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European Rail Travel for Beginners

In the last several years, budget airlines in Europe have made the days of traveling around the continent on a Eurail Pass seem a bit antiquated to some people – why take so long to go from country to country by rail when you can fly twice the distance in a fraction of the time and (sometimes) a fraction of the price?
It’s true that there are many more cases these days when flying is actually the more budget-friendly option, but the train is still your best choice for most shorter trips within one country. Bus lines don’t tend to be nationwide, so going from region to region within a country is challenging by bus. By train, however, these trips are usually easy and can be quite cheap. There’s often a high-speed (read: high-cost) option for train trips, but if you’ve got more time and less cash you can cover the same ground on a slower and cheaper train.
Many of the questions about traveling by train in Europe have to do with whether it still makes sense to buy a Eurail Pass or whether it’s cheaper to buy individual tickets as you go. The short answer is that it – again – depends on the distance of your trips. Longer train trips are more expensive, so if your itinerary is essentially all longer train trips you’ll save money by getting a Eurail Pass. This can even be true if you’re staying within one country. It used to be that buying train tickets in Italy was so cheap that even the long-distance trains were a bargain, but nowadays Italy’s high-speed trains come with a hefty ticket price. Getting an Italy Rail Pass can often be a great money-saver.
Rail travel in Europe may be something that people have been doing for decades, but it’s still natural to have lots of questions if you’ve never done it before. Besides, as we’ve noted, things change in the world of European rail travel – so reading up-to-date articles like this European train travel guide before you go can make your trip much less stressful and can help you save quite a bit of money.
* More Eurail travel tips
photo by Vasenka