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TAKING TRAIN IN EUROPE WILL PUT YOU ON RIGHT TRACK

If you're traveling in Europe this summer, your best way to get around may be the train.

You're best off riding the rails when you're traveling light and have time to spare. If you're visiting out-of-the-way sites or traveling with a group, consider renting a car.Rail Europe (800-438-7245) offers dozens of Eurail passes. Prices vary depending on the number of travel days, the number of countries visited (one, two, three, five or 17), the traveler's age (young adults under 26 qualify for less-expensive Eurail YouthPasses) and the number of people traveling together.

The Europass, for example, starts at $280 for five days of train travel in three countries. For $348, the Eurail Flexipass buys five days of travel in 17 countries).

New this year is a France Railpass, designed for two people traveling together in second class, at $115 per person for three days of travel.

GermanRail's TwinPass entitles the second traveler to a 50 percent discount. For two people the cost is $267 for five days of second-class travel within Germany.

With the exception of the twofers and youth passes, most Eurail passes are for travel in first class. Despite the added cost, they're almost always better deals than taking the train without a pass in a second-class compartment.

In Germany, for instance, the second-class train fare between Munich and Berlin was recently $163. For only $15 more, you can purchase a Germanrail pass with unlimited travel for up to five days.

Headed off the beaten path? Use a rail-drive pass - which permits you to take the train to a major city in your region of choice and then rent a car.