlier → https://www.seat61.com/trains-and-routes/bernina-express.htm

You might want to think a bit longer before comitting to an itinerary. Check what you’d like to see in Rome, Amsterdam, Barcelona, etc. maybe Venice would be cool I don’t know ? You could also easily remove Strasbourg and go straight to Switzerland.

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Thank you for all this helpful information. I will book the Paris and Amsterdam asap. I am keen to also know how to save money on the trip. You mentioned “feel free to ask for advice” - can you please advise..

It heavily depends on how much time you want time you wish to dedicate on travel. Or how much extra time is worth 4 x 20€ saved (as an example). I’ll write some advice below but it depends on your route. It’s useless to write about crossing the Spanish border if you’re not going there in the end haha. (There are also multiple similar posts available on this forum, search by keywords.)

About Eurostar : use this link to save booking fees https://www.b-europe.com/EN/Booking/Pass#TravelWish (Eurail adds 2€ per person per train). You can write any pass number, it won’t appear on the ticket.

Now a question is “how many pass days you might need ?”. I’d suggest getting 7 day passes and if needed buy separate tickets for somejourneys → regional train tickets or advance high-speed train tickets in Italy are really cheap.

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Thank you - please feel free to suggest!

I might suggest this itinerary (or the other way around) :

  • London
  • Paris
  • Zurich/Chur : only one night if you don’t want to spend too much time in the Alps
  • Bernina Express (splendid route all year round) between Switzerland and Italy* :
  • Lake Como
  • Florence
  • Rome
  • night train to Munich or Vienna, spend a night or two
  • night train to Amsterdam (book in advance)
  • Amsterdam
  • London

Those night trains aren’t required but they would avoid a few long travel days.

*36 CHF mandatory reservation on the panorama carriages but you can travel on the reservation-free regular carriages at the front (pull-down windows) or on the hourly regional trains on the same route.

Thank you very much for this, very appreciated!!. Does this route save on reservations? Also given 11 train journeys does this mean I need to buy unlimited travel for the month global pass? Also noticed this route takes off Barcelona and Milan?

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Thank you - please feel free to suggest!

I might suggest this itinerary (or the other way around) :

  • London
  • Paris
  • Zurich/Chur : only one night if you don’t want to spend too much time in the Alps
  • Bernina Express (splendid route all year round) between Switzerland and Italy* :
  • Lake Como
  • Florence
  • Rome
  • night train to Munich or Vienna, spend a night or two
  • night train to Amsterdam (book in advance)
  • Amsterdam
  • London

Those night trains aren’t required but they would avoid a few long travel days.

*36 CHF mandatory reservation on the panorama carriages but you can travel on the reservation-free regular carriages at the front (pull-down windows) or on the hourly regional trains on the same route.

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Those are unfortunately high-speed routes with high demand and thus high reservation fees. Eurail works really good in Germany, Austria, Switzerland (+ the UK) where last-minute tickets are expensive and reservations are optional/inexistant. Optional 1st class reservations are also free when bought through the Austrian railway company OBB (more below).

As you can guess mandatory reservations limit your flexibility. However it would be exactly the same with standard tickets or even worse as tickets increase in price while reservations have a set price (with a few exceptions).

Have a look at https://www.seat61.com/interrail-and-eurail-reservations.htm

Reservations will add a fair bit to the price of the pass, that’s for sure. There are a few ways to save money but it won’t be direct or take a bit longer (feel free to ask for advice). Eurostar from London should be booked ASAP as there is a passholder quota. Same thing for Amsterdam - Paris but there are dozens of alternatives in case (as opposed to the Channel crossing).

Flights aren’t cheap either, especially when you take into account the extra 40-50€ per luggage piece (per flight). General advice : pack light !

For 3 weeks I might opt out of Barcelona and spend more time in Italy instead, spending a night or two in Switzerland on the way back. You could also take a night train for a cool experience : Amsterdam - Zurich/Innsbruck or Stuttgart - Milan come to mind. With a pass you only pay accommodation : seats (avoid them!), couchettes or sleepers.

Feel free to ask further questions.

Thank you for all this helpful information. I will book the Paris and Amsterdam asap. I am keen to also know how to save money on the trip. You mentioned “feel free to ask for advice” - can you please advise..

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Yes Eurail is valid but you need to book reservations in advance (38€ in 1st class). They are mandatory and you won’t be able to access the terminal without one. As I said above, there is a passholder quota and it’s a popular route. Do not wait to book, especially on a weekend.

Eurostar trains from/to London work like flights : you must arrive 45-60 min in advance and pass through X-Ray (drinks allowed) before passport controls. This is unique in Europe.

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Thank you - would you recommend booking 1st class or 2nd class I have seen lots of videos suggesting 1st class is not worth the money

It depends on the route exactly. It’s very good on Eurostar - meal included. And on the high speed trains in Italy - coffee or Prosecco + a snack. On the other trains on your route there won’t be any food included, but it’s still more spacious seating. More legroom and 2+1 seating instead of 2+2.

Seconds class is absolutely fine, but I tend to pay for first, as I think the extra cost is relatively small.

Can I still hop on Eurostar with the global Eurail pass?

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About your other questions : definitely don’t try to do too much.

Winter is a good time in some ways : way less tourists, less expensive hotels. Of course you’ll never be alone but it’s nothing like July-August in Rome ! Daylight is slightly better in February than December. Right now the sun sets at 4-4:30 pm for example.

Weather isn’t great (mostly grey skies and/or rain) but you’ll probably get sun in Rome and Barcelona. Milan isn’t the best Italian city in my opinion, consider Florence and/or Lake Como instead.

Btw London, Amsterdam and Paris aren’t really countries… there are a lot of other beautiful places within France, the Netherlands, etc.

Thank you - please feel free to suggest!

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About your other questions : definitely don’t try to do too much.

Winter is a good time in some ways : way less tourists, less expensive hotels. Of course you’ll never be alone but it’s nothing like July-August in Rome ! Daylight is slightly better in February than December. Right now the sun sets at 4-4:30 pm for example.

Weather isn’t great (mostly grey skies and/or rain) but you’ll probably get sun in Rome and Barcelona. Milan isn’t the best Italian city in my opinion, consider Florence and/or Lake Como instead.

Cheap-ish accommodation can be found everywhere but you need to search a bit. Youth hostels have private rooms, a good way to save money. In general as you head further from the center/out of the capital prices will be lower. But then transportation to the center costs money and time… you have to do your own research but I wouldn’t let prices decide the destination. Eastern Europe is a lot cheaper than Western Europe but then maybe not the best area to visit in winter.

Btw London, Amsterdam and Paris aren’t really countries… there are a lot of other beautiful places within France, the Netherlands, etc.

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Thank you - would you recommend booking 1st class or 2nd class I have seen lots of videos suggesting 1st class is not worth the money

It depends on the route exactly. It’s very good on Eurostar - meal included. And on the high speed trains in Italy - coffee or Prosecco + a snack. On the other trains on your route there won’t be any food included, but it’s still more spacious seating. More legroom and 2+1 seating instead of 2+2.

Seconds class is absolutely fine, but I tend to pay for first, as I think the extra cost is relatively small.

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Thank you - would you recommend booking 1st class or 2nd class I have seen lots of videos suggesting 1st class is not worth the money

I’d say that 1st class is definitely worth the money with passes, maybe not with regular tickets. The price difference of passes is fairly small. You can enjoy less crowded carriages and bigger/more comfortable seats, those are the 2 main advantages. Food can also be served at your seat but you have to pay for it (with a few little exceptions like the UK and Eurostar).

Userlevel 7
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Those are unfortunately high-speed routes with high demand and thus high reservation fees. Eurail works really good in Germany, Austria, Switzerland (+ the UK) where last-minute tickets are expensive and reservations are optional/inexistant. Optional 1st class reservations are also free when bought through the Austrian railway company OBB (more below).

As you can guess mandatory reservations limit your flexibility. However it would be exactly the same with standard tickets or even worse as tickets increase in price while reservations have a set price (with a few exceptions).

Have a look at https://www.seat61.com/interrail-and-eurail-reservations.htm

Reservations will add a fair bit to the price of the pass, that’s for sure. There are a few ways to save money but it won’t be direct or take a bit longer (feel free to ask for advice). Eurostar from London should be booked ASAP as there is a passholder quota. Same thing for Amsterdam - Paris but there are dozens of alternatives in case (as opposed to the Channel crossing).

Flights aren’t cheap either, especially when you take into account the extra 40-50€ per luggage piece (per flight). General advice : pack light !

For 3 weeks I might opt out of Barcelona and spend more time in Italy instead, spending a night or two in Switzerland on the way back. You could also take a night train for a cool experience : Amsterdam - Zurich/Innsbruck or Stuttgart - Milan come to mind. With a pass you only pay accommodation : seats (avoid them!), couchettes or sleepers.

Feel free to ask further questions.

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Unfortunately, you’ve chosen some countries that have expensive reservation fees!

There’s a good guide here:

https://www.seat61.com/interrail-and-eurail-reservations.htm

https://www.seat61.com/how-to-use-a-eurail-pass.htm

It can still be good value, but you’re right to consider whether you might get a better price by just buying tickets for your specific itinerary.

Thank you - would you recommend booking 1st class or 2nd class I have seen lots of videos suggesting 1st class is not worth the money

Userlevel 7
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Unfortunately, you’ve chosen some countries that have expensive reservation fees!

There’s a good guide here:

https://www.seat61.com/interrail-and-eurail-reservations.htm

https://www.seat61.com/how-to-use-a-eurail-pass.htm

It can still be good value, but you’re right to consider whether you might get a better price by just buying tickets for your specific itinerary.

You can search for ‘no reservation’ itineraries on the Eurail website, but these aren’t great options for much of your trip, and will be much slower. Perhaps Italy-London you can go via Switzerland and Germany, instead of via France.

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