Weighing Rail Europe versus Local Train Tickets
Many luxury travelers choose trains as the most convenient, most scenic, and least stressful way to see Europe. For visitors committed to classic, eco-friendly train travel, Rail Europe is an alternative to buying local railroad tickets in individual European countries.
You buy tickets that are good nearly everywhere in Europe. (You can also buy passes for solo countries from Rail Europe.)
And Rail Europe ca be a very good deal, especially off-season, when prices drop and sudden deals crop up, like online flash sales.
• Fares are sold for three age groups: Youth (4 to 25), Adult (26 to 59), Senior (60+).
So How Do You Decide Whether to Go with Local Trains or Rail Europe?
Going with Rail Europe has certain advantages.
• Rail Europe whisks you across borders. If you're planning on taking trains in more than one European country, Rail Europe's single tickets and passes are a logistical boon, saving time, confusion, and stress.
• Rail Europe allows for spontaneity. Rail Europe makes it easy to travel in impromptu and adventurous style. This is a joy to footloose travelers; for travelers who prefer staying in one region or country in a set agenda, it would not be the best option
Bottom line: For travelers planning to visit several countries, Rail Europe can end up being a considerable money-saver.
However, Rail Europe has its disadvantages, too.
The main knock against Rail Europe is that it requires pre-planning.
Rail Europe tickets must be bought in advance -- and delivered to you in North America before you fly to Europe. (However, individual point-to-point tickets and multi-train passes can be bought online no matter where you are.
They are not as discounted as pre-bought tickets.)
Rail Europe's Various Kind of Passes
Rail Europe offers numerous types of passes. Luckily, there's help Handy, interactive tools on Rail Europe's website help you decide which options might be best for your trip.
Factors to consider: whether you have a set itinerary, may be taking more than three trains, or are looking for date flexibility.
Some of Rail Europe's Most Popular Types of Passes (Formerly Called Eurailpasses)
Eurail Select Pass: Rail Europe's most popular pass gives you unlimited travel on national rail networks. The options are many: you can choose travel on three, four, or five bordering countries, and for a duration of five, six, eight, 10, or 15 days. The Eurail Select Pass is valid for two months, whether it's high season or off-season.
Eurail Global Pass: allows you unlimited travel on the entire rail networks of 30 countries. (See the list below). The Eurail Global Pass is available in two options. The Consecutive Pass is good for a period of 15 days or 21 days, or one, two or three months. The Flexipass is good for 10 or 15 days of travel, either consecutive days or isolated days, within a two-month period
Eurail Italy Pass: is for rail travel in Italy only.
A different version is available for visitors to Italy who are taking Italian trains but may want to cross the border into neighboring France, Switzerland, Austria, or Croatia.
Rail Europe Tickets Are Specific to Classes of Rail Service
Beyond their specificity to time and location, Rail Europe tickets grant the holder seating in different classes of rail service.
• Premier: These tickets are the best class of service. Seats are in first-class cars. In some cases, these tickets also grant the holder access to the station lounge. Under some circumstances they can be exchanged if unused
• Comfort: These are first-class tickets, but cannot be exchanged and do not provide access to station lounges
• Freedom: Seats are standard or second class. These tickets can be exchanged but do not allow access to station lounges
• Economy: These standard/second-class seat tickets cannot be exchanged and do not provide access to the station lounge.
You Can Customize Your Rail Europe Tickets
Rail Europe offers various combination tickets that include airport transfers; that cover both train travel and car rental, tour packages, and others. Endless options mean that your ticket is highly customized.
Here's a Rail Europe page to get started, and the very helpful Rail Europe Pass Finder.
Countries Served by Rail Europe:
• Czech Republic
• Northern Ireland
• United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales; via Eurostar through the "Chunnel")
• Who's not served? Albania and Northern Ireland