Save money and buy Eurail Passes before leaving for Europe.

Posted by Fodor's Editors on April 04, 2011 at 1:00:00 AM EDT | Post a Comment
You can buy passes in many major European train stations, but prices are typically 20% higher than if you buy in advance online, and not all types of passes are available. Note that Eurail Passes aren't honored in Britain. They are effective in the following 25 countries: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Montenegro, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Ireland, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.

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  • Man_in_seat_61 on Apr 6, 11 at 08:29 AM

    A few more tips:

    1. Don't assume you need a railpass until you've checked what point to point tickets would cost.

    If I came to the States, I wouldn't buy a $700 Sooper-Dooper Trans-America airline pass just to make two Jet Blue budget flights that I could easily pick up online in advance for $50, would I???

    2. And when costing the railpass option, you need to factor in the significant reservation surcharges that now apply to almost every fast train in France, Italy or Spain, or on the Paris-Brussels-Amsterdam route, for example. For example, every long-distance trip in Italy or Spain will set you back 10 euros in addition to the cost of the pass.

    3. Don't rely on US websites claiming to compare railpass costs with point to points. They often only show the full-price point to point fare, not the one that actually applies if you pre-book. That's like only comparing the air fare that applies if you walk into the airport and buy a flight ticket on the day of travel! As with air travel, few travellers by train in Europe now pay the full price. We buy cheap tickets in advance.

    4. Western European rail operators now have airline-style pricing. For example, Amsterdam to Paris costs just 45 euros without a pass (including reservation!) if you pre-book at www.thalys.com, just 6 euros more than the whopping 38 euros surcharge (2nd class - it's a massive 62 euros in 1st class) that Thalys now charge if you hold a railpass. That makes a railpass a very expensive way to save 6 euros!!

    5. Book direct with the European train operators to see the cheap European prices, with no booking fees or other surcharges. You usually either collect tickets at the station or even print them out yourself.

    www.bahn.de for any journey within, or to or from, Germany. Will also book the sleeper trains direct from Amsterdam to Prague, Copenhagen, Zurich, Munich, and from Zurich to Prague.

    www.trenitaliacom for any journey within, or starting within, Italy.

    www.tgv-europe.com for any journey within or starting within, France (but say you're from Canada if you're from the USA to avoid being bumped to their US subsidiary Rail Europe)

    www.sbb.ch for any journey starting in Switzerland.

    www.renfe.com for any journey within Spain, or the direct sleeper trains between Spain and Paris, geneva, Zurich, Lisbon, Milan, in either direction.

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