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Rail Pass FAQs

Travelling by rail during my first backpacking trip across Europe made me realise that the term "free-and-easy" can be quite the opposite of what it actually says. During my "maiden voyage", I experienced many frustrating moments because I was unfamiliar with the ticketing systems and boarding procedures at train stations. In places like France, Italy, Budapest and Prague, the biggest bugbear was the language barrier.

In countries like Canada or Australia, where service staff are mostly cheery, customer-oriented and English-speaking, obtaining information is a cinch. In many European countries, however, you'd better be certain about your travel plans and have a phrase book of essential terms ready! You'll often find long queues at ticketing counters manned by staff who speak no English and rarely have the patience to try to make out your gibberish.

After you find your way to the right railway station, tracking down the right train and carriage can be quite challenging as all the signs are in a foreign language. Don't expect help because you are unlikely to be successful - spotting any staff at the station, let alone one who understands you, is like finding a needle in a haystack. Had I not done my homework before leaving home, my trip could well have turned out to be even more stressful and difficult. Fortunately, the lists of common French and Italian terms.

I brought along were very helpful for deciphering the signs and tracking down trains, carriages and seats. After getting more accustomed to the European rail system, I found it an efficient, convenient and comfortable way to travel. The lesson I learnt was: Be well prepared! Here're some frequently-asked questions to get you chugging along in Europe with the least fuss and fewest hitches:

What Is The Difference Between The Eurailpass And The Flexipass?

The Eurailpass allows travel on any or all days for the duration of the pass (from 75 to 60 days), once it has been validated. The holder of a Flexipass is given a two-month period, from the validation date, to utilise the number of days purchased (eg, the 5-day Flexipass allows five days of travel within a two-month period, while the 8-day Flexipass allows eight days of travel within a two month period).

Which Are The Adjoining Countries The Eurail Selectpass Is Valid For?

The Eurail Selectpass validity terms define adjoining countries as those connected by either rail or ship. France-Switzerland-Italy and Sweden-Germany-Austria are examples of three-country combinations.

How Do I Get My Pass Validated?

On the first day of your travels in Europe, go to the ticket office of the train station and have an official validate your pass. You must do this in order to start your journey or risk having your pass confiscated. A conductor on a train cannot validate your pass.

How Is A "Travel Day" Calculated?

One "travel day" constitutes unlimited train travel from midnight to the following midnight. However, if you board an overnight train after 7 pm and arrive at your destination the following day, you will only have used up one day of travel on your pass rather than two (provided the day of arrival falls within the validity of the pass). Travel that takes place between 7pm and midnight is not counted.

How Do I Use My Rail Pass Once I Get To Europe?

Before the first use of your rail pass and prior to boarding the train, present the pass and your passport at a train station ticket window for validation. This procedure is only necessary before using the pass for the first time. After that, you are entitled to unlimited travel all day, according to the validity of your pass. If you have a flexipass, you need to write in the date box the day you wish to travel.

Do I Need To Make Reservations If I Have A Railpass?

Reservations are generally not mandatory, although they are advisable if you wish to secure seats for popular routes and during peak travel seasons. Reservations are required for some high-speed trains such as the TGV, sleeper trains, or for a couchette during an overnight journey. Reservations can be made at any train station, with a service fee. Extra payment is required for booking of couchette and sleeper compartments.

Are Eurail Passes Good In Great Britain?

Great Britain is not part of the Eurail network. For train travel in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, you will need to purchase one of the many BritRail Passes.

Does My Eurail Pass Cover Ferry Crossings Or Trains, Such As The Eurostar (The Train That Goes From London To Paris Through The Chunnel)?

The rail pass does not cover travel on the Eurostar; however, a ticket can be purchased at a discount when proof of a validated Eurail pass is shown at a ticket office in the train station. Certain ferry lines do allow rail pass holders free or discounted travel.

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