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The Cheapest Way to Travel Europe: How to Avoid Our $1000 Europe Mistake

I call Eurail our “Thousand Dollar Europe Mistake.” When I was researching for our Europe trip, I was told by everyone that the best way (and cheapest) was to go by train! The Eurail was a good deal, they said. Well, that is all a LIE!! Of course, everyone who is European knows that, but the best way to travel around Europe hasn’t hit American soil yet.

We ran into a couple of girls who were in Prague for the weekend from Berlin, and when we told them what we were using to travel they said “WHAT?! You know that we got here for $30 bucks a person on a bus?”

Unfortunately, this information was a few months too late.

(Other information that might come a little too late is how to get the cheapest flights from the US to Europe, check here for 3 tips you NEED to save TONS of money while buying flights!)

Not only that but when you buy a Eurail pass, the expenses aren’t over yet. You still need to pay to RESERVE each ticket that you bought.

So Here’s How the Eurail Works

There are different Eurail passes for you to buy. We bought the pass that gives you 10 trips on a train within a 60-day period. Also, we bought it when it was on “sale” (ha!) and got an extra 2 days.

Italian Railroad
Italy

We paid a little over $1,000 for that. We thought “Okay, that’s not bad! And it will be easier to use right?!” You would just hop on the train and show them your pass, no complications!

Eurail total cost

For me, the pass would have been worth a little bit more money if it made the trip easier and the views from the train would be spectacular!

However, it made our trip much more of a hassle than it should have been. We now had our tickets and our itinerary planned out so we just hop on the right train and we’re good, right?

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Nope.

That is when the real kicker hit:

They wanted more money from us. Apparently, when you buy a train ticket, you are only buying the train ticket. You are actually not buying a seat on the train…… uhhh???? Yep… it’s called:

Reservation Fees

So now they tell us, you need to pay a RESERVATION FEE for each ticket that you want. AND these have to be bought in advance or you might not be able to get on the train. AND if you get on the train without one, you will get kicked off. Wonderful.

This cost us about 200 Euros more, ON TOP OF THE $1,000! Then my stomach hit my toes… because the RESERVATION FEES cost us about how much taking a BUS would have cost us… We were scammed.

It would have cost us around $400-500 to take buses all around Europe. Instead, we paid double!

Here is what it says on the Eurail website:

seat reservations for Eurail

Although it says that they are common in those countries, we ended up having to pay a “reservation fee” for almost every train on the trip and it states that these fees are NOT included in the pass.

What You Should Do Instead: The Best Way to Travel Europe

Switzerland Railroad
Switzerland

So what should you do? Learn from our Europe mistake and use “GoEuro.” (Now called Omio)

UPDATE: Since changing their name to “Omio” they have added service fees and often do not show the cheapest bus option which is Flixbus.

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Omio is still a great website for comparing trains, buses, and flights across Europe. It will organize it by what’s cheapest and what’s the fastest. You can save money by comparing and then booking directly with the company Omio recommends.

However, if you want the cheapest option, 9 times out of 10, you’ll find it on Flixbus.com. That was the main reason I used Omio!

If you’d still like to book from Omio, you can use my referral code to get €10 off your trip, too! daynab8u6i6c.

The amount needs to be at least €40 in order to use the code, so consider buying multiple trips at once in order to get the €10 off! To save a bit more money on your trip to Europe, here are 5 things that are GUARANTEED to save you money during your trip.

Flixbus

You’d be surprised to know that most of the buses are actually only a few hours of travel longer than a train, if not faster in some cases! Not only that, but they are a fraction of the price of a train ticket.

When we first bought the Eurail tickets we were really new at traveling and didn’t read well into what we were buying. We somehow thought that England was also included on the pass, but it wasn’t!

Although we were super upset, it gave us the chance to hop on a FlixBus and experience just how easy that was in comparison. We have used Flixbus to travel around Europe now for a few years and although sometimes they arrive a bit late, we haven’t had any problems!

Flixbus website

We have now used Flixbus to travel through Italy, Germany, France, and Austria extensively!

Using Omio Flixbus on our Christmas Tour of Europe 2018

We have been able to see so much more of Europe than we could have with trains. The more money you save on transportation the more places you can visit!

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Here are some of my favorite places we visited during Christmas last year since it was so much cheaper to travel around (check out the Christmas Market Itinerary we followed on this blog post!):

Vienna Christmas Market
We flew into Vienna and then took a bus to…
Hallstatt Austria
Hallstatt, Austria! Then we took a bus to…
Munich, Germany Christmas Market
Munich, Germany….then on to…
Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany
Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany… then to…
Nuremburg, Germany Christmas Market
Nuremberg, Germany! After that, we headed to…
Strasbourg Christmas Market
Strasbourg & Colmar, France and last but not least we finished in…
Eiffel Tower Paris France
Paris, France!

The moral of the story, use Flixbus and travel around Europe faster and cheaper than before! And no, I am not sponsored by Flixbus or by anyone, I just really want to help you avoid our giant Europe mistake (aka Eurail) so that you can see more of this gorgeous continent with your hard-earned money.

This was actually an excerpt from my ebook: If You Teach a Man to Travel: How to Travel Europe on $35 a Day. If you’d like more tips that will save you money in Europe and change the way you travel, check out my ebook here! Don’t make the same Europe mistake we did!

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How to Avoid Our $1000 Europe Mistake
How to Avoid Our $1000 Europe Mistake
How to Avoid Our $1000 Europe Mistake
How to Avoid Our $1000 Europe Mistake

Geoff

Saturday 25th of June 2022

It states clearly that no reservation fee is needed on the regional train service. You can find trains with no reservation charge.

admin

Monday 27th of June 2022

Hey Geoff! Although you can find trains with no reservation charge, we had already planned our itinerary and many of those places required a train with a reservation. And that's the problem since it does say no reservation fee is needed when indeed it was!

Nicole

Saturday 29th of August 2020

Thanks for sharing about the bus option - and for the other commenters for sharing other options too. I used the EURail pass when I went and it saved us over 50% of the cost the trains would have if we didn't have it. It was still an expense, but for us we found it was worth it given how much we wanted to see in the time we had. We used the Global Pass with unlimited 14 day travel and First Class seating (not that the seating location was important to us, but it was nice). We hopped on and off at will and traveled to a lot of major cities with some detours to smaller cities and towns just to check them out. We only paid for seats on the 2 trips through France. Our trip from Berlin to Amsterdam was PACKED through even in first class and we had to stand, but every other seat was great. I loved the relaxed feel of the train, but knowing the bus is a cheaper option in some/most cases at least gives me another option to check out to save even more money which is a huge plus in my books! Thanks again!

admin

Monday 14th of September 2020

Definitely, if you're looking for first-class and unlimited train travel then the Eurail is the way to go! However, if you're not looking for convenience and more of a budget-friendly trip then buses are awesome. We enjoyed using the Eurail since trains are always fun, but I wish I had known about other options before traveling to Europe! Plus, like you said, the more money you save you can visit more of Europe! Thanks for the comment (:

Erin

Thursday 5th of December 2019

'A few hours' is quite valuable to me! For some routes, like München to Berlin for instance, it's twice as long as the train! The cheapest way by train, in Germany at least, is to book a few months ahead. I always book directly with the train company to avoid any service fees by other companies, even if I do my research via Omio.

admin

Thursday 5th of December 2019

Definitely! It totally depends on what you're traveling for and what you have more of: time or money. In our case, we always have more time than money lol. And yes, the cheapest way could be by train on certain routes, which is why you could check on Omio and then book directly if you'd like, especially since they've added more fees.

The bus isn't always the best option, but with Omio & Flixbus you can definitely have more & much cheaper options than in the USA (which is the reason I wrote about this is the first place, we just don't have this kind of travel in the USA so a lot of Americans don't know that there are other options than the Eurail pass) Flixbus is finally in the USA and I'm hoping it opens the doors to cheaper travel in the states because it's just way too expensive to travel here! Thanks for your comment!

Eva

Wednesday 27th of November 2019

If you travel to/from Austria i would recommend you to look on the ÖBB and Westbahn website too. These are the two Austrian train companies. Sometimes you can find some special offers, which are cheaper or same price as Flixbus (and all fees included). And i don't know why you had to pay a extra reservation. Normally you can sit everywhere in our trains, the reservation is just an extra option.

For example: A normal one-way-ticket from Linz to Vienna costs 40€ at ÖBB. Westbahn is cheaper an offers the regular ticket for 25€. But if you buy it a couple of days before you have the chance to get a Sparschiene-ticket from ÖBB for 9€ (or 15, or 20 depends on time). Westbahn has some special days (every week), where you can get the ticket for 10€. They call it Westspartage.

admin

Monday 2nd of December 2019

Oh, awesome! I haven't used that before so I'll definitely look into it! Thank you for the tip!

And as for the train reservation fees, it depended on the route and the country. Some routes didn't require a fee since you could just hop on and sit wherever you wanted, but since we were mostly going from capital city to capital city, most of them required a fee that was pretty expensive.

We're moving to Europe in January so this tip will definitely come in handy, plus I'm sure we will learn a lot more from locals like you as we keep traveling there! Thanks for the help! (:

Jess

Friday 16th of August 2019

Actually before GoEuro became Omio, it was the best. Now omio has stupid service fees so I only use omio to look for the available route because the search engine is good and then purchase the ticket from the ticket original seller or another travel website. I can save like 20 euros this way.

admin

Monday 19th of August 2019

I totally agree! I've been using it lately to write a few other posts and noticed that they haven't been including Flixbus in their search results, which almost always ends up being the cheapest! It's so sad that it changed because it really was sooo helpful before! I've updated the post to reflect that change, thank you for letting me know! (: