1. Is Eurorail Worth it? / Should you buy a Eurail Pass?
However, if your goal is to travel as cheaply as possible, the eurail global pass is not the way to go it. It's often cheaper just to purchase a slower regional ticket (often 1/3 the price!) once you arrive in the country or taking a long bus trip on a local bus carrier (depending on country) or Flixbus.
2. You might need a visa depending on your nationality.
If you're wondering which countries are in the Schengen Zone... the Schengen Zone is comprised of 26 countries that have no borders within them. These countries include Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.
NOT Schengen countries with their own laws regulating immigration: United Kingdom, Romania, Ireland, Serbia, Kosovo, Turkey (Not EU as well!), Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Albania Croatia, Bulgaria and Cyprus.
3. You have 90 days IN the Schengen zone every 6 months as a tourist (no working!). Choose your countries wisely.
If you’re hopping in and out of the Schengen zone, your clock is NOT reset, but it is paused. It is 90 days PER six months. So if you wanted to spend 1 month in the UK after spending 2 months in Schengen, you can go back to Schengen for an additional 30 days to finish your time. If you're unsure where you stand, there's a handy calculator online: http://www.schengen-calculator.com/
4. Book your flight out of Schengen ahead.
5. Don't buy the global pass by default; Figure out how many countries you want to visit ahead.
A lot of people feel pressured to visit more than 4 countries. There's nothing wrong with spending 3 months in Italy visiting small towns/vineyards, strolling around around medieval cities, and seeing epic landscapes (the Dolomites!). Many European countries have so much to offer beyond their capitals if you're willing to explore off the beaten path places, and for introverts, the backpacker route can be quite stressful as you're constantly moving between places with little time/little privacy to relax if you're going with friends or staying at hostels.
6. The cost is NOT just the pass. You also need to factor in seat reservations & public transit.
7. Don’t lose your Eurorail ticket & Remember to activate your Eurail pass once you get to Europe!
8. Don't overdo your itinerary. 24 hours in Paris is NOT enough.
Only 24 hours in Paris? If this is the only way and it's a must, why not? However, some cities need TIME. Paris needs around 5 days and sometimes it’s worth skipping a city if you’ll be rushing your way through it unable to enjoy it properly. Amsterdam needs about 3 days, however I could have done 2 days in Venice and been happy with it. This depends on the person, but 24 hours is not enough in most major cities.
9. Pick two: Cost, flexibility, and time.
That cheap 6am train direct to your next city? Imagine booking it to the train station after staying out until 4am. Trust me, you’ll wish you picked the 9am train. You'll be dead by the time you get there.
Also that 15 hour train ride that would be a 1 hour plane ride? Just take the budget flight. By the 2nd transfer with 10 minutes to find the next track, you'll be over that scenic train ride and want to be there already.
10. Don't overpack
11. Don't bring a rolling suitcase.
As someone who has visited 18 countries (including most of Europe) in the past 2 years, I only use backpacks (Quechua 50L) and/or cabin-only bags. (Bags that aren't typical backpackers bags, e.g. day-bags or smart-looking backpacks, are great for blending in.) RIP little weekend carry-on bag. My latest European travel bag has been the CabinZero cabin-only bag. Despite an awful experience missing a flight and being forced to take two budget flights (where you're charged for a normal carry-on luggage bag). This means that you won't need to pay baggage fees on budget airlines and there will always be space for your bag at the hostel. (You can read my full review of the CabinZero bag here!)
12. Eastern Europe is not as train friendly as you would expect.
I tried for the longest time to travel from Hungary to Slovenia via Croatia...and back. This would have been over 12 hours in transit each way with going through 3 different countries en route from Croatia (including Dubrovnik) to Budapest.... I realized I'd have more time and it would be as just as cheap to take a Ryanair flight to Italy and back.
13. If you want to visit smaller (and/or off the beaten path) cities or national parks, trains are not always the best way of getting around and you should plan for spending more money on other forms of transit.
14. Don't bother buying a bunk on an overnight train
15. Reserve your seat ahead for non-regional trains! Plan your route ahead; there's no fault in flying
The cost of an overnight train is often twice as much as a flight going the same length. There is something magical about seeing the mountains around dawn (when you can't sleep), but it's usually worth seeing if there's a budget flight going the same route, so you can arrive the same evening. I somehow thought that I was cheating if I took more than 1 flight. I simply took more time to get in between cities. A good excel with a rough itinerary is a good start. I ended up taking a plane from Porto to Paris after I realized how long and indirect the train would be. Instead, I paid 30 euros for a 1.5 hour flight on Ryanair.
16. Don't cut it too close & always check the station the day BEFORE.
Always check the station before you go. I had just seen the words Budapest, so I went to the main station. It turned out that the train was from another train station across Budapest.