European train travel is one of the most popular and scenic ways to explore many destinations.
European train travel offers an exciting adventure and an incredible way to see Europe. Still, travelers are advised to plan their trip carefully. Eurorail, or Eurail as it is popularly called, has 841 pass combinations, depending on where travelers want to go and how many days they need to get there. These passes are only available to residents of non-European countries. The Eurail Global Pass gives tourists access to 21 countries; the Select Pass buys passage to three, four or five countries; and there is the One Country Pass. To get the most for their time and money, tourists should first determine exactly where they want to go and then look for a Eurail pass that fits their needs.
Experts advise first-time European travelers to make an itinerary and then cut it in half. Overcrowding the trip with too many stops leaves no time for exploring and relaxing, which are often the most memorable parts of the trip. For those who do not even know where to begin, Rick Steves' Web site offers up a helpful chart that advises people where to go, based on how long they plan to be in Europe and which countries they would like to visit.
In general, the idea is to create a route that does not backtrack. For instance, travelers flying in and out of the same city should plan to take a circular path through their chosen destinations, so they end up back at the same spot when it is time to go home. It is also a good idea to take advantage of overnight trains when traveling long distances to maximize the number of waking hours spent at one location.
Once a general route is formed, next comes the difficult task of looking up train schedules and coordinating arrival and departure times. A good starting point is the Eurail site, which has a chart highlighting which passes service which countries. A comprehensive overview of all European train schedules can be found at Deutsche Bahn, where planners can find stations by entering the European spellings of their arrival and departure cities.
Avoiding fines is another way to save money. If a train route takes travelers through a country not listed on their pass, they should talk to a ticket agent before boarding to buy a ticket for that portion of the journey. Boarding a high-speed train may also cost a little extra, as might a spot on a sleeper car or couchette. These should be booked in advance, along with any trip that departs on a Friday.