Traveling to Europe is always a good idea. Europe offers lots to people irrespective of their ages, if you are twenty something backpacker, you find adventure, new experiences and if you are retired 50+ person, you find beauty in peace, nature, islands etc. And one of the most amazing thing about Europe is its extensive rail system.
Train travel has been a staple of extended European vacations for decades, as it is often the easiest way to navigate the continent and allow for plenty of flexibility in your itinerary.
Types of Eurail Passes:
The Eurail pass is a train pass that allows you to explore all of Europe with one train ticket. There are different kind of passes available:
- Global Pass - 15-22- 1month - 2 month - 3month continuous days pass. There are also flexible passes available - any 5 or 7 days in one month or any 10 or 15 days in 2 two months. This pass is valid for 28 European countries.
- Select Pass - With this you pick two to four bordering countries—some of which, like Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg (Benelux) are grouped together and are considered one country for the sake of the pass—and you can travel for five, six, eight, or 10 days within a two-month window.
- Regional Pass - A variety of 2-3-4 country Regional Passes are available that offer train service between popular routes like France and Italy, or France and Spain. You can purchase four-to 10-day passes that can be used within a two-month window.
- One country pass - One Country Pass for travel within one country, like Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, or Sweden.
For more detailed information, check Eurail website - https://www.eurail.com/en
Ordering the pass
You can order the pass online up to 11 months in advance of your trip. Within these 11 months, you need to activate your Pass at a European train station. It will be delivered to address posted in your country usually within in a week day's time. Eurail Pass is only available as a paper document which is sent through registered mail. It's not possible to print the pass yourself or to have it emailed to you.
You can also buy it in Europe but it will be expensive if you buy it directly from the train station in Europe.
How to Use it
Using it the most fun part. You can design your plan and itineraries around it. Decide the countries you want to visit and then finalize the shortest or cheapest possible route as per your suitability.
First you need to activate your Eurail Pass before you start using it. You can do this at train station in Europe and get it stamped with the date it gets activated so that train conductors get to know about its validity.I remember doing it at Paris Gare Montparnasse while traveling to Northern France. For continuous passes, like for 3 month Global pass, after activation it is valid for next 3 months. However for flexible passes, like any 8 days in a month you can choose your travel days on the go and mark it on your pass in travel diary section ( It is a section of your pass cover where you need to enter your personal details and ticket details, as well as the journey details of each train and free bus or ferry you take)
You can hop on and off in any train without limits. However for season time like summers, you have to book a reservation in advance for most high speed trains like Freccia rossa in Italy ( usually 10 euros extra charge to travel within Italy) , TGV in France , and all night trains. But to avoid reservations, you can also take alternative regional trains instead. For example: From Paris to Rennes, if you opt for TGV (high speed train of France), you have to pay extra 18 euros at the station counters. But if you have time in hand and want to avoid this 18 euros, go to Eurail mobile app, check the option of Reservation not required and you see a new bunch of options -
It requires lot more time but you can also seek the possibility of traveling to local towns.
Paris to Rennes alternate route without using TGVs
Also, it is recommended to book reservations 2 months in advance for high speed trains especially during season time, if you dont wan't to risk being without a seat or bed. But don't worry, you can easily avoid making train reservations. Reservations are only required for night trains and most high-speed trains. If you travel with (slower) regional trains instead, you can go anywhere in Europe without having to reserve a seat.
Note: Keep your mobile app installed. It is always handy to have it as you can instantly change your plans or come with something out of blue.
There are few other services included in Eurail passes -
- Eurail passes are not valid in Great Britain (England, Scotland, and Wales). However, selected Eurail Passes entitle you to travel to London with the Eurostar high-speed train. Departing from Brussels or Paris, the Eurostar travels under the sea through the Channel Tunnel. A seat reservation is compulsory.
- I had a journey from Italy to Greece through ferry covered under Eurail pass. It charges extra around 10 - 20 euros (which includes seasonal or port charges). Can be booked through one of the ferries - Superfast ferries, Minoan lines and Blue star ferries.
- With 1st class pass, (if one is above 28, he has to buy 1st class pass only, however he can choose to travel in 1st or 2nd class), you can enjoy access to certain lounges like in Austria and Germany to spend time at stations. Perks: Free Breakfast
- Subway services in some countries like Germany S-Bahn also included
You can get access to all this information in Eurail App planner and become master or invade Europe as you go.
So, Eurail pass is a must weapon in your Armour if you are planning to visit many countries or increase your country count and Explore the beauty of Europe via its rails.
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