European train travel is about to become a whole lot easier.

By Meena Thiruvengadam
August 12, 2020

The days of having to wait for the mail or look for a printer before being able to embark on a great European rail journey are finally coming to an end.

Eurail, which has remained committed to paper passes since its founding in 1959, is finally embracing digital technology. After a successful test in June, Eurail is releasing a digital rail pass in Italy, allowing travelers to swap their paper passbooks for a digital app.

Previously, Eurail passes had to be ordered through the mail or printed at home — requirements that can be challenging for travelers already on the road. Passes could only be filled out in ink — not pencil — and had to be validated at the train station before they could be used.

With digital passes, users simply download an app and board their train where conductors scan barcodes.

Eurail has long resisted going digital, instead positioning its paper passes as the ultimate travel souvenir, a tangible reminder of their journeys.

Red train on bridge crossing river in pine tree valley
Credit: Getty Images

When asked why it remained so committed to paper, Eurail cited its unique value proposition: connecting rail systems in 33 countries with different ticketing systems under one easy-to-use pass. That umbrella option connects thousands of destinations across Europe, making it easy to hop between countries with a single travel document and scheduling flexibility.

Eurail partnered with Italy’s Trenitalia on its test program and plans to roll out digital versions of its multicountry passes and additional single-country passes later this year.

For non-European travelers, prices start at $295 for four days of rail travel within a one-month period and go up to $1,082 for three months of unlimited train travel for travelers 28 and older. Prices for travelers aged 12 through 27 range from $222 to $812.

Similar Interrail passes are available for European travelers.

Meena Thiruvengadam is a Travel + Leisure contributor who has visited 50 countries on six continents and 47 U.S. states. She loves historic plaques, wandering new streets, and walking on beaches. Find her on Twitter at @meena_thiru and on Instagram at @meenathiru.