Eurailing: A Great American Tradition

Eurail Overview

When most people think of Eurailpasses, they call to mind the original pass. This was a passport ticket that, according to the literature, gave "unlimited train travel" through the countries in the Eurail Network. This kind of pass — valid for 15 days, 21 days, 1 month, 2 months, or 3 months of first-class travel — still exists and covers more than 100,000 miles of rail in 17 countries: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Holland, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Norway, Portugal, Republic of Ireland, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. The common Eurail Youthpass, a second-class-travel budget option for anyone under 26 years of age, is also available.

But today there is much, much more. A brief list of some of the Eurail alternatives out there follows.

Europasses are full-validity passes like the basic Eurailpass, except that they cover travel in only five countries: France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Switzerland."Associate Countries" (Austria/Hungary, Benelux [Belgium, Netherlands, and Luxembourg], Greece, and Portugal) can be added for a price. Europasses are available as a Saverpass, Youthpass, and Drive Pass.

Flexipasses are less expensive than "full validity" passes because they allow for a limited number of days of travel during a pass's validity. The most common variations on this theme cover any 10 days or any 15 days of training in a two-month period. The Flexipass option is available in almost every form: for youth, as a Saverpass, Europass, Drive Pass, and for most single and multiple country passes.

Saverpasses are special, more economical passes designed for two or more people always traveling together. Saverpasses, like all others, are available to youth, as Flexipasses, Europasses, Drive passes, and for some single and multiple country passes.

Drive Passes
Drive Passes give those who want a dose of the non-rail road a chance to get behind the wheel. The classic Eurail Drive Pass includes four days of train with two days of car rental; the Europass Drive is only three days in trains with two on the road. Single country Rail 'n' Drive Passes are available for Britain, France, Italy, Spain, and in four Scandinavian countries.

Single Country Passes
A wide variety of passes are available for travel within one country. This is the case for: Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Greece, Holland, Hungary, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

Multiple Country Passes
If you will be visiting more than one country but still keeping to a small area of Europe, or if you will be visiting a part of Europe not covered by the classic passes (Eurailpass or Europass), there are plenty of multiple country passes. Think about the European East Pass (Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia), Benelux Tourrail Pass (Belgium, Luxembourg, and Netherlands), Balkan Flexipass (Bulgaria, Greece, Macedonia, Romania, Turkey, and Yugoslavia [Serbia and Montenegro]), Iberic Railpass (Spain and Portugal), and Scanrail Pass (Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden).

Now that you know what's available, think about the following: Give some thought to what pass or passes suit your planned itinerary. There are passes for all occasions, so there's no need to go for the full-validity classic fallback if you are not going to spend as much time on trains as you think. Also, there's no reason to go for a pass that covers many more countries than you will visit. Think about where you are going, how you will get there, what your travel options are, and how much time you have. Finally, keep in mind some important dos and don'ts and tricks.

Published: 30 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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