Europe is one of the easiest places to get around with a train always available to your destination and numerous budget airlines. So, you may be asking yourself why bother explaining how to get around Europe? I agree that would be a pointless waste of time in our digital age with the countless apps to make our lives easier. Instead I will share with you a couple of simple tips that won’t take you any extra time and could save you a good deal of money if you do a lot of travel around Europe.
First off let’s address the popular Eurorail passes for the savvy backpacker. These passes could be a good deal for you if you plan on doing a lot of moving around, like every 2-3 days, and especially if you have long distances between your destinations. There are several Eurail pass types depending on how long you plan to stay in Europe and the countries you plan to visit. Ultimately you are the only one that can determine if one of these passes is worth the money for you and I will try to help you determine that with a couple tips.
Never just google train tickets around Europe or anything extremely general like that. All you will score are the bountiful websites out there set up to make your life easier while they make a nice surcharge off you. For example, I just bought our longest train ride yet in Europe from Interlaken, Switzerland to Berlin, a nine-and-a-half-hour train ride for 110 euro per person. When I checked the price, I found against one of the “go to” website likes Rome2Rio they quoted 330 euro per person for the exact same ticket. Yeah got your attention, now don’t I?
It is very simple to always feel confident that you have found the best price and are not getting ripped off. Google and find the train operator for the country you are traveling in and buy direct from them it’s as simple as that to get the best price. If you are traveling between two countries check the train operator for both and compare. I have found I will typically save 10-30 euro when I compare the fares offered by the two country operators because one of them is going to have a processing surcharge to purchase from the other and sell to you.
The last tip for trains again is very logical and simple, buy as far in advance as you can to get the cheapest ticket. It seems like every train operator in Europe offers saver fares for the advance purchase and when you pick a trip specific purchase; meaning your ticket is only good on that specific train. The flex fares are typically good for the whole day for your route, but the downside is you cannot reserve a seat like you often can with a trip specific purchase. I have found that if you buy your train ticket about two weeks in advance you should get the best price. It seems like prices start to creep up about a week in advance.
Always Compare Airfare Too!
You should also compare airfares to the train costs because often you can fly cheaper than traveling by train, but always remember to factor in checked bag fees. On most budget airlines the checked baggage fees average between $30-$70 so I typically count on an additional $50 on top of airfare when comparing.
Hope that was short and sweet and to make life a little bit easier for you below is a list I have compiled for the train operators we have used by country.
List of Train Operators by Country
In Switzerland I highly recommend getting a Saver Day Pass for getting around as I found it cheaper to get a pass for the whole day than for any point to point fare. If you buy typically two weeks out a 2nd class pass will cost you 52CHF even without the Half-fare travel card. Most of the prices quoted on the site are for the Half-fare card so when you go to buy the price doubles when you update that you don’t have one (I think they are for residents only).