When I was in my teens, one of the popular ways to take a holiday was InterRailing. Back in the 70s and 80s, the gap year wasn’t as common or popular as today, but many students and young adults spent their summer holidays InterRailing around Europe. For the uninitiated, InterRailing is basically travelling on a rail pass that allows you to hop on and off trains, as you like, all over Europe. Even though it as waned in popularity, it is still an amazing way to travel and one of the cheapest, so read on to learn more and I may have just helped you decide on your next travel adventure.
1. Where Can You Travel to?
Every country in Europe from Ireland in the West to Poland in the East, except Albania and plus Turkey is included in the InterRailing scheme – none of the former Soviet republics are yet part of the scheme.
2. Who is the Pass for?
The InterRail pass is for residents of the EU. In order to be classed an EU resident you must have lived in an EU country for more than six months. Or of course, be a natural, native resident. Now that may sound exclusive but if you don’t qualify for an InterRail Pass, you have an alternative in the Eurail Pass. Unfortunately, the Eurail Pass cannot be used in Great Britain, Bosnia or Macedonia – but that’s still 24 countries you are able to visit.
3. What Are the Types of Passes Available?
For InterRailing, you can choose between a global pass, and a one country pass. A global pass will be accepted in the aforementioned 30 European countries however, you will be unable to use your InterRail pass in your own country. A one country pass will do what it says on the tin, and get you to one country.
There are four types of global tickets to choose from, depending on how long you intend to travel in Europe by train for. You can choose from: 22 days or one month of travel where you have the option to travelling continuously, 5 days of travel over the course of 10 days, or 10 days of travelling over 22 days. Remember, overnight trains (anything after 7pm) count for just one day of travel. A one country pass lasts for a month, and you can decide to have either 3,4,6 or 8 days of travelling by train.
There are various options in the Eurail Pass which you can learn about on the website (I’ve included the link at the foot of the article)
4. Do They Offer 1st Class, or Student Fare?
Just as with any train travel you can chose from 1st class, 2nd class, 2nd class youth, and child, with both the Global Pass and the One Country Pass. A youth must be between 12 and 25, and to be classed as a child you must be under 11. Children under the age of four travel at no charge.
You need to reserve your seat on international (i.e. cross border trains), high speed trains (like the TGV in France) and night trains.
6. Buying an InterRail Ticket Isn’t Always the Cheapest Option
As you probably already know, the Euro is at the mercy of the vagaries of exchange rates, and it is something to keep in mind when InterRailing on a budget. If you plan to travel in Eastern Europe then you may well find that it is cheaper to buy your tickets as you go, with them costing between £3-20, depending on the journey. You also might find it much more cost effective to find a budget flight and skip out the countries which have the Euro.
7. You Can Book Accommodation when You Get There
When you are InterRailing you might find that your plans change, but the ticket allows for a little flexibility. There is also nothing worse than rushing around trying to make transfers in order to reach reservations. Why not roll up in the city that you are visiting and book a hostel or hotel on the spot. However, if you have something that you really want to see or do then book ahead so that you will be able to relax knowing you will get to see the sites.
8. Pack Light
When you are InterRailing, you need to remember that whatever is on your back you will be carrying to and from hotels and sitting with on the train. Don’t go overboard with a massive suitcase. Pack as light as you can. You can always find somewhere to wash your clothes if you get desperate. E-Books are great for bookworms who don’t want to carry around a dozen books for the train rides.
9. Who Should Go?
You need to remember that travelling Europe by train is tiring, and you will be doing a lot of it. It can also be pretty stressful when you can’t find somewhere to stay, or something to eat, and you are wearing too little clothes in the middle of the pouring rain. Needless to say it can make you a little grouchy some days, so make sure you go with someone who is positive, makes you laugh, and who you trust. Or, go solo!
InterRailing has all the makings for an adventure of a lifetime. So many different countries and so many things to do, see and experience. Is it something you’d consider?