A few years ago I embarked on a 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.
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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. A couple of years ago I was messaging a friend of mine who I had worked with in 2014 in Greece about arranging a catch up. He was from Latvia and also worked travelling 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 it soon escalated, then we couldn't decide where we wanted to go that we could spend a week or two weeks with stuff to do. 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. We wanted good food, a bit of a time to relax and to see some culture. 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 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.
Aside from the fact that Interrail tends to be the cheapest when you have more than 3 destinations or multiple countries. If you are international you will need to use Eurail rather than Interrail. Interrail is for those who are residents of the European Union (which I know it would make more sense the other way around). For now the United Kingdom are included in this but this may change and I will come back to update this post should this change. It is also very 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.
With Interrail you have a single country passes or global passes.
You can travel from 4 days to 3 months.
They have discounted rates for those 27 and under (I was due to turn 27 just after the trip).
You are given an online log in so you can plan your trip and check your trains. 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.
The App is now also really efficient, at the time I travelled it didn't really do much but they have appeared to develop it for better use.
You will be sent your passes and both a digital and physical map of the routes.
You can get deals and discounts with them on hotels, Air BnB and other top attractions once you have your pass.
Top Tips for 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.
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 they are famous for their scenic railways
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.
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 these three words app for mapping your exact location should you get lost in more remote places.
Double check your visa restrictions.
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.
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 - Interlakken, Switzerland
Interlakken, Switzerland - Innsbruck, Austria
Innsbruck, Austria - Fussen, Germany
Fussen, Germany - Amsterdam, Netherlands
Amsterdam, Netherlands - Manchester, England (Via flight)
14 Days total using a pass that offers 10 days of travel to be used within 2 months
We stayed in Brussels one night as we arrived before lunch time on the first day then followed by a late train out the following day. We also stayed in Fussen just one night but would recommend staying longer to anyone if possible, as there is quite a bit to see and do in this area. The rest of the stops we stayed 2 or 3 nights in.
The 10 days of travel are obviously not consecutive and you can take two trains in one day should you want to. This isn't that popular, however if you are maybe meeting with friends briefly for a long lunch on your way somewhere or there is just one thing to see or do in one town that you are guaranteed to be on the train in time for, this could be ideal for you.
Keep an eye out for articles on these as I got plenty of pictures and kept a note of some of the things to do in these places that I would go back for along with the experiences I had.