A Swiss train on the Bernina route arrives in Tirano. The railway actually threads through the streets of the Italian town (photo © Janis Smits / dreamstime.com)
Using Interrail or Eurail this summer? Many travellers opt for a global pass which covers most of Europe. Others prefer to focus on just one or two countries. But those country passes, though more limited in scope than the global pass, often have some unexpected benefits.
You might well assume that a one-country Interrail or Eurail pass for Norway, for example, might only be valid in Norway. But you can in fact use those passes to travel all the way from Oslo to the Swedish cities of Göteborg or Stockholm. Conversely holders of an Interrail or Eurail pass for Sweden can travel on direct trains from stations in Sweden to Oslo.
Those Swedish passes are also valid on the direct SJ services from stations in Sweden to both the airport and city centre stations in Copenhagen. A pass valid in Sweden can also be used on the summer-season overnight train from Malmö to Berlin and back, although bear in mind that this is an overnight service where all passengers are accommodated in couchettes so even pass holders must pay a couchette reservation fee of €29 per journey. You can also use a Swedish pass on a cross-border bus service into Finland.
Holders of a one-country pass for France can hop over the border into Spain, travelling for free on the SNCF buses from Oloron-Sainte-Marie or Bedous to Canfranc. This latter benefit is reciprocal, so holders of a pass valid in Spain can use the SNCF bus to Bedous or Oloron in France. Holders of Eurail and Interrail passes valid in Germany can travel without charge over the country's borders using DB Regio trains to Schaffhausen in Switzerland or Eurobahn trains to Venlo in the Netherlands.
A Eurail or Interrail pass valid in Switzerland can be used on the Rhaetian Railways Bernina route to Tirano in Italy (pictured above). From April till October, there is a useful express bus from Tirano to Lugano which takes in some very fine landscapes on its three-hour journey through northern Italy. Interrail and Eurail passes are also accepted on that bus route. The one-country passes for Switzerland are also valid on trains using the Simplon Tunnel from Brig to Domodossola in Italy and on the Centovalli Railway from Domodossola to Locarno. You can also make cross-border excursions on Swiss trains running to Delle in France and to both Waldshut and Konstanz in Germany.
A very welcome innovation for 2017 is that Interrail and Eurail passes are now valid on Eurostar trains from Brussels and Paris to London. Pass holders do need to pay a modest supplement (which includes a seat reservation). The fare is €30 in standard class for holders of second-class passes and €38 in standard premier for holders of first-class passes. The interesting thing is that it is not necessary to have a global pass to secure the pass holder fare. They are available to holders of any Eurail or Interrail pass, provided only that the pass is valid in either Britain or in the country on the continent where your Eurostar journey starts or ends. So holders of a pass valid in France can in fact make a side trip from Paris to London and back.