Interrailing is one of the most popular methods of travelling through Europe during a summer holiday or extended break. It is considered to be cheap, provide freedom and due to the excellent rail network in Europe, you can pretty much travel to any European country via train.
I have used the InterRail pass on a couple of occasions. My first InterRail trip was in the summer of 2010, just before I went to Sandhurst to start my Officer training. During my first trip, I spent some of the time training in preparation for my upcoming start of my military career. I spent the rest of the time nursing sunburn and hangovers.
My friend James and I travelled from Albufeira in Portugal to Split in Croatia with a 4-week pass. We spent a total of 6 weeks away on what felt like a dash through Europe. Our itinerary from memory was:
- Albufeira - 1 week
- Lisbon, Portugal
- Madrid, Spain
- Barcelona, Spain
- Nice, France
- Venice, Italy
- Rome, Italy
- Florence, Italy
- Venice, Italy
- Ljubljana, Slovenia
- Split, Croatia
- Hvar, Croatia- 1 week
I went on my first InterRail experience immediately after graduating from University. James and I had talked about travelling around Europe for a few years beforehand and we decided to book the tickets and make it happen. We certainly made the most of our spare time that summer. We partied hard and spent most of the time on the train recovering. By the end of the 6 weeks, I was ready for a rest from interrailing. Going to Sandhurst felt like a step down in pace in comparison to the way we travelled for those 6 weeks. I'm glad I did that at 21 as there is not a chance my liver could now cope with the abuse it received during that journey.
My second InterRailing trip was in 2014. This time I used the ticket to visit some Eastern European countries but this time I bought a 10-day pass. My itinerary for this trip was:
- Istanbul, Turkey
- Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria
- Bucharest, Romania
- Brasov and the Transylvanian Mountains, Romania
- Budapest, Hungary
- Belgrade, Serbia
This was a much more relaxed adventure. Spending time in the mountains in Romania was the highlight of the trip. I travelled at a much slower pace when compared to the first InterRail journey. The 10-day train ticket was used over a period of 15 days. I had time to experience what the local communities did during a normal week.
What is InterRailing?
The InterRail pass is a rail pass that is available for European residents. The website seat 61 is a great resource for anybody that want to know more about the eligibility and cost comparisons. Seat 61 gives so much useful detail, it would be unnecessary for me to write about it as this site does a much better job than I could.
For the most up to date information and prices for InterRail passes, you can visit their official website at http://www.interrail.eu/
Pros of Interrailing
InterRail passes can be really good value
For the first time adventurer, interrailing is a great way to visit a large number of countries in Europe for a relatively cheap price. The youth pass (under 28 years old) costs €419 for a month. If you used it every day, it would cost you a total of €13.96 a day. That is amazing value!
InerRail promotes flexibility and freedom
For most trains, you can just jump on and be off to your next destination. Some faster and overnight trains require a reservation. One great resource is a European rail timetable. This nifty little book is updated every month and has all the information you will need for planning your journey. If you decide to change your plans halfway through your journey, it is simple to do. If you meet a new group or make new friends you can alter your plans to travel with them.
It's not just a rail pass
An InterRail global pass also gives free travel on Superfast Ferries, Minoan Lines & Blue Star Ferries between Italy (Bari, Brindisi, Ancona or Trieste) and Greece (Corfu, Igoumenitsa or Patras for the train to Athens).
It can save you accommodation fees
Rather than paying for a room in a hostel or Air BnB, you can travel through the night on the sleeper train and wake up at your destination. It won't be the most comfortable night sleep you will ever have. If you are crossing an international border, there is a chance you have to get up to show your passport to the customs officials. But still, waking up in a new European city is an experience not to be missed.
Children aged 4 - 11 travel for free
Here is one for the future. If you buy a family ticket, your children under the age of 12 travel for free. Not a bad way to travel Europe with your young family.
Cons of InterRailing
InterRailing can feel too rushed
During my interrail trips I whizzed from one country to the next to get the most value from the ticket. It can be tempting to cram too much into a journey. After a few around Europe adventures, I now believe that spending more time in one place is more valuable. It's pretty difficult, if not impossible to get a real feel for a foreign location in less than 48 hours. Over time, I have come to realise that I prefer to spend more time in one location. This can still be achieved with an InterRail pass but consider if you require one at all.
The reservations and supplements can become expensive
When travelling on sleepers, fast trains or some border crossing trains, you often have to pay an extra fee. This price is usually around €10 but can sometimes be as high as €40. If not factored into a budget, these fees can be a nasty shock. Always check the supplement fee.
Train food is, well to put it simply - crap
Train food in England is crap. The options are usually limited to pre-packaged sandwiches, fizzy drinks, salted nuts and sweets and chocolate bars. Things in mainland Europe are no different, if not slightly worse. Plan ahead and bring some food with you onto the train. My top tip for anybody travelling on a budget is to take a Tupperware box. Cook some pasta in your hostel the night before and there you go. Cheap and easy meal for the train ride.
As you get older, Interrail passes become more expensive
It's official. I no longer fit into the 'youth' category for InterRail passes. According to InterRail, I am now officially an 'adult'. It's strange because I still feel the same as I did a few years ago when I was a 'youth'. A global, month-long pass would now cost me €537 as opposed to the glory days of the youth price of €419. Is this the sign that I am getting too old to stay in hostels? Am I slowly becoming that old person that spins tales of the good old days from my first InterRail trip in 2010 when most of the people in the hostel bars would have been 11 years old back then? Not yet surely, I've got some time yet before that happens, right?
Please share your experiences of InterRailing. Have you had a good or bad experience? Would you recommend InterRailing to others? Share your itineraries and top tips in the comments below.