unlear about how to use eurail pass

  • 18 June 2023
  • 2 replies

I’ve been doing a lot of research but I just want to clarify all the steps but also ask questions. I haven’t purchased my eurail pass yet but I will soon as I am planning to travel in August. 

I plan to get 2 passes (both global x day passes). I’m traveling from Edinburgh to London. My mom is flying into London and meeting me there and we’ll travel over to Paris on a different date. I’ll be handling all the passes/tickets since it’s not my mom’s strong suit. My understanding is that I purchase my eurail passes first (I plan on purchasing from raileurope since it’s the cheapest). After that, I add the passes to my mobile eurail app?

Obviously I don’t want to activate my passes yet since it’s only June and our first day of travel isn’t until August 2nd. Will adding the passes automatically activate my pass? How does pass activation for day of travel actually work? So for example. The first day of my trip is August 2nd from Edinburgh to London. I checked the eurail website and I need to pay for a reserved seat booking. That’s fine I know this is standard on some trains.

I also get that the eurail pass is separate from reservations. So let’s say I purchase my pass. Do I go to, look up the trip for Edi > Lon, add in my pass number and then book my seat? So now I have two different items I have to account for? The actual ticket and the reservation. So when I get to the station turnstiles do I scan my EURAIL mobile pass and that’s how I activate my first travel day and get access to the station areas? Then my reservation ticket (I assume will be emailed to me) will give me details on where I’m sitting and that’s what I show the person who checks ticket?


For trains that don’t require reservations do I just hop on and off? (For example, Colmar and Strasburg doesn’t require extra booked seats.) Would I simply have my mobile pass available to be scanned on board?


For trains that require reservations within France would I be able to book at the stations or should I just book them online? (I don’t imagine trains for Paris to Colmar would sell out fast) but would it be easier to just do it ahead of time to be sure?


I assume when I book my reservations on different websites that’s not eurail it works the same way? I’ll have a ticket in addition to my mobile pass? Both will get checked when on board?


Also, my understanding is that it isn’t wise to rely on the eurail website for train times? For example, I’m looking at Paris > Colmar. On the Eurail website there is a train that leaves at 9ish am. But I checked the B Europe website and the train doesn’t appear there. Does this mean that the eurail option is inaccurate…? The b Europe website would be the more reliable website do do you think the b Europe will update later with the available 9 a.m. train?


Night trains can be booked from the major websites correct? How does it count travel days? for example if I take a night train on a Monday that arrives on a Tuesday. What about weird connecting trains? For example if a train travels on a Monday, we have to get off to catch a connection train on a Tuesday does this count as two days of travel? (ideally these sound miserable and would like to avoid but just in case as I did see a few like these while checking around times.)


Best answer by rvdborgt 18 June 2023, 09:51

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First, since you seem to live in Europe (UK), chances are you'll need Interrail, except if you have a non-European passport, in which case you can also choose Eurail.

You can add both passes to the rail planner app on your phone.

Adding passes doesn't activate automatically. Activation consists of 3 steps and only after step 3, in which you choose a start date, the pass will be activated.

If you have a flexipass, then adding a journey to your pass will prompt to activate a travel day if you don't have an active travel day yet for that date.

Scanning a pass at turnstiles does not activate anything. It just opens the gate.

Reservations are indeed separate from your pass. You pass is your ticket. When a reservation is mandatory, the ticket inspector will also want to see it.

For trains not requiring reservations, you still always have to add your journey to your pass. See:

But you can do that right before boarding.

Reservations in France can be booked online on the Eurail/Interrail websites (+€2 booking fee per seat), B-Europe (+€4 booking fee per order) but also by phone via SNCF (press #85 for English, no booking fee) or or ticket offices (no booking fee) and SNCF ticket machines (no booking fee). French domestic trains have a limited €10 reservation fee, after that it's €20 until the train is full.

Other reservation websites can work a bit differently but you mostly get a PDF as your reservation and the ticket of course remains the QR code in the rail planner app.

The rail planner app and Eurail/Interrail website should not be used to plan. National websites are much more reliable, such as for France. For international journeys, is a good choice. If you have specific questions about a train or a reservation, such as Paris-Colmar, please always include at least route, date and exact departure time, so people can have a look.

A journey on a night train counts as 1 travel day, the day you board:

Any train you board after midnight requires a new travel day. Or if it's just a short ride, you can also buy a regular ticket.

For the best way to book reservations, check this thread:

and this page:

Spoiler: Interrail/Eurail are often the last choice to book due to the higher costs, added fees and inability to issue some reservations as a PDF.

Re: getting on trains that did not require reserved seats, you do indeed just “hop on and hop off.”  Normally, it wasn’t a problem, although I’ve only had one instance when I happened to sit in a seat that someone had already reserved.  Then, it was a case of just getting out of the seat and taking another one.  However, when we travel on the long-haul or high-speed trains, we usually reserve seats as we did not want to risk having to stand for hours with our bags.


I had used paper rail passes on 2 prior holidays.  With the BritRail one a long time ago, I had to show my pass at the ticket counter and the counter person filled it out and handed me a ticket.  On the other hand, more recently, we literally hopped on and when the conductor showed up, we just hand over our passes and the conductor proceeded to fill out the pass with the days of travel.


Re: days of travel counted, I seem to remember the DB pass allowed a completion of a journey in one day.  So, when the conductor fills out the pass, he/she would ask our starting point and final destination, which he/she would fill out on the pass.  On the other intervening transfers, the other conductors would ask for the pass (and our passports) and inspect them and move on.


I am thinking the mobile pass will work similarly, except that instead of a paper pass, it will be on a phone and we will have to enter our component journeys on the app.


Enjoy your trip with your mother!