Travelling within Europe is a breeze with excellent train connectivity like the TGV, Eurostar etc. – not to mention their regional trains. What makes the experience better for tourists are the wide choice of Eurorail passes – 1 Country, a Pair, Regional or Global. For some reason, the 2nd class passes have been scrapped. Surprising, considering the huge difference in prices. Nonetheless, the 1st Class passes still offer amazing value for money.
We had bought individual point-to-point tickets during our trip in Italy. Route: Rome – Florence – Venice – Naples – Rome all on Frecciarossa & Frecciagento’s. These were direct and the fastest trains, with options of train availability almost every hour (for most popular destinations). We had booked well in advance and thereby got the best rates. Visit: http://www.trenitalia.com, the official Italian railways website, for your booking requirements.
Though Italy’s train stations are not at par with some of their more advanced neighbours, we did not have any trouble boarding the trains. Proper signages and vending machines are available in plenty. Except though for the notorious ‘Circumvesuviana’ route that we took between Naples & Pompei — which was in one word was pathetic and scary. All our other trips were very comfortable and absolutely ‘on time’.
Would recommend the following options when you are planning a trip:
• If your itinerary is not fixed and you want flexibility, please go for the 1st Class Eurorail pass – don’t even think twice.
• If itinerary is fixed well in advance (like in my case), spend some time to evaluate the point-to-point ticket prices as you might save a good amount of money. Am sure your spouse will not mind an extra shopping allowance.
Now the evaluation part … when I had travelled in 2011, the Eurorail passes were very expensive in comparison to my point-to-point tickets, probably due to the fact that I planned 3 /4 months in advance. A couple of months back while checking for a colleague, we did the same exercise (for a travel few weeks away) and surprise surprise!! We were comparing a 1st class Eurorail pass where you had to reserve a seat before you board a fast train, paying a supplement of 10 Euro per person with a ‘point-to-point’ 2nd class fares on the same train –the difference surprisingly came to about INR 10,000 or so for 3 people !!!
Now 1st class travel in Europe (or anywhere) is a different league compared to 2nd class, and also offers a lot of flexibility. Hence, it can be a no brainer to take the Pass. You can reserve seats and pick up the tickets in any of the automatic machines at stations. However do note that the Frecciarossa 4L trains have four classes, instead of two: Executive, Premium, Business & Standard. 1st class pass holders are allowed to book in Business, but not in Executive class here.
Plan in advance and you can save a fortune – or get a far better experience. Worth it!