By Bob & Sandy Nesoff
Members: North American Travel Journalists Association
American Society of Journalists and Authors
Americans still have a lot to learn from the Europeans. As much as we have made tremendous strides in virtually every area, they are still well ahead of us in many things…rail travel amongst them.
For much of the last century, until the last quarter, rail travel in the United States was efficient, comfortable, even luxurious. Then we discovered airplanes.
As late as the 1950s and 1960s transcontinental travel by rail was the main mode of transportation. Once jets were introduced and you could get from Point A to Point B more quickly, the rails declined in the United States.
Today most airlines have three classes of travel…First Class, Business Class (for those with money or on an expense account) and Cattle Class for the rest of us. Climb aboard a plane and you are jammed, crammed and squeezed into a seat not designed for the posterior of any human larger than an anorexic runway model.
Cross-country train travel in the United States has become almost non-existant because of the need for speed. Not so in Europe.
In Europe rail travel is still a common form of transportation and getting from Point A to Point B in comfort and style is the norm.
Eurail, started in 1959 with destinations in 13 countries has expended to a reach of 28 countries today from France, Austria, Belgium, Ireland, Italy and Switzerland amongst the popular routes.
There are still First Class coaches for those who don’t mind spending a bit more but the equivalent of coach class is still comfortable with more than ample room for your legs and that infamous posterior.
A note of interest-sound like a local and call the train cars “carriages.”
On most of the Eurail trains food is available as are some libations. We’ve found that it is well worth the small extra expense to upgrade to a First Class Coach. Nothing wring with regular coach, but the added comfort on a long journey adds to the pleasure of watching the beautiful European countryside roll by.
The tab for traveling by Eurail is so much easier on the wallet than flying. And, frankly, in many cases the travel time is comparable.
Getting to the airport, checking in, paying extra for luggage, going through security and heading to the gate all eat up time. In contrast, most European train terminals are conveniently located and boarding is express. They’ll take you to a similar terminal at your destination.
If you purchase tickets before the end of March there are deals that will save even more. The Eurail Glbal Pass offers extra days at no extra cost depending on the pass you purchase. They are available for adult, child and youth passes in First and Second Class, including Saver Passes. The 15-day pass provides two extra days; three extra days for the 21-day pass and five more days if you buy the one month continuous Global Pass.
If you purchase these passes within the time frame, they ay be used any time within six months of purchase. Try that with an airline ticket.
The Global Pass is popular with travelers, offering connections to 28 countries across the continent. It also includes free or discounted travel on major shopping lines and brings the cultural, geographical and historical riches of Europe within reach of the average pocketbook.
Passes are available from a worldwide network of agents. For information go to www.eurailgroup.org/eurail-vendors.
In 2015 Eurail is introducing a variety of new options to its Eurail Pass Portfolio. There is a new First-Class Youth Pass for youngsters from 12-25 and a free pass for those up to 11-years-old while traveling with an adult pass holder. The First Class Youth Pass is available at a 20% discount from the adult tab.
New countries added this year that brought the total to 28 are: Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Poland and Serbia. Travelers can now ride the rail on the eastern Adriatic coast from Croatia to Montenegro or take a side stop at Poland while heading to Prague or Berlin.
With 28 countries, cultures and customs to choose from, travelers can traverse the European continent going from rural to urban and everything in between. For information check out: http://www.eurail.com/.