|Europe is continually speeding up service with its newest generation of trains.|
Riding the rails through Europe can be less stressful than driving a rental car. It's also environmentally friendlier — and just plain friendly, offering a relaxed way to connect with traveling Europeans. Our online Guide to Eurail Passes will help you sort through the dozens of rail pass choices out there, to help you tailor the rail pass that best fits your travel plans. All Europe rail passes are delivered FREE in the USA when you order online — no minimum purchase required. Plus, we'll throw in a 20%-off shopping spree in our Travel Store.
What's happening in Europe? Check Rick Steves' European Headlines for Travelers every weekday for links to news of special interest to travelers.
In France, renovations are taking place around the country throughout the year and may result in some services being replaced by buses. The Chamonix area is one that is affected until the end of June. The Eurostar line between Calais and Paris will be affected by construction planned for September 24 - October 23.
Berlin-Krakow direct trains will run to/from Wroclaw, but not continue to Krakow, through early June, 2013.
Bucharest-Istanbul overnight service will include a portion by bus during the key overnight hours, making it not really a night train through 2013.
Istanbul-Ankara service is partly replaced by bus until further notice, probably in 2014.
Rail timetables changed across Europe on December 9 and most are published through June 8. You can find the best train schedules online, plus our tips for using them. All train stations post schedules and information agents in the station can help you confirm your plans as you go. These more significant changes were implemented:
Amsterdam-Brussels fast trains called "Fyra" entered service in December but then were suspended in January until further notice. While Fyra is out of service, regional trains provide a cheaper alternative to expensive the Thalys-brand trains on this route, but require additional transfers. (With a railpass, international Fyra seat reservations will cost about €4 in second class and €6 in first class, sold at the train station. Travelers will not need or get a reserved seat when using Fyra domestically within Belgium or within the Netherlands.)
Elipsos Hotel Trains no longer run in either direction Barcelona-Milan and Barcelona-Zürich. The Paris-Madrid Elipsos route continues as usual.
Paris-Interlaken one direct, daily TGV departs Paris Gare de Lyon at 17:57 and arrives at Interlaken Ost station at 23:43 (too late to connect to Lauterbrunnen or further up the valley). The direct return service operates only on Saurdays, Sundays, and Holidays, departing Interlaken at 6:09 and arriving in Paris at 12:11. Many other connecting services exist, such as connecting at Basel.
These changes have been implemented for 2013:
Eurail Global Pass:
Select Eurail Pass:
Vienna-Linz-Salzburg service operated by the Westbahn private rail company was not covered by rail passes in 2012, but is covered in 2013. Austrian Railways also runs many covered departures on the same route.
Eurail Ireland Pass: New 3-day validity and saver discount are offered.
France Bonuses: Passes valid in France no longer offer discounts on the trains from Nice to Digne or on Corsica, or for Paris' Batobus and Bateaux Parisiens.
On unreserved regional trains, such as between Paris and Normandy, rail pass holders can just hop on and find an open seat. TGV high-speed trains serve most main lines and international routes, require seat reservations, and limit places for rail pass holders. Book TGV as soon as you can commit to a date and time, available starting 90 days in advance. Several rates apply on domestic TGV: With any Eurail pass that covers France, you now pay $25 to reserve a seat and this price can sell out quickly, especially in second class. Travelers with a France Rail Pass (not a Eurail pass for two or more countries) can reserve early for only $11, or once those rates are sold out, pay $27 to access additional places on a busy train. International trains have different reservation price ranges and are particularly expensive toward Belgium (Thalys trains) and Italy. See more details about train schedules and train reservations.
Newcastle-Amsterdam: DFDS Seaways no longer offer a discount to railpass travelers. This change was made after 2013 pass documents were printed.
Greece-Italy: Minoan Lines has discontinued service to Corfu and Venice.
Denmark-Norway: Color Line ferries no longer offer a discount to railpass travelers on the Hirtshals-Kristiansand or Hirtshals-Larvik routes. DFDS Seaways no longer offer a discount to railpass travelers on the Oslo-Copenhagen route.
Starting June 10, 2012, the Munich-Venice City Night Line train is rerouted both directions via Udine and Tarvisio instead of running via Innsbruck and Verona. This means it is no longer possible to board that night train at Padova, Verona, Kufstein, Innsbruck, or a few other points on the old route. Travelers heading northbound (only) from Verona to Munich can catch the night train (at 1:00 a.m.) that starts in Rome. If you take a regular train earlier in the day before boarding the direct overnight train, you will use two travel days of a flexipass or buy a separate ticket for the first leg (per the 7 p.m. rule).
Paris-Italy Night trains are operated by the private company Thello (say "Tell O") and do not accept any rail pass! Reserved tickets are sold directly by Thello or by Rail Europe in the USA, starting four months in advance of travel.
Paris-Torino-Milan TGV day trains are operated by France and run between Paris Gare de Lyon and Milano Porta Garibaldi stations. Connecting trains between Milano Centrale and Porta Garibaldi depart every 30 minutes to cover this 2 km distance, taking about 10 minutes, or you can connect the stations by metro line M2, departing every eight minutes. You can also connect to other Italian destinations at Torino Porta Susa station instead of in Milan. Travelers with a France Rail Pass qualify for a "Passholder 1" seat reservation fee ($22 in 2nd class or $37 in 1st). Travelers with any Eurail-brand, multi-country pass that includes France qualify for a "Passholder 2" rate ($80 in 2nd class or $109 in 1st) which is about half of full fare and is not available to book online (see Reservations for contact info). Both rates have limited seats available and are likely to sell out weeks before departure, making it hard to use your rail pass on this train. For travelers who plan ahead, other, advance-purchase discount tickets are cheaper than the Passholder 2 rate! Any rail pass that does not cover France (such as an Italy Eurail Pass) is not accepted on this train.
"Italo" fast trains (run by private operator Nuovo Transporto Viaggiatori) now compete with the Italian State Railways' "Le Frecce" fast trains on the domestic main line. Rail passes are not accepted, so passholders should choose the equally fast and more frequent Eurostar Italia or Le Frecce services instead. Italo trains will run at 300 km/hour; offer "Club," "Prima," and "Smart" classes of service; and offer Wi-Fi and mobile connectivity throughout. Stations served: Venezia S. Lucia, Venezia Mestre, Torino Porta Susa, Milano Porta Garibaldi, Milano Rogoredo, Bologna Centrale, Firenze SMN, Roma Ostiense, Roma Tiburtina, Napoli Centrale, and Salerno Centrale. Torino Porta Susa and Milano Porta Garibaldi are connection stations for the TGV to Paris. Tickets are for sale at www.italotreno.it.
In January, 2011, Greece stopped all international rail services, including those between Thessaloniki and Sofia, Belgrade, Bucharest, and Istanbul. In 2012, bus service between Thessaloniki and Sofia (co-operated by OSE Greek railways) is discounted for rail pass travelers when you buy tickets in either city. If you plan to take a train or bus to, from, or within Greece, confirm schedules at stations as you travel. Border towns don't have car rentals and the major agencies in larger cities won't allow their cars to cross the Greek border for any reasonable price. Flying is the best way to reach Athens, Thessaloniki, or Istanbul from any major city in Europe; see Flying Within Europe.
Within Greece, rail service runs on the Thessaloniki–Larissa–Athens main line and branch lines to Volos and Kalambaka (Meteora). Many other local rail connections are not operating, including around the Peloponnese. Local buses or rental car are the best choice for most land travel within Greece.
Ferries still connect Greece to Italy and Turkey. Eurailpasses cover overnight ferries operated by SuperFast and Minoan Lines between Venice, Ancona, or Bari (Italy) and Patras, Corfu, or Igoumenitsa (Greece). Ferries to Turkey leave from Greek islands close to Turkey and are not covered by rail passes. There are no ferries between Greece and Croatia (except via Italy).
Personal identification (such as a passport) is required when using sleepers and couchettes on night trains within Italy.
Rail News is compiled from sources including the Thomas Cook European Rail Timetable, Rail Europe, Eurail, Deutsche Bahn, and other European national railways.