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Rail Information

Eurail Pass vs InterRail Pass

eurail pass

Traveling by trains in Europe are quite comfortable and flexible in these days. With unlimited travel access like Eurail pass and Interrail pass, there are endless destination opportunities for you to explore.

Eurail pass (also known as Eurorail Pass), formerly known as Euro Pass is an European Rail ticket with unlimited travel across European countries. Eurail passes can only be purchased by non-European residents. Normally these eurail passes are sold outside Europe, although it is possible to purchase it inside Europe, but it will be a bit more expensive. The best way to obtain eurail passes is through online website such as Rail Europe. You may book the rail pass up to 60 days in advance of your travel date. Rail Europe will send the ticket to your address for free (limited to some countries only).

Type of Eurail Passes:
1. Eurail Global Pass
The Global Pass covers unlimited travel in 20 countries: Austria (including Liechtenstein), Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, France (including Monaco), Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal , Ireland, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland.

2. Eurail Regional Pass
Offer 3-10 days travels within 2 months period between 2 bordering countries. Available combination are: Austria-Croatia/Slovenia, Austria-Czech Republic, Austria-Germany, Austria-Hungary, Austria-Switzerland, Benelux-France, Benelux-Germany, Croatia/Slovenia-Hungary, Denmark-Germany, France-Germany, France-Italy, France-Spain, France-Switzerland, Germany-Switzerland, Greece-Italy, Hungary-Romania, Italy-Spain, Portugal-Spain.

3. Eurail Select Pass
Eurail Select Passes offer 5-15 days travel within 2 month period. You may select a series of bordering countries. Note: some regions count as one country: Benelux, Slovenia-Croatia, and Serbia-Montenegro-Bulgaria. You only need one pass to visit this region.

On the other hand, InterRail pass is a rail pass which available only to those who have been resident in Europe for a minimum of 6 months. Inter Rail pass also allows unlimited travel in Europe countries for a defined period of time.

Type of InterRail Passes:
1. InterRail Global Pass
Valid in 30 European countries, or basically all except Albania, Belarus, Estonia, Kosovo, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, and Russia.

2. InterRail One Country Pass
Formerly known as EuroDomino, is limited to one country only. Prices vary from country to country.



Choosing The Train That’s Right for You

Choosing The Train That's Right for You

If your time in Europe is limited, then speed will be an issue when selecting a train. There are many high-speed options that will zip you around the Continent, but it’s admittedly hard to enjoy the scenery when you’re flying by at 186 mph (300 kmph), so consider a slower train now and then (Those who suffer from motion sickness may find high-speed trains less pleasant than the slower, local variety).

If your budget allows, you may enjoy the amenities and extra space in first class; those who prefer to spend their money on other things will find that second-class cards are a perfectly clean, comfortable option. And those who prefer to travel while the sleep will find a plethora of sleeping options on Europe’s vast array of night trains. In this section, we outline all of the major train and accommodations options you’ll encounter when travelling through Europe by rail. Read through the descriptions and then choose the train that best suits your needs.

High-Speed vs. Regular Trains
Route Fastest Regular Train High-Speed Train Time Saved
Paris-Avignon 9 hr 10 min 2 hr 38 min 6 hr 32 min
Rome-Florence 2 hr 27 min 1 hr 34 min 53 min
Munich-Berlin 7 hr 27 min 5 hr 38 min 1 hr 49 min
London-Paris 9 hr 20 min 2 hr 15 min 7 hr 5 min



HIGH-SPEED TRAINS

Europe’s high-speed trains are true marvels, travelling the countryside at speeds of 186 mph (300 kmph) and faster. Some of them, such as the Pendolino and Cisalpino trains, tilt so they can glide through curves without having to slow down (trust us; you’ll hardly feel a thing). In many cases, travelling on high-speed trains is faster than flying.

Italy, Germany, France and Spain offer the most developed high-speed networks, but most European countries have some form of high-speed service. These trains are worth seeking out: TGV and Eurostar trains, especially, can turn a full day’s journey into a 3-hour trip. In fact, in some cases it is difficult to travel between major European cities any other way but via high-speed train.

You’ll pay extra for the privilege of riding on one of these rail rockets, but shelling out the extra cash is worth it when you consider the time you’ll save. An express ticket from Munich to Berlin, for instance, is 105 € ($137) if bough in Germany, with the ride taking about 5 ½ hours. You can pay as little as 70.30 € ($91.40) for a regular ticket, but you’ll be forced to change trains at least twice en route and the trip could take as such as 10 hours!

High-speed trains are also generally more comfortable and posh than regional and local trains. First-class accommodations on these trains might include a newspaper, free drinks and meals, outlets for powering up cell phones and laptop computers, Internet access, or on board music channels. If you want to sit in a non smoking section on a train, you’re also more likely to find space in first class than you are in second. So if you’re purchasing a rail pass and you want legroom and luxury, go for first class.

For pass holders, most high-speed trains require reservations and therefore a reservation fee (and some include extra fees on top of that). You’ll still get a large discount over what non pass holders pay, but the ride won’t be free. (For more on reservation fee, see here). In the “High-speed Trains in Europe” chart above, we detail the high-speed trains in all of the Eurail-covered countries. We list second-class, one-way adult fares on the chart because those are what most leisured travels with point-to-point tickets buy; first class fares tend to be around 50% more. Most trains also have discounted children’s, youth and senior fares.

EXPRESS, REGIONAL & LOCAL TRAINS

Typically, there are four levels of trains below the posh, high-speed services, though some countries may have less or more (Germany has seven). As all of these trains typically cost the same, and all are included in a rail pass, you should just take whichever is the fastest train that stop at your destination.

EuroCity (EC) trains are express trains, typically crossing borders. EC trains some-times require reservations and additional supplements, so make sure to ask when booking your ticket.

InnerCity (IC) trains are express train, stopping at major cities. Some require reservations, so make sure to check

Regional or Local trains have different names in every country. In Belgium they’re “L” trains, in the Netherlands they’re “stoptreins” and in Germany they’re “Regional Bahn”. Whatever they’re called, these are the slow trains that stop at every tiny station, and you should avoid them whenever possible. (In Germany, there are two more class of middling express train called InterRegioExpress and Regional Express. These essentially split the difference between express and regional trains.)

Suburban trains connect major cities and nearby destinations, and may leave from a different train station than long-distance trains. Some of these may not be covered by a railpass, such as the Paris RER system (expect for Paris RER Lines B and C to the airports and Versailles), the S-bahn in Berlin (except between city center DB stations) and Stockholm’s S-togs. Also not covered are local city transport system such as buses, trams and subways.



First Class vs Second Class

European trains first class second class

Most European trains have two classes of seats: first and second class.

On local, regional and most express trains, there’s not as much difference between the classes as there is on the high-speed and premiere trains. First-class cars usually have either three seats per row (a seat on one side of the aisle, two seats on the other) or six seats per compartments; second–class cars have four seats per row (two on each side of the aisle) or eight per compartment. First class has more legroom, and the upholstery may be plusher or better kept

Note that second class tends to fill up a lot faster than first class, so if you’re travelling second class on a major route where reservations are not required, you’ll likely need to show up a lot sooner at the train station in order to guarantee yourself a seat.

The major difference between first and second class on most trains is the clientele; the folks in the first-class compartment will be older and include mire business travels. Most families and young travellers will be in second lass. Both classes, of course, get to their destinations at the same time.

On high-speed trains, first class often includes airline-style amenities and very spacious seating. In the individual country chapters in this website, we point out where the difference between second class and first class isn’t enough to justify paying the higher fee. And we also point out instances where going first-class (on older train in Greece, for example) is almost a must if you want to have anything approaching a comfortable ride.

Fabulous in First Class
Country Train First Class Bonus
Belgium/France/Netherlands Thalys Meals, wine and newspapers served at seat
England/Belgium/France Eurostar Meals, wine and newspapers served at seat, power ports, Wi-Fi lounges, dedicated business cars
Germany ICE Newspapers
Italy Eurostar Italia Drink and snack
Italy/Switzerland Cisalpino In-seat music system, power ports, drink, snack, newspaper
Norway Signatur Meals, phone, in-seat music, power ports
Spain AVE/Talgo/Euromed Meals and newspaper served at your seat, audio/video services
Sweden X2000 Free meal, coffee/tea, in-seat music, newspaper, Internet access

If you feel like switching classes, first class pass and ticket holders can sit in second class any time the like. Second class ticket holders can upgrade on board the train by paying the price difference if a seat is available.



European Trains: Night Trains

Night Trains

Most major European cities that are at least 7 hours apart by rain are connected by night trains. Not only do night trains save you the price of a hotel, they give you mode time to sight see. And some night trains even have hotel-style amenities, such as private bathrooms with showers. We recommend taking night trains whenever possible.

The average European night train will have sleeper cars, which sleep between one and four people; couchettes, which are affordable compartments for four to six people with less-comfortable, but serviceable bunk beds; and airline-style reclining coach sears. True cheapskates can sleep in coach seats on train that offer this option, but because a berth in a six-bunk couchette costs passholders only $32 on most trains, there is no need to give your self a neck cramp. Keep in mind that some trains require that you have a first-class pass to sleep in certain types of cabins. Except in France and Italy, however, there are no first-class couchettes, you can go second class only. Note that we’ve had enough reports about substandard conditions in second-class couchettes in several countries (and theft issues in certain countries) that we recommended you stick to either first-class couchettes or to sleeper cars. Note: Couchettes, except in a few countries (see below), are not gender specific.

Sleepers offer a somewhat more posh travel experience than other train sleeping arrangements: You have a steward to deliver snacks, drinks, and (possibly) a complimentary breakfast to your room. All sleeper cabins also have sinks (and some have bathrooms with showers), while couchette cabins don’t.

Whether you’re travelling in a couchette or sleeper, the compartment you sleep in will start out with benches or sofas during the evening (unless your departure is after 10pm). At some point after dark, an attendant will come by to snap down the bunks and make them up as beds (or give you the necessary equipment to make your own), with sheets included. The attendant will also take your passport if you’re travelling across a border with passport control so there’s no need to wake you for it later (this doesn’t apply at Eastern European borders).

After the bunks are down, everyone’s expected to be quiet. In couchettes, nobody undresses; just stash away your shoes, curl up under the covers, and let the rocking of the train lull you to sleep. (Be sure to cuddle up with your valuables or you may wake up without them!).

The attendant will wake you up in time for your stop, but if you want to have control over your morning, you can bring your own alarm clock. Forget sleeping in: When morning comes around, the attendant will return to the car to turn the bunks back into seats.

All sleeping compartments are supposed to have locks, but with the number of strangers coming in and out of a couchette, you shouldn’t count on the lock to protect your valuables. Lock you bags and chain them to seats or bunks if possible.

Parents concerned about their children’s safety in bunk beds can request “safety nets” on French sleepers at no charge; this webbing prevents the kids from rolling out of bed. Still, if you want complete control over tour environment, get a sleeper rather than couchettes or reserve the entire compartment (note: you will need a ticket for each berth in that case).

Luxury Sleepers

Night Trains

A few luxury sleeper services don’t have couchettes, which mean you either have to settle for a reclining seat or shell out for a bunk in a four berth room. Here’s a selection of some of the best luxury options in Europe:

Elipsos Trenhotel. The bank of the budget traveller, but absolutely perfect for someone looking for a high-end rail travel experience, this super-classy overnight service is available between Madrid and Paris/Loire Valley; Barcelona and Zurich/Milan/Paris. The train has a full restaurant on board and individually air-conditioned sleepers. Opt for the top “Gran Class” and you’ll get all meals and a private bathroom with shower. The minimum passholder fare on those routes during the tourist high season is $26 for a second-class (Tourist Class) reclining seat; to stay in a second-class (Tourist Class) four-bed sleeper; the price runs $117 and climbs to $227 for a single Gran Class cabin. Find out more, check out Elipsos page or directly at Elipsos website.

Artesia Night Train. This train runs between major French and Italian cities, including Paris, Chambery, Dijon, Rome, Milan, Florence, and Venice. Six-person couchettes begin at $36 for passholders. Single sleepers in first class begin at $160 for passholders.

CityNightLine. These trains run various routes through Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Austria. The trains offer deluxe single and double sleeper cabins with private bathrooms and showers, as well as economy six-bed cabins with shared bathrooms and reclining seats. All cabins have electronic locks, and are air-conditioned and non-smoking. Passholders can get a reclining seat reservation staring a $38. A bed in a four-berth sleeper starts at $64 for passholders; double sleepers start at $103 a person. To find out more, check out City Night Line.

Other luxury night trains include Swedish night trains (Oslo-Stockholm/Malmo), Spanish night trains (Madrid-Barcelona/Santiago de Campostela and Barcelona-Malaga/Granada/Seville), the Lusitania Trenhotel (Lisbon-Madrid), and Paris-Germany night trains (Paris to Munich, Hamburg, Berlin or Hannover). For more information, check out RailEurope.



Train Reservations & Supplements

Train Reservations Supplements

A railpass means you’ve paid up front and can just hop on a train, right?

Alas, no. Most high-speed trains (including some EuroCity and InnerCity), scenic trains, and all sleepers require reservations, and reservation fees will cost you over and above the price of your railpass. Some fast trains have “Passholder Fares”, which are essentially reservation fees.

Some exceptions: Reservations aren’t necessary on Germany high-speed trains (although they’re helpful, as they guarantee you a seat). They’re also unnecessary on certain Spanish and Portuguese train, British trains (except on some routes to Scotland), or Swiss trains (except certain scenic trains).

We say, don’t nickel and time yourself to avoid reservation fees. The difference in spend between regular and high-speed trains is so striking that for your extra $20 you’ll usually get several hours more at your destination.

You can often reserve within just a few hours of departure at European train stations, and you probably won’t have to worry about most trains selling out. You’ll also likely save money by making reservations in Europe: while the reservation fee on most trains begins at $11 if booked from the U.S., it can be as little as 4€ ($5.2) if you’re booking in Europe.

There are cases when you will want to reserve before you leave home. If you’re travelling on popular routes (especially night trains) in the summer or during holiday period, we advice you always to reserve in advance through Rail Europe. We let you know in the individual country section when a reservation should be made before you leave home. You can make reservations up to 120 days in advance for Eurostar up to 90 days in advance for Thalys, Elipsos, and German, Swiss, and French TGV trains; and up to 60 days in advance for most other trains. Reservation in Bulgaria, Greece, Portugal, and Ireland can’t be made from North America.

Note: If you did reserve a seat, there is one quirk you might want to watch out for. Some countries (Greece, for example) don’t mark seats as reserved and confusion occasionally reigns when people occupy seats they didn’t know were reserved. If you show up your reserved seat and someone’s sitting in it, politely but firmly inform him or her that you have a reservation and ask him or her to vacate. Don’t let them talk you out of your own seat (and some people will try to do just that). Ask a porter if you need assistance.