BLOG         FOODIES CORNER          ACCOMMODATION          DIGITAL TRAVELER          ABOUT/CONTACT          START YOUR OWN TRAVEL BLOG
 

7 Interrail Tips To Fall in Love with Train Travel in Europe

Many people associate Interrail with backpackers, twenty-somethings, low budgets, and obscure hostels. But it doesn't have to be this way.

Europe's modern rail network makes train travel easy, comfortable, efficient and environmentally-friendly. And you can easily combine nice hotels with fancy restaurants and an Interrail Pass (or Eurail Pass if you are a non-European resident). 

Misty sunset in Northern Poland (view from the train)


Interrail is freedom


My husband and I love traveling by train. And exploring Europe makes us happy. So combining the two of them in an Interrail trip always appeals to us. 

We used four 1-month Interrail Global Passes so far. 

Years ago, before this blog even existed, we Interrailed through Western Europe for two months, covering dozens of cities from Paris to London, and from Berlin to Amsterdam. 

Later on we went Interrailing through Eastern Europe and Scandinavia for a month, during an epic journey that took us from meeting the dwarfs of Wroclaw to Legoland in Denmark, and from cruising the fjords of Norway to relaxing days on the shores of the awe-inspiring Lake Siljan in Sweden (see our photo essays of Rattvik and Leksand). 

Eventually, we Interrailed Western Europe again and discovered a new dimension to it. From having dinner in the oldest restaurant in the world to going wine tasting in St Emilion, and from awakening the kid in us on the sand dunes of Arcachon to falling in love with the gorgeous architecture of Colmar, we explored Europe in search of culinary revelations and stylish pleasures.

Time and time again, we came to the same conclusion.

Interrail is freedom!

Because Europe is so culturally diverse and packed with awesome must see places, we find the hop on, hop off method the best for a first contact with different countries and cultures.

And after using 4 Interrail Global Passes, we have some tips that hopefully will help you enjoy your next European adventure even more.

Hot tip: The Interrail Pass is for European residents only. If you are a non-European resident you need to get a Eurail Pass. Regardless, these tips can be used for both Interrail and Eurail Pass holders just the same.


Our top 7 Interrail tips  


Prioritise 


You might want to see everything there is to see in Europe, from London to Warsaw and from Seville to Oslo. But that's simply too much awesomeness to experience in just a few weeks.

Write down a list of priorities.

There's so much to see and do in Europe that you would literally need a lifetime to explore it all. No matter if this is your first time exploring Europe or you are already a seasoned traveler, the old continent always has something to surprise you with.

For a more comprehensive and fulfilling experience, mix in old time favorites and quirky little towns like Helsingor, Stavanger, Colmar or Poznan that will take your breath away just the same.

Gdansk train station


Don't expect to see EVERYTHING in one Interrail trip


We find Interrailing extremely rewarding, for when we look back we can proudly say "been there, done that!". We know sometimes we rushed things a bit and left Stockholm and Paris feeling we should definitely go back in the future, but at least we've got an idea about each city and we've partially seen them.

You can visit Bratislava for a day or two and feel like you've seen everything you wanted to see. And you can visit Barcelona for four days and still leave with the feeling that you haven't even scratched the surface. Some cities are just denser than others, accept it!


Read the Interrail terms and conditions carefully 


There are supplements you have to pay from time to time, like when you want to take the night train, the super fast French TGV or if you want to cross the channel to Great Britain.

But local trains don't cost an extra dime. 

On the other hand, in Scandinavia, you will be told at the ticket office that you MUST reserve a seat because the particular train you are inquiring about is very busy. Even when you insist, asking if a reservation is compulsory for a specific train you already know it's not, they will say it is. Usually, these reservations are around €10-€15. If you move around Scandinavia a lot, you could end up paying your Interrail Pass all over again in reservations. 

Find out which trains have a compulsory reservation. The ticket inspectors know, but the ladies at the ticket office would say anything to get you pay for a seat reservation you don't always have to. We traveled during the busy summer months and never ever had to travel standing. There were always some free seats left on any train.


Window seats are the best


Whenever the opportunity arises, opt for the seat by the window.

Poland is different from Northern Germany, Northern Germany from Southern Germany, and they are all very different from the Spanish countryside or the spectacular Scandinavian scenery.

You can do quite a lot of sightseeing from the train.

We were spoiled by just how much variety there is in Europe, both in terms of landscape and architecture. The hours we spent on the train were never wasted. Plus we could listen to music, audiobooks, sleep, rest our feet, write our next blog post, etc.

Nevertheless, we never felt our time was better spent than when listening to audiobooks. While we leisurely took in the scenery, we also 'read' a book and this was priceless. We've been listening to audiobooks for years and we totally recommend you this. Try an Amazon Audible Membership! It comes with a one-month free trial and two free audiobooks.

From Oslo to Bergen (view from the train)


Sleeping on trains is not always the best idea


If you are the kind of person that can sleep anywhere and a cup of coffee sets everything straight for you, then go ahead, ignore this tip. But if you are like the two of us, I wouldn't recommend taking the night train.

Taking the night train maximized our time in Krakow and Warsaw, but we were nothing but zombies the next day.

Night trains will save you time.

But not always money.

A hostel bed can be a better investment than a sleeping car. When it comes to a good night sleep, nothing can beat a still bed.


Stay away from cliches


The Interrail Pass is a budget-friendly way to travel around Europe. But this doesn't mean that only backpackers can use it (actually, I personally advocate against the use of backpacks whenever possible, because they really are not back-friendly). 

Just because Interrail Passes are used predominantly by twenty-somethings, legally, there is no age limit.

Going Interrailing in your 50s can feel invigorating and help you discover a younger version of yourself. 

Interrailing can give you a sense of freedom and present you with so many choices that you will want to have done this more often. I promise!


Using the Interrail Pass in the East vs. in the West. Do the math


'Is it worth using an Interrail Pass in Eastern Europe?' We've been asked quite a few times during our last Interrail trip.

Long answer short - it depends.

There are several Interrail Passes you can choose from - like the Interrail Global Pass (30 countries) , the Interrail Attica Pass (Greece + Italy) and the 1-country Interrail Passes. Just decide which one is best for you.

Like anything else, the Interrail Pass has its advantages and disadvantages.

In terms of money worth, train tickets in Eastern Europe are cheaper than in other parts of Europe (you can check train ticket prices here). But they are not free. And as long as you move around often enough, the Interrail Pass will save you money.

So to get the best value for money, include some more expensive countries in your itinerary as well.

Eastern Europe is just as interesting as Western Europe. It just has the misfortune of being less promoted. We fell in love with cities like Wroclaw, Gdansk. And Romania has some amazing places to visit.


USEFUL INFORMATION FOR YOUR INTERRAIL TRIP


Where to stay:


Booking.com is my preferred website for booking accommodation in Europe. They have anything from apartments, resorts, and hotels to guesthouses, hostels, and boutique B&Bs. You get free cancellation on most rooms, plus you can book now and only pay later when you check in at the hotel. They have the best price guarantee and tons of genuine reviews to help you decide.

Further readings:


If you need further inspiration, I wholeheartedly recommend you the following books:


Happy Interrailing!


72 comments:

  1. EXCELLENT advice! The only part of Europe I've ever been in yet is Turkey. Desperate to see more. The trains sounds enticing (and budget-friendly, which is key for me) so I really enjoyed the info you shared in this post. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, but you really have to see more of Europe! And you should definitely opt for an Interrail pass if budget is your concern.

      Delete
  2. Last month my Canadian mother and I went from Beziers to Milano Italy during her time visiting us in southern France. Granted my mom is 60 and I am (a young) 39, but we did manage to miss a train and ended up taking the entire day, with three change overs, to get to our destination. Ok, the train is not just for backpackers, but it was difficult to get from A-B with our one carry-on luggage that barely fit between the seats. We ended up upgrading to first class for the way the back for an easier time.
    My husband has travelled with the train a few times since we moved here and had better luck.
    Undiscouraged, we are taking the kids to Venice in the Spring when we plan to travel very light, one back pack each in hopes to become regular train travellers.
    Practice makes perfect,
    Eva

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm sorry you missed the train... I guess when you book a flight they tell you to be there 2 hours before departure, but they never say that when you buy a train ticket. I hope your Venice trip will be less adventurous.

      Delete
  3. Starting our Eurail / Interrail adventure on Sunday across Europe and up into Scandinavia. Can't wait!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Have fun, Laurence! Oh, but I'm sure you will! Pack warm clothes for Scandinavia though ;)

      Delete
  4. Great tips! One thing I would add is to check the Interrail/Eurail website during your trip. Sometimes they have special offers for pass holders. I got a free gondola ride when I was in Venice because I had Eurail pass!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Great tip, Megan! Keeping an eye on the Interrail page surely pays off. And, oh, I envy you for the free gondola ride! :P

      Delete
  5. Great tips, and a must-read for first-timers of European trains.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, honey! I surely could have used some of these tips myself before going on my first Interrail trip 5 years ago.

      Delete
  6. Wow, useful tips! I plan to travel through Europe this year and I'm seriously taking into consideration buying an Interrail pass...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Best way to travel Europe, I promise you that! Plus it's much more comfortable than taking the plane for relatively short distances ;)

      Delete
  7. I have never used the interrail pass because I don't move around quick enough to ustify the cost, but I think its a great idea for people wanting to see a lot in a short period of time

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are so right, Jade! If you want to travel slow, than an Interrail pass doesn't justify the cost, but for people who want to visit lots of cities in a short period, the Interrail Pass is great value for money.

      Delete
  8. We are about to buy this pass. Interesting take on the overnight sleeper trains. I am planning on taking as many of those as possible, but maybe you have a good point. Because I don't sleep well on airplanes, maybe the same goes for moving train cars. Nice tips. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, let us know how it went for you! Maybe you are lucky and don't have a problem sleeping on moving trains, but I woke up in the morning with a jelly brain every time I gave night trains a try. Have fun on your trip!

      Delete
  9. Unfortunately InterRail Pass is only for European resident :(

    I love your website very much, traveling is indeed a Zen experience. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The equivalent of Interrail for non-residents is Eurail. You can look it up. It's approximately the same thing and same tips apply.

      Happy you like my site :)

      Delete
  10. Very nice information. Thank you for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad you liked my Interrail tips, Emma!

      Delete
  11. Hello, your blog is amazing. I am hoping/saving to go interrailing next year. About how much does it all come to with the pass, hostels, food etc?? Really excited!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Anonymous,
      It depends on many factors. First of all, you have to figure it out what type of pass you are going to use (global vs one country, the length of time you are going to travel, if you are under 25 or not, 1st or 2nd class). To find out the cost of the Interrail pass I advise you to pay a visit to their webpage. Regarding the extra train reservations not included in the pass, if you are not in a hurry, most of the time you can avoid paying them by using the regional trains.
      We've just came back from another Interrail trip and we spent around €500/person on food and souvenirs (not including fancy restaurants).
      Regarding the accommodation, unfortunately we cannot help you here because we didn't stay in hostels but in 4 and 5-star hotels. But ultimately it comes down to what countries you include in your itinerary (Eastern Europe still is more budget friendly than Western Europe and Western Europe cheaper than Scandinavia).
      I hope you will enjoy your trip and if you need any help with the itinerary, please don't hesitate to ask.

      Delete
  12. I especially like the 'don't expect to see everything' tip. I'm sure your Interrail tips will help me make the most out of my Interrail trip next spring. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'd be delighted if my Interrail tips helped you plan your trip. Enjoy Interrailing! It's a great experience.

      Delete
  13. I have always dreamed of going to Norway. Great tips!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Norway is a dream destination. A must visit!

      Delete
  14. Thanks for the tips. We're still wandering whether it's a good idea to travel Europe without booking any trains though as to have more freedom to stay longer in places we enjoy. Not too sure how stressful it is to be booking trains on the go.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Are you visiting in high season? If so, maybe it's a good idea to book in advance high-speed trains and night trains. The regional trains you will normally take for short distances don't require reservation. We love the flexibility that comes with the Interrail pass, so maybe it's best to find a balance.

      Delete
  15. Is May a high season in Europe?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I wouldn't consider May as high-season, but it all depends on the location. In May, there are certain locations that attract visitors, like the bulb fields in Holland or Lake Como with its gardens in bloom. However, generally speaking, mid-June to end of August is considered high-season in Europe. Festival times are also high-season no matter the calendar date.

      Delete
  16. Hi there I'm planning to go interrailing this summer and just wondered which countries you would suggest I visited that are the cheapest

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Poland and Romania and the Eastern European countries in general are cheaper, but so are Spain and Portugal. Have fun!

      Delete
  17. Hi
    I'm going in juli, visiting places in spain, france, italy, austria and germany. Im wondering whether to book train tickets from home (all though I'm having a hard time figuring out how to only buy seating and not the actual ticket , which i guess I have with the interrail pass) or to just book the next train ride for 3-5 days later when I get in to a new station. What are you experiences?
    Henriette from Denmark

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As long as you use regional trains you don't need a reservation. However, in France the number of seats for the Interrail pass holders is limited and you better book the TGV in advance - maybe more than 5 days. We had to pay the almost the whole fare for the TGV from Paris to Brussels because we didn't book in advance (we actually bought the ticket 3 days in advance from the train station). In Spain most trains require a reservation, and they are usually pretty busy too, especially in high-season. Better book all your seats as soon as you set food in Spain. Also, they will only sell you a reservation to the border. There is the possibility of booking your seat in advance online or by phone. You can check out the Interrail website - www.interrail.eu/plan-your-trip/train-seat-reservations/how-to-make

      Delete
  18. Great read. Thanks very much. I am 17 and from just outside London. Me and two friends want to travel into Europe this summer on an interrailing trip. We have no idea where is best to go and as we are not 100% whether we will really like it, we don't want to go for too long (10-20 days). Any ideas on destinations? Thanks again, Dean.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Dean,
      Why not start with all time favorites like Paris, Amsterdam, Munich, etc? By using an Interrail Pass you will have lots of flexibility. If you don't like a place, you can hop on a train and go to the next destination in the blink of an eye. Have fun!

      Delete
  19. Great read, although I don't agree with ' 'is it worth using an Interrail Pass through Eastern Europe'? We always gave the same answer - definitely!´ it´s not Always worth to use a Pass through Europe. Check out the website of the German railways, you can find some of the ticketprices all over Europe over there. (http://www.bahn.de/i/view/overseas/en/index.shtml). I've saved over 150 euro last year in Italy by buying the tickets at the trainstations instead of traveling by Pass. (1,5 week holiday, 8 days traveling by train)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, as explained after the quoted text, it all depends. If you travel longer distances and use your pass often, you will get better value for your Interrail Pass than if you only travel shorter distances and make use of it fewer times. What we are trying to highlight with these tips is that the Interrail Pass is great value for money if used properly. If you plan to only visit neighbouring cities, you are probably better off buying individual tickets.

      Delete
  20. I loved reading about your experiences. I'm off on a two week Interrailing trip in June which will act as a great introduction/taster to a few cities. I'm hoping to come away with a "sense" of each place as you described and a knowledge of where I'd like to spend more time in the future!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Happy to hear our Interrail tips are of help!

      Delete
  21. I just want to say that It is really amazing post thanks for the sharing and just keep up the good work

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! We hope we inspired you to go Interrailing as well :)

      Delete
  22. Thanks for sharing useful post. Appreciate your work.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad you found our Interrail tips helpful :)

      Delete
  23. Great tips! im just curious as to how you got around the reservations needed for some trains? did you leave it to chance until you got to each station to book the reservation because Im having much difficulty in trying to book the train reservations online or over the phone and im wondering whether it is safe to leave it to the day of travel to book the reservations?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We did not book anything online. We simply booked the seats at the train station whenever necessary. But it's best if you book your seats as soon as possible, like once you have arrived in a city, if you already know the day you'll be leaving, better book your seat while still at the train station to avoid disappointment or waisting time later on during your stay. But most of the time your Interrail Pass will grant you access on trains without the need of a reservation.

      Delete
  24. hi there! I had an excellent experience interailing! unfortunately completely trashed my ticket by the ened! does anyone have an old one I can have for souvinir?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The trashed Interrail tickets make for the best souvenirs. Ours always look in a sorry state after a trip, but they are OURS and they have so many memories encrypted in their folds :)

      Delete
  25. Great tips! One thing I would add is to check the Interrail/Eurail website during your trip. Sometimes they have special offers for pass holders. I got a free gondola ride when I was in Venice because I had Eurail pass!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's a great tip, Alizey! Thanks for bringing it to our attention. It sounds like you have great fun Interrailing!

      Delete
  26. We helpful tips for traveling Europe with an Interrail Pass. I'm planning such a trip right now. Many thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We hope you'll have tons of fun Interrailing! Enjoy!

      Delete
  27. Great tips! I am considering whether to go next summer but I have no idea how to plan it, my budget is £2000 and my priorities would be to go to Berlin and Amsterdam, but apart from that I don't know what to do, any help would be much appreciated.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It really depends on your interests. The Interrail Pass is a great way to explore Europe and it's a great opportunity to experience different cultures in a short period of time. Why not try adding a couple of places in Eastern Europe into the mix? That should be fun! :)

      Delete
  28. Great tips! Myself and 3 friends are hoping to use the 22 day pass to visit 9 cities across Europe. Are we being too ambitious considering the distance we would need to travel? Thanks for your help

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sounds good, but don't expect to gain an in depth knowledge of each place. The Interrail is more like a quick bite rather than a full meal :) But it would be advisable to pick cities that are not too far in between so you won't waste too much time on trains.

      Delete
  29. Too ambitious? Do you think it would be possible to fit in 10 places in 22days? Were thinking Berlin and Amsterdam, Athens and Italy, South of France Spain and Portugal.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I would advise you have a look at how long each train ride will take. The Interrail planner is great for this - http://www.interrail.eu/plan-your-trip/interrail-timetable

      But keep in mind that spending 50% of the time on trains won't be as rewarding as actually visiting a new city. Plus train travel in Southern Europe is not as much fun as train travel in Northern Europe, at least from my point of view.

      Delete
  30. Wonderful advice! I made the mistake of thinking I could see all of Europe in two weeks and failed miserably. Next time I plan on spending at least a month.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank for liking my Interrailing tips, Kori! As I'm sure you will find out soon, 1 month will not be enough either. But various longer trips will definitely get you closer to your goal. Happy travels! :)

      Delete
  31. My only interailing experience was three weeks in Italy while I was 17- certainly a bit of a cliché backpacker trip, but we did find some beautiful campsites. I'd love to do it again and explore some more of Europe. There are so many cultures all within easy reach of each other. Can not agree more that the window-seat is the only way to go. I'd rather get there early especially to make sure I have one!

    ReplyDelete
  32. Loved the article! I have been Interrailing the last 2 summers and I think its well worth the money! A great way of getting across Europe! I have a few posts about it on my blog if you want to have a read? www.georgeforaday.co
    And I'm always in the window seat, I have visited some amazing places, but also seen incredible sights out of the window of a train! Trains over planes anyday! :) Take care, and happy travels!

    ReplyDelete
  33. Gdansk train station is one of my favorite station. Second station I adore is metro stations in Moscow. It is amazing how one place like this could be an art. I am so glad that there are people who had such a great ideas. Best regards!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I totally agree. Some train stations are functional bordering with masterpieces. Have you see the train station in Antwerp? Breathtaking!

      Delete
  34. Window seats are the best, I always choose this when trains go ^^ I love sightseeing.

    ReplyDelete
  35. Is it just to a European country that can go to all the rest?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Interrail Global Pass is valid in 30 European countries, while the Eurail Global Pass (for non-European residents) is valid in 28 countries. But there are 1-country passes available as well.

      Delete
  36. European cities have lot of fun and nice trip thanks.. http://www.impressiveholidays.com

    ReplyDelete
  37. Hello,
    I am looking into travelling on the global pass this summer, starting in aug and finishing in sept.
    My planned route is fly to Switzerland then start my interrail to Austria, Czech, Poland, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and finland then I have some other travel plans after that but we are flying. I am just wondering if you have any advise for me about travelling my train? IS it easy to catch trains? or signs in English? I am well travelled but never done a whole trip just by train. Also what prices would I be looking at? I am doing the 1 month train. Also is they any MUST SEE's in any of them countries you advise?
    Thanks
    Jodie

    ReplyDelete
  38. Dear Admin

    Thanks for online sharing on your blog,
    Overnight Agra Tour & Same Day Agra Tour By Car is an extraordinary tour for one, who really likes to visit the Taj Mahal, “World famous monument”. In this tour, you will experience the real joy of travelling to new places. For more information click on this link below
    http://www.delhiagratrip.com/

    If you Plan other India Tour Packages like...
    Same Day Agra Tour By Train
    Golden Triangle Tour 3 Days
    Golden Triangle Tour 4 Days
    Golden Triangle Tour 5 Days
    Golden Triangle Tour With Varanasi
    Golden Triangle Tour With Udaipur

    ReplyDelete
  39. Wonderful tips and a must read for first timer of european trains

    ReplyDelete
  40. Great post! As you mentioned, the best way to get the most out of your Interrail pass is to do a hybrid between east and west Europe. Starting/finishing somewhere in Croatia is becoming increasingly popular http://interrailplanner.com

    ReplyDelete