What is Interrailing?
Interrailing is a way of travelling by train around 30 European countries for up to one month, for citizens or residents of any European country (for anyone else, please see the eurail website). There are a variety of different passes to choose from, including:
Single-Country Pass - Access to one country for one month with up to 8 travel days.
Global Pass – access to 2 or more countries for up to 1 month continually.
Both passes have options for the number of travel days you need (flexi) and Global has the option of unlimited travel (continuous) using the national train operators for each country you visit. Travel in your home country is not included in any pass other than your outgoing and incoming journey; this now includes the Eurostar (HOORAH!). Some bus and ferry journeys are also included in the pass and there are many discounted prices for others. Under 28s and 60+ are eligible for discounted passes, and kids go free with family passes. This is great if you’re interraily cheap deals…
Interrail often offer '15% off' deals on their official website. It’s best to wait for these deals to pop up before booking so sign up to their mailing list to find out more. To put cost into perspective, a monthly travelcard around the city of London costs the same as a global monthly youth pass with the above offer! Many high speed and overnight trains require a reservation fee on top of the overall pass cost but you are able to turn off the compulsory reservation option on the app when searching for your next journey. If you’re planning on reserving trains in advance for your whole trip, it may be cheaper to book point to point trains, especially if you’re not making many journeys. The more you travel on a continuous pass the better value for money, but don’t rush for this reason; know your minimum journeys to make it worthwhile. For more confident travellers who are looking to explore Eastern Europe, buses are a much cheaper option if comfort isn’t a priority.
Train or Plane?
Some places are harder to access via train, but don’t let that put you off - trains take you from city centre to city centre, meaning the transfer to your accommodation is short and cheap (much like the average first time traveller!). Unlike flying, interrail allows you room to make mistakes without the loss of money or too much time. Missed your train? Just hop on the next one! Running late? Jump straight on without the need to check in or worry about airport security rummaging through your very innocent backpack. There are also no luggage restrictions and you can bring as many liquids as you want (Get the drinks in!). Interrail is also a more environmentally friendly way of exploring – step away from that plane and reduce your carbon footprint! Obviously, flying is much faster but taking the train is a more immersive and grounding experience; watch as you go through Europe and not over it. However, if you’re looking to extend your trip without buying another pass, find a cheap flight or bus to take you to your first destination a few days before your pass begins, and to bring you home a few days after your pass ends. That way you don’t need to use your travel days getting to and from home which makes a world of difference.
Travelling by train is also a great way of meeting fellow travellers!
By far the best type of train to get (subjectively speaking, but definitely true) is a night train. Never have we at any other time experienced such a great night’s sleep as on a couchette on a slow moving train. We imagine it's similar to how a baby feels when being pushed around in a pram! Night trains always require a reservation, but considering you get to fall asleep in one country and wake up in the next without having to book a hostel or travel during precious time, it is worth every penny. There are different accommodation types to choose from and we suggest you never choose a recliner unless you know everyone in your carriage. They may be the cheapest option, but they are cramped, uncomfortable and a nightmare when anyone in the window seats need the toilet. We’ve slept on several night trains and every time we slept on a couchette (similar to bunk beds), we slept through the entire journey without a peep. Most people will suggest you reserve your night trains well in advance but we booked them on the go from the station approximately two days before departure. For times when sleepers weren’t available we just asked for different available destinations and let the wind take us to wherever took our fancy.
Planes may have boarding passes that you can save to your phone, but interrail has quite possibly the best journey planner app in the world (according to us). Rail Planner is an offline travel app that allows you to search for connections all over Europe, save your future journeys to your phone's calendar, check and use all of the benefits affiliated with your pass and reserve your seats (please note that you will need an internet connection for this). The app has a country by country guide to participating train services, although the list is not definitive - Mark Smith from Seat 61 has compiled a list of all of the train services' official websites which you can check for live departures, delays and more accurate services. The app gives you the option to search for reservation-free trains or direct connections, depending on your preferred method of travel, but be sure to check the connection times as you may have as little as three minutes to get to your next train! Many international trains have delays, so always leave a minimum of 20 minutes between your connecting services.
The interrail app is not the only app that will help you on your journey around Europe, we’ve compiled a list of the best ones to use to make your trip as safe and easy as possible.
HostelWorld – A hostel booking platform that allows you to safely search for and book cheap accommodation worldwide. We recommend you book two days in advance to give you peace of mind, and if you decide to extend your time in your current accommodation (which you do through the hostel itself) you’ll only be losing a small deposit. It’s great for budget travellers and meeting new people.
AirBnB – Similar to HostelWorld and great for groups. AirBnB is a platform for home owners to rent out their spare rooms and unused spaces to a whole community of travellers and holiday-goers. This option is more expensive than HostelWorld but cheaper than a hotel and allows for privacy without the extortionate costs.
Couchsurfing – Stay as a guest at someone’s home for free! Homeowners are often travellers themselves and offer up their couches, spare rooms or blow up beds for no cost. It’s the perfect opportunity to get to know new people and is much safer than expected. Usually you will have access to the home only when your host is there, and you are able to check the reviews before enquiring. We’ve met some amazing, generous people and would highly recommend it if you’re a sociable, easy-going person. Usually no more than three people can stay at any one time, for the purposes of safety and space.
XE Currency – An app that calculates live currency and conversion rates. Always check this app to ensure you aren’t being ripped off in currency converters.
Use-It – Made for travellers by travellers. Up to date tourist information, free ‘no-nonsense’ maps and recommendations.
Maps.Me – Official free City maps that require no internet connection but can still be used via GPS. Download a map whilst you have internet and then no need for the internet again.
Ryanair – Europe’s cheapest airline just in case you get stuck! Prices will increase a lot if you need to put luggage in the hold or want to reserve a specific seat, so stick to the basics! We’ve seen £4 flights on offer!
Norwegian Air – Another cheap airline, mainly available at the airports not covered by Ryanair. A great alternative.
It’s a Yes from Us!
Travelling always feels so out of reach to those who have never experienced it before, and Interrail brings it that little bit closer to home. Despite the long journeys, the occasional dirty train and the lack of air conditioning, Interrailing is one of the best ways to ease into travel without making your parents faint. Whether you’re a seasoned solo traveller or a parent who has never left the country, Interrail is a sure way to see the best of Europe without the stress or panic. We see Interrail as the perfect stepping stone to the world of travel, and can't recommend it highly enough. Between us we’ve done it 5 times and would do it again in a heartbeat if our lives weren’t taking us to the next step (No Mum, we’re not pregnant).
Unravelling Travelling© is made for travellers, by travellers, so if you have any tips or advice you’d like to share on this topic, please let us know and we’ll be sure to add it in!
Thanks for reading, folks, and Happy Travelling!