Is a Eurail / Interrail Pass Worth It Any More? Price Comparison Results

by  Mose Hayward
LAST UPDATED ON  2023-05-15
PUBLISHED ON  2023-05-09

Eurail and Interrail passes seem like a bit of an anachronism, now that there are ultra-cheap competing train services and some other smart ways to get around Europe—trains that are not available with these passes.

Me, the cheapskate traveler, just before boarding an Iryo train in Barcelona Sants. Iryo is one of the newer operators that can take you around Spain and Catalonia cheaply, but, like other private operators, is not available on any Eurail or Interrail pass.

And yet, the Interrail system (for European residents) and the Interrail system (for non-Europeans) have been around for so long, they’re cultural touchstones, and for many people seem like the way to get around Europe, especially with a trekking backpack while staying in hostels and seeing lots of sights over the course of a summer.

But are these passes really worthwhile? I made a comparison, using Eurail’s suggested itinerary for taking in ten important European cities. I compared the total cost of the passes versus point-to-point tickets purchased just one month in advance.

Eurail / Interrail Pricing: In a Nutshell

Eurail / Interrail passes are classic, but almost never the cheapest choice, even on a spontaneous, whirlwind trip. If you want to compare options for your European train adventures:

  • Check your itinerary on Trainline, where a quick search shows the cheapest point-to-point tickets on all operators, or alternately, if you wish, search each country’s train operator (SNCF, Deutsche Bahn, etc.).
  • Check the price of Eurail (non-European residents) / Interrail (Europeans) for your trip length/travel days and add in the supplements and needed seat reservations, noting that you will not always be able to take the same trains as on your Trainline itinerary (such as budget trains).
  • In our experience, point-to-point is almost always cheaper, more flexible, and less of a headache. Find out more about why in this article.

The Test Trip: Europe’s Famous Cities

Details of the Test

Results: Eurail / Interrail Isn’t Worth It

Potential Additional Ways to Save in Either Scenario

The “Advantage” of Interrail and Eurail for Spontaneous Travel

The Train Operators that Work with Eurail and Interrail—and More Importantly, Those that Don’t

Comparing Eurail / Interrail Passes for Your Trip with the Cheapest Point-to-Point Tickets

Results will vary. Once you have a strong idea of your trip, and especially if it’s a whirlwind trip with a lot of stops in a short time frame, and if you like traveling spontaneously, it could still be worth checking out the passes for yourself and calculating if they could save you anything. Go to Eurail (non-European residents) and Interrail (Europeans) and choose the duration of your trip and also see the rather-buried pages on the required/recommended reservations and supplements.

For the other side of the scale, by far the easiest way to calculate your point-to-point train ticket prices is on Trainline, the platform that integrates and compares train operators all over Europe in a simple interface, quickly pointing you to the best price and shortest trips among all of them. Trainline is a bit like Google Flights or Skyscanner, but for trains. We’ve compared it to other such European train platforms and found that Trainline tends to offer the best routes when crossing the maze of the European train networks.

A similar platform that works quite well for much of Europe is Omio. It also shows budget flights, which can be useful in Europe when covering larger distances, though I urge you to take trains wherever possible, for the experience, comfort, and reduced carbon footprint.

Finally, to get an even wider view on the bus options for Europe, the best place to search is BusBud. It covers more bus operators than Trainline and Omio and so it may deliver better deals for bus travel. Buses tend to take longer than trains, be less comfortable, and drop you farther from city centers—but they’re often cheaper than trains.

And Your Take on These Passes?

I have been bouncing around Europe for most of the last two decades. So I have some opinions about how to get places and what’s worthwhile. But I have actually never used Eurail or Interrail, as I tend to travel much slower than those passes supposedly make worthwhile.

So I might be missing some important factors—and I’d love to hear what they are. I’ll be monitoring the comments and update this article with more tests if you all give me some good ideas, especially concerning where Eurail or Interrail could actually come out on top in terms of pricing or experience.

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