The Eurail Group G.I.E. manages and markets two popular brands on behalf of its member railways and shipping companies: Eurail (for the non-European market) and InterRail (for the European market). Their extensive product range is as wide-ranging as the people they attract to sample the wonders of the European railway network: backpackers, families, business travellers, students, senior citizens and more.
Eurail Passes were created in 1959 when the post-Word War II mass tourism market was in its infancy. As more and more overseas visitors flocked to the continent, Europe’s railway companies saw an opportunity to expand their markets. By offering foreigners a single rail pass that would allow access to the expanding European rail network, they successfully simplified rail travel; eliminating the language barrier and the need to purchase separate tickets for each leg of the journey.
It was quickly recognized that the Eurail Pass gave the traveller added flexibility and freedom to change plans at a moments notice! Therefore, it’s hardly surprising that it was not long before the idea of an easy to use, pre-paid rail pass became a huge success story. Indeed, from little more that 5,000 passes sold in 1959 to overseas travellers, to date more that 14,000,000 people have taken to the rails with Eurail.
There are currently four types of Eurail Passes offered to suit the travel needs of international travellers: the Eurail Global Pass for travel in 22 member countries giving access to almost 222,000 kilometres of track (138,000 miles); the Eurail Select Pass, valid in 3, 4 or 5 adjoining countries; the Eurail Regional Pass, restricted to small groups of neighbouring countries; and the Eurail One Country Pass making the perfect travel companion for exploring a single country in a shorter timeframe.
Due to the growing popularity of the Eurail Pass, the same business model was replicated in 1972 to create a similar product for the European market. There are currently two InterRail Passes available: the InterRail Global Pass for travel in 30 member countries offering 252,000 kilometres (157,000 miles) of practically unlimited rail travel; and the InterRail One Country Pass.
For the past three years, the Eurail Group G.I.E. have noticed a growing trend towards more pass holders venturing East. Austria is well connected to destinations in Croatia and direct trains operate daily between Vienna and Zagreb, plus other Eastern European countries (such as the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria). Budapest can be reached in less than 3 hours, Prague in 4h50m and Ljubljana in approximately 6 hours.
Travelling East by train not only gives the traveller a sense of getting off-the-beaten-track, it makes a trip noticeably less expensive (yet rich in experiencing new cultures). Ljubljana has excellent connections with Eastern and Western Europe and it’s possible to rail to Zagreb in little over two hours winding through the mountains and down to the farmlands along the Sava River. The regional trains in Eastern Europe are often from the old rolling stock and gently meander through the countryside, nevertheless, the process of modernization has certainly begun. In the future, more coaches will have custom-made interiors and better air-conditioning.
Wherever you’re going, taking the train in Europe is as enjoyable as the final destination. The trains travel efficiently from city centres to smaller villages, allowing the passenger to sit back, relax and enjoy the ever-changing scenery of rolling hillsides, enchanting castles, and historical cities.
In conjunction with the respective stakeholder railways and local tourism boards, the Eurail Group organise yearly Press Trips with select members of the media who are present in Canada, India, Japan, Korea and the United States of America. By inviting journalists to experience European train travel, this helps to spread the word about the lesser discovered corners of Europe, stimulate the local economy and further promote the advantages of responsible tourism.
Travelling by train in Europe guarantees a priceless experience. Where else can you sit back, relax and absorb the scenery as the world passes you by?
For more information about the Eurail and InterRail Passes, please visit the following websites: www.eurailgroup.com and be inspired by www.eurailtravel.com. Inspire others by sharing your rail travel stories at www.myeurailtravel.com.