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.
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
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.
|Gdansk train station|
Don’t expect to see EVERYTHING in one Interrail trip
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
But local trains don’t cost an extra dime.
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
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.
Sleeping on trains is not always the best idea
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.
- Europe by Eurail: Touring Europe by Train (a comprehensive, up-to-date guide covering train information and possible excursions)
- Lonely Planet’s Europe on a shoestring (detailed destination information and tips for optimising your budget)
- Rick Steves’ Europe Through the Back Door (packing tips, how to maximise your time, suggested itineraries, etc).