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Eurail Pass vs. Interrail Pass vs. Swiss Pass vs. Point-to-Point Ticket: What are the Differences?

Eurail Pass vs. Interrail Pass vs. Swiss Pass vs. Point-to-Point Ticket: What are the Differences?

    Point-to-point train tickets and rail passes offer great options for travelers who want to explore European countries. From Rome to Florence, from Paris to Barcelona and from Amsterdam to Berlin - see it all with trains. The train is the best way to tour Europe, relaxed, in comfort, seeing a lot in a short time. It's not just transportation, train travel is part of the European way of life, the journeys are an experience. Switzerland is high on many European rail travelers' wish lists. You can explore Switzerland by train with your Eurail Pass, traveling through the snow-capped Alps, along beautiful alpine lakes and across rolling green hills. But how to choose a train ticket?

 

Cover Photo:eurail
 

Buy the right train tickets in Europe

Traveling by train is easy and popular in Europe.

When buying train tickets, we usually have two options, one is to buy point-to-point tickets, and the other is to use a European Rail Pass.

Taking Switzerland as an example, you can buy a point-to-point ticket from Basel to Zurich, or you can buy a Eurail Pass or a Swiss Travel Pass, which allow you to take the train from Basel to Zurich for free.

Point-to-Point Tickets vs. European Rail Pass

Rail passes and point-to-point tickets are two completely different types of travel documents.

  • Point-to-point train tickets are valid for one-way travel between two cities. Many tickets also include reservation information, meaning they may only be valid for specific trains on specific dates and times. For train times & fares within Switzerland see www.sbb.ch

  • Rail passes, on the other hand, are suitable for travel within an entire geographical area (1 country, 2 countries or more). With it, you can travel by train as many times as you like within the geographical area within a defined time period.  See www.eurail.com.

Passes vs. Tickets: Which Should I Choose?

Point-to-point travel and pass travel are both valid options for exploring Europe, and both have their own benefits.

  • Point-to-point tickets are good for short distance travel, such as travel from city to city within a country. They are also a good value if you plan to restrict your travel and are only going to one or two places. This option may be more economical for you if you know the cities and destinations you want to travel to in advance.

  • In general, passes are a good value if you plan to travel extensively throughout one or several countries, or if you plan to cover long distances. They provide access for most rail routes and allow you to travel hassle-free by not having to wait in lines at the train station to get tickets. By selecting Pass Security when purchasing your pass, your tickets will be safe from theft or loss. In some cases you will still have to make seat reservations or pay supplements, but most routes allow for unlimited pass use without having to pay an extra fee.

  • Many Eurail passes offer bonuses or discounts to be used while you travel throughout Europe. These extra benefits include discounts on ferry and bus services, hotel rooms, and bonus attractions to museums. Bring your pass or ticket to the place where it will be redeemed (ferry crossings, etc.) and show it to the right employee. In the case of hotels, passengers must call in advance to ask them their rules on using the discount and how to do it.

Two versions of European Rail Pass

Europe's railways are so interconnected that they teamed up to create the Rail Pass - which gives holders unlimited train rides across Europe.

As a European Rail Pass, it is divided into two types according to different users: Interrail pass; Eurail pass.

The main difference between Eurail Pass and Interrail Pass is that Interrail Pass is for Europeans while Eurail Pass is for non-Europeans. Essentially, Eurail is for international travelers and Interrail is for European travelers.

In addition, Interrail/Eurail passes are also divided into global passes and one-country passes.

Interrail/Eurail's Global Passes can be used to more than 40,000 destinations in 33 countries in Europe, while their One-Country Passes are good for a country of your choice.

Buying a relevant rail pass can significantly reduce the cost of traveling by train – they give you unlimited travel across much of Europe for just €35 per day for adults. Passes are much more flexible than a series of cheap, non-refundable, no-change advance-purchase tickets, and much cheaper than a series of expensive, fully flexible tickets. 

Buying a pass in advance can also help you save time and money, so you can spend less time buying tickets and more time enjoying each destination you visit.

Eurail Pass vs. Interrail Pass: Who is eligible for a Rail Pass?

If you live outside of Europe, such as the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Asia or Africa, you can buy a Eurail Pass.

If you live within Europe, such as the United Kingdom, Austria, France, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, you cannot purchase a Eurail Pass, but you are eligible to purchase a Interrail Pass.

Interrail covers the exact same countries and trains as Eurail, and booking fees and usage are the same, so US and UK travelers can easily travel together, one with a Eurail Pass and the other with a Interrail Pass.

What passes can I choose for traveling in Switzerland?

Traveling through Switzerland by train, you can enjoy such beautiful and characteristic scenery in Europe.

In addition to one-way and round-trip point-to-point tickets, you can choose from a range of passes for frequent exploration:

  • Eurail Global Pass

  • Interrail Global Pass

  • Interrail Switzerland Pass

  • Swiss Travel Pass

Let’s take a quick look at the main differences between these tickets or passes:


Eurail Global Pass

Interrail Global Pass

Interrail Switzerland Pass

Swiss Travel Pass







If you live permanently outside Europe, you can buy a Eurail pass.

If you live permanently in a European country, you can buy an Interrail pass.

If you live permanently in a European country, you can buy an Interrail Switzerland pass.

Anyone from any country can buy a Swiss Travel Pass.









An Interrail Single-Country pass covers just the country of your choice, it's cheaper than buying a global pass covering all countries.  



Eurail Global pass covers all 33 participating countries.

Interrail Global pass covers all 33 participating countries.

Switzerland's One Country Pass is only available in the Interrail version.

A Eurail single-country pass exists for each participating country except Switzerland (for Switzerland, use a Swiss Travel Pass instead). 












Coverage in Switzerland

  • Unlimited travel on most railway lines

  • 50% discount on some lake excursions

  • 25% discount on some mountain excursions

  • Available in 1st and 2nd class

  • Discounts for young travellers and senior citizens

  • 2 children per adult person travel free of charge


  • Unlimited travel by train, bus and boat

  • Unlimited travel on premium panorama trains (seat reservation fees and/or surcharges apply)

  • Unlimited use of public transport in more than 90 towns & cities

  • Free admission to more than 500 museumsLink opens in new window.

  • Mountain excursions included: Rigi, Stanserhorn and Stoos

  • Discount of up to 50% on other mountain excursions

  • Discount of up to 50% on leisure travel offers

Validity

  • Flex pass for 3, 5 or 7 days within one month

  • Flex pass for 10 or 15 days within two months

  • 15 or 22 days and 1, 2 or 3 consecutive months

The One Country Pass is a flexible offer for 3, 4, 5, 6 or 8 days of validity within one month in a selected European country, with Switzerland among them.


Seat reservation

  • Seat reservation is not included in the Eurail and Interrail passes. For a small surcharge, seat reservations guarantee a comfortable seat on well frequented routes.

  • Especially high-speed trains, international trains and night trains require a seat reservation.

  • For regional and short-distance trains, seat reservation is usually not required.




Where to buy European train tickets?


Decide whether to choose train tickets or passes:

Point-to-point tickets are also what we often call one-way tickets or round-trip tickets.

Almost all European fares are one-way fares, with round-trip fares being just two one-way fares. You'll also find it easier to book one-way tickets.

There are a few exceptions. Eurostar round-trip fares are cheaper than two one-way fares, so tourists who need a round-trip are recommended to book Eurostar round-trip fares at the same time.

The same goes for most journeys in the UK, where off-peak one-way fares may be just 10p or £1 cheaper than equivalent off-peak round-trip fares.

Plus, with a valid rail pass, you can simply travel on any covered train that doesn't require a reservation. But even unreserved point-to-point tickets offer some flexibility, as you can still make as many stops and transfers as you like within a country along the most direct route between the origin and destination stations printed on the ticket; Within a country, your trip usually only needs to be completed within the same calendar day, or within a few hours in Italy; with many international point-to-point tickets, you have four days to complete your journey for free.

Rail passes aren't always about saving money, for a simple journey of up to 4 trains in one, the cheapest option is to book point-to-point fares 2 to 4 months in advance rather than using the pass for four days of unlimited flexible travel.


Three ways to buy train tickets:

You can buy point-to-point tickets in three main ways:

  1. Buy your tickets through train ticket booking platforms and price comparison platforms.

  2. Buy your tickets through the official platform of one of Europe's national railway companies.

  3. Go to one of Europe's train stations and buy your ticket in person.


Book train tickets in advance:

Like planes, train tickets are released in price sections—the cheapest fares are first, and the most expensive ones can be purchased up to an hour before the train time. 

Since buying train tickets at the station is usually the most expensive, we recommend that you buy tickets in advance through the official website or third-party websites.

  • In many countries (especially Austria, the UK, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Sweden), buying in advance (a few weeks to a few months in advance) can save you a lot of money, especially for faster or longer trips.

  • On-sale dates vary by country, route and time of year, with most starting two to four months before travel, with Germany and Eurostar tunnel trains starting six months in advance.

  • In some areas (such as Switzerland and most eastern countries), advance buying either doesn't exist or isn't worth the trouble. In most places, the price of a ticket for a slow or medium train is the same whether you buy it two months or two minutes before the train departs.

  • In some countries (UK, Ireland and Spain; sometimes it needs to be purchased in advance), a round-trip ticket may be cheaper than two one-way tickets. In the UK, a 'day return' (round-trip in a single day) is only slightly more expensive than a one-way ticket.


Using train travel websites/apps:

There are many different train travel websites/apps designed specifically to help travelers discover the best routes and cheapest prices.

Booking fees are waived by booking directly with the relevant operator and, in many cases, exact seat selection is possible (e.g. sncf-connect.com in France, trenitalia.com in Italy, bahn.de/en in Germany) .

However, three third-party retailers may be useful: Omio, Rail Europe and Thetrainline, although they charge a small booking fee.

They are connected to France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Austria and the Benelux system, so you can buy tickets within and between these countries in one place.

Omio compares prices for many different types of transport in Europe, and Trainline is the best tool to use when traveling in the UK.

  • Omio

  • Trainline

  • Rail Europe

To find and buy train tickets, I recommend you to go to Omio, Trainline and Rail Europe, the three best ticketing websites. Of course, they also have their own apps that can be downloaded to your phone.

Here’s a comparison of the best websites to buy train tickets:

The widest coverage

Best for Business Travel in Europe

Best Filters for European Train Tickets

Omio

Trainline

Rail Europe

Omio

Trainline

Rail Europe

 Up to 8% Super Cash Back

Omio/Omio UK

 1% Super Cash Back

Trainline

 Up to 1.4% Super Cash Back

Rail Europe


Use Omio to quickly compare trains, flights, ferries, buses and more – all in one search.

While Omio isn't global, it allows you to buy tickets in most of Europe and North America, giving it a wider coverage than Trainline or Rail Europe, and they're constantly expanding. 

Omio booking fees are usually between 2 and 10 euros, sometimes even free. On Omio, you'll immediately see how much it costs as soon as you put your ticket in your shopping cart and select your ticket class. This is better than many platforms, especially Trainline.


Unlike Omio, Trainline doesn't cover North America and is only available for buying train and bus tickets.

Trainline charges a similar service fee to Omio - just adds it at the end, which makes me prefer Omio because at least you know what the fee is from the start of the booking process.

The good thing is that Trainline lets you choose your exact seats when booking your train tickets, while Omio only lets you choose your preference. (Window, aisle, single seat, quiet area, etc. Options depend on train type and country.)


Rail Europe doesn’t have fancy websites and apps like Trainline and Omio. If you're looking for a Trainline alternative that lets you choose your exact seat on the train, look no further than Rail Europe. This is the main feature Omio lacks.

Rail Europe gives you the option to add your membership number for many European trains discount and loyalty programs before searching for tickets. Omio does a great job here too, while Trainline doesn't seem to let you leverage membership numbers.

The biggest difference? You can't buy a rail pass on most ticket booking sites, but you can buy it on Rail Europe.

Germany

UK

France

2013

1997

1932


Mobile Tickets and etickets:

It’s easier than ever these days to go paperless with digital tickets. Many train companies across Europe offer the option of using Mobile Tickets or etickets on your journey.

If you book using app, you’ll receive a Mobile Ticket with a QR code – no more worrying about lost paper tickets. If you buy your ticket from website, you’ll receive an email with your eticket attached as a PDF, which you can either open from your email or in app. 

How to use the pass?

1. Pick the right rail pass

Rail passes can be booked for travel in one specific country or you can choose one of a few pre-selected country/region combinations. Extensive travel plans? Try the Eurail or Interrail Global Pass offering train travel in 33 different countries - including Great Britain. Once you've selected your pass, its price will depend on the class of service selected, passenger type, and the number of rail travel days.

2. Reserve your seats

Taking local and regional trains allows you to explore at will. Simply board with your rail pass and choose any open seat. Reservations are required on most high speed, overnight, scenic, and international trains. With the Eurail or Interrail France Pass you may travel on TGV and French trains: Intercités which require additional seat reservations. We recommend always checking your desired journey for any specific seat reservation requirements.

3. Activate and travel

Your paper-free rail pass needs to be activated with the Eurail (Interrail) App prior to the first train journey or first use of bonus. Don't forget to download the application before your departure to Europe in case you do not have a good internet access upon arrival.


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2024-04-17 01:2265