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This article contains a short overview of the InterRail and Eurail railway passes, and devotes special attention to the situations in which (not) to buy one. More detailed information about the passes can be found on their respective websites.
Eurail is a railway pass issued by a joint-venture of European transport companies, mostly railway carriers and shipping companies. The pass is intended for travellers from outside Europe; for European residents, the cheaper sister product InterRail is available (see below).
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Eurail passes differ in the number of countries they cover, the validity of the pass, and the age group of its holder. Detailed information can be found on the Eurail website.
Unlike its name suggests, it covers 20 European countries, but exclude a number of Eastern European countries and the UK. Global Pass is available with a validity of up to three months of unlimited travel, or with a set number of travelling days within a given period. Depending on age (the limit for youth fares being 25), their prices range from €327 to €1413 (June 2008 price level).
These passes covers 3, 4 or 5 neighbouring countries of choice. They offer 5, 6, 8 or 10 days of travel within a 2-month period. The '5 countries Pass' also has a 15 travel days option. Depending on age, validity and number of countries, their prices range from €207 to €706.
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Select from various overlapping regions of Europe. They offer 3 to 10 travelling days within a period of up to two months. Their prices are again dependent on region, age and validity. It is possible to combine multiple regional passes although this is hardly ever the cheapest option.
Single Country Pass
This pass is perfect for exploring one European country. They offer 3 to 15 travelling days within a period of one month.
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InterRail is the cheaper sister product of Eurail. Note that the link given here is to the official website; a number of booking agents have claimed the more obvious URLs to sell InterRail tickets, but at much higher prices.
You can only use the InterRail Pass if you are a European resident. You are considered a European resident and eligible for the pass if you have been staying in a European country for at least six months from the first day of validity of the pass. The following count as European countries (note that this does not coincide with the European Union, nor with geographical Europe):
InterRail Global Pass
The Global Pass is valid on the national trains of over 30 European countries and on various private railways. This pass also entitles you to benefits such as discounted or free shipping services and reduced admissions in museums. It is available for a continuous period of 22 days or 1 month, or for a flexible duration of 5 or 10 days.
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Note: Prices as at June 2008. Adult means 26 years or older, Youth means 25 years or younger.
The Global Pass is not valid for free travel in your own country of residence. However, you can purchase tickets at reduced prices for trains up to the border.
InterRail One Country Pass
The One Country Pass allows unlimited train travel in a participating country (not eligible for your own country of residence). It is perfect for exploring one European country on train. This pass also entitles you to benefits such as discounted or free shipping services and reduced admissions in museums. Prices vary from one country pass to another and also depends on age and validity.
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