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New in 2014
Railpasses
  • 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 Select Pass has added Slovakia to the menu of 25-countries from which you select 3, 4 or 5 adjoining countries to customize your pass. Note: If traveling only in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Austria, the European East Pass is usually a better deal. Also it is still not possible to choose France as one of your Select Pass countries (see New in 2013 for more details).
  • European East Flexipass will no longer be valid in Poland. The pass will only be good in Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia.
Rail Improvements
  • High-Speed Service between Spain and France: After several delays, there is now direct rail service between Barcelona and Paris. Initially, there will be two daily round trips (travel time: 6 hrs 30 mins; depart Barcelona at 9:20 am and 4:20 pm; depart Paris at 7:15 am and 2:07 pm). In March this will be increased to four round trips per day. Also there will be direct service between Barcelona and Toulouse (3 hrs); Barcelona and Lyon (5 hrs); and Barcelona and Marseille (4 hrs 30 mins). Marseille has frequent connections to/from Nice.
  • Vienna-Venice: For the last few years, there has been no direct day rail service between Vienna and Venice — passengers had to take a bus for the portion of the route between Villach, Austria and Venice. But now through rail service has been reinstated with one daily round trip over this very scenic route (depart Vienna at 6:30 am, arrive Venice at 2:05 pm; depart Venice at 3:59 pm, arrive Vienna at 11:27 pm). If wishing to depart Venice in the morning, you will still need to take a bus to Villach to connect with the train to Vienna.
Rail Downgrades
  • The Elipsos sleeper trains (Barcelona-Paris and Madrid-Paris) have been permanently canceled. There are no longer any night trains between Spain and France.
  • The Thello night train between Paris and Florence/Rome has been withdrawn. The only night train remaining is the Thello service between Paris and Milan/Venice. If you wish to go overnight from Paris to Florence or Rome, your only choice is to take the Thello sleeper to Milan and change trains in the morning to continue onto Florence or Rome. If starting in Rome or Florence, you must first take a day train to Milan to connect with the night train to Paris.

 
New in 2013
Railpasses
  • 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 budgets).

The 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).

Rail Improvements
  • 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.)

 
New in 2012
Railpasses
  • 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.
Rail Improvements
  • Paris-Geneva: 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.
Rail Downgrades
  • 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.
(2) 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.

If really 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).
High-speed rail 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.

Have questions about 2014?
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