Ever dreamed of chucking it all and traveling around Europe for a month or three? If the sidewalk cafes of Paris, the snowy peaks of the Swiss Alps and the bustling beer halls of Germany are all on your must-visit list, you might be a good candidate for a Europe rail pass. Several types of Eurail passes are available for unlimited rail travel in up to 24 countries. Which one is best for you? Read on.
Eurail Global Pass
The Eurail Global Pass (formerly known as the Eurailpass) is the standard pass, available for first-class train travel over periods ranging from 15 days to three months. The pass is valid in the following 24 countries: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Romania, the Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey.
You can purchase a “continuous” pass, which is good for unlimited travel over 15 days, 21 days, one month, two months or three months of travel, or a “flexipass,” which entitles you to 10 or 15 travel days over a two-month period. With the flexipass option, you’ll want to choose your travel days wisely; if you’re taking a brief hop between two nearby cities, it may be more cost-effective to simply buy a point-to-point ticket for that day and save the travel days on your pass for longer, more expensive trips.
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Eurail Select Passes
While Eurail Global Passes are ideal for extensive multi-nation transportation, travelers who are visiting only three to five countries may be better off purchasing a Eurail Select Pass. With this flexible “designer” pass, you may choose to travel within three, four or five bordering European countries for a duration of five to 15 days within a two-month period.
Rail travel in France is not included with this pass, but you may choose from the following destinations: Austria, Benelux (includes Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands), Bulgaria, Croatia/Slovenia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland (includes Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland), Italy, Montenegro/Serbia, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey.
Traveling with at least one buddy? Try a Saverpass, which grants a 15 percent discount to two to five people traveling together. To take advantage of this pass, you and your companion(s) must be present at the start of your trip to validate your passes. If you have France Saverpasses, you must also travel together throughout your itinerary.
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Passes for Youths and Children
Many Europe rail passes offer discounted prices for travelers between the ages of 12 and 25 (on the first day of use). These essentially provide the same benefits as the regular adult passes, except that you travel in second class rather than first class. Passes for children age 4 – 11 cost half of the adult fare, and children under 4 travel free in the lap of an adult passenger.
If you’re visiting only one or two countries, or if your itinerary is limited to a specific region (such as the British Isles), you should consider a European Country Rail Pass.
Rail passes can be purchased in the U.S. from travel agents or from sites such as RailEurope.com, Eurail.com and ACPRail.com. In most cases, they cannot be purchased after you arrive in Europe. Be sure to compare all of your options carefully before you buy, and weigh the price of the passes against the cost of individual point-to-point tickets.
For help purchasing your pass, see Buying a European Rail Pass.