Young travelers are eligible for some special breaks on international rail travel.
Many are familiar with the popular Eurail Youthpasses, which allow one or two months of unlimited second-class travel in 16 European countries to persons under 26 years of age. Fewer realize many national rail services also offer special youth tickets. Some of these don't pressure you into traveling on consecutive days, while others offer a youth discount even if you want to go first-class. Here's a sampling of special fares available this year.
Travelers ages 16 through 25 can get a rail pass for unlimited travel on all trains in Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg. This ticket doesn't force you into moving too fast. It is valid for any five days of a 17-day period between March 15 and Sept. 15. It's called the Benelux Junior Tourrail Pass and you can buy it at rail stations in those three countries. The price will vary depending on the exchange rate at the time but a first-class ticket will be about $54 and second-class about $36.
A Special Ticket
Holland's special ticket is called a Teenage Rover. Again, you are not forced to set a fast pace to get full value. It's good for second-class rail travel on any four days of a 10-day period during June, July and August. You must be under 19 on the first day of travel to be eligible. It costs about $16.
At Austrian rail stations travelers 6 to 26 can buy an Austria Ticket that not only allows unlimited use of second-class rail services but is also valid for buses (not municipal) and the boats on Lake St. Wolfgang. A nine-day ticket is about $59, the 16-day version costs $84.
At rail stations in Belgium you can buy that country's Junior Tourrail ticket, which allows persons ages 12 through 25 to travel for any five days of a 16-day period for $24 second class or $35 first class. A second version is valid for travel any eight days of a 16-day period for $46 first class, $31 second class.
A pass for unlimited second-class train travel in West Germany for people under 26 is sold through travel agencies here or at rail stations and airports in West Germany. Price is about $70 for nine days and $90 for 16 days.
Travelers 16 to 26 going to Switzerland can buy a special ticket before leaving home that entitles them to a 50% reduction on travel fares within the country. The ticket, called the Junior Half-Fare Travel Card, costs $16. It is valid for reduced rates on trains, some of which are not covered by the Eurail Youthpass, postal buses and lake steamers, for one month. You cannot buy it after you reach Switzerland.
Britain also gives you a break but special Britrail Youth Passes must be bought from travel agents before reaching Britain. Travelers 16 to under 26 can have unlimited second-class rail travel in England, Wales and Scotland for 7 days for $95, 14 days $150, 21 days $190 or 1 month at $225.
Youth Rambler Passes
In Ireland travelers 14 to 26 can buy unlimited travel on rail or buses for eight days for $61 or 15 days for $88. These Youth Rambler Passes must be bought from travel agents before you arrive in the Republic of Ireland.
The Eurail Youthpass also must be purchased from a travel agent before going abroad. The one-month ticket is $290, a two-month pass costs $370.
If this will be your first time for much train travel abroad, keep some quick tips in mind:
A good source of information on rail services around the world is the "Eurail Guide Annual" by Marvin L. Saltzman. You'll find details on 1986 ticket prices, day trips from 157 European cities, tips on what to see and do in 1,502 cities and resorts around the world, departure and arrival times and international rail connections for key trains worldwide. Price at retail book stores is $10.95.
Don't Let It Smudge
If your unlimited travel pass has your signature, cover the signature with clear tape so it won't get smudged and become a problem for conductors who compare it against the signature on your passport.
If you will be taking long trips pack a small container to carry some water in. Tap water on many trains is undrinkable and unusable for brushing teeth.
Try to schedule travel to avoid national holidays; trains will be packed and if you can't get a reservation or are not willing to pay for one you'll wind up standing.
If you nap on the train, be careful that the car you are in is going to the destination that you want. On many European trains different cars go to different cities, and cars are added or removed at different stops on the route. The destination of each car is therefore displayed beside the door. If in doubt, check with a conductor before nodding off.