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European rail passes

Save on train travel in Europe with the right rail pass

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Eurail and other rail passes can save you money on unlimited train travel in Europe. Photo: Rail travelers in Europe. © Eurail.

Heading for Europe? Want to "see it all?" If your travel plans call for racking up kilometers hopping between multiple destinations, a European rail pass may save you money. Rail passes give you unlimited travel freedom for a single set price. So the more distance you cover and stops you make, the more you'll save.

Best known are Eurail Passes which offer an amazing variety of travel options. Eurail Global Rail Passes allow unlimited travel across 28 countries while Eurail Select Rail Passes let you zero in on two, three or four bordering countries. Eurail also offers a variety of single-country and regional passes. Non-Eurail single-country rail passes are offered by national railways in France, Germany, and Switzerland.

European rail passes can be customized to fit your travel plans and preferences. Most popular are "flexi" rail passes which are valid for multiple travel days within a set time frame. Single-country passes are generally available for 3, 4, 5 or 8 days of travel within 1 month period. Eurail Select Passes are available for up to 10 days of travel within 2 months.

Several passes are also available for continuous and flexi travel. France, Germany, and Switzerland passes are available for up to 15 consecutive travel days. The Eurail Global Pass can accommodate as many as 3 months of non-stop travel.

First class pass holders travel in spacious coaches and often receive additional perks. Travelers holding second class passes enjoy the same unlimited travel as first class passengers at a budget price. Up to 2 children under 12 can travel for free when accompanied by a pass-holding adult. Selected passes offer discounts to couples and groups of up to 5 travelers and to young travelers between the ages of 12 and 26.

Eurail and other rail passes are available online (Eurail "free travel day" offers are in effect through September 30, 2016 for travel within 11 months of purchase). Rail Europe specializes in Eurail and non-Eurail passes and offers point-to-point tickets, a range of printable E-products, and is the sole seller of SNCF France Passes in the U.S. and Canada. Montreal-based ACP Rail sells Eurail and Interrail passes as well as DB German, Renfe Spain, Balkan, European East, and Central Europe passes in over 240 countries. The official Eurail website offers a full line of Eurail and Interrail passes.

Travel notes: Most European rail passes include free or reduced fares on ferries and other connecting transportation. Discounts for hotels and attractions may also be included. Passes do not guarantee seat availability and reservations are required for travel on selected trains. Travel must begin with 6 months of pass purchase.
For some travel, regular point-to-point tickets may be cheaper than rail passes. Passes are unavailable in Europe and should be obtained before leaving home. Eurail passes are available to non-European residents only. Interail offers similar passes to European residents.

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