Eurail is a network
rail lines and shipping lanes
in Europe. It was created in 1959
as a joint venture
between the major state railways of western Europe, and was intended to offer an easy, affordable way for non-Europeans to travel
"Eurail" really only exists on paper. It is essentially a method of obtaning a multi-country, unlimited mileage ticket and not an actual railway company. There is no physical Eurail system of trackage and/or rolling stock. Countries joining the Eurail system simply allow buyers of Eurail passes to travel on their railways without purchasing extra tickets.
There are several different kinds of Eurail passes, each designed for a different budget. Cheaper passes usually offer fewer countries or have a shorter period of validity.
Prices for travellers under age 26 (youth) are less than the standard adult price.
The biggest debate for youth travellers is over the choice between buying a one-month unlimited pass (which allows unlimited travel within 30 or 31 days, depending on the month, but is inflexible regarding time frame) or the so-called "Flexipass", which is open ended but only allows a limited number of travel days. The days are used one-at-a-time until you run out, but days do not have to be consecutive.
As of summer of 2000, either of these passes would allow travel in all of the Eurail countries. It appears that has now changed, and specific countries must be chosen when the pass is purchased. This is a major detraction from the usefulness of a Eurail pass to a free-wheelin' youth traveller who goes where the wind blows. A shame.
The current Eurail countries (as of May, 2001) are:
Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland (Republic only), Italy, Luxemburg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.