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Okay, let’s say you’ve made the decision to go for a rail pass. Of course there are times when a pass makes total sense. It may be that you really are making a lot of journeys, or perhaps you just want to relish the freedom to roam at will. Here’s how to get the most bang for your rail travel buck (or euro).
InterRail or Eurail?
But before investing in a Eurail or InterRail Pass it is just worth checking whether there might be other passes that offer price advantages or more beneficial conditions. We can give you a feel for the sort of great deals on offer by way of a topical example for summer 2012 travel in Germany.
Traveling Germany in summer 2012?
Let’s say you are looking to travel intensively in Germany for a month this summer. InterRail offers a One-Country Pass for Germany. It provides eight days of unlimited second-class travel in Germany within a one-month period for €319 . Fine if you live in Europe, but for North American visitors Eurail simply doesn’t have a One-Country Pass for Germany. Best bet, you might think, is the Eurail Germany-Benelux Passthat gives 10 days of second-class travel within a two month period for €373.
On the face of it, neither is a bad deal. The InterRail Pass price stacks up to about €40 a day, while Eurail is a little cheaper (and comes with Benelux effectively thrown in for free) at just under €38 a day.
The Deutschland Pass
But wait. Is not the Deutschland Pass a far, far better deal? This summer, as in previous years, Deutsche Bahn offers a summer-season one-month pass. There is absolutely no residency requirement. It matters not whether you live in Germany or are a visitor. Anyone can buy the Deutschland Pass.
It goes on sale on June 18 and the window during which these one-month passes can be used is from June 18 through August 31. Details are not yet available on the Deutsche Bahn Web site, but we expect them to be posted a few days prior to the first day of sale.
The regular price is €299 (yes, that’s less than €10 a day) and that fare holds for anyone aged 27 or above. For those aged up to and including 18, the Deutschland Pass is just €99 for a month, and for travelers aged 19 to 26 inclusive, the pass price is €249.
Traveling together — great deals for couples and families
For a couple traveling together, a duo version of the Deutschland Pass costs €449 and allows children to come along for free. This is an amazing deal. Take the case of two adults and two children (aged 11 and 14). They would pay €1,117 for eight days of travel with InterRail, or €1,044 for 10 days on the rails with Eurail. With the Deutschland Pass, the same family could enjoy up to 31 days travel for €449.
Of course there are youth variants of the InterRail and Eurail Passes that offer discounts. But the Deutschland Pass is still a clear winner. An 18-year-old wanting to really explore Germany might (if he or she lived outside Europe) enjoy 10 days travel with a €298 Eurail Youth Pass, or a European resident (who does NOT live in Germany) could buy an eight-day Youth InterRail Pass for €211. Yet the Deutschland Pass would cost our 18-year-old traveler just €99 for a whole month of unlimited journeys across Germany—regardless of his or her country of residence.
The Deutschland Pass small print
As with all rail passes, holders of the 2012 Deutchland Pass are liable for the usual supplements for travel on night trains and on ICE Sprinter services (the latter are few and far between, so it’s hardly a burden—you can also avoid these services by taking a regular ICE slightly earlier or slightly later).
Beyond that, the Deutschland Pass is valid on all trains within Germany, except for just three long-distance routes run by private operators: the Harz-Berlin Express, the InterConnex service from Leipzig to the Baltic coast and the Vogtlandbahn’s Berlin Express.
We believe that the ticket will be valid to a small number of points beyond Germany’s borders, but it is worth checking the small print when it goes on sale. If cross-border journeys are included, it’s most likely be to just a handful of stations, such as Salzburg (Austria), Schaffhausen (Switzerland) and Wissembourg (France).
Check before you buy
Whatever kind of pass seems best for your itinerary, it is always worth casting around to make sure you are getting the best option. There are some oddball anomalies in pricing. The list price for a first-class, eight-day (within two months)Eurail Pass for two adults roaming together through France and Germany is €806. Oddly, if you throw in Spain too then the price of the pass drops to a total €774. Yes, that’s right. A pass with a wider areal validity is in this case cheaper. Hard to credit, but it’s true.
The same sometimes applies to some youth passes. An eight-day Eurail second-class youth pass valid in both France and Germany is €314. Extend the geographical coverage to also include Spain and the price drops to €296.
Ours not to reason why! But canny travelers can save a packet by carefully researching the best pass deals.
Rail pass options
Interested in seeing a full list of rail pass options? Visit our booking partner, Rail Europe, to compare rates, destinations covered and see their latest promotions.