The year 2019 marks 60 years since the Eurail pass was introduced. Established in 1959, it gave a generation of American college students and young travelers a ticket to travel freely throughout Europe. Eurail is celebrating its 60th anniversary with streamlined product offerings, added destinations, and price reductions.
The Eurail pass gave travelers an open-ended ticket for as much travel throughout Europe as they could squeeze in during a specified period of time. The idea that a pass would let you get on a train any time and travel as long as you wanted through Europe was highly appealing to young American travelers. Its call to freedom created a mini-revolution in travel and afforded many young Americans an opportunity to travel easily in Europe they may not otherwise have had. More than 70 percent of Eurail passes are sold in either America or Asia.
During its 60 years, the Eurail system has grown and evolved, and today’s Eurail pass provides access to 155,000 miles of railroad tracks throughout Europe. The first Eurail pass back in 1959 included 13 countries, but the number has steadily increased and the pass is now good in 31 countries and a total of 40,000 destinations. For 2019, the company has added three additional countries to the roster, including Lithuania, Macedonia and ... are you ready? Great Britain.
The Eurostar train from France to Britain was incorporated into the system in 2017. Another change for 2019 is the expansion of the Greek Islands pass from 28 to 53 islands.
Mirror of history
The history of the Eurail pass reflects the history of Europe itself. When it first appeared in the late 1950s, the Eurail pass presaged the unification of Europe and the open borders policy that was to be instituted by the European Union in June 1985 with the signing of the Schengen agreement by 14 countries.
In 1991, with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany, the former East Germany was brought into the Eurail network. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the Eurail system expanded eastward to include the newly independent countries of what had been known as Eastern Europe and was then renamed Central Europe.
By 2009, Eurail pass’s 50th anniversary, the network had expanded to 21 countries.
This year, Eurail is finally pulling Great Britain into its network just as, ironically, Britain prepares to pull out of the European Union … unless it changes its mind.
Eurail has simplified its cost structure so that there are now only two categories of pass: one for a single country, and the global pass that is good for all 31 countries in the system.
Previously there were more variations between one and all. A Select pass could be purchased for two, three or four countries with common borders. Now, purchasing a pass is much simpler and more direct, either one country or all countries. Passes can be purchased for as few as three days’ duration or as long as three months at a time.
Prices for the passes have also been reduced by as much as 37 percent from last year’s prices.
Eurail has also instituted a Senior Discount, with 10 percent reductions for customers 60 years of age or more. Young people, under the age of 27, also qualify for a 10 percent price reduction. In addition, two children under 11 years of age can travel free with one adult.
To help American travel advisors get up-to-speed on the ins and outs of European rail travel, Eurail offers an educational course called the Eurail Academy. The course is comprised of seven chapters. Travel agents who complete the course are named Eurail Specialists. Information on the educational program can be accessed at Eurailacademy.com.
Where it goes
The 31 countries that Eurail Pass travels to are: Austria, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Montenegro, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain,
Sweden, Switzerland, and Turkey.
Eurail’s most popular cities are: Paris, Munich, Florence, Milan, Rome, Zurich, Amsterdam, Brussels, and Vienna.