Anyone who has spent time traversing Europe knows: The continent's countryside is the kind of charming that feels like it was plucked from a storybook. Since 1959, the Eurail Pass has treated travelers between Europe's biggest urban destinations to this scenic landscape via railway. But, in the last two decades, it’s faced some stiff competition from budget airlines like RyanAir and EasyJet—no sprawling vistas, but when you're spending half the time in transit at a comparable rate to Eurail, staring at the clouds becomes a lot easier. Then last month, Netherlands-based Eurail enhanced its famed pass, adding smart perks and new countries (bringing the total to 28) in a move that should have you considering traveling Europe's gorgeous terrain by train once again. Here's the why and how.
Wanna Explore Europe in a Week or Two? This Pass is For You.
Chances are, you don’t have much more than two weeks of vacation to go see Europe. Rather than stressing out about tickets while criss-crossing borders, just get the 5 in 10 Global Pass. It lets you travel to any five of the 28 different countries on the Eurail pass, in 10 days. So you could start in Munich to see the epic landscape that is Bavaria (and flights to Munich from the U.S. are generally cheaper), then hop over to Bordeaux to sip some of France’s best vino, head down for a day of R&R at one of Southern Spain’s famed beach towns, and finish up in Portugal—flights to the U.S from Lisbon are quick and on the less pricey side.
Greece—Easier than Ever!
If you’re finally planning that Greek getaway, check out the Attica Pass. Greek rail stations are few and far between, so the pass offers six ferry crossings, two international (between Italy and Greece), and four domestic, between Greek Islands like Santorini, Rhodes and Mykonos. You have one month to choose between any of the main Greek islands (there are over 6,000, so check that yours is serviced) for your four domestic trips. It even takes care of a rail or bus transfer from Patras, the international port, to Piraeus, the domestic port. The Greek Islands and Italian port cities are all known for sea kayaking, sailing, diving, cycling, and hiking, not to mention the lazy, whitewashed villages.
Explore a New Side of Europe
Four new off-the-beaten-path countries worth seeing have been added to the Eurail system: Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Poland, and Serbia.
In Bosnia you’ll find the only remaining primeval forest in Europe, class IV rapids, waterfalls, and if you venture to Mount Trebevic, some great singletrack mountain biking. It is also home to part of a new megatrail—the Via Dinaric—that winds through the rugged Dinaric Alps. In Serbia, explore Djerdap National Park and marvel at Iron Gates gorge stretching into bordering Romania. Or hop on two wheels and pedal the Danube Bike Trail, a 2,857 km favorite for distance freaks. In Poland, head to the Tatra Mountains for hundreds of miles of hiking trails, beginning from the resort town Zakopane. More experienced mountaineers can even climb into neighboring Slovakia. Finally, find out if Montenegro deserves its nickname, “the pearl of the Mediterranean.” Cycle along the Bay of Kotor’s steep limestone cliffs and enjoy a stunning view of Our Lady of the Rocks Church in the only “fjord” in the Mediterranean. It’s a great spot for kayaking, too. Or take a guided trip to the Blue Grotto, where sunlight reflects off the white bottom and turns the water a neon blue.
The Kids Are Alright
Parents with young children don’t need anything to make traveling even more difficult. The Children Travel Pass will make it easier and cheaper to bring the munchkins. If your kids are between ages four and 11, they can come along for free, two per adult. Did your parents always make you travel in coach? Not anymore. The First Class Youth Pass makes the coveted cabin more affordable for travelers aged 15 to 25, at a 20 percent discount from the adult price. If you’re a parent, you can now upgrade your teenager for a little less. And for the under 25 set, they still offer a 35 percent discount on a number of passes.