|Getting to Switzerland by rail|
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EUROPEAN RAIL and bus PASSES
If you’re planning to do much train travel in Europe, then consider buying a Eurail pass, which comes in various forms, all of which must be bought before you leave home. The pass allows unlimited free train travel in sixteen other countries and can translate into a pretty good bargain. However, if you’re planning to stick mainly to Switzerland, you’re much better off buying one of the Swiss rail passes outlined on p.35, since Eurail passes are not valid on many smaller mountain railways or on any postbus jouneys. We’ve flagged Eurail discounts in the guide text where relevant.
The Eurail Youthpass (for under-26s) costs US$388/C$570 for 15 consecutive days, US$499/C$733 for 21 days, US$623/C$915 for one month, US$882/C$1296 for two months or US$1089/C$1600 for three months; if you’re 26 or over you’ll have to buy a first-class pass, available in 15-day (US$554/C$814), 21-day (US$718/C$1055), one-month (US$890/C$1308), two-month (US$1260/C$1852) and three-month (US$1558/C$2290) increments. For groups of two to five (three to five in summer), the Eurail Saverpass (first class only) can knock 15 percent off the cost of the standard Eurail offerings.
You stand a better chance of getting your money’s worth out of a Eurail Flexipass, which is good for a certain number of travel days in a two-month period. This, too, comes in both under-26 and first-class versions: 10 days costs US$444/C$652 or US$654/C$961 respectively; 15 days, US$585/C$860 or US$862/C$1267. Again, parties of two to five can save 15 percent with the Eurail Saver Flexipass.
The EurailDrive Pass is valid for any six days in a two month period and allows four days free rail travel and two days free car hire; the price for two adults travelling together in an economy car is US$339/C$498; an additional day with the car costs US$61/C$89.
A scaled-down version of the Flexipass, the Europass, allows first-class travel in Switzerland, France, Germany, Italy and Spain for any five days in two months for US$348/C$511, with the option of adding up to ten additional rail days at US$42/C$61 each. Up to four “associate” countries (Austria, Hungary, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Greece and Portugal) can be included for an additional fee. For under-26s, the Europass Youth costs US$233/C$342 for any five days of second-class travel in two months, with extra rail days costing US$29/C$42 each. Groups of two to five can save fifteen percent with the Europass Saverpass. The Europass Drive allows travel for any five days within a two-month period (three by rail and two by car); the price for two adults in an economy car is US$284/C$417; each additional car day costs US$59/C$86.
All these passes can be reserved through Rail Europe (in US 1-877/456-RAIL, in Canada 1-800/361-RAIL, www.raileurope.com), or travel agents. Note that both Eurail and Europass holders are often eligible for discounts on the fares of privately run mountain railways and cable-cars in Switzerland that are not covered for free travel.
North Americans considering travelling through Europe by bus should check out the Busabout passes, available from STA Travel, Council Travel or Travel CUTS; fifteen-day passes are $395 ($285 for youth or student card-holders); a month’s pass costs $635/465.
Switzerland’s “rail baggage” service is covered here. Labels cost US$15/C$22, and are available from Swissair ticket desks and offices throughout North America. The homeward-bound version of “Rail Baggage” is “Fly Baggage”.
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