Traveling with a rail pass
Can I print my rail pass at the station?
Most rail passes must be issued as a paper document by Rail Europe and shipped to you prior to your departure to Europe. If a rail pass is available as an e-pass this option will be offered at the time of booking.
Do I need to buy a reservation if I already have a rail pass? How do I book one?
Reservations are important to understand, especially when traveling with a rail pass. We have a whole article on the subject that you can read here.
When traveling with a rail pass, a reservation is a separate document that guarantees you an assigned accommodation on a specific train. In other words, if you miss that train, you cannot transfer the reservation to another.
Why would you need a reservation when you already have a pass? Because there are three types of trains running in Europe, and they each have their own rules. There are trains that require all travelers, including rail pass holders, to have a reservation (labeled “reservation required” in our reservation booking engine), trains that do not require rail pass holders to have a reservation but do offer reserved seating (labeled “reservation recommended”), and trains that do not require a reservation and, in fact, cannot be reserved (labeled “non reservable”). All night trains require reservations.
Whether you need a reservation or not depends on three things: the country you’re in, the type of train you’re taking, and the policy of the rail carrier operating your train. In fact, you may find that on the same route, you have a choice between trains that require pass holders to purchase a seat reservation and trains that are non-reservable. So, know your choices. Find out whether the train you’ll be taking is “Reservation Required”, “Reservation Recommended” or “Non-Reservable”. You’ll find this information is provided for every train listed when you search for trains in our reservation booking tool.
Of course, you can always “wing it” and book the reservations “as you go” at train stations in Europe. But know that some trains are fully booked far in advance, especially during peak travel periods. And some train companies make only some seats available for pass holders. If your itinerary is firm, it’s always better to have a sure thing and book your reservation in advance.
Here’s a list of trains that require travelers with a rail pass to buy a seat reservation as well:
- In Belgium/France/Germany/the Netherlands: Thalys
- In France: TGV and some Intercités day and night trains
- In Germany: ICE Sprinter
- In Britain/France/Belgium: Eurostar
- In Greece: InterCity Express
- In Italy: Frecciarossa, Frecciargento, Frecciabianca, IC and EC
- In Portugal: AP and IC
- In Switzerland: Glacier Express, GoldenPass, Bernina Express, Chocolate Train, Wilhelm Tell Express
- In Spain: AVE, Euromed, Alvia, Altaria, Alvia, Arco, Avant, Diurno, Estrella, Talgo and Trenhotel
- In Sweden: all SJ High Speed and night trains, and through journeys to Copenhagen
- In Finland: Allegro and Tolstoy
Your rail pass is not valid for travel on the Italo trains within Italy or the Thello trains between France and Italy servicing such cities as Paris to Milan, Florence or Rome. You’ll need to purchase a train ticket for travel on these trains. And you will not have to add this date to your rail pass.
I’ve written the wrong date on my rail pass travel calendar box. What should I do?
If the wrong date is written in the travel calendar box, you will need to enter the correct date in the next travel calendar box.
Unfortunately, once the date has been entered in the travel calendar box, it cannot be corrected and there’s no way to recover that travel day on the rail pass. Therefore, be very careful when filling out the date and try not to make any mistakes. They can’t be corrected since an altered travel date could be interpreted as an attempt at fraud.
Can my family sit together if I have a first class rail pass and my child has a second class youth pass?
Yes. But everybody would have to sit in second class. The rule is that with a first class rail pass, you can travel either in first or second class. But you can only travel in second class with a second class rail pass.
Be careful when purchasing seat reservations for your rail pass, because once a reservation has been issued, you must occupy the seat that has been assigned to you and you’re not supposed to switch the class of service. If you plan on traveling in second class with a first class pass, make sure to request a second class reservation; otherwise you will be issued a reservation in first class. If you want your whole family to travel in first class at all times you may have to purchase adult passes, even for travelers who are eligible for a second class youth discounted pass.
Can I sit in second class if I have a first class rail pass?
Yes. If a seat is available. If you are traveling on a train that requires reservations, you can reserve your seat in second class with a first class rail pass (subject to availability). Please note that there will be no refund given for the difference in fare.
Can I sit in first class if I have a second class rail pass?
In general, no – you cannot travel in first class with a second class pass.
However, in certain cases, it may be possible to purchase an upgrade for your trip. To enquire about upgrading to first class, visit the ticket window at your departure rail station prior to boarding your train. We cannot arrange first class upgrades for travelers with a second class pass.
Can I add a friend to my existing rail pass?
No. Once a rail pass has been printed, another name cannot be added. We may be able to exchange the rail pass through our contact center, but exchange fees and penalties will apply. The only exception is if you bought the Rail Protection Plan along with your rail pass. In that case, you’re eligible to exchange your rail pass for a new one that includes your friend, without incurring any fee or penalty. You’ll just need to pay the additional cost of the rail pass for your friend. Read all about Rail Protection Plan™ coverage and how to file a claim.
If you didn’t buy the Rail Protection Plan™ along with your rail pass, you’re probably better off purchasing a separate rail pass for your friend. You’ll still be able to travel together on board.
Does taking an overnight train mean using 2 travel days on my rail pass?
The number of days used on your rail pass will vary depending on the situation.
If you travel on a direct overnight train departing after 7:00pm and arriving after 4:00am, it’s only necessary to enter the date of arrival in the travel calendar, thereby using only one travel day. If you travel on an overnight train that departs after 7:00pm but has a change of trains or arrives before 4:00am, you will be required to enter both the date of departure and arrival in the travel calendar, using two travel days of your rail pass.
What do I do if my train goes through a country not listed on my rail pass?
If your train travels through a country not listed on your rail pass, even though the country of origin and country of arrival are covered by your rail pass, you need to purchase a ticket for the uncovered portion of the journey. We suggest doing this at a ticket counter in advance, since tickets on the train will be more expensive.
For example, you have a Eurail Select Pass covering Italy, Switzerland, France and Germany and you want to take the train from Munich, Germany to Venice, Italy. The most direct train route for this trip will travel through Austria. In this instance, you will need to purchase a ticket from the Germany/Austria border city to the Austria/Italy border city as travel through Austria is not covered. You don’t need to buy a ticket for the entire journey, just the section not covered by the purchased rail pass.
What is the questionnaire that comes with my rail pass? Do I have to fill it out?
The questionnaire (or travel report) on the ticket jacket containing your Eurail pass is a required survey used by the European railways to better understand how Eurail passes are used throughout Europe. A gift is offered by Eurail for completing and returning the questionnaire to the supplied address. Upon receiving the travel report, Eurail should send the free gift within 4-6 weeks.
What should I do If I've already bought my rail pass, and now want to add another country?
Unfortunately, it’s not possible once your rail pass has been printed. If you absolutely need to do it, you can pay a 15% penalty and a 7% processing fee to exchange it. Depending on how much you plan to travel in the additional country, it may be more cost effective to purchase regular train tickets for those trips.
The only exception is if you bought the Rail Protection Plan™ when you ordered your rail pass. In this case, you can exchange your original pass at full value and use it towards the new one, with no fee or penalty incurred. Read more about the Rail Protection Plan™ coverage and how to file a claim.
“Activate my rail pass?” What does that mean and how do I do it?
To activate your rail pass is to officially start the clock on its travel period. This is done by having a railway official stamp and date your rail pass. To do so, just go to the ticket window at the rail station before boarding your first train. A railroad official will enter the first and last day your rail pass is valid and stamp it. You will have to show your passport. Rail passes must be activated within 6 months of being purchased. If you board a train without activating your rail pass you risk being fined by the conductor.
In addition to activating your rail pass, don’t forget that with a flexi rail pass you’ll also need to write the date of travel in the travel calendar. Not doing so is the same as traveling without a ticket, which means you’ll have to pay for a full fare ticket and risk a fine.
I forgot my rail pass but have my reservation and boarded anyway. Now what?
Sorry, but there’s no way around it: your reservation can only be accepted along with the presentation of a valid rail pass. If you’ve forgotten your rail pass the conductor will charge the price of a full fare one-way ticket onboard the train, and you risk being fined.
What happens if I board a train with my rail pass but forgot to purchase a reservation?
If you’re traveling on a train that requires a reservation, you may actually be fined. We suggest advising the conductor as soon as possible to purchase the required reservation.
What if I’ve purchased a Twin/Saver/Party pass and one of the travelers decides not to travel that day?
That’s perfectly fine, but the traveler who didn’t come will still use a travel day.
If you’re all traveling on the same day, but split up and take different trains, those not carrying the pass will need to buy separate train tickets.
The one exception is a France Saver Pass that requires a minimum of two people traveling together at all times. If you travel solo with a France Saver Pass, you may get fined.
Do rail passes cover commuter trains or airport shuttle trains?
Yes. Certain rail passes do, but not all.
You must check the terms and bonuses of the rail pass you’re interested in. Please note that in those instances when a rail pass covers airport transfers or commuter rail travel it will require you to fill in a rail day on your pass.
What do I need to show to the conductor when traveling by train with a rail pass?
You’ll need to show the conductor your rail pass. Make sure it has been activated, and if you’re traveling with a flexi pass, that the current date has been filled in the pass’ calendar prior to boarding. You may also be asked to show your passport. If you’re on a train that requires reservations, you’ll be asked to show your valid reservation as well.
What happens if I don’t fill out my rail pass before boarding the train?
Before boarding the first train, bus, or boat on a travel day, the date must be correctly entered in the corresponding travel calendar boxes on the flexi rail pass. Those who travel with a rail pass in which the travel date is not filled in the travel calendar box risk payment of a full fare ticket and a fine.