Eurail Pass: If you're traveling long distances over several days and changing trains and countries, the best bet is to buy a Eurail pass rather than individual point-to-point tickets. The passes, available only to non-European residents, come in a dizzying array of combinations and prices. There are student, family, youth, senior and large-group discounts. Prices also vary on how many days you want to travel or how many countries you want to visit. Do your research, plan your trip carefully and you can save money.
We bought a Select Eurail Pass, which offered unlimited riding in Germany, France and the Benelux countries for $565 a passenger. The pass gave us access to unreserved, second-class coach seats, which are nice and the majority of seats on the trains. Unless the train is crowded, running at peak hours or it's the busy summer season, there's no problem getting a seat. For a few more euros, however, you can get seat reservations and/or upgrade to first class. For some high-speed trains, reservations are required.
Eurail passes are available from several companies, including http://www.eurail.com
http://www.railpass.com and http://www.raileurope.com, (800) 622-8600.
For information, to make reservations and purchase point-to-point tickets: Deutsche Bahn; http://www.bahn.com, (011) 49 1805 996633
French Railways; http://www.sncf.com, (011) 33 892 35 35 35
British Railways; http://www.nationalrail.co.uk, (011) 44 8457 484950
Thalys; http://www.thalys.com, (011) 32 2 548 0600
Eurostar: The cross-channel train is a joint venture of the British, French and Belgian Railways and is not covered by the Eurail pass. You will pay extra, but holders of BritRail or Eurail passes are given a "pass holder" discount. Our one-way ticket, upgraded to first class with all the amenities, including a full dinner and wine, was $206 each; http://www.eurostar.com, (011) 44 1233 617575
British Rail Pass: The BritRail pass, available only to nonresidents of Britain, has several combinations and discounts. Our pass for five days of unlimited travel cost $249. Our Caledonian sleeping accommodations on board ScotRail's Deerstalker cost $189 for a first-class, double-berth cabin with breakfast. http://www.britrail.com