European Rail Passes
ABOVE: A high-speed ICE train in the German countryside.
For most visitors, rail travel is the quickest and easiest way to get around Europe. Trains go from city center to city center, at speeds of up to 186 mph (300 km/h) on some routes. Parking worries are non-existent, there's no need to pay a king's ransom for gasoline, and you can focus on scenery instead of traffic.
Rail passes make train travel even simpler by eliminating the need to buy tickets on most routes. With a rail pass, you can usually board the nearest train and go where your fancy takes you. (There are exceptions to this: seat reservations are required on some trains, and rail passes aren't accepted on a few rail lines such as Eurostar.)
Eurailpass (for travelers from outside Europe)
Eurailpass is the best-known rail pass outside of Europe, if only because it's been around for decades. The traditional Eurailpass, now called the Eurail Global Pass, comes in two versions: the standard first-class pass, and a second-class youth pass for travelers under age 26. Both passes are available for periods of 15 days, 21 days, one month, two months, or three months, as well as any 10 or 15 days within a two-month period.
These passes can be a good value if you plan to travel frequently in different parts of Europe. However, if you expect to visit just a few countries, the Eurail Select Passes (which cover three to five neighboring countries) or the many different Eurail Regional and One-Country Passes may be more cost-effective.
To make matters more complicated, Eurail also offers Global Pass Saver passes for couples, families, and other groups. These are shared versions of the standard first-class Eurailpass and offer savings over standard passes.
Finally, several countries and regions offer senior passes for travelers over 60.
InterRail (for residents of Europe)
If you live in Europe, an InterRail Pass can save you money on train travel in 30 countries of Europe and North Africa. You can buy an InterRail Global Pass in several durations: 5 days within a 10-day period, 10-days with a 22-day period, 22 continuous days, or one month. Pricing options include second-class youth (for ages 12-25) and first- and second-class adult (with a 50% discount for children from 4 to 11 years old).
InterRail also sells One-Country Passes (one of which, the Benelux pass, includes three countries). These passes are for travel outside the country where you reside, and they come in a number of durations and types (including first- and second-class adult passes and second-class youth passes).
For more information, visit www.interrailnet.com.
Photo copyright © Rail Europe.
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