This article first appeared on 100 Nights of Summer, our mini-website dedicated to European festival travel.
Half the fun festivalling across the world the past few years has been traveling by train, and the European rail system is the best in the world. From the tip of Spain to the edge of the Black Sea in Romania, it’s possible to ride the train to the hidden corners of Europe (and I have).
The Eurail Pass, or InterRail Pass for Europeans, has been a classic on the backpacker circuit for decades. For a single price, you can board nearly any train at nearly any time, and for those of us spontaneous travelers, this ticket really sets you free. Eurail passes are available in a variety of country choices and timeframes, so there’s sure to be one that fits your trip. But is the rail pass worth the price and worth investing on your next music festival adventure? That’s going to be up to you. Below, I outline some of the lessons I learned as a Eurail Pass newbie.
Lesson #1: Generous Baggage Limits
You Want to Bring It, Bring It (Rock Werchter, Belgium)
I’d like to see you haul all the gear you need for four days of camping onto an airplane. Baggage fees are insane, and even if you can somehow get your stuff in the cabin, there’s always going to be an Italian security officer who will confiscate your tent stakes (true story). Even buses balk at more than one or two large bags. But the train? Bring whatever you want. Belgium festies that I met on the way to Rock Werchter were loaded up with pull-carts full of beer and gear, along with a bicycle. Bikes on the train? No problem.
Lesson #2: Maximize Your Holidays With Night Trains
The Overnight Adventure (Tinderbox, Denmark)
You need to get the most out of your vacation, and wasting a day on travel just stirs up that anxious feeling that you are missing everything. That’s why I grabbed an overnight train whenever possible. Besides the obvious benefit of saving money on overnight lodging, I was able to spend a nine-hour journey to Denmark peacefully passed out in an over-sized seat. For those of you that need to be a bit more horizontal, most night trains offer beds for an additional fee.
*Price Watch: Most night trains require a reservation in advance ($5-$10) which you can pick up at the train station office. Don’t purchase on-board as they will charge a hefty surcharge.
Lesson #3: Enjoy the Scenery
But Those Views… (Pohoda Festival, Slovakia)
The overnighter certainly saves you time and money, but you’re doing a disservice to yourself if you spend the whole time sleeping away. They view from the train window can be astounding and well worth the price of admission. From Belgium to Slovakia, I spent hours with my face glued to the window as we sped through the dramatic Austrian Alps and the beautiful High Tatras of Slovakia.
Lesson #4: Free Ferry Rides
Work a Cruise into The Adventure (Reworks Festival, Greece)
Here’s a little known bonus perk with the Eurail Pass. Free ferry rides! I caught an overnight ferry from Western Greece over to Italy. Riding out through the Greek Isles during a stunning sunset while drinking wine and eating olives from my makeshift picnic on deck was a real highlight of the trip. The Eurail pass offers up a ton of perks like this. Two quick points — this bonus only offers passage in a deck chair, but you can upgrade to a dorm or private room for extra money.
*Price Watch: Be aware that the ferry rides will charge port fees, typically around $10-$20.
Lesson #5: The Mobile Office
Traveling And Working Like a Digital Nomad (Maifeld Derby, Germany)
While most of you are cruising around Europe strictly on holiday time, some of us are trying to squeeze in some work. For a traveling music festival reporter, it’s all about maximizing my time, and the train turned out to be essential for me hitting my deadlines. Spacious tables for laptops, plentiful power for all my mobile devices, affordable espresso delivered to my seat, and even WIFI connectivity all helped me turn a few hours on my way through Germany into a productive morning.
Lesson #6: Inspired By Trains
There is Nothing Like Train Travel (Lovefest, Serbia)
The train stations. The scenery. Riding through small villages in the dark of night. The reason that train travel is so romantic is because it’s romantic, conjuring up the very idea of adventure and the unknown. With an unlimited rail pass and no schedule, you can go just about anywhere in Europe. Catching breakfast at the Vienna Central Station or running through the Budapest-Keleti station to catch an overnight to Belgrade feels a bit like you’re living in a movie…until you realize your left your shoes under the seat on a Corscian train.
Lesson #7: Download that App
All train schedules at your fingertips (Electric Castle, Romania)
The app for Eurail is incredible, featuring timetables for nearly every major train line in Europe. Individual country websites can be difficult to navigate, but the Eurail app makes it easy and is a welcome addition to your mobile phone arsenal, even if you don’t have a Eurail Pass. And finally — and this is the most important – it works offline which is a godsend for signal challenged festival sites.
Disclaimer: Eurail Pass provided me with a 15-day/2-month pass for the purposes of review. We have no monetary arrangement and I am not obligated to provide a positive review. This is not sponsored content.