Railpass bonuses 2010

By Jay Brunhouse
This item appears on page 58 of the April 2010 issue.

Eurail announced new railpass benefits for 2010. This year, you can receive discounts…

1. on Finnlines ferries (www.finnlines.com) in Finland, Poland, Germany and Sweden,

2. on Norfolkline ferries between Ireland and England,

3. at HINI youth hostels in Northern Ireland and

4. of 15% on MP3 City Guides from All Audio Guides.

Trivial, it sounds. But it reminds us that railpasses sometimes come with a long list of popular included bonuses, such as the free overnight ferries between Greece and Italy (www.superfast.com). Wise travelers check online (www.eurail.com) before departing for Europe.

Separately, several countries add benefits to their national passes. With a France Pass, two offers are popular: a 30% discount on foot passenger fares on Irish Ferries (www.irishferries.com) between Rosslare, Ireland, and Roscoff or Cherbourg, France, and a 50% reduction on the private train Chemins de fer de la Provence between Nice and Digne (www.trainprovence.com) plus free transportation on the FrenchRail bus between Digne and St-Auban/Veynes.

With a Germany Pass, the popular offers include a 20% reduction in the Touring Europabus on the Romantic Road Munich-Rothenburg ob der Tauber (www.romantic‑road‑coach.de) and free KD German Rhine Line (www.kd.com) sailings on the Rhine River between Cologne (Köln) and Mainz and on the Mosel River between Koblenz and Cochem. Also, remember that throughout Germany, S-Bahn (rapid transit) lines are free to railpass holders, but not U-Bahn (subway) lines.

The national Swiss Pass allows unrestricted travel on the entire rail, bus and boat network of the Swiss Travel System and includes travel on more lines than Eurail passes valid in Switzerland. A Swiss Pass permits 50% reductions on many mountain railroads, free entry to 450 museums and free use of most city streetcars and buses.

Applying bonus offers can be complicated, but the rules of using them are straightforward. A free benefit can be used only on the travel day that you write on your pass. (This is a plus for consecutive-day passes because if the calculated cost of filling in a day box of a flexible pass exceeds that of paying cash for the travel, then, when holding a flexible pass, activating the benefit is not cost-effective.) On the other hand, discounted benefits can be used anytime within the overall validity of the pass.

When using international ferries, the pass must be valid in the country of departure and the country of arrival. For reduced travel, the pass must be valid in the country of departure or the country of arrival. For domestic shipping lines, the pass must be valid in that country.

In my next column, we’ll hop aboard a trans-Siberian private train in Beijing Station. All Aboard! Till next time.