Planning a train trip to Europe? Choose your rail pass wisely! While more general Eurail Passes such as the Global and Select Passes are best for travelers planning to visit many European countries in one trip, travelers who have a more limited itinerary can often save money by purchasing a country- or region-specific rail pass. You can find passes for most individual countries in Europe as well those for common country combinations (such as France and Italy or Spain and Portugal).
More extensive regional passes are also available. For example, the Scandinavia Pass covers four countries -- Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland -- while the European East Pass is good for travel in Hungary, Austria, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.
The Global and Select passes do not include travel to Great Britain; if you're headed there, you'll want to look into the options at BritRail.com.
For a full country-by-country list of every rail pass available, visit RailEurope.com.
Tips for Using a European Rail Pass
Before purchasing any rail pass, plan out each leg of your itinerary and check the price of individual point-to-point tickets. (You can do this at booking sites such as RailEurope.com or ACPRail.com, or on the websites of national rail systems such as Trenitalia in Italy or Renfe.com in Spain.) If you'll be taking mostly short, inexpensive trips, it may be cheaper to purchase individual tickets than to purchase a rail pass.
Rail passes can be purchased in the U.S. through travel agents or directly from sites such as RailEurope.com, Eurail.com and ACPRail.com. In most cases, they cannot be purchased after you arrive in Europe. Discounted passes are available for youths (under age 28), or for groups of two to five people traveling together at all times. Senior discounts (for travelers over the age of 60) are available only on certain passes.
Rail passes generally come in two types: consecutive or "flexi." Consecutive passes are valid for unlimited travel on a certain number of days in a row. These passes are best for travelers who will be moving frequently from one city to another. Most country passes are of the "flexi" variety, valid for intervals such as "four days in one month" or "five days in 15." This means that your pass is good for a certain number of travel days (four, five, etc.) within a given period (one month, 15 days, etc.).
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