Travelling around Europe has never been easier, with an expansive rail network that allows you to explore the best places on the continent. From the metropolitan cities to the coastal town through to the alpine villages and rolling countryside. But how do you travel by train in europe, is it cheaper than flying? and how can you plan this trip?
Eurail or InteRail
Many European travelers choose to purchase the railway ticket to reduce travel costs. The two types Eurail and InterRail are quite comparable with many differences. Most travelers aren’t allowed to choose one ticket: the InterRail is intended to be used by people living on European borders and others, and the Eurail is for everyone else. Long-term visitors can however arrange the itinerary so they can choose between these two ticket types.
For now the United Kingdom are included in the Interrail but this may change and I will come back to update this post should this change.
Why Chose InterRail?
InterRail is so flexible. When you purchase a pass you can get them up to 11 months before and you don’t have to pre-book your seat on most trains. You also don’t need to fill in your pass until the day you are travelling (or just before you go to get the train). This means you can switch and change your plans slightly on your trip. As long as its within the designated days and locations your pass is valid for.
You will be sent your passes and both a digital and physical map of the routes. Once you are given your online log in, you can plan your trip on the website and gain app access. All helpful information is on there For example:
- Calculating train times and changeovers.
- If you do want/need to book a seat or a sleeper cabin.
- Paying the difference for a high speed train.
You can also get deals and discounts with them on hotels, Air BnB and other top attractions once you have your pass.
How Much Does Interrailing cost?
There are a range of different passes to chose from when you are purchasing an InterRail or EuRail pass. Interrail tends to be the cheapest when you have more than 3 destinations or multiple countries. You can travel from 4 days to 3 months.
They also have discounted rates for those 27 and under (I was due to turn 27 just after the trip and snagged this deal).
My First Experience of a InterRail Eurotrip
A few years ago I embarked on my first European rail trip with Interrail starting in England and going to stops in Belgium, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the Netherlands before flying home to England. I was really surprised with how easy the whole process was and soon kicking myself for not travelling this way before.
Interrail is something I had heard about a few backpackers in hostels recommending time and time again, yet I hadn’t been able experience this myself yet. I had been close to doing one in 2014 back from my season in Greece, but ended up having to change my plans and help my friends plan theirs instead.
A couple of years ago I was messaging another friend of mine who I had worked with during that summer in Greece about arranging a catch up. He was from Latvia and had since been working on expeditions as a photographer and filmmaker, so by this point a few years had passed. We then realised we were both off work for a few weeks over the Easter period. What started as a catch up day or couple of days in Manchester, then escalated to a short trip to explore and switch off for us both.
If you’ve read my other articles, you will soon realise I don’t like to sit down on my travelling or be indoors for too long. I then started to talk about doing a multi stop trip and knew from helping a few friends with their own rail trip through Europe, it was pretty easy to do.
To cut this long story short, I love to map out trips, research the places I’m visiting (think Monica off friends when it comes to planning) and my friend was quite happy to tell me a budget and let me run with an idea.
First thing I did was work out what we both wanted to do.
- A bit of a time to relax
- To see some history or architecture
- Places we could easily access walking in nature without a car
Then how many stops would be realistic in our time frame without rushing from one place to another every night. The next step I worked out the costs for a couple of places we were thinking of from the U.K not using a pass… well it was very very expensive. When you break the travel down individually to the destinations, passes make way more sense.
So I ordered us both a global pass each and we agreed to meet somewhere that would be accessible for us (back to the idea Manchester for our starting point) before heading on our journey.
Our Eurotrip Interrail Itinerary
We had a 14 Days for our trip and picked a global pass that offers 10 days of travel to be used within 2 months.
- Manchester – St Pancras, England (Not included in the Interrail ticket but did receive a discounted rate due to having a pass).
- St Pancras, England – Brussels, Belgium (via the euro tunnel also not included in the Pass but did have a discounted rate via the pass online area and worked out cheaper than flying from London to Brussels at that time of year).
- Brussels, Belgium – Baden-Baden, Germany
- Baden-Baden, Germany – Interlaken, Switzerland (Click Here to read about Interlaken)
- Interlakken, Switzerland – Innsbruck, Austria
- Innsbruck, Austria – Fussen, Germany
- Fussen, Germany – Amsterdam, Netherlands (Click here to read about our visit to the infamous fairytaile castle)
- Amsterdam, Netherlands – Manchester, England (Via flight)
Inspiring Interrail Itineraries across Europe
Explore the Med with a global pass
Travel days: 10 days within 2 months
- Valencia, Spain
- Barcelona, Spain
- Montpellier, France
- Marseille, France
- Cannes, France
- Nice, France
- Monte Carlo, Monaco
- Savona, Italy
- Genoa, Italy
- Pisa, Italy
- Livorno, Italy
- Rome, Italy
Budget Friendly Culture
Travel days: 10 days within 2 months
- Warsaw, Poland
- Kraków, Poland
- Český Krumlov, Czech Republic
- Bratislava, Slovakia
- Budapest, Hungary
- Zagreb, Croatia
- Belgrade, Serbia
- Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina
- Sofia, Bulgaria
- Bucharest, Romania
The Instagram HotSpots
Travel days: 10 days within 2 months
- Paris, France
- Strasbourg, France
- Konstanz, Germany
- Fussen, Germany
- Thun, Switzerland
- Zurich, Switzerland
- Tirano, Italy
- Milan, Italy
- Florence, Italy
- Rome, Italy
Get The Most From Your Interrail Journey
The German trains are very efficient and also have complementary WiFi, plug sockets on the trains we were on which was handy as I spent one of the journeys revising whilst my friend was editing some footage from a previous trip.
Don’t miss the romantic road if you are heading through Germany. You will see lots of castles, charming architecture, great food and lots of mountains.
If you get a train that’s a Double Decker sit on the top one if its available and enjoy a clearer view of the European countryside and mountains.
Don’t forget to pack for all weather, Europe is changeable and each country have their own areas with micro climates. It is also a lot damper in norther Europe than even some of the colder countries I have been to.
Although you don’t need to reserve your seat on every train, bare in mind if you are travelling during a working week the commuting times and popular tourist routes.
If you get chance head through Switzerland be sure to explore one of their many famous scenic railways.
Check out some of the lesser known cities or countries in Europe (such as Slovenia, Romania, Hungary, Latvia etc).
Take a charger European adaptor for your trip (remember England has a different one to the rest of Europe too). I’d also advise a solar charger that you can place by the windows of the train or a power bank.
Emergency services are available via the phone number 112 all through Europe and even England (you will be diverted to the appropriate authorities should you be in trouble). Also try What Three Words app for mapping your exact location should you get lost in more remote places.
Double check your visa restrictions. Most of europe requires a a shengen visa for those who are not from there (This now includes the U.K residents). However if you are from the United Kingdom then you can get up to 90 days in Shengen states without needing a Shengen visa.
Expect city taxes when staying in accommodations this is normal in many popular cities now.
Try Get Your Guide for Day trips. They have some fantastic offers from hop on hop off tickets and skip the ques to island hopping day tours as you can see below.
Pin for Later
If you are planning an InterRail trip and not sure where to stop, check out some of our experiences on this trip below. Or search by country at the top of our page.