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Europe by bus, rail

Published Oct. 1, 2005

If you plan to travel long distances within Europe, consider a rail pass _ either a multicountry Eurail Pass (good for travel in 17 European countries but not Britain) or rail passes for specific nations.

Some local travel agents can provide advice and sell rail passes. The First Time Europe book and Steves' guidebooks also recommend which passes to buy from among the bewildering variety. The Rail Europe office, (800) 848-7245 or BritRail Travel, (800) 677-8585 also provide train information.

Rental cars can be handy for those exploring the countryside. But avoid driving in most major cities, particularly in Italy where cities are extremely congested, parking is hard to find and expensive, and car break-ins are rampant. Most European cities have excellent bus and/or subway systems, making a car unnecessary.

Traveling by long-distance bus can be much cheaper than trains, particularly in Britain where the lack of a language barrier makes bus travel simpler for Americans. National Express, which serves 1,200 destinations in Britain, now has a U.S. office: (540) 298-1395.