Top Rail Passes to Explore Europe
Europe is a fascinating place to explore, whether you’re searching for history, culture, nightlife, museums or national parks. If you want to include several countries in your trip, an unlimited rail pass is just what you need. Depending on the country or countries you want to visit, choose one of the rail passes that best fits your needs and free up at least two weeks in advance for your exploration. Here are some of the most popular European rail passes:
Available to European citizens, this pass will allow to travel throughout Europe for 3 months, with special prices for under 26 years of age, children and seniors.
Countries covered:Â Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, FYR Macedonia, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey.
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Need to know: Travel within your country isn’t covered. Also, Eurostar tickets are not included. Ferries around Italy and Greece are included (Blue Star Ferries, Superfast Ferries and Minoan Lines). Booking a seat during certain trains may incur an additional charge and sleeper trains always require a reservation.
Recommended trip: Start your trip by booking a seat on an international train leaving from your country. Do not miss some popular tourist destinations like museums in Amsterdam, hotels in Paris, ruins in Rome and nightclubs in Berlin. Depending on the season, you can swim in the Mediterranean or go skiing in the Alps. The options are unlimited!
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Specifically for citizens from outside of Europe, Eurail gives you unlimited train travel in first class for a continuous period of 3 months maximum. The Flexi pass option is available for those looking to make longer stops between their trips. Alternatively, Selectpass will allow you to travel through 3, 4 or 5 bordering countries for up to 15 days within a 2 month period. Passes for a single country or 2 bordering countries are also available (Switzerland-Austria,Â France-Italy, France-Spain,Â Denmark-Germany etc.).
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Countries covered: Â Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland.
Need to know: Residents of Turkey, Tunis, Russia, Morocco, Algeria can only opt for Interail. The Eurail pass does not cover Russia, Ukraine and the UK. Seat and sleeper train reservations are required. Special prices for under 26, children and seniors are available.
Recommended trip: Start your holiday with chic, trendy Paris, taste some delicious chocolate in Brussels then continue to ever-popular Amsterdam. Visit fascinating Bavarian castles, sample traditional beer and sausages, then head to Prague for dazzling architecture or see Vienna’s baroque palaces and museums.
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For those looking to visit only countries in Eastern Europe, the Balkan pass will offer unlimited first class travel for 5, 10 or 15 days within a month.
Countries covered: Bulgaria, Greece, FYR Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia and Turkey.
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Need to know: The pass cannot be used by residents of the above-mentioned countries to travel in their own country.
Recommended trip: See Transylvania’s amazing castles in Sighisoara and Bran, set amidst green mountains, and do not miss a tour of the Palace of Parliament in Bucharest, the second biggest building in the world. Continue with a visit to Sofia, Bulgaria’s biggest and most diverse city. From there you can either take the train to Istanbul, Europe’s 2010 Capital of Culture or immerse yourself in ancient Greece.
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Benelux Rail Pass
This smaller version of the Eurail pass will give you unlimited first or second class travel for 5 days within a month to the Benelux region.
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Countries covered: Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg.
Need to know: For youths under 26, children and seniors special prices are available. There is also a budget-friendly option for groups of 2 or more people.
Recommended trip: Visit quaint Luxembourg, with surprising natural beauty and fairy-tale castles, witness Brussels, a multicultural city filled with fine foods, friendly cafes and exquisite chocolate and continue your Benelux exploration with UNESCO World Heritage Bruges, one of Europe’s most famous medieval cities.
Image by Wolfgang Staudt