Buying an Expensive Eurail Pass? There’s Better Ways to Burn Money
If you’re used to traveling, then you’re always looking for discounts or deals. When I was an educator, I bought an International Teacher Identity Card, or ITIC card, every year I taught.
The ITIC card can be used invariably to get discounts on budget travel and lodging. It only cost about $25 and I always thought it was useful.
I don’t think it saved me a lot of money. When I was younger, I had a tendency to believe a product was useful just because it was advertised as such.
Like the Eurail Pass, for example.
In late 2012 and through 2013, I lived in Europe for about 3 months and couched surfed my way through several countries visiting friends and relatives.
I figured the best way to get around would be with a Eurail Pass.
This is basically a train pass that allows you to visit over 31 countries by rail on specific days of the month within a set time period.
There are different tiers of Eurail Passes. The $381 pass allows you to visit 5 different European countries within a 5-day period in one month.
Or, the $698 pass allows you to travel via rail through 12 countries within 22 days.
I bought the $1,216 pass that allows you to visit 28 European countries within a 3-month period.
It was the dumbest travel purchase I ever made.
The Devil is in the Details
Eurail passes are designed specifically for non-Europeans to use on the continent for rail travel.
As such, foreigners will not be acutely aware of the conditions, limitations, and extra fees that come with ownership of a Eurail Pass.
For one thing, there are severe restrictions on what days in the month you can use. The dates on your pass, and the date authorized at the rail station, are different.
And in that case, the rail station authorization dates take priority. I speak from experience because I went to a rail station one day and was told I had to come back another day to use my pass.
There only a set number of seats authorized on each train for Eurail Pass holders.
So, if you arrive at the rail station and the pre-set quota of Eurail seats are taken, you have to wait for the next train or come back another day.
Depending on the country, like France, you may have to pay an extra reservation fee for the privilege of using the Eurail Pass!
In other words, you must pay a reservation fee to claim a Eurail pass quota seat. Otherwise, you have to stand for the journey.
If you forget to sign your Eurail Pass, it is null and void and train attendants could take it from you. (That almost happened to me!)
Getting that Eurail Pass, besides being a waste of money I still rue to this day, was just logistically impossible for me to use.
You need money to travel and I didn’t have a lot of money. The cost of living in western Europe is high.
I would need money for lodging and food in each country my pass stops in. Since I didn’t have the money to financially take care of myself in 1 country, let alone 28 countries, what was the point of having it?
The Importance of Itineraries
I should have made an itinerary and a travel budget. Buying that Eurail Pass stings me with regret to this day.
It may be a great for travelers with an ample travel budget or budget conscious travelers on a backpacking season.
In either situation, you need to know the policy restrictions, limitations, and extra fees that come with owning the pass. Not knowing such practically negates the usefulness of the pass.
Here is a great travel site that can tell you more.
I would do anything to go back in time and not pay $1,200 for that stupid pass. In retrospect, I really could have used that extra money when I was there and unable to use the pass when I wanted.
Allen Francis is a full-time writer, prolific comic book investor and author of The Casual’s Guide: Why You Should Get Into Comic Book Investing. Allen holds a BA degree from Marymount Manhattan College. Before becoming a writer Allen was an academic advisor, librarian, and college adjunct for many years. Allen is an advocate of best personal financial practices including saving and investing in your own small business.