Europe by Train ?

Have to go to Europe next month for work. Work said I can downgrade my business class ticket to economy & take the teenage kids & wife. Only have 2 meetings to go to in Paris.

Wife is busily working out what to do in Europe, as only just got this approved.

At this atge, we want to get from Paris to Switzerland & then travel around Italy on train & might do a few 1 or 2 days car hire.

Don't know much about all the different rail passes in Europe or should we just get a car for duration ?

Any suggestions would be great.



  • +2

    The trains are a great way to get from city to city. Skip the rail pass and book your tickets directly with the rail network. Book early as prices increase closer to the date.

    Work out where you want to go first and whether or not you really need a car to get there.

    • thanks.

      When you say book early, do you mean before we go to Europe, or few days in advance when we get there ?

      Book online or at any train station ?

      Also looked at leasing a new car & about $2k for 21 days + expensive fuel of course.

      • I mean months earlier if you can lock down your schedule.

  • Southern and eastern europe is cheaper to just buy the tickets in advanced or in person. Northern/western countries it can make sense to get a rail pass. The thing I loved about it was that for many train systems you could just rock up to the train station at any time and just hop on any train going in the right direction. If you are just going to cities then trains are a whole lot easier, but if you intend to explore the countryside get a car for the whole time.

  • +2

    Don't get train passes, unless you going to spend most of your time on trains. all you need for train travel within Europe. oh yeah, you can google it too.

    • You don't need the pass as long as you book in advance; early bookings are heavily discounted. Trying to book a seat on TGV or ICE last minute is costly.

  • +1

    There is a busabout tour which is similar to what you have said
    Sure if you booked 2 adults and 2 kids, would make it lower like 600 a person.

    • I really hate travelling on buses. The trains are much better

  • Train travel is a beautiful and relaxing way to get about in Europe. You will see some amazing scenery, the facilities are good, wifi (from memory), bars, etc.
    Most rail stations are near the centre of cities, so by the time you factor in that transit for flights, they are reasonably comparable.
    I recommend planning out an itinerary and build in your train trips. Most cities have multiple connecting trips per day, so you can choose morning / afternoon / evening, etc. Then book them online.

  • We did the train travel awhile ago with Interrail passes to travel around Europe. Visited Munich, Nuremburg, Interlaken, Vienna and Budapest within a 2 weeks timeframe. Only thing was that on some journeys we had to pay a little extra to reserve seating. Otherwise it was kinda like a jump on hop off journey.

  • 4 years ago I did europe by car for 3 weeks. there was 5 of us - 2 adults, 3 kids. I liked it as we could go where we wanted. stop where we wanted. and it worked out cheaper than buying tickets. we did paris—>cologne—>prague—>vienna—>st anton—>venice—>nice—>barcelona—>paris.

    travelling on the highways is easy and fast. it was normal to sit on 150km p/h.

  • +1

    Since you are going next month (June, I assume), you probably can't get the super discounted fares for long distance trains. The Paris-Switzerland segments (possibly changing at Basel) and Switzerland-Italy segments (change at Milan) are likely to cost more than the daily rail-pass cost, but the Italian trains much less.

    Also, lots of train worker strikes in France at the moment.

  • +1

    I've done Europe twice by train; 15 day Eurail pass the first time and booked all trains directly the second time.

    Eurail can be convenient in that you can hop on any train in the included countries on your list; the only caveat is for booked seat service like ICE in Germany or TGV France, or high speed services in Italy; etc is that you need to pay a fee to book a seat. From memory was about 5 euro and this is in addition to your pass cost. You also can travel when you want with no fixed timetable.

    If you are happy with a strict travel itinerary, then booking ahead with each railway can be much cheaper; we saved $$$ booking this way.

    There was a site called RailDude; looks like it's changed now to

    Good info on that site; handy stuff like direct links to railway websites to purchase your tickets. Much better than through an agent.

  • +1

    You probably want to do a mixture of train travel and car hire. Use the trains to get between countries and local car hire for travel within. If you are going to major cities like Paris, Rome, Prague, Como, Florence, Venice, Vienna etc then you don't need a car and you can use public transport, hop on/hop off buses, etc. The car will only be a nuisance as you will need to find somewhere to park because you won't use the car when you are exploring these cities. If you want to do the Tuscany countryside, the more rural parts of France, etc then you should use a car so you can drive between the pretty villages. A lot of places have decent parking outside the city/Town and you walk in. Do the background checks to figure where you are going. You can also TGV to the rural areas and then pick up a car nearby.

    Given the number of people you have I would seriously look into Air BnB options. We had a great place in Paris that was walking distance to the Louvre and right new Les Halles. It had it's own kitchen and 2ish bedrooms. (The 2nd was off the lounge). Having a kitchen allows you to save a bit of money on food by going to boulangeres, supermarkets etc and putting together meals without resorting to restaurants all the time. This is particularly useful in Switzerland.

    Have a great trip.

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