Travel Journal: France
To buy a Eurail pass or not? That is the question.
I like to watch television shows like How it Works and Mythbusters. I mention this because it's accepted as fact that, while traveling in Europe, transportation via train is simple, hassle-free, and—if you purchase a Eurail Global Pass—effortless. There are nuggets of truth hidden in these statements, but like most things, train travel isn't as easy as it seems.
Older students told our group that we should purchase a Eurail Global Pass as an easy and cost-effective way to travel by train during our term in France. The pass allows students to hop on and off Europe's trains without paying anymore fees. We chose how many days we wanted to travel over a three-month span (10), and we understood that the train service on each of those 10 days would be inclusive as long as we showed our Eurail Pass and identification. What we didn't know was that reservations are needed for most overnight trains. We didn't know that a reservation could be free of charge or it could cost up to 50€.
We also learned that traveling in large groups of Eurail pass holders was frowned upon by most train operators, as there is a limited allotment of seats for pass holders. We finally understood that it's easy to hop on and off of trains in groups of two or three, but traveling in larger groups requires real work and planning.
Once I understood the Eurail process and came to grips with securing reservations for each train, I was able to fully enjoy my weekend travel periods. It's simple and hassle-free if you're able to master the train schedule and figure out the restrictions for each country that you'll visit. You must know that you can't book a reservation in France for a trip to Italy; that must be done online or in Germany. Going to Switzerland or Germany via train is cheap, but you have to act fast if you plan to travel within France—trains to Paris and the French Riviera fill up fast.
Learning how to brave the world of train travel has been an important part of my Strasbourg experience. Not only has it been beneficial for my desire to travel through Central Europe, it's given me a sense of responsibility concerning where I go and what I do. There were some students that bought the Eurail pass and simply followed the plans of the larger group. Others decided that the work required to travel was not worth it. I found that, while it was sometimes frustrating and time-consuming to work out travel arrangements, the true reward was in my enjoyable and thorough travel experience.
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