One of the recurring issues I am having with planning my trip is the dilemma of when to purchase things like train tickets/passes and the order in which to purchase them.
Step 1: Decide on where all you will be needing to go.
I know that I will be traveling in over 6 countries I have never been before. I decided that it would be best to purchase a pass instead of a group of point-to-point tickets simply because of the possibility of missing a scheduled train due to a miscalculation of walking distance or the other. For the region that I am traveling in, it would be best to purchase the Eurail pass. Because I am visiting more than 5 countries, I will have to get the Eurail Global Pass instead of the Select Pass (where you select up to 5 countries to visit), because a “visit” in a country counts as either getting off the train at a stop there, OR simply passing along its train tracks. So even though I wasn’t planning on stopping in France or Belgium on the way to Holland, the Select Pass would have deducted on country from my limited visiting total. The Global Pass, instead allows unlimited travel for the time period selected in any of the 23 participating countries.
* It is helpful to know that Eurail passes are not applicable in Great Britain. Just like Pound Sterling (instead of Euro) and three-prong electrical sockets (instead of two), the Brits really just like to have their own special “something” I’m beginning to realize. I will provide follow-up in a future post about British rail tips.*
Step 2: Decide on the route you will be taking and the amount and location of stops you will want to make.
After leaving the UK, I will need to end up in Spain for my study abroad program, so I was able to calculate a maximum of 16 days in which I would be able to traverse the Continent. Because that coincided most closely with the 15-day consecutive pass, I decided that that option would be best. Flexible passes are the other type of pass, and they allow non-contiguous calendar day use. Remember to sit back and look at who you are as a statistic whenever you have to pay for ANYTHING; it helps you to spot discounts everywhere! Because I am under 25, a student, and a non-European resident, I was able to figure out a savings of over $200 for this pass.
Step 3: Decide on when to pay for the pass/tickets.
When things are offered to tourists that are not offered to residents of a destination, they usually only retain their lower cost outside of the destination country. This applies to the Eurail, as its passes need to be ordered online and shipped for the special pricing. Purchasing them directly from the website or from a student travel site like statravel.com is best. This means that you can’t wait until the week before you travel to purchase the those passes. And because I plan to leave home before I actually fly to Europe, I have to plan a little more in advance.
So, to recap: some things you will need not only to plan, but to purchase, before you arrive at your destination. With shipping time included, this is definitely one of the highest on the list of purchase-ASAP-items.