If you used a Eurail Pass in college, you might now want to try the Eurair Pass. A California company of the same name started the system in April, and it works like this: Americans or anyone with permanent residency in the United States can contact Eurair Pass or a travel agent to buy coupons good for any of 10 European airlines that connect 50 cities in 18 countries. Each coupon, representing one flight, costs $90 (not including airport taxes, which vary by country), and travelers must buy at least three.
The nonrefundable, nontransferable coupons - valid for 120 days - cannot be used for flights between the United States and Europe; there is no limit to the number a traveler may buy, but the coupons can be bought only in the United States. Flights can be booked in Europe, but Eurair Pass recommends booking flights before leaving home, especially in summer, and because airlines may not accept them on all flights.Eurair Pass has signed up some low-fare airlines that came into being following deregulation of air travel. These include Virgin Express in Britain, Air One in Italy, and Augsburg Airways in Germany. These are regularly scheduled airlines with good safety records that have copied the no-frills style of cut-rate American carriers.
Negotiations continue, but for now, gaps remain in Eurair's network. For example, travelers can only reach such Baltic cities as Tallinn, Estonia; Riga, Latvia; and Vilnius, Lithuania, from Warsaw, Stockholm and Helsinki.
For routes, schedules and reservations: 1-888-387-2479 or (www.eurairpass.com).
Travelers to Budapest, Helsinki and London can save money this summer by buying city cards, which provide access to public transportation, admission to tourist sites and discounts on museum and theater tickets.
Budapest has added options to the Budapest Card.
The price is about $11 for the two-day Budapest Card, about $14 for the three-day card. The card is sold at hotels, museums, local tourist information offices and Budapest Transportation Company offices.
In Finland, the Helsinki Card is available for 24, 48 or 72 hours, and includes a free hour-and-a-half bus tour of the city with an English-speaking guide. Prices are about $22 to $34 at hotels, the train station, the airport and the Helsinki Tourist Office. A pass for children ages 7 to 16 costs $9 to $13.
The London Visitor Travelcard is $29 to $59 for three, four or seven consecutive days. The card must be bought outside Britain.
For more information on these passes, contact the Hungarian National Tourist Office, 1-212-355-0240, Finnish Tourist Board, 1-212- 885-9700, or Britrail, 1-888-274-7245.