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Advice on Rail Pass choices & Itinerary sched (3 - 4 months)

Travel Forums Europe Advice on Rail Pass choices & Itinerary sched (3 - 4 months)

1. Posted by Lana-Josh (Budding Member 10 posts) 7y

I and my son (11yrs old) plan on backpacking around Europe for three to four months, starting 1st week of August. I have read conflicting advise specifically on which rail pass to purchase. I am hoping to get some clarity from this post as well as advise on other topics given the itinerary below.

1st leg- London (1 wk) - Amsterdam - Berlin - Prague - Krakow - Budapest - Vienna - Munich (3 wks)

2nd leg (3 wks) - Madrid - Barcelona - Portugal - Morocco (Fes & Marrakesh)
(hoping to be able to connect somehow from Germany to Spain)

3rd leg (1 wk) - Marseille - Cannes - Nice

4th leg (2 wks) - Italy (Florence - Venice - Rome - Naples)

5th leg (2 wks) Greece - (2 wks)Turkey

  • Please advise if my itinerary above is actually attainable (given the weeks provided.) I made London my point of entry and Turkey my exit since I understand both countries are not part of the Schengen zone 90 days restriction.
  • Is it cheaper to purchase single ride rail tickets or the Global Eurail pass? If Eurail pass, I was thinking of the Global Saver Flexi Pass (10 days in 2 months) or (15 days in 2 months.) Uncertain if this is the best pass around Europe since I've also read on Eurostar, TGV, ICE.
  • Do i need overnight and reserved seating supplements considering the Saver Flexi Pass price plan only lists 1st class?
  • Do I need to purchase separate rail tickets while in a specific country (i.e. Italy or London) or should I not be concerned about this given local train / bus transportation should be readily available.
  • For accommodations, I plan on using the couchsurfing community website. Am also open to anyone reading this post and willing to spare me and my son a couch for a few days :)

Any advise will be greatly appreciated!

2. Posted by t_maia (Travel Guru 3289 posts) 7y

You need to carefully plan your trip around the Schengen visa rules. You are limited to 90 days in a 180 day period for the Schengen Area. if you plan to go for 4 months you need to spend about 1 month outside the Schengen Area (Turkey, Morocco, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Romania, Serbia, Croatia, etc.) It is good that you are already aware of it.

Also I would strongly recommend that - instead of 2 rail passes and couchsurfing - you consider long-term car rental (or even buying an old clunker) and camping. Couchsurfing is not a way of travelling that I recommend if you are with a child. It can be done, sure, but I would do a mix of camping and couchsurfing in your case. Also all the destinations on your list are very popular, it will be hard finding a place to surf in these cities. If you are determined to couchsurf you should consider staying in cities that you'd have passed over otherwise.

Amsterdam - Berlin - Prague - Krakow - Budapest - Vienna - Munich (3 wks)

That is a bit much. Each of these cities needs about 4-8 days to see properly. And with a child in tow you need to do space it out with "child friendly" things. For example, between Vienna and Munich I would spend 2 days in Salzburg to see the castle there. I would also plan a day to visit the summer toboggan run in D├╝rnnberg near Salzburg and a visit to Legoland near Ulm.

2nd leg (3 wks) - Madrid - Barcelona - Portugal - Morocco (Fes & Marrakesh)

Also too much in too short time. Take out Portugal, make it 4 weeks, add in Granada (Alhambra, 2 days) and it will be better.

You can fly from Germany to Morocco and Barcelona for cheap with Ryanair from Hahn Airport. (It is near Trier and Koblenz close to the Mosel River Valley - all places that are worth seeing, especially in September/October).

As for the 4th and 5th leg I would probably switch them. I think it will be easier to travel around in the off-season (November) in Italy (or alternatively in Morocco and Spain) than in Turkey or Greece. Tourist traffic in Turkey and Greece can be slow during November, this affects you because ferries or buses might not run.

3. Posted by Lana-Josh (Budding Member 10 posts) 7y

T_Maia - Thank you for taking the time to respond! I figured you will be the only person responding after not getting any for two days and seeing all your helpful advise on almost every single thread out there. I am taking your advise and removing London, Amsterdam, and Krakow from the list. Will add Granada while in Spain and extend travel time.

You've mentioned spending 1 month outside the Schengen area for my 4 months travel. Will the 2 wks Morocco - 2 wks Greece (in between) - 2 wks Turkey work or the entire month / 4 weeks have to be consecutive and spent outside?

If this itinerary will post an issue, I might have to take the Turkey - Germany - Spain - Morocco - Italy route.

I don't feel comfortable renting a car and driving long distances since I am not familiar with these countries. I think public transportation will be much easier for me and my son. Given this scenario, would you advise I purchase the Eurail Global Flexi pass (10 days in 2 months) then or go with a one country pass such as "Italy Pass," "Eurail Spain Pass," and
"European East Pass" for my 1st leg travel?

Again, thank you for the suggestions and advise!

4. Posted by t_maia (Travel Guru 3289 posts) 7y

You've mentioned spending 1 month outside the Schengen area for my 4 months travel. Will the 2 wks Morocco - 2 wks Greece (in between) - 2 wks Turkey work or the entire month / 4 weeks have to be consecutive and spent outside?

No, the 4 weeks do not have to be consecutive. You can come and go into the Schengen Area as much as you want, but the total time you spend inside the Schengen Area must not exceed 90 days.

Personally I cannot understand your reluctance about driving in Europe. I don't see any problems with it as long as you got a driver's license that you use regularly at home. A car is a car after all. But it is your decision. What really bothers me is that (to offset the high cost of rail travel) you decided to do couchsurfing and that by choosing rail travel you forgo the budget option of camping. I really hope that you have the resources to stay in hostels or pensions instead of couchsurfing - if you don't I advise you against taking this trip.

I also feel that you overestimate the comfort of public transport. Don't forget that you have to carry all your luggage with you. At 11 your son is a bit young to be carrying all his stuff in a backpack, so you'll probably end up with a large backpack on your back, a rolling upright suitcase with his stuff, a small backpack for him with books and other things to keep him happy and a tote for you that holds the things you normally carry in your purse. Have all that on you and change trains several times - and you may wish for a car. (Especially if there are delays or changes of tracks and all the announcements are in the local language only and your son just about had it and decides to act up right this moment.)

About the first leg: After cutting it down you are left with Berlin, Prague, Budapest, Vienna and Munich, is this correct?

For these connections I would use the special offers available from Berlin-Budapest is available for 49 EUR one-way per person if you book in advance. Berlin-Prague can be had for 19 EUR. Vienna-Munich can be done with a few tricks that involve special tickets that are only valid on regional trains, with this it would cost you about 30 EUR for both of you to get from Vienna to Salzburg and another 30 for both of you from Salzburg to Munich. Budapest-Vienna is available for 14 EUR per person if you buy the Euregio-Ticket from the Wasteels office at Budapest keleti pu.

I also hope that you add in some more places - you are hitting 4 countries, you should try to see more of them than just big cities. In between Berlin and Prague is Dresden, which is really worth seeing too.

Cannot help you much more with the Eurail pass right now, because your initiary is still a bit too vague. But Rick Steves has a good tutorial to getting the most out of a Eurail pass, see But note that he only compares the price of the Eurail pass to the prices of the regular train tickets - he completely ignores special offers for train tickets as well as the option of long-distance bus tickets and flights.

But as a general rule it is cheaper not to use a pass in Italy. And in Spain and Greece you are more likely to be using the bus than the train. Am I right in assuming that you will be skipping France? Then you might get away with not using a pass at all, provided you can grab a bunch of special offers from

BTW, if you are coming in from the USA you should be flying into one of the Western European hubs like Frankfurt, Rome, Madrid, Vienna, Paris or London etc instead of Istanbul. Chances are it will work out cheaper because there is more competition on these routes. There are also very cheap flights between Germany and Turkey because of all the Turkish people who live in Germany. In October/November you can usually get flights to Turkey for about 70 EUR one-way.

5. Posted by Redpaddy (Inactive 1004 posts) 7y

Nothing to add to the previous Posts, except that - as I'm sure you are aware, Eurail Passes are not valid in England, Scotland and Wales and Northern Ireland, but are OK in Eire.

6. Posted by Lana-Josh (Budding Member 10 posts) 7y

Thank you both for the responses.

Follow up inquiries to the website. I have checked point to point fares, however I am confused with the correct train stations to select. I have played around with the dates (2nd week of August) and the starndard / savings fare column usually comes up with "Unknown Tariff." Would appreciate it if someone could assist in verifying as to whether I have the correct train stations below.

Berlin - Berlin Hbf
Dresden - Dresden Neustadt
Prague - Praha Hlavni Nadrazi
Vienna - Sudtiroler Platz / Franz-Josefs-Bahnhof / Vienna South Station (as indicated on site)
Salzburg - Salzburg Hbf / Salzburg Hauptbahnhof, Osterreich / Salzburg Hanz-Schmid-Platz
Munich - Munchen hbf

7. Posted by t_maia (Travel Guru 3289 posts) 7y

The website will autoselect the correct train station.

Hbf is the same as Hauptbahnhof, it means main train station. Sometimes selecting an obscure train station can get you special fares that are no longer available for trains from the main train station.

Vienna has many train stations, there are departures to Munich and Salzburg from a number of them. Normally trains to Germany leave from Westbahnhof, but Franz-Josephs-B. and S├╝dbahnhof are also options.

Salzburg and Munich: use Hbf

[ Edit: Edited on 07-Jul-2009, at 23:48 by t_maia ]