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Deals for Riding the Rails in Europe

March 12, 2000|LUCY IZON

Eurail is offering under-26 travelers a half-price ticket for train travel in Britain when they also buy a rail pass for Europe. The BritRail Classic Youth Pass or BritRail Youth Flexipass is half price until Dec. 31. But first a traveler must buy a Eurail Youthpass, Eurail Youth Flexipass or Europass Youth ticket.

The Eurail Youthpass is valid for second-class unlimited travel in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. It costs $388 for 15 days of consecutive use, $499 for 21 days, $623 for one month and $1,089 for three months.

The Eurail Youth Flexipass allows you to take more time in the same countries and still get full value for your ticket. For any 10 days of travel within a two-month period, the cost is $458; any 15 days within two months costs $599.

If you don't want to tour as extensively, another option is the Europass Youth ticket, also valid for second-class travel. It is honored in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Switzerland. For any five days of travel within two months it costs $233, any six days in two months costs $253, and any 15 days in two months costs $513. The area of travel can be expanded to include other countries or regions; one addition costs $45, two cost $78. You can add Austria and Hungary, Greece (including ferry crossings) or Portugal, or Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.

Not all trains in Europe have second-class services; be sure to check before you board. Many of the high-speed intercity services will charge you a hefty supplement if you are found traveling without a reservation or with a youth pass.

Finally, the special: For half the regular price you can travel standard class in England, Scotland and Wales. At half price, the BritRail Classic Youth Pass costs $107.50 for eight consecutive days of travel, $140 for 15 consecutive days, $177.50 for 22 consecutive days and $210 for one month. The BritRail Youth Flexipass costs $92.50 for any four days of travel within two months. Any eight days of travel within two months costs $120, and any 15 days of travel in two months costs $180.

Although less expensive ways exist for young travelers to get around Europe, such as the bus service Busabout (, a rail pass offers the most flexibility, frequent service and the greatest number of destinations. When you travel by rail, you use the same services as local residents, giving you an opportunity to interact and feel more connected to the local culture.

Several other Rail Europe youth fares (for those under 26 on the first day of travel) are available.

They include the "Benelux Tourrail Junior Pass," valid for unlimited second-class travel in Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. It's good for any five days of travel within one month for $104.

The "France Youthpass" is valid for any four days of travel within two months for $164. You can add more days (up to six) for $20 each.

The "Holland Junior Rail Pass," valid for second-class travel any three days within one month, costs $52, or $79 for five days within one month.

With the "Balkan Youth Flexipass," you can travel through Bulgaria, Greece, Macedonia, Romania, Turkey and Yugoslavia (including Serbia and Montenegro). This is a first-class pass, good for any five days of travel within one month for $90, any 10 days within one month for $156, or any 15 days within one month for $190.

The "Greek Youth Rail 'n' Fly" Flexipass, $186, is good for first-class travel for any three days within a one-month period, and the option of an island visit, with a round-trip flight on Olympic Airways to any Greek destination from Athens.

The Scanrail Youthpass is valid for travel in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden. Any five days in two months costs $203 for first class, $150 for second class. For 10 days in two months, it's $315 first class, $233 second class; and for 21 consecutive days it's $365 first class or $270 for second.

All rail passes must be purchased from a travel agent before you leave North America. You can get more information about Rail Europe fares from travel agents or by calling (800) 4-EURAIL (438- 7245), Internet

Lucy Izon is a Toronto-based freelance writer. Internet

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