When I used my first Eurail Pass several years ago, I discovered the Eurail Bonuses section of the information pamphlet about three months after I’d returned home from my trip. I’d been so excited to start using the pass and so stressed out that I would write down the wrong date or forget about a reservation I needed for a certain train that I had completely overlooked this section of the guide, and I’d missed out on a lot of discounts that could have really helped me out along the way. Even just compiling this list was somewhat painful, as I’ve discovered even more discounts that could have saved me a good deal of money if I had just bothered to flip through a few more of the pages. Lesson learned: always read everything before doing anything. Here are a few of the things I wished someone could have pointed out to me before I set off on my first train ride.
Ferries Receive discounts with a Eurail Pass
This is usually the bonus that most people are pretty familiar with. Passes do not cover ferry rides, but they definitely help you out with the cost of a ferry ticket.
This is especially useful for travel to and from Greece, which can currently only be reached by ferry or bus (unless you want to fly, but that’s an entirely different story). First class Eurail pass holders (with a pass that includes both Italy and Greece) can travel for free on air seats or in dormitories on Superfast ferries between Bari and Corfu (only in the summer), Bari and Igoumenitsa, or Bari and Patras. During the busy summer months, the ferry company may enact a seasonal surcharge, and there may also be a fuel surcharge. This is similar to purchasing a passholder seat reservation when you board trains using your rail pass.
Ferries are also useful for traveling around the southern edges of Scandinavia, and your pass will grant you discounts on the trips between Helsinki and Stockholm, Turku and Stockholm, and even over to Estonia, from Helsinki to Tallinn.
Day Trip Discounts with your Eurail Pass Bonuses
Maybe you want to plan a few day trips, but you have absolutely no idea where to start. Or maybe you do know where to start, but now you want to know how to spend as little money as possible accomplishing this mission. In either case you will probably be happy to learn that the pass can get you 20% discounts on things like a day cruise from Athens to the islands of Aegina, Poros, and Hydra, including lunch. Or that your pass will earn you free travel on the “Shopping Express Buses” to certain outlet villages in Germany (Frankfurt central station to Wertheim Village, and Munich Central station to Ingolstadt). Or even that there is a historic woodland railway line established in 1909 which operates vintage wooden passenger trains on a 14km route in Slovakia (I just learned this while writing this article, so you aren’t alone), and that your pass can get you up to a 50% discount on this route.
Sightseeing Discounts with your Eurail Pass Bonuses
Planning a trip to the Prague Castle? Show your pass and receive a 20% discount on the “Full Visit” admission fee. Want to visit a museum that probably no one else you know has ever visited? Your pass will get you free entrance at the Serbian Railway Museum. Ever heard of the Hungarian Heritage Railway Park? Now you have, and now you can show your pass at the entrance and receive 50% off the ticket price. Tired of sightseeing and just want a place to sit before continuing by train to your next destination? Use your 1st Class pass for free access to the NS high speed lounges located in the train stations in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and Schipol; if you’re in Poland, try the PKP lounge (Strefa VIP) at the Warsaw Central station.
Free Public Transportation in Germany and Switzerland
Generally the passes don’t cover public transportation like buses or metros, but in Germany you can actually travel on the s-bahn service (similar to a metro system) in major cities for free with your rail pass. Your pass can also get you discounts on buses between smaller cities that might not operate train stations, like the bus between Graz and Klagenfurt in Austria (free admission, reservation recommended during busy months), the bus between Kemi and Tornio-Haparanda in Finland (free admission), or the buses between Canfranc and Oloron as well as Digne and St. Auban/Veynes in France (free admission).
With a pass that includes Switzerland, you will also receive free travel on buses and boats in additions to trains.
Hotel Discounts with your Eurail Pass
Maybe you want to ditch the hostels or couchsurfing for just one night to treat yourself to something better. Or maybe you want to treat yourself to hotel stays the entire time you’re exploring Europe, but you want to have a little money leftover for things like shopping, sightseeing, and maybe sometimes food. Here are a few examples of the discounts you can receive on hotels when using your rail pass:
20% Discount Hotels:
10% Discount Hotels:
Wi-Fi Discounts with your Eurail Pass
The bonus I wish I had known about the most: 20% discount on WIFI Access with Trustive Mobile Internet Access. You can generally find free wifi at many hostels, hotels, and coffee shops in Europe, but this might be a good back-up if you ever need Internet access in a pinch, for an emergency, or for the occasional bout of homesickness.
Rail Expert Insider Tips for Using your Eurail Pass:
Bonuses that are free, mean that you need to use a day on your rail pass in order to obtain the bonus. Conveniently, you are also allowed to take as many trains and use as many free bonuses as you’d like during each day you purchase for your pass, and each day lasts for a 24 hour period from midnight to midnight. This means you could take a train in the morning, arrive in a new city in the afternoon, and use a free bonus in the evening, and you’d only be using one day on your rail pass. Any bonuses that offer a discount still require you to show your pass to prove that you qualify for the discount, but you do not need to mark off a day. You can find a complete list of Eurail Pass bonuses at this page on our website.
I think it’s safe to say that pretty much anything is more fun when you realize that you can get a discount. And it’s also safe to say that I will never again simply skim any portion of any information pamphlet I receive with any travel product ever again.