Traveling around Europe by train is one of those experiences that should really be on everyone’s bucket list. Many people think that flying business class (or first class) is something they will never get to experience because of the extortionate airfares and honestly, I don’t blame them! We have flown first class once between Singapore and Melbourne and although you can see the difference, can you really justify the price difference? With train travel, you have the choice between first-class and second-class travel. We want to share our Eurail first class travel experiences based on our recent 10 day adventure across Europe.
As technologies and transportation methods evolve, the concept of traveling by train is unfortunately diminishing as travelers across the globe look to find cheaper, more efficient ways to get around. However, what people frequently forget is that traveling by train is actually a great way to save time but not only that, you can enjoy an experience unlike any other form of transportation.
I am going to go out on a limb with the following statement… “Exploring Europe by train is 100% the best way to get around and enjoy experiences you would otherwise miss out on” – yes, there are a bunch of low-cost airlines such as easyJet and Ryanair and if you are really pushed for time, these are great, affordable options.
But if you go that route, you miss out on exploring hidden gems like Colmar in the Alsace region of France, countries like San Marino in the heart of Italy and most importantly, those cultural interactions with locals across the continent.
Let’s take a look at why exploring Europe by train and in particular, why the benefits of purchasing a first-class Eurail pass is the best decision for any upcoming European travel.
Eurail First Class Travel Benefits
I want to start by taking a look at what some of the key benefits are when you purchase a first-class Eurail pass. This post isn’t going to delve into the details of why purchasing a Eurail pass in general is the best option (in our opinion it is but you can read all about the benefits of Eurail here), rather it will focus on why first-class train travel is a step about second-class and why you will immediately feel like you are in luxury.
Let’s start with a quick caveat…every train/operator across Europe is different and so the standards that you will find are very different dependent on where you are traveling. For example, first-class travel in Switzerland and Italy is going to be very different to first-class travel in Hungary or Slovenia!
But that’s all part of the European rail journey adventure because you get to experience all of these differences. Rather than worrying about the quality, why not embrace the uniqueness each country offers and with a first-class Eurail pass, you can at least guarantee you are going to get the best each operator offers!
Let’s start with probably the most obvious and the aspect that is likely going to convince most folks to purchase first-class passes. The comfort levels available inside a first-class cabin/carriage is far superior to what you will experience in second-class.
Ok, let’s be realistic and reiterate that the difference between first and second class on a train isn’t quite what you experience on an airplane but it’s still noticeable enough to justify paying the extra price for a first-class pass.
Individually “customized” and “adjustable” seats are pretty standard inside all first-class cabins and you will likely experience more space (more on this later) with legroom and armrests. Extra wide tables are popular amenities inside a first-class cabin ensuring that you have plenty of room to catch up on work or relax with your favorite book.
The Frecciarossa high-speed trains in Italy are perhaps the most impressive that we have experienced, though for these you will be required to pay a small reservation fee each time you use them in addition to having the Eurail pass in-hand.
You are generally going to find that first-class seats are readily available, at least that is what we found during our recent trip across Europe. There will be occasions, such as during prime-time travel around 8-9AM and 4:30-6PM where it’s difficult to find any seats but overall you will find that more “locals” tend to opt for second-class travel as it’s cheaper and they are more concerned with reaching their destination rather than relaxing and admiring the scenery.
To reiterate what I referenced earlier…
In some countries first class simply means you have a better chance of finding a seat, whereas in other countries it means you’ll feel like royalty. (Eurail.com)
3. Peace and Quiet
Traveling in a first-class cabin generally means more “business” type people will be surrounding you, so it’s goes without saying they will likely be working away on their laptops and not holding many conversations.
The quiet cabin along with extra comfort in the seats will provide the perfect setting to catch up on some sleep or to simply relax and enjoy the breathtaking scenery passing by you. Grab a snack courtesy of the onboard service available on many trains and get ready for a relaxing adventure across Europe.
4. Stay Connected and Fully Charged
It doesn’t matter where you are in the world, there is a pretty common requirement out there in society…we all have to stay connected 24/7! And this is where traveling in first-class helps because the majority of these cabins are fitted with power sockets to ensure every device is 100% charged throughout your train journey and beyond.
Some trains are equipped with wi-fi connectivity which is another awesome benefit of traveling by train. Depending on the country, you may be fortunate to have free access otherwise a small surcharge will be required regardless of which class you travel in.
USB access in your seat or directly above you is another perk that cannot be disregarded. Another option for charging your phone or tablet without having to worry about pulling out all those long charging cables and travel adapter.
These are just a few examples of how traveling first-class is beneficial over second-class. If you need a little more convincing, take a look at this graphic offered by Eurail comparing the two classes.
Justifying the Cost Difference
Ok, so you are starting to get an idea by now that there are plenty of perks traveling first-class versus regular second-class. However, one more aspect is always going to be considered by travelers looking at Eurail passes – the cost difference!
Every Eurail pass is different and prices are always fluctuating because of seasonal rates and also discounts that are frequently available (that’s right folks, don’t forget to frequently keep checking Eurail’s website and social networks for notice about discounts!). However, let’s take a base Eurail Global Pass based on current prices (at the time of publication of this post), just to give you an idea of price comparison.
|Type||1st Class||2nd Class|
|5 Days (1 Month)||€468||€376|
|7 Days (1 Month)||€570||€458|
|15 Days Continuous||€597||€480|
|22 Days Continuous||€768||€616|
So, in the grand scheme of things, the price difference between 1st and 2nd class travel on a train is not massive. Is it worth paying the extra to enjoy the benefits of 1st class train travel? That’s entirely up to you but in our opinion, the answer is 100% yes!
Where to Travel First Class in Europe
The simple answer to the above question is EVERYWHERE and ANYWHERE! It really doesn’t matter where you choose to travel with your Eurail pass because you are going to reap the benefits the moment you step on the train.
Ok, so if you stay around Western Europe, the train system is a little more “developed” and “modern” so the benefits are going to be more obvious rather than in the Eastern European nations. But don’t let that stop you from heading further East because this is the BEST opportunity to explore some of those countries that may otherwise never have found their way on to your bucket list.
Here are some of the adventures you could experience should you choose to follow our route but honestly, we highly recommend checking out either our website (click on Destinations and Europe for some inspiration) or Eurail’s site here for popular routes.
- Experience the best things to do in Bologna – explore one of Italy’s hidden gems that frequently falls under the radar of the more infamous cities across the nation.
- Enjoy the Golden Pass in Switzerland by traveling between Lucerne and Interlaken (and beyond) – one of the many breathtaking, alpine routes to be enjoyed throughout Europe.
- Free Brussels Walking Tour – head to the heart of Belgium to enjoy one of the best free walking tours we have discovered across Europe courtesy of Sandemans.
- Head further east and experience the very best of the Hungarian capital Budapest in one day.
These are just a couple of examples of experiences you can enjoy and the beauty of traveling by first-class is that when you arrive in each of your chosen destinations, you will be fully relaxed and energized to explore everything there is to see there.
The benefits of Eurail’s first class pass are just one of the reasons why we consider taking the train to explore Europe is the best method of transportation. It’s tough competition out there to navigate around Europe when you could feasibly rent a car and drive or hop on one of the many low-cost airlines scattered across the continent. But neither of these options give you quite as much flexibility, comfort and relaxation as a first-class cabin does.
Our recent trip to Europe was one of the toughest trips we have taken, mainly for personal reasons. After losing my mother quite suddenly just a few weeks prior to this trip, we were very apprehensive about heading back across the pond to take on the adventure of traveling around Europe by train. But the moment we stepped on our first train in Geneva, Switzerland, we realized we had made the right decision because that was our way of dealing with such a tragedy and helping us relax.
We hope after reading this post you will be convinced to purchase a first-class train ticket and experience the very best of Europe just like we have done. We have enjoyed this on three separate occasions, each time exploring a different region and visiting new countries. It’s hard to pick a favorite route or a favorite destination but all we can say is that this type of travel is what will quickly give you the wanderlust to want to explore more!
I followed your journey on social media, so it’s very interesting to read this wrap up of your adventure. I’m with you — trains in Europe are the best way to see the sights. It’s so much easier than dealing with security at airports. We flew United for the first time this year to Europe, so we had the excursionist perk of a “free” inter-Europe flight and felt we had to take it. We flew from Nuremberg to Luxembourg City. But I would much rather have traveled by train! We did train from Budapest to Vienna and ended up sitting by an American couple and enjoyed visiting (in English!) the entire time. We’ve also found trains are a great place to meet locals, even if we don’t speak a word of each other’s language. I’m glad you enjoyed your trip and that you found it healing after your mother’s passing.
We are missing the boat (or train) in America! Not only do we have so few train routes, even fewer have a First Class section. We rode Business Class in the Acela Express from Philadelphia to DC, and it was great. Meanwhile, those European rails…they’re calling us!!