The European train pass system Eurail (formerly known as Eurorail) has completely overhauled its passes for 2019. The new options are, overall, a major improvement for rail travelers, including lower prices, new country inclusions, and new routes including added island ferries.
The new and improved passes are still available through Eurail online, as well as RailEurope and other vendors. But for lowest cost, you’ll still have to compare the cost of bundled pass travel with the total cost of buying individual rail trips with advance-purchase fares. Here’s what’s new and worth considering.
England’s Eurostar Is Finally Included
For the first time, the Global Eurailpass covers travel to and from England on the Eurostar train through the Chunnel. This is good news: You no longer have to buy separate tickets for the English portion of the trip—but Eurail’s Global Pass still doesn’t cover other British trains. Also new this year are Latvia and Macedonia, but rail options there are limited.
Eurail Global Passes Are the New Norm
If you want to travel in only one, two, or three countries, you have to buy either a one-country pass or a full Global pass. Generally, Eurail Select’s two-, three-, and four-country passes have been discontinued, although a few remain. On most trips, if you want to include more than one country, you have to go Global. But don’t panic…
And Eurail Global Passes Are Now Cheaper
Loss of Select passes is offset by the reduction in Global pass prices, along with the addition of new, cheaper, shorter-validity passes. Also, for the first time, adult Global passes are available in second class as well as first class cars.
Senior Discounts Are Back
Senior discounts—which had been slowly disappearing over the years as the brand focused on youth discounts—are back. Travelers ages 60 and over now enjoy 10 percent discounts on all passes for travel throughout Eurail’s 31 countries. Discounts of 23 percent for youth ages 12 to 27 also remain available.
Greek Island Ferry Passes
In an exciting change, Eurail is now offering two new Aegean ferry passes that cover trips to 52 Greek islands: five trips in a month for travel in Greece only, $107, or sx trips in a month, including a round-trip between Greece and Italy, is $207.
“Open Access” Trains
The new passes also now apply to some smaller independent “open access” train lines, like the Leo Express and RegioiJet trains in Czech Republic. So far, however, other important open access train systems such as Italo in Italy and Westbahn in Austria are not included. Over the next few years, several other big European countries will open their tracks to independent operators, so at some point the Eurail folks will have to come to grip with widespread open access.
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Consumer advocate Ed Perkins has been writing about travel for more than three decades. The founding editor of the Consumer Reports Travel Letter, he continues to inform travelers and fight consumer abuse every day at SmarterTravel.