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- Eurailpass prices now change due to fluctuations in the dollar to euro exchange
rate, and as the dollar has been volatile recently, there have been price changes both up and down over the past year.
But once you buy your railpass, your price is guaranteed, and you have up to six months to start using it.
- Eurail Global Pass has added Turkey and the pass will now cover 24
countries: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Republic
of Ireland & Northern Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden,
Switzerland and Turkey.
- Eurail Select Pass has added Turkey to the
menu of 24-countries from which you select 3, 4 or 5 adjoining countries to customize
your pass. However, rail service, due to construction, is limited at this time;
only bus replacement service is available
to Romania and there is no service to Greece (all international trains to/from Greece have been cut under austerity
dreadful news is that France has opted out of the Eurail Select Pass
(not getting paid enough), and it's no longer possible to choose France as one of
your Select Pass countries. This makes it more complicated for any rail travel
that involves crossing France such as going from Spain to Italy. Unless you have
a Eurail Global Pass which will still be valid in France, you will have to buy point-to-point tickets for the French
portion between Spain and Italy. If you are only traveling in France plus one other country, there are several two-country passes available: France and Spain;
France and Italy; France and Switzerland; France and Germany;
and France and the Benelux (Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg).
- Paris-Barcelona: With the opening of the new high-speed line between
Barcelona and Figueras, Spain (near the French border), it is now possible to travel between
Paris and Barcelona in under 7 hours. For example, leave Paris at 2:07pm on a high-speed French TGV train, arrive in Figueras at 7:40p, cross the platform where a high-speed Spanish AVE train is waiting and arrive in Barcelona
at 8:48pm. In the other direction, depart Barcelona at 9:05am, arrive in Figueras at 9:58am,
change to the waiting French train and arrive in Paris at 3:53pm.
- Vienna-Salzburg: The private
Westbahn rail company that runs trains on this route now accepts Eurailpasses
(valid in Austria) for travel so you can take either the national rail (ÖBB)
or the private rail service between Vienna and Salzburg. (Note: the European East Flexipass, which is not part of the Eurail family of passes, is still not accepted.)
- Eurail Global Pass has added Slovakia and the
pass will now cover 23 countries: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany,
Greece, Hungary, Republic of Ireland & Northern Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia,
Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.
- The only new pass in 2012 is the Eurail Slovakia Pass
available for 3, 4, 6 or 8 days of travel within 1 month on the national rail network of Slovakia.
Travel times have been reduced by 20 minutes to 3h 05min and the frequency has been increased to nine trains/day.
Paris-Zürich: A new part of the French high-speed system has opened,
the Rhin-Rhône line, which decreases travel time between Paris and Zürich by 30 minutes to 4h 03min; there are
five trains/day. Also these trains now use a different station in Paris: the Gare de Lyon instead of the Gare de l'Est.
Note: Both of the above trains, Paris-Geneva and Paris-Zürich,
are branded TGV Lyria. On these trains, first class is called LyriaPremiére and includes a few extra
amenities such as newspapers, a welcome drink and an in-seat food service appropriate to the time of day. If you have a railpass,
you must make a seat reservation, and the supplemental charge is higher in first than in second class to cover the cost of
these first-class perks. If you have a first-class pass but don't want the meal, you can make a second-class seat reservation
and save a few dollars (passholder reservations cost about $37 1st cl and $15 2nd cl for a pass valid in both France and Switzerland).
- Madrid Airport (Barajas): After landing many people need to get to
the Atocha rail station for a connecting train to one of Spain's popular tourist destinations, for example, Barcelona,
Cordoba, Seville, Granada, Valencia or Malaga. In the past this transfer was only by taxi, bus or two changes on the Metro,
but now local trains run every 30 minutes to the Chamartin (11mins) and Atocha (25mins) rail stations.
- Paris-Milan: The Artesia Day trains have been replaced by
a new French run service called France-Italy TGV, but the only good news here is that the number of trains/day has increased
from two to three.
A bit of bad news is that
in Milan these trains arrive/depart from Milano Garibaldi, and if, for example, you are connecting to Venice, Florence or
Rome, you must transfer to the main station, Milano Centrale, just over a mile away. Besides a taxi, you can make the transfer
by subway (line M2; runs every 8 mins) or local commuter train (runs every 30 mins), but you should allow at least an hour
between rail connections.
Even worse news is
that only a France Railpass is valid for the cheapest passholder 1 fare (about $23 2nd cl; $37 1st cl with meal service).
Italy railpasses are NOT valid at all, and multi-country Eurailpasses that include France are only valid in an expensive passholder
2 category (about $79 2nd cl; $107 1st cl — these passholder 2 fares are about half the price of full fare). As there
are discounted fares cheaper than the Passholder 2 fare available for people who buy early (can purchase 90 days out), it
is hard to justify buying a France-Italy railpass as it is of little use now for trains on this route. (A France-Italy railpass
may still make good sense if you are traveling between France and Italy via Nice and the French Riviera.)
- More Bad News: A new private railway company, Thello, now
operates the Paris-Milan-Venice and Paris-Florence-Rome overnight sleeper trains, and railpasses are no longer valid on these
services. Thello offers discounted fares for people able to book far in advance (Paris-Venice route: for a spot in
a six-person couchette, fares start at about $50, then rise to $115 before topping out at a full-fare price
of $140; for a bed in a double compartment, the advance fare is about $200 and the full fare about $250; also
available are four-person couchettes or triple and single compartments). Only the Paris-Milan-Venice night
train is currently running; the Paris-Florence-Rome service is scheduled to start in mid-2012.
Although the Paris-Milan route is the most direct route between France and Italy, there
are two other routes. (Note: Trains on these routes run during the day only; besides the Thello, there are no other
night trains between France and Italy.)
(1) Paris-Nice-Genoa Route: Nice, on the French Riviera, makes a good stopover
and the trains between Genoa, Italy and Nice, France go right along the Mediterranean Coast. Genoa has connections
to/from anywhere in Italy. Railpasses fully cover this route; however, seat reservations must be made.
Paris-Switzerland-Milan Route: If you have the time, this is the most spectacular way to go between France and Italy
as the scenery along this route through the Swiss Alps can't be beat. If you can spend a few days in the
Interlaken-Wengen area or at nearby Luzern, you'll be greatly rewarded. The three-country Eurail Selectpass is valid for
all trains between France and Italy via Switzerland though seat reservations must be made.
pressed for time, you should consider a flight between France and Italy; there are several discount airlines that fly
between Paris and Venice, Florence, Pisa, Milan, Rome or Naples.
- Vienna-Salzburg: A private company, Westbahn, now operates some of the
trains on this route, and they do not accept railpasses or national rail point-to-point tickets; however, Austrian State Railways
(ÖBB) still runs about two trains/hr and railpasses are valid on these trains — you just need to pay attention
to which train you are boarding.
- Greece cuts
itself off from Europe: In 2011, due to severe budget constraints, Greece closed down all international
train links plus many of their domestic rail lines as well. Rail service was not great before, but now it would be hard
to find a reason to buy a Greece Railpass (or any multi-country pass valid in Greece). Renting a car is probably
the best way to get around mainland Greece; however, buses, as they go nearly everywhere and are comfortable, are
a viable option. Ferry service between Italy and Greece is good, but the rail line between the Greek port,
Patras, and Athens is currently closed for rebuilding; the ferry companies offer connecting bus service to and from Athens.
A daily bus service between Sofia, Bulgaria and Thessaloniki, Greece has been inaugurated, replacing the axed international train.
If you are going to Greece, probably, the best option is to fly.
New in 2011
Eurail Global Pass has added Bulgaria and the pass will now cover 22 countries: Austria,
Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Republic of Ireland &
Northern Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland.
Eurail Select Pass has become slightly more restrictive -- in past years Bulgaria/Montenegro/Serbia was counted as
a "single" country when choosing your 3, 4 or 5 countries of travel; however, in 2011 Bulgaria/Montenegro/Serbia
will be split into "two" countries: Bulgaria and Montenegro/Serbia.
Wi-Fi access is slowly becoming available on European trains; below
is a list of trains currently providing on-board Wi-Fi.
- Thalys, operating train service between Paris, Brussels, Cologne and Amsterdam, offers free
Wi-Fi service for 1st-class passengers; however, 2nd-class travelers have to pay €6.50 ($9)/hr or €13 ($18) for
the whole journey.
- In Germany these routes offer Wi-Fi access: Dortmund-Düsseldorf-Cologne; Cologne-Frankfurt Airport; Frankfurt-Stuttgart-Munich;
Frankfurt-Hanover-Hamburg. German Rail plans to add more routes in the near future. ICE (InterCity Express) trains with Wi-Fi
service are marked with a HotSpot
logo and the cost is about €8 ($11)/hr.
- All X-2000 trains
in Sweden offer free Wi-Fi in first class; in second class, you pay an access fee (either in 30-minute chunks or a flat price
for the whole trip). Main X-2000 routes are between Stockholm and Malmö with some trains going on to Copenhagen, Denmark;
and between Stockholm and Gothenburg.
- In Great Britain,
East Coast trains offer free Wi-Fi in first and second class on all of their trains
operating between London, Leeds, York, Edinburgh and Glasgow. On Virgin trains, Wi-Fi
is free in first class; however, in second you must create a T-Mobile account where you will pay about £5 ($8)/hour.
- Eurostar does not currently offer
Wi-Fi on its routes (London-Paris or London-Brussels).
continues to expand across Europe, but in 2010 the major changes were in Spain which now has pushed ahead of France with the
most miles of high-speed track in Europe. Spain is building an ambitious high-speed system with Madrid as the central hub.
The newest spoke is between Madrid and Valencia with travel times reduced by over two hours to just 95 minutes. Other high-speed links already in service are Madrid to Barcelona (2 hrs
45 mins); Madrid to Seville (2 hrs 30 mins); Madrid to Cordoba (1 hr 42 mins); Madrid to Malaga (2 hrs 40 mins); Madrid to
Toledo (30 mins); and Madrid to Segovia (30 mins). Also the Madrid-Barcelona line is being extended to France to join up with
the French high-speed network. A small section of this line was just opened connecting Figueres, Spain and Perpignon, France
allowing French Rail to begin TGV service between Paris and Figueres.
Until the rest of the line is opened, you must change in Figueres to go on to Barcelona; but even so the overall transit time
between Paris and Barcelona has been reduced by 75 minutes to 7 hrs 25 mins.
Other recent changes to the European high-speed network.
- A year ago the high-speed line
from Paris to Brussels was extended to Amsterdam, slashing travel times by one hour (Paris-Amsterdam: 3 hrs 18 mins;
Brussels-Amsterdam: 1 hr 53 mins). Paris also has high-speed links to Cologne (3 hrs 14 mins), Frankfurt (3 hrs
49 mins), Zürich (4 hrs 36 mins), London (2 hrs 20 mins), Nice (5 hrs 38 mins), Lyon (2 hrs) and Strasbourg (2 hrs 17
mins). As these times are all city center to city center with no transfers, they compare favorably with overall flight
times when considering the time, hassle and expense of going to and from the airports.
- Also last year high-speed rail service began over the Milan-Florence-Rome-Naples route,
reducing travel times significantly. New travel times from Milan: Bologna, 1
hr 05 mins; Florence, 1 hr 45 mins; Rome, 3 hrs; Naples, 4 hrs 55 mins. Travel times from Rome: Naples, 1 hr 10 mins;
Florence, 1 hr 35 mins. A ripple effect of this new high-speed line is that travel times to/from Venice are also reduced:
Venice-Florence, 2 hrs 03 mins; Venice-Rome, 3 hrs 48 mins; Venice-Milan, 2 hrs 35 mins.
Malpensa Airport in Milan now has direct rail service twice per day to Bologna and Florence (departs Malpensa
at 12:22pm and 7:22pm; journey time to Florence 2 hrs 38 mins; valid with railpasses). The first train continues on to Rome
and Naples. In addition, the Malpensa Express trains now offer service to Milan Central
Station besides Milan Cadorna Nord Station (service is every 30 mins taking 41 mins; Malpensa
Express trains are not valid with railpasses.)
Since late 2007, smoking has not been allowed on European trains.