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Eurail (http://www.eurail.com/) (formerly Eurorail) is a rail pass that allows unlimited travel covering 25 countries in Europe. Intended for visitors from outside Europe, the pass is similar in scope to Inter Rail (for European residents); see the article for a fuller discussion of pros and cons.
Confusingly, there are many different types of Eurail passes. The major variations are:
New for 2006:
All passes are available in fixed-length versions of 15 or 21 days, and 1, 2, or 3 months of consecutive-day travel, and also as Flexipass versions offering 10 or 15 days of travel within 2 months. Selectpasses are all flexible and offer 5, 6, 8, 10, or 15 travel days in a 2-month period.
Pricing naturally depends on the exact variation: a flexible 5-day 3-country Youth Selectpass starts at $249, a consecutive 15-day full Youthpass can be yours for $394, while a consecutive three-month 1st-class pass would set you back a whopping $1703.
Prices have historically risen (an average of 20%) every January to reflect the current exchange rate, but since all passes are valid for six months from date of purchase, it would make sense to buy passes as late as 31 December, yet travel as late as June of the following year.
Children under 4 travel free. Children 4-11 receive 50% off any pass when travelling with an adult with the same pass.
Those with 1st-class passes may travel in second-class compartments at any time. Those with 2nd-class passes can pay the 50% difference in ticket price to upgrade to 1st.
As of 2006, Eurail covers the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Republic of Ireland, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland. The most noteworthy exception is the United Kingdom, which has its own railway system called BritRail (http://www.acprailnet.com/britrail).
Eurail passes are valid on most high-speed trains in Europe, including TGV, Thalys, InterCity Express (ICE), EuroCity (EC) and InterCity (IC). Exclusions are:
Reservations are mandatory for many express services, and these are not free, although groups of 6 paying adults travelling together get a 30% discount.
Overnight services will also charge supplements if you want a cabin or couchette to sleep in.
Quirks and caveats
Note that the following are counted as one country for the Selectpass and Regional Passes:
Unlike Inter Rail, which is solely for 2nd class travel, there are no limitations regarding the starting country, and there are no discounts for travel outside the selected zones.
Travel days are generally counted from midnight to midnight. There is one useful exception: direct overnight trains and ferries leaving after 7 p.m. are counted as one day of travel, not two.
One-month passes last longer when validated (on any day) within a 31-day month.
Any of the passes are now valid on the Airport Express Trains and night-trains in Sweden.
Notes on boats
Ferries between Ireland and France, Italy and Greece, and the trio of Germany, Sweden and Finland are either free or steeply discounted. All boat rides on Switzerland's lakes are free as well.
Flexipass and Selectpass holders use a full travel day for free passage on a ship; travelling at a reduced fare does not require use of a travel day.
For free passage travel, your pass must be valid for both the countries of departure and arrival; for discounted passage, either country is acceptable.
Eurail Passes are available online from official site Eurail Direct (http://www.euraildirect.com/), from official General Sales Agents, or at the Eurail Aid Office in London (at higher prices). Eurail Passes and Eurail tickets may not be sold to residents of Europe, Turkey, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, or the Russian Federation.
General Sales Agents