Travelling by train is awesome! You prevent a lot of CO2 emissions compared to air travel, and it’s a highly relaxing way to travel. This summer, we made a train journey through Europe with an Interrail Pass; the perfect way to discover this diverse continent! For a carefree Interrail trip, however, we advise you to do some proper research before departure. How exactly does Interrail work? How do you prepare your European train journeys as best as possible? In this article, we’ll give you some useful tips for your Interrail travels through Europe. After all, to be prepared is half the victory!
What Is Interrail?
An Interrail pass is a train ticket that allows you to travel unlimitedly by train in Europe for a certain time. With this pass, you can hop on board at various National Railways and ferry companies. An overview of participating companies can be found here.
How Does Interrail Work?
You buy your Interrail pass online and receive it by regular mail within 2 to 10 working days. Check the information on the Interrail pass carefully: the pass is not valid if your personal details contain an error. If this is the case, you can return the pass to have it corrected.
When Is the Interrail Pass Valid?
When you buy your Interrail pass, you choose a validity period. Within that period, you can travel by train. Ready for departure? Then you can start your first train journey after midnight on the first day that your pass is valid. Your last train journey must end before midnight on the last date that your pass is valid.
Types of Interrail Passes
There are several Interrail passes available. Some passes allow you to travel through one country; these are called Interrail One Country Passes. Other passes allow you to travel through several countries in Europe; these are called Interrail Global Passes.
With an Interrail Global Pass, you can make one trip in and one trip out of the country you live in. The ticket booklet contains a barcode that you can use to check-in at the Dutch Railways.
Interrail: Flexible vs. Continuous
In addition to a Country or Global Pass, you have the choice between a flexible or continuous ticket. If you opt for a flexible Interrail pass, you can only travel for a few days. You record these travel days in your Travel Diary, which comes with your Interrail pass. Your travel days are flexible, but you can only travel for a limited number of days.
If you don't want to think about it too much, then choose the Continuous Pass. This allows you to travel as often as you want within the validity period. There is no need to fill in the Travel Diary for this pass.
What Does Interrail Cost?
The price of an Interrail pass depends on several factors, such as the number of countries, the number of travel days, the validity period, and your age.
Please note that not all travel costs have yet been incurred with the purchase of the ticket. For some European train routes, you will need to reserve a seat, for which a fee will be charged. This is especially the case with night trains in Spain, France, and Italy. The costs vary between 10 and 40 euros. This will save you another night in a hotel, though!
Interrail: Age Discount
Did you turn 18 this year? Good news, you can use Interrail for free! However, the Interrail pass for 18-year-olds is only valid in 4 countries. Sign up for a free ticket via the European Youth Portal.
If you are younger than 28, you will receive a 25% discount on your Interrail ticket. If you are over 60 years old, you can buy a Senior Pass and get a 10% discount on the standard Interrail prices.
Whatever your age is, don’t let it determine whether or not you want to use Interrail. Believe us when we say that Interrail is for all ages. The discounts are nice, but paying the full price is worth it as well.
14 Tips for a Successful Interrail Trip Through Europe
Are you excited and can't you wait to get on the train? Here are more useful tips for a successful Interrail trip.
Tip 1: Buy in Time
Buy your Interrail pass long before departure. Ideally, 1 to 3 months in advance, so that you can also book your train seats in time (see tip 3). You will receive your Interrail pass by mail, so it’s useful to have some leeway in case the mail gets delayed. Also, the reservation service does not always work flawlessly, and in this case, you can ask for help at the NS International service desk (see tip 2). This also takes some extra time. In short: buying a pass last minute is not recommended.
Tip 2: Ask for Help at an NS International Desk
Do you have problems ordering the pass or placing the reservation? Then you can ask for help at one of the NS International desks. Please note that you will have to pay an extra service fee and, unfortunately, they cannot organise all the tickets for you.
Tip 3: Download the Eurail App
Before you leave, install the Eurail app on your phone. This is, without a doubt, the holy grail of Interrail! This app contains all the departure times of trains and information about train stations, so you can plan your route effortlessly. Also, with every train route, it says if a seat reservation is recommended or required. Handy: the app also works offline. Click here to download the app for iOS and here for the Android version.
Tip 4: Check If You Need to Reserve Your Train Seat
On certain train routes, you need a seat reservation. This applies to high-speed trains and all European night trains. On popular routes in France, Italy, and Spain, you’d be wise to book ahead. Especially in the summer months, seats are quickly taken. Travelling in high summer? Plan your route about three months in advance and book night trains.
Use the Eurail app to see if you need to book a train route. This is the case if it says: “additional reservations needed/recommended”. You have to make the actual reservations via the Interrail website (see tip 6).
Tip 5: Book Ahead
We say it once again: book your train seats on the popular routes ahead of time. Better safe than sorry! Especially on night trains, you need to reserve a seat. You don’t only run the risk of being denied a seat by the conductor, but you also risk getting a fine or getting constantly chased away from your seat by people who have made reservations. And that will lead to a very stressful journey.
Tip 6: Use the Reservation Service
At the Interrail website, you can reserve seats, yet not with all companies. In some cases, you will be referred to an external website. After making your reservation, you will usually receive an e-ticket in your e-mail, but sometimes you will receive the tickets by regular mail. If you don’t have any more time to wait, you can ask NS International for support. In some cases, you will have to pay an extra service fee for this.
Tip 7: Fill in Your E-Ticket Correctly Before Departure
Before getting on the train, it’s important to properly fill in all travel details on your Interrail pass and travel passport. Make sure to write down the date and route of your journey, otherwise, the journey is not officially valid. Always do this before departure, because in many cases you will not be allowed to board the train.
Tip 8: Plan Sufficient Transfer Time
In big cities like Paris, you sometimes have to transfer from one train station to another. Take your time, because finding your way in an unfamiliar city can be a challenge. The Belgian railways have made a smart overview of different transfers in Paris. Add some extra travel time, because not all metros or trains run frequently.
Your Interrail Pass does not include any public transport that you need to use to get from point A to point B. Sometimes, you can buy your ticket for this kind of regional transport, such as the metro or train, at the rail catering. That saves you a lot of hassle!
Tip 9: Save Money With the Night Train
Are you travelling on a tight budget or do you want to save some money? Then take the night train. Although you often have to book that for an extra fee as well, it may be cheaper than staying in a hotel. Keep in mind that they are not all equally comfortable… Google experiences of other travellers with night trains on your route, so you know if a route is pleasant and safe.
Tip 10: Take Your Time
Travelling by train allows you to discover the diversity of the beautiful European continent. However, despite this being super fun, it can also be a bit tiring. Many people make the “mistake” of wanting to see as much as possible in a short time, but we want to advise you to take it easy. Take your time at each destination and don't race from city to city. This way, you can enjoy it more.
Tip 11: Alternate Cities, Nature, and Villages
An Interrail pass is not only perfect to visit European capitals. We thought it was also perfect for discovering the surrounding villages and nature reserves. With your Interrail pass, you can also use less common routes. Visiting villages allows you to really get to know European culture. Also, you will undoubtedly find more peace and quiet there.
Tip 12: Delayed? Ask for a Refund
Is your train delayed by more than 60 minutes? Then you are entitled to compensation. Check here when this applies and how you can claim your money back.
Tip 13: Don’t Travel Too Heavy
You can travel with a suitcase or backpack, but don't travel too heavy. You always have to carry your own luggage in and out of the train. The more kilos you take with you, the heavier you make it for yourself.
Tip 14: Pack Cleverly
What do you have to remember before you get on the train? Here we have a few indispensable items lined up:
- A neck pillow: great for a nap on the train without neck pain;
- A padlock: handy to store your belongings safely in hostels;
- World plug: not all European countries have the same socket. Avoid surprises and take a world plug with you.
Ready for the journey? Wherever you go, it will be unforgettable. We wish you a good trip!