When I was a kid, my Mum told me about her own adventures whilst using an Interrail Pass (Eurail Pass). I think she could sense my need for adventure from a young age, as I distinctly being little more than a teenager when she regaled her own past travels to me. So, to me, an Interrail Pass was a magic ticket, it could get me anywhere that I wanted to go and for way less money. It may have be my memory convoluting the information or it may be simple inflation, but the Pass was vastly pricier than I thought it would be. I have written this post today, to hopefully simplify the process of buying your own Pass.
Interrail or Eurail?
Where do you want to go?
There are two types of pass: the Global Pass and the One Country Pass. The Global Pass allows you to travel by rail throughout 30 European countries* and the One Country Pass allows you to travel through one country.
Why choose a One Country Pass?
Choosing this Pass allows your to travel more extensively. When you have a Global Pass, you tend to breeze through countries and head to capital cities and not much else. Whereas the One Country Pass is far cheaper and you can really get to know a country. I would love to have a pass to travel through Italy or Poland. You can also get a 3 for the price of 1…
The Benelux Pass
Whilst technically being a Once Country Pass, the Benelux Pass allows you to ride the rails of Belgium, The Netherlands and Luxembourg. Nice!
What if I want to travel through more than three countries?
Then the Global Pass would be cheaper for you. I chose the Global Pass as I had things to do and sights to see!
Do I have to pay for anything once I have bought my pass?
Yes. You often have to buy a seat reservation, but this can vary between countries and train services. For example, I never paid for a seat reservation in Slovenia but in France and Italy I had to pay around 20 euros for a seat reservation. However, the seat reservation is a tiny amount in comparison to the actual ticket price, especially on sleeper trains.
Is it cheaper than just buying the tickets on the day?
In my experience, yes. I saved a huge amount of money by buying my Interrail Pass in advance of my journeys, despite having to pay for seat reservations. Prior to my trip, I used Rome2Rio to estimate the cost of a ticket on a few of the routes I knew that I would be taking during the trip and after a few of those, the Pass basically paid for itself. For example, getting out of Italy and into France was a “big ticket item” and I only had to pay for the reservation, rather that the 200+ euros it was going to cost.
How long do I go for?
That is up to you and your bank balance! I travelled on the continent for six weeks, four of those using my Interrail Pass and I felt that was a good amount of time but I would have stayed longer if my pass was not expiring. If you live outside of the EU, you can buy a Eurail Pass and they can last up to three months!
Are there any other benefits to the pass?
In short: yes. You can get discounts in certain hostels, I made use of this discount in Austria as I booked an A&O Hostel and received 10% off my booking which was great! You can also get cheaper or free transport in certain cities, for example: you can make trips on the S-Bahn in Germany for free and you can get discounts on ferries too. Here is a link to the Interrail website, where the benefits of the pass in each country are broken down for you.
Can you explain travel days to me?
Hopefully. On my trip, my boyfriend joined me halfway through and he bought a Global Pass subject to travel days. Basically if you buy the popular “seven days within a month Pass”, you can use the pass on seven days. You have a month to use the pass, but you can only use it on seven days, so use those days wisely. Use the Pass for longer, more expensive journeys to maximise the value for money. For me, this was a little too much work as I liked being able to simply change my mind or go somewhere different. However, I can see that if you want to spend a longer time in certain places that it would be useful, but perhaps needs more future planning than I was willing to do.
Can you get a discount?
You can, dependant on your age. If you are under 11, you go free with your family with a Family Pass. If you are between 12 and 25 you can get a Youth Pass and if you are over 60 you can get a Senior Pass. All of the aforementioned carry a discount.
Is it worth the money?
For me, 100%. The Pass paid for itself after one or two long journeys, particularly through Italy and France as travel by train is so expensive. I did basic math before I went and it worked out better for me. I must mention that I bought a Youth Pass which is considerably cheaper than an Adult Pass, so if you are an adult (I mean, who is, really??) you may want to carry out more extensive research. I downloaded the Interrail app on my iPhone and I used Rome2Rio heavily to carry out my research and I would advise you to do whatever suits you.
* Countries included in the Pass: Austria (including Liechtenstein), Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France (including Monaco), Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, Ireland (Northern and the Republic of Ireland), Italy, Luxembourg, FYR Macedonia, Montenegro, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey.
Do you have any other questions? Do you have your own tip to throw into the mix?
P.S Interrail have a 15% off sale on right now!
P.P.S Eurail have a 20% off sale on right now! (heavy breathing)