Air

Flying around Mediterranean Europe is a good option. Alongside the main established carriers, there are more than 30 budget airlines serving hundreds of cities across Europe. You can usually pick up a reasonably priced flight, especially if you're prepared to fly very early in the morning or late at night.

Some considerations:

  • Low-cost carriers rarely provide much in the way of comfort or service. Inflight food, checked-in baggage, airport check-in and priority boarding all incur extra charges.
  • When booking online, always ensure that you untick any add-on options you don't want. The default page settings of many airline websites have them automatically ticked.
  • Check baggage-weight allowances – they are often less than on the established airlines and they are enforced.
  • Many budget carriers use provincial airports that might be some way from your destination city. For example, Ryanair's Venice flights actually land at Treviso, which is some 30km from the lagoon city. If you're arriving late at night, make sure you've checked transport options into town, otherwise you could end up forking out for an expensive taxi ride.

Airlines

Europe's no-frills carriers are the obvious first point of call when looking for bargain flights, but don't write off the bigger established airlines. If travelling with a lot of luggage at peak holiday periods, there's often very little difference between the price of a 'low-cost' ticket, complete with extra charges for checked-in luggage, online booking etc, and a ticket from an established airline.

Listed here are the main budget airlines operating in the region:

Air Berlin (www.airberlin.com)

Air One (www.flyairone.com)

easyJet (www.easyjet.com)

germanwings (www.germanwings.com)

Jet2.com (www.jet2.com)

Pegasus Airlines (www.flypgs.com)

Ryanair (www.ryanair.com)

Tuifly (www.tuifly.com)

Vueling (www.vueling.com)

Wizz Air (http://wizzair.com)

Air Passes

If you're planning to fly around the region and prefer to sort out flights before you leave, consider a European air pass. These are generally only available to non-Europeans, who must purchase them in conjunction with a long-haul international return ticket. Typically, they involve the purchase of flight coupons (usually around US$60 to US$205 each) for travel between a number of European destinations.

Oneworld Visit Europe Pass (www.oneworld.com) Available to non-Europeans who buy an intercontinental ticket with a Oneworld member airline. There's a minimum of two coupons, although you must only confirm the first flight when you buy. Valid on routes between 219 destinations in 52 countries.

SkyTeam Go Europe (www.skyteam.com) The pass is available with the purchase of an intercontinental flight with any of SkyTeam's 18 member carriers. Flight coupons are valid for flights in 44 countries. You must buy a minimum of three flight coupons and a maximum of 16. Advance booking is only required for the first European flight.

Star Alliance European Airpass (www.staralliance.com) Non-European residents who buy a round-trip international ticket with a Star Alliance operator can buy a minimum of three and a maximum of 10 coupons for one-way flights between 40 European countries. Coupons, the first of which you must reserve when you buy the pass, are valid for three months.

Snapshot

National airlines and more than 30 low-cost carriers fly Europe, ensuring a comprehensive network and competitive fares.

Bicycle

Although cycling is a popular sport in France, Spain and Italy, as a means of everyday transport it is not common in Mediterranean Europe. Outside certain areas there are few dedicated cycle lanes, and drivers tend to regard cyclists as an oddity. Poor road conditions, particularly in the Eastern European countries, and mountainous terrain provide further obstacles.

  • There are no special road rules for cyclists, although it's advisable to carry a helmet, lights and a basic repair kit (containing spare brake and gear cables, spanners, Allen keys, spare spokes and some strong adhesive tape).
  • Take a good lock and make sure you use it when you leave your bike unattended.
  • Bike hire is available throughout the region – tourist offices can usually direct you to rental outlets.
  • There are plenty of shops selling new and secondhand bikes, although you'll need a specialist outlet for a touring bike. European prices are quite high; expect to pay from €100 for a new bike.

Snapshot

Bike hire is widely available; can take bikes on trains and ferries for a small extra fee.

Boat

The Mediterranean's modern ferry network is comprehensive, covering all corners of the region. There are routes between Spain and France; between Italy, Spain, Greece, Croatia, and Turkey; and between the hundreds of Mediterranean islands. See the relevant country sections for further details. Popular routes get very busy in summer, so try to book ahead.

The main ferry operators in the region:

Acciona Trasmediterránea Spanish company with domestic services from Barcelona to Ibiza, Maó and Palma de Mallorca; from Valencia to Palma de Mallorca, Maó and Ibiza.

Agoudimos Services from Brindisi (Italy) to Igoumenitsa and Corfu (both Greece); from Brindisi to Vlora (Albania).

Corsica Ferries Services from Bastia (Corsica) to Toulon and Nice (both France), and to Savona and Livorno (both Italy); from Île Rousse (Corsica) to Toulon, Nice and Savona; from Ajaccio (Corsica) to Toulon and Nice; from Golfo Aranci (Sardinia) to Livorno (Italy).

Grandi Navi Veloci Services from Genoa (Italy) to Barcelona (Spain) and Palermo (Sicily); from Civitavecchia (Italy) to Palermo; from Naples (Italy) to Palermo.

Grimaldi Lines Services from Barcelona (Spain) to Porto Torres (Sardinia), Civitavecchia and Livorno (both Italy); from Civitavecchia to Trapani (Sicily); from Salerno (Italy) to Palermo (Sicily); from Brindisi (Italy) to Corfu, Igoumenitsa, and Patra (Greece).

Endeavor Lines Services from Brindisi (Italy) to Igoumenitsa, Patra, Corfu and Kefallonia (all Greece).

Jadrolinija Services from Ancona (Italy) to Split (Croatia); from Bari (Italy) to Dubrovnik (Croatia).

Minoan Lines Ferries from Ancona (Italy) to Igoumenitsa and Patra (both Greece).

SNAV Italian company with services from Ancona (Italy) to Split (Croatia); from Naples (Italy) to Palermo and the Aeolian Islands (all Sicily); from Civitavecchia (Italy) to Palermo; from Genoa (Italy) to Palermo, Olbia and Porto Torres (Sardinia).

Superfast Ferries (www.superfast.com) Services from Ancona (Italy) to Igoumenitsa and Patra (both Greece); from Bari (Italy) to Igoumenitsa, Patra and Corfu (all Greece).

Tirrenia Italian company with domestic services from Genoa to Arbatax, Porto Torres and Olbia (all Sardinia); from Civitavecchia to Olbia, Arbatax and Cagliari (all Sardinia); from Naples to Palermo (Sicily) and Cagliari (Sardinia); from Cagliari to Palermo.

Snapshot

Good, safe network in the Mediterranean; book ahead for popular routes in peak season.

Bus

Travelling by bus is generally the cheapest way of getting around the region, although it's neither comfortable nor particularly quick. In some of the eastern countries, including BiH, Croatia and Montenegro, the rail networks are limited and buses tend to be quicker (and more expensive) than trains. Buses also cover more routes, especially away from the main coastal areas. In mountainous countries (eg Albania and Greece) they are sometimes the only option.

  • Eurolines (www.eurolines.com) is a network of 32 European coach operators serving hundreds of destinations throughout Europe.
  • London-based Busabout runs bus tours around Europe, stopping off at major cities in Italy, France, Spain and other countries. Note, however, that you don't simply buy a ticket from A to B; rather, you pay for travel on a specified route, allowing you to hop off at any scheduled stop, then resume with a later bus. Busabout buses are often oversubscribed, so book each sector to avoid being stranded. Departures are every two days from May to October.

Bus Passes

Bus passes make sense if you want to cover a lot of ground as cheaply as possible. However, they're not always as extensive or as flexible as rail passes, and to get your money's worth you will need to spend a lot of time crammed into a bus seat.

Eurolines Pass (www.eurolines-pass.com) Covers 51 European cities. Most of the trips must be international, although a few internal journeys are possible between major cities. There are two passes: 15 days (low/high season adult €210/310, under 26 €180/295); 30 days (low/high season adult €315/460, under 26 €245/380).

Busabout Runs hop-on hop-off circuits (loops) around Europe. Passes come in many forms: a single loop costs per adult/student €515/495; a double loop costs per adult/student €879/849; a flexitrip pass allows you to choose where you want to go and buy tickets (flexistops) for those destinations. It's valid for the entire operating season (May to October) and costs from €449/435 per adult/student for six flexistops; one-way route tickets start at €619/599 per adult/student. Discounts are available for early booking.

Costs & Reservations

Booking a seat in advance is not usually obligatory, but if you already know when you want to travel it makes sense to do so. In summer it is always advisable to book if you want to travel popular routes.

As a rough guide, a one-way bus ticket from Paris to Rome costs €86, and from Madrid to Lisbon €38.

Snapshot

Extensive network across the region; bus travel is often preferable in mountainous Eastern Europe.

Car & Motorcycle

Travelling around the region by car or motorbike gives you increased flexibility and allows you to venture off the beaten path. On the downside you'll often have to deal with congestion, urban one-way systems, traffic-free zones and nonexistent city parking. In winter, ice and fog can prove hazardous, particularly in mountainous areas such as Albania and BiH, where roads are badly signposted and often in poor condition.

Mediterranean Europe is well suited to motorcycle touring, as it has an active motorcycling scene and plenty of panoramic roads. On ferries, motorcyclists can sometimes be squeezed in without a reservation, although booking ahead is advisable in peak travelling periods. Take note of local customs about parking on pavements.

Some useful motoring resources include the following:

AA (www.theaa.com) The British Automobile Association's site has a comprehensive travel section covering all aspects of driving in Europe.

British Motorcyclists Federation (www.bmf.co.uk) Click on the 'Touring' link for information on all aspects of European touring, including specialist tour operators, recommended maps and updated European fuel prices.

Idea Merge (www.ideamerge.com/motoeuropa) An extensive US guide to motoring in Europe, with information on renting, leasing and purchasing, and tonnes of useful practical advice.

RAC (www.rac.co.uk) Has up-to-date country-by-country information, a route planner and a useful pretrip checklist.

Bringing Your Own Vehicle

Bringing your own vehicle into the region is fairly straightforward if you're coming from elsewhere in mainland Europe. In addition to your vehicle registration document you'll need a valid driving licence and proof of third-party (liability) insurance.

Shipping a vehicle from the US or Canada is time-consuming and costs approximately US$750 to US$2000 one-way, depending on the size of the car. For further information consult Idea Merge (www.ideamerge.com/motoeuropa).

  • Some countries require you to carry certain pieces of equipment. For example, you'll need a first-aid kit in Croatia, Greece and Slovenia; a warning triangle in Greece, Italy, Portugal and Slovenia; a fire extinguisher in Greece and Turkey; and a set of spare headlight bulbs in Croatia and Spain.
  • Note that there's sometimes a maximum time limit (typically six or 12 months) you can keep your car in a foreign country.
  • For more information contact the RAC or AA in the UK, or the AAA (www.aaa.com) in the USA.

Driving Licence

  • An EU driving licence is valid for driving throughout Europe.
  • If you've got an old-style, green UK licence or a licence issued by a non-EU country you'll need an International Driving Permit (IDP).
  • To get an IDP, apply to your national automobile association – you'll need a passport photo and your home driving licence. They cost about US$15/UK£10 and are valid for 12 months.
  • When driving in Europe, always carry your home licence with the IDP, as the IDP is not valid on its own.

Fuel & Spare Parts

  • Fuel prices vary from country to country, but are almost always more expensive than in the US or Australia.
  • Fuel is sold by the litre (one US gallon is 3.8L). It comes as either unleaded petrol or diesel. Diesel is cheaper than unleaded petrol.
  • As a rough guide, reckon on anything from €2/1.81 for unleaded petrol/diesel in Turkey and €1.42/1.30 in Croatia. Get updated prices at www.fuel-prices-europe.info.
  • Prices tend to be higher at motorway service stations and lowest at supermarket petrol stations.
  • You should have no great problems getting spare parts if needed.

Hire

Agencies

Car-hire agencies are widespread across the region. Avis (www.avis.com), Budget (www.budget.com), Europcar (www.europcar.com) and Hertz (www.hertz.com) have offices throughout the Med, and there are any number of local firms.

Regulations vary but there's often a minimum hire age (typically 21 or 23) and sometimes a maximum age (usually about 65 or 70). The hire company might also insist that you've held your licence for at least a year. You'll almost certainly need a credit card.

Motorcycle and moped hire is common in Italy, Spain, Greece and the south of France. See the Getting Around section in individual countries for further details.

Costs

  • The international agencies are generally more expensive, but guarantee reliable service and a good standard of vehicle. You'll also usually have the option of returning the car to a different outlet at the end of the rental period.
  • If you know in advance that you want a car, you'll get a better deal if you arrange it at home. Fly-drive packages and other programs are also worth considering.
  • Note that very few cars in Mediterranean Europe have automatic transmission. To hire one order it in advance and expect to pay more.
  • As an approximate guide, reckon on about €30 (from €40 in some places) per day for a small car, and between €200 and €280 per week. Check individual sections for country-specific prices.
  • A useful online resource is www.traveljungle.co.uk, which finds the best rates available for your destination. Brokers, like those listed below, can also cut costs.

Autos Abroad

Holiday Autos

Kemwel Holiday Autos

Leasing

For longer stays, leasing can work out cheaper.

  • The Renault Eurodrive (www.renault-eurodrive.com) scheme provides new cars for non-EU residents for a period of between 17 and 170 days. Under this arrangement, a Renault Clio Campus for four weeks in France costs about US$1375, including comprehensive insurance and roadside assistance.
  • In the US, Kemwel Holiday Autos arranges similar deals.
  • Check out www.ideamerge.com for further information on leasing in Europe.

Rental Agreements

  • Always make sure that you understand what's included in your rental agreement (collision waiver, unlimited mileage etc).
  • Most agreements provide basic insurance that you can supplement by purchasing additional coverage. This supplemental insurance is often expensive if bought directly from the hire agency. As an alternative, check if your home car insurance covers foreign hire or if your credit-card company offers insurance.
  • If you're going to be crossing national borders, make sure your insurance policy is valid in all the countries you plan to visit.

Rail-and-Drive Passes

You can combine train and car travel with a rail-and-drive pass.

Rail Europe sells several passes including the Eurail Select Pass 'n' Drive, which covers 1st-class train travel and Hertz car hire. Available to non-European residents, it allows for five, six or eight days' rail travel in three bordering countries plus two days of car hire. Prices for a five-day package start at US$473 for two adults.

Insurance

  • To drive in Mediterranean Europe you'll need third-party (liability) insurance – most UK motor insurance policies automatically provide this for EU countries.
  • In Albania, BiH, and Turkey you'll also need an International Insurance Certificate, commonly called a Green Card. This is a certificate attesting that your insurance policy meets the minimum legal requirements of the country you're visiting. When you get this, check with your insurance company that it covers all the countries you intend to visit, and if you're driving in Turkey, make sure that it covers the European and Asian parts of the country.
  • Consider taking out a European motoring assistance policy to cover roadside assistance and emergency repair. In the UK, both the AA and the RAC offer such services.
  • Non-Europeans might find it cheaper to arrange international coverage with their national motoring organisation. Also ask about the services (eg free breakdown assistance) offered by European motoring organisations affiliated with your home organisation.
  • In the event of an accident a useful document to have is a European Accident Statement form, which allows each party to record identical information for insurance purposes. Get it from your insurance company or download a copy from www.cartraveldocs.com.

Purchase

Buying a car in Mediterranean Europe is generally not worth the hassle. In EU countries you can only buy a car if you are a legal resident of the country or have a local tax registration number. For further information see www.ideamerge.com/motoeuropa/index.html.

Paperwork can be tricky wherever you buy, and many countries have compulsory roadworthy checks on older vehicles.

Road Conditions

  • Road conditions vary enormously across the region. At best, you'll find well-maintained four- or six-lane dual carriageways or highways. At worst, you'll be driving on rough, badly signposted single-lane tracks.
  • You'll encounter some pretty terrible roads in Albania and BiH, although conditions are improving all the time.
  • Tolls are charged on motorways (autoroutes, autostrade etc) in many Mediterranean countries, including Croatia, France, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain and Turkey. You can generally pay by cash or credit card, and in some cases you can avoid the queues altogether by buying a prepaid card. See individual sections for details.

Road Rules

The AA and RAC can supply members with country-by-country information on road rules and conditions.

Some universal rules and considerations:

  • Drive on the right.
  • In European cars the steering wheel is on the left. If you're bringing over a UK or Irish right-hand-drive vehicle you should adjust its headlights (which are angled differently to those in Mediterranean Europe) to avoid blinding oncoming traffic at night.
  • Some countries require you to have your headlights on even when driving during the day.
  • Unless otherwise indicated, always give way to cars entering a junction from the left.
  • Speed limits vary from country to country. You may be surprised at the apparent disregard for speed limits (and traffic regulations in general) in some places, but as a visitor it's always best to be cautious.
  • Random police checks are common in some countries and many driving infringements are subject to on-the-spot fines. If you're clobbered with a fine, always ask for a receipt.
  • Drink-driving laws are strict, with the blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) limit generally between 0.05% and 0.08%.
  • It's obligatory to wear a helmet on motorcycles, scooters and mopeds everywhere in Mediterranean Europe. It's also recommended that motorcyclists use their headlights during the day.

Snapshot

Car hire readily available across the region; tolls apply on many motorways; road conditions not always great in Albania.

Hitching

Hitching is more common in northern Europe than in Mediterranean countries, and although it is possible, you'll need to be patient. It's never entirely safe, however, and we don't recommend it. If you do decide to go for it, there are a few simple steps you can take to minimise the risks:

  • Travel in pairs – ideally with a man if you're a woman. A woman hitching on her own is taking a big risk.
  • Let someone know where you're going and when you'll be on the road. If possible, carry a mobile phone.
  • When a driver stops, ask where they're going before getting in. This gives you time to size up the driver and, if you don't like the look of them, to politely decline the ride.
  • Don't let the driver put your backpack in the boot; if possible, keep it with you in the car.
  • Don't try to hitch from city centres – take public transport to suburban exit routes.
  • Hitching is often illegal on motorways, so stand on the slip roads or approach drivers at petrol stations and truck stops.
  • Look presentable and cheerful, and make a cardboard sign indicating the road you want to take or your destination. A sign will also mean you're less likely to use the wrong gesture – the thumbs-up sign, for example, means 'up yours' in Sardinia.
  • Never hitch where traffic passes too quickly or where drivers can't stop without causing an obstruction.
  • Drivers will want to check you out before stopping, so don't wear sunglasses.
  • If your itinerary includes a ferry crossing, try to score a ride before the ferry rather than after, as vehicle tickets sometimes include all passengers free of charge.
  • It is sometimes possible to arrange a lift in advance: scan student noticeboards in colleges, or check out the French-language car-sharing website Allostop Provoya (www.allostop.net). Other online resources include:

BUG (www.bugeurope.com) Has a page dedicated to hitching in Europe.

Digihitch (www.facebook.com/digihitch) A comprehensive site with hitchers' forums, links and country-specific information.

Local Transport

The region's local transport network is comprehensive and mostly pretty efficient. Services may be irregular in remote rural regions, but wait long enough and a bus will pass.

In many places you have to buy your ticket before you get on the bus/boat/train and then validate it once on board (if the driver hasn't already checked it). It's often tempting not to do this – many locals don't appear to – but if you're caught with an unvalidated ticket you risk a fine.

If you're going to use public transport frequently, check out the daily, weekly and monthly passes available.

Boat

In some parts of the region, jumping on a ferry is as common as taking a bus. In Venice, vaporetti (small passenger ferries) ply the city's canals, ferrying tourists and locals alike. In İstanbul ferries are the cheapest way of getting around the city.

Bus

City buses usually require you to buy your ticket in advance from a kiosk or machine, and then validate it upon boarding. See the country sections and individual cities for more details on local bus routes.

Metro

All the region's major capitals (Athens, Paris, Madrid and Rome) have metro systems, as do several other large cities (Milan, Barcelona, İstanbul). While it can often be quicker to travel underground, it can get unpleasantly hot and crowded, especially in summer rush hours.

Taxi

  • Taxis are generally metered and rates are uniformly high. There can also be additional charges depending on the pick-up location or time of day, or for luggage or extra passengers.
  • As a rule, always insist on a metered fare rather than an agreed price. Set fares to airports are an exception to this general rule of thumb.
  • To catch a cab you'll usually have to phone for one or queue at a taxi rank, which are often found outside train stations and big hotels.

Train

Trains are a popular way of getting around Mediterranean Europe. The region's rail network is comprehensive, and trains are comfortable, frequent and generally punctual. You'll have no trouble travelling between the region's main cities, although if you want to get off the beaten track, particularly in the eastern Balkan countries, you'll find the bus a better option. Note also that as of February 2011 all international train services to Greece have been suspended indefinitely.

Other factors to bear in mind:

  • The speed and cost of your journey depends on the type of train you take. Fast trains include the TGV in France, the Tren de Alta Velocidad Española (AVE) in Spain and the Frecciarossa in Italy. Extra charges apply on fast trains, and it's often obligatory to make seat reservations. See individual country sections for details.
  • Most long-distance trains have a dining car or an attendant with a snack trolley. If possible, buy your food before travelling, as on-board prices tend to be high.
  • You should be quite safe travelling on trains in Mediterranean Europe, but it pays to be security-conscious nonetheless. Keep an eye on your luggage at all times (especially when stopping at stations) and lock the compartment doors at night.
  • Note that European trains sometimes split en route in order to service two destinations, so even if you're on the right train, make sure you're in the correct carriage.
  • To check train schedules in any European country get hold of the Thomas Cook European Timetable (www.europeanrailtimetable.co.uk), which lists train, bus and ferry times. Updated monthly, the timetable (UK£14.99) can be ordered online or bought from Thomas Cook outlets in the UK.
  • Other resources include The Man in Seat 61 (www.seat61.com), an exhaustive website touching on every aspect of European rail travel, and Deutsche Bahn (www.bahn.de), where you can get up-to-the-minute train times for services across Europe.

Overnight Trains

Overnight trains are often a good bet as they save you time and the price of a night's accommodation. They usually offer a choice of couchettes or sleepers.

  • Couchettes are mixed sex, and are fitted with four or six bunks, for which pillows, sheets and blankets are supplied.
  • Sleepers are for between one and four passengers, and are more expensive. They are generally single sex, come with towels and toiletries, and have a washbasin in the compartment.
  • On some routes, you can now get a private room with an en-suite shower and toilet.

European Rail Resources

Deutsche Bahn (www.bahn.de) German Railway's excellent website with schedules for European trains.

The Man in Seat 61 (www.seat61.com) Encyclopedic site with information on how to get to Europe by train.

Thomas Cook European Timetable (www.europeanrailtimetable.co.uk) Order timetables of train, bus and ferry services; updated monthly.

Classes

On most trains there are 1st- and 2nd-class carriages. As a rough guide, a 1st-class ticket generally costs about double the price of a 2nd-class ticket. In 1st-class carriages there are fewer seats and more luggage space. On overnight trains, your comfort depends less on which class you're travelling than on whether you've booked a regular seat, couchette or sleeper.

Costs

Rail travel throughout the region is generally pretty economical. How much you pay depends on the type of train you take (high-speed trains are more expensive), whether you travel 1st or 2nd class, the time of year (or even the time of day), and whether or not you have a seat, a couchette or a sleeper. As a rough guide, the following are approximate ticket prices for high-speed trains:

Barcelona–Madrid, from €120

Paris–Marseille, from €57

Rome–Florence, from €43

Discounts are often available online or if you book well in advance. Check country sections for details.

Reservations

On many local services it's not possible to reserve a seat – just jump on and sit where you like. On faster, long-distance trains it's sometimes obligatory to make a reservation, although this will often be included in the ticket price. Regardless of whether it's necessary, it's a good idea to book on popular routes in peak periods.

Most international trains require a seat reservation, and you'll also need to book sleeping accommodation on overnight trains. Bookings can be made for a small, nonrefundable fee (usually about €3) when you buy your ticket.

Supplements (applicable on some fast trains) and reservation costs are not covered by most rail passes.

Train Passes

There are a lot of rail passes for travel in the region but before you buy work out whether you really need one. Unless you're planning to cover a lot of ground in a short time, you'd probably do as well buying regular train tickets. Advance-purchase deals, one-off promotions and special circular-route tickets are all available. Also, normal international tickets are valid for two months and allow you to stop as often as you like en route. However, rail passes provide a degree of flexibility that many discount tickets do not.

When choosing a pass, consider:

  • how many countries you want to see;
  • how flexible your travel dates are;
  • if you want to travel 1st or 2nd class;
  • whether you need a Eurail pass (for residents of non-European countries) or an InterRail pass (for European residents).

Passes are available online or at travel agents. Prices vary, so it pays to shop around before committing yourself. Once you've purchased a pass, take care of it, as it cannot be replaced or refunded if it's lost or stolen.

Before travelling always check that the train you're taking doesn't require a supplement or seat reservation – these additional costs are not covered by most rail passes. Note also that passholders must always carry their passport for identification purposes.

Comprehensive information and online bookings are available at Rail Europe and Rail Pass (www.railpass.com).

Passes For Non-European Residents

If you are a resident in a non-European country you'll need a Eurail pass (www.eurail.com). These are best bought before you leave home. You can buy them in Europe – provided you can prove you've been on the continent for less than six months – but sales outlets are limited and you'll pay up to 20% more than you would at home.

  • There are four types of passes (the Global Pass, Select Pass, Regional Pass and One Country Pass) and four fare types – adult (over 26), youth (12–25 years of age), family and saver.
  • Prices quoted here are for the adult and youth versions; savers, available for two to five people travelling together, cost about 15% less than adult passes. With adult passes, children under four travel free, and kids aged between four and 11 travel for half price.
  • Adult and saver passes are valid for 1st-class travel only; youths who want to upgrade to 1st class have to pay for an adult pass.
Eurail Global Pass

This provides unlimited rail travel in 24 countries – including Croatia, France, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain and Turkey.

  • Pass holders are entitled to free or discounted passage on some ferries between Italy and Greece.
  • Before using the pass for the first time, you'll need to have it validated at a ticket counter (you'll need your passport to do this).
  • The pass comes in two forms:

Continuous (15 days/3 months adult US$589/1628, youth US$384/1059) Provides travel each day for a period ranging from 15 days to three months.

Flexi (10/15 days adult US$695/912, youth US$452/594) Opt for 10 or 15 travel days within a two-month period.

Eurail Select Pass

This allows travel between three, four or five bordering countries for five, six, eight or 10 days within a two-month period (the five-country pass also has a 15-day option). Countries covered include Croatia, France, Greece, Italy, Montenegro, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain and Turkey. Costs are 3 countries 5/10 days adult US$373/564, youth US$245/368, 4 countries 5/10 days adult US$418/607, youth US$273/396, 5 countries 5/15 days adult US$459/821, youth US$300/536.

Eurail Regional Passes

If you're planning to concentrate on a particular area it makes sense to go for a Regional Pass, rather than a more expensive Global Pass.

Eurail has an extensive range of regional passes covering neighbouring countries, including for Austria, Croatia and Slovenia; France and Italy; France and Spain; Greece and Italy; and Spain and Portugal. These provide for between four and 10 days unlimited travel within a two-month period.

  • Most of these passes can only be purchased prior to arrival in the country concerned.
  • Prices vary, but as a rough guide:

Austria, Croatia & Slovenia 4/10 days adult US$274/513, youth US$199/371

France & Spain 4/10 days adult US$393/667, youth US$255/435

France & Italy 4/10 days adult US$412/697, youth US$269/455

Eurail One Country Passes

One Country Passes are available for 19 countries, including Croatia, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Slovenia and Spain. These provide for between three and 10 days of travel within a two-month period.

  • Note that these passes do not cover charges for seat reservations which are obligatory on many high-speed services.
  • Popular passes include:

Italy Pass 3/10 days adult US$281/515, youth US$187/343

Spain Pass 3/10 days US$229/466

Passes For European Residents

European residents of at least six months' standing (passport identification is required) will need an InterRail (www.interrailnet.com) pass. There are two types of pass: the Global Pass and the One Country Pass.

Adult passes are available in 1st and 2nd class, while the youth (12–25 years of age) passes are for 2nd class only. With adult passes, children under four travel free, and kids aged between four and 11 travel for half price. Seniors (over 60) qualify for a 10% discount on the Global Pass.

InterRail Global Pass

The Global Pass is valid for travel in 30 countries, including BiH, Croatia, France, Greece, Italy, Montenegro, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain and Turkey. There are various options:

  • Five days of travel within 10 days (adult/youth €267/175)
  • 10 days of travel within 22 days (adult/youth €381/257)
  • every day for 15 days (adult/youth €422/298)
  • every day for 22 days (adult/youth €494/329)
  • every day for one month (adult/youth €638/422)

Before you start each trip, fill in the journey details on the provided form.

InterRail One Country Pass

There are InterRail One Country Passes for 27 European countries. These provide three, four, six or eight days travel within a one-month period. Among the most popular options are passes to Italy and Spain.

Italy Pass 3/4/6/8 days adult €181/205/267/311, youth €123/144/175/205

Spain Pass 3/4/6/8 days adult €277/314/409/476, youth €123/144/175/205

Greece Plus Pass 3/4/6/8 days adult €119/150/201/243, youth €78/98/129/160

The Greece Plus Pass also covers Superfast and Blue Star ferries between Ancona or Bari in Italy and Patra and Igoumenitsa in Greece.

Snapshot

High-speed links across Western Europe; coverage patchy and services slow in Balkan countries.