Squeezing the Most Europe out of a Railpass
By Alan Wissenberg
|European rail travel made easy by EurAide.|
Let's look at the way a four-country, five-day Eurail Selectpass can be used on a trip from London (arrival by plane) to Paris, Munich, Salzburg, Interlaken and the best of the Swiss Alps, Florence, Rome, and Nice (departure by plane). The countries you'd select for this railpass are France, Germany, Italy, and Switzerland.
When you're finished seeing London, head to Paris. Your railpass includes a discount on the Eurostar train through the "Chunnel" between London and Paris without using up a day of the pass. When you're ready to move on from Paris, it's time to start using your railpass days.
Railpass Day One: Direct daytime connections from Paris to Munich are possible, but night trains departing after 19:00 only cost you one day of your railpass (that is, the day you arrive at your destination). That means you can squeeze a lot of travel out of just one railpass day: Take the overnight Paris-Munich train (NZ 261, departs 22:55), and you'll arrive in Munich at 8:58 with a full day of rail travel ahead of you. Drop your bags off at a nearby hotel and continue that same day on to Salzburg (trains at 10:20 or 11:20, 90-min trip). Since Salzburg is the first stop over the Austrian border, you can travel there without having to add Austria to your pass or paying extra. After day-tripping to Salzburg, return to Munich that same evening...having only spent one day of your railpass.
Railpass Day Two: When you're ready to continue on from Munich, head for Interlaken in the Swiss Alps. You have two daytime possibilities. I recommend the morning departure at 8:14, with a short segment through Austria (you'll pay €12 extra per person in first class) for the spectacular scenery. On this route, you have the option of spending a few hours in either Zürich or (better yet) Luzern on the way to Interlaken. To avoid the extra expense of cutting through Austria, take the 8:40 departure with a transfer in Karlsruhe to arrive in Interlaken by 16:15. Later departures from Munich are possible, but they often require more transfers to accomplish the same routes.
Rick's favorite stretch of Swiss Alps — Gimmelwald and Lauterbrunnen in the Berner Oberland near Interlaken — are reachable by private rail lines and mountain lifts that aren't covered by your railpass. But your pass does get you a discount on these and other trains and lifts in the region (without costing you a railpass day)...always ask.
Railpass Day Three: Take the overnight train from Spiez (15 minutes from Interlaken, buy a local ticket to Spiez) to Florence (train EN 313, departs 23:13, arrives 7:11). Put your bag in a locker, spend the entire day sightseeing in Florence, and move on that same evening to Rome — just two hours away.
Railpass Day Four: Take the overnight train from Rome to Nice in southern France (train EN 368, departs 23:10, arrives 9:43).
If you've got the five-day Eurail Selectpass described above, you still have a fifth day of travel open for other plans. And when you choose your routes carefully (as outlined above), the options for that fifth day are boundless.
How can my company, EurAide, earn your business to help you put together a train trip like this? After charging a one-time fee of $45 to process and deliver your reservations, we get them for the same price you would pay if standing in a line at the Munich train station. First-class reservations then cost only €3 per person (and not the $11 charged in the U.S.) from Munich to Zürich on the direct EC train, and only €3 per person on the direct IC trains (rather than the $15 charged in the U.S. for Eurostar Italia trains) between Florence and Rome. Even with the high cost of the euro, our prices for most couchettes and sleeper routes are lower than what you'll find in the United States. As a bonus, if your travels require a change of trains in Germany, the connecting reservation on most trains is free of charge through EurAide. If traveling through Munich (Hauptbahnhof, or Main Train Station) or Berlin (Zoo Station), feel free to drop by our office. If planning your rail trip, check out www.euraide.com. Happy train travels!
Alan Wissenberg is president and general manager of EurAide. He also provides information for Rick's readers about the Romantic Road Bus and the Rhine River cruise boats covered by railpasses at www.euraide.de/ricksteves.
To buy a railpass, check out Rick's Railpasses!