A super guide for Interrail and Eurail travelersAll you need to know before doing Europe by train
Interrail and Eurail are train passes for a good and relax Eurotrip. I’ve talked about those 2 passes before on our guide to the perfect Euro trip, remember? But after so many emails and some questions on our Discord and Facebook group, I’ve decided to make a super post.
I’ll try to address the most common questions and some other issues and doubts I’ve seen people experience along the way. If you have any questions after this post, feel free to ask me in the comments below.
What are the differences between an Interrail and Eurail pass?
The main difference is: Interrail is for Europe’s residents and Eurail is for people that don’t live here.
Between some minor details, what you need to remember is basically that and the fact that Interrail is valid for a whole month and Eurail pass gives you 15 travel days to be used within 2 months.
How to buy your Interrail or Eurail pass?
Interrail and Eurail users can either buy a pass for a single country or purchase a Global Pass. Eurail’s users also have the option of 2, 3 or 4 countries passes, but the Global Pass is valid only for 28 countries. Interrail’s users don’t have the option for 2, 3 or 4 countries, but they have the UK and Macedonia added to the list.
To buy your passes you have to do it online following the links below. They ship the passes to your house for free in most cases and buying online can grant you advantages like free travel days and discounts:
List of valid countries:
Luxembourg, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, England, Scotland, Ireland (north and south), Wales, Norway, Sweden, Austria, Belgium, Slovakia, Netherlands, “Greece Plus” (incl. ferry Greece – Italy), Italy, Poland, Hungary, Portugal, Romania, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Spain, Switzerland, FYR Macedonia, Turkey, Serbia and Slovenia.
How much luggage you can carry
Even though you don’t have restrictions on the weight or size of your luggage, be smart. Choose a comfy backpack and pack light!
Remember that the more you have it with you, the more you’ll carry it everywhere. Besides, compact luggage can be easier to keep close to you inside the train, avoiding getting something lost or stolen.
We have a post about it and many ideas and tutorials saved on our Pinterest board “Packing tips”
What’s the deal with those passes?
If you’re looking for a unique adventure this year, an Interrail or Eurail pass could be the answer to your prayers. Having spent two months roaming around Europe, I can assure you that those passes are cool. With just one ticket, you can travel freely on Europe’s trains. It makes your life easier, and your travel plans way more relaxed.
You can visit all the cities you want, extraordinary beaches and tiny towns clinging to mountainsides. All that without worrying too much about your luggage being over 15 or 20kilos: and that, my friend, is the definition of peace of mind.
You can see the incredible Alps in Austria, see the outstanding coast of Italy and experience the French cuisine on trains that run smooth. You can visit your old friends and make new ones without arriving 1 or 2 hours earlier at the airport. And you’ll arrive in the city centre, not in a faraway airport that will make you spend more money on a taxi or shuttle bus.
If you’re not a planner, you can hop on and jump off the train as you go. If you see something interesting, you stay; if you don’t, hop on to the next one. For those that can’t find a hostel, the passes are valid for night trains. Some demand reservations, but it is yours at 0 extra costs if you see an empty spot.
See, I told you it was worth it.
Things to do before you go on this journey
Before any trip, it is important to do some things, learn some stuff, and do some research. Make sure you know at least a bit about the countries you’re going to, gather material about the destinations, the weather conditions. You need to know the basics, at least.
One of the worst feelings for a traveller is to invest time and money to go somewhere and read later that it’s where they have the world’s best cake or that unique museum. Or even that your favourite band was playing there on those days! I still remember how memorable it was to catch one of my favourite musicians, Chelsea Wolfe, playing in Vienna while I was there for as little as €10.
Besides that, remember that you’ll go through several languages zones, which can be a bit frightening for some. Memorize a few basic words and sentences for each language, ok? This is super helpful, trust me. It is beyond frustrating to try to ask something simple and lose 15 minutes of your day because of that.
English is widely accepted in most European countries, but you must remember that the smaller the town, the harder it gets. In Poland, I could only talk to people from 25~30 years or less; France was even harder. In Bratislava, even the main castle had almost nothing in English.
Here are some of my suggestions on what you need to know
- Do you speak English?
- Numbers from 1 to 10, depending on how many people are with you.
- How to say your favourite food and drink. Ex: Beer, coffee, tea, fries, salad, bread.
- Ask for vegan or vegetarian options in case you’re a vegan or a vegetarian.
- How much is it?
- Where’s the bathroom?
- Where’s the bar?
If you want only to learn one word in each language, I will go with “thanks”. Because if you want to sound like a stupid tourist, at least sound like a mannerly and civilized stupid tourist.
Currency, cards, money and more
You can have your likes and dislikes about the Euro, but you can’t deny that: it does make travel life more manageable.
My advice here is two of the best options tested and approved by me and all (all!!!) my friends who travel a lot. One is to get an online bank with withdrawals worldwide like N26. The other tip is to get a prepaid card or get an account on Revolut. Keep in mind that the EU isn’t Europe, and your credit card or prepaid card must give you the option of withdrawals in and out of the EU.
For example, you can’t use credit cards in most places in Germany, so if you’re travelling to Germany, how will you get money? Avoid extra fees at all costs; that is my main goal in life.
Things in Europe sometimes works differently from the rest of the world. I recommend having more than one card at your disposal. If you’re planning to travel by train to the UK, that is already outside the EU limits. It would be best if you were covered since in the UK, even the currency changes. One time in London, a friend of mine got a huge difference in currency exchange rates taking money out of different ATMs in the city. Crazy, but it happens! Get yourself an account on Revolut and N26 or similar bank services and be on the safe side.
For Interrail, take a debit card too and check your bank’s partners abroad. Nobody wants to pay a fee each time you go to an ATM, right?
How much money should you bring?
That is a tricky question. As a rule of thumb here in Europe, the more you go to the east and south, the cheaper it gets.
Here in Berlin, I tell people that, without accommodation, they’ll spend something between €20~€50 per day on food and drinks if you get yourself a hostel with a kitchen or a hotel with a kitchenette, even less. In Poznań, I think you need 40% less than that, and in London, you’ll need 2x this amount.
As a rough guide, if you’re camping or staying in hostels with a kitchen, you can get by on less than €20-€30 a day in most cities. But to be honest, I prefer to bring more money and take it back home than end up screwed somewhere along the way.
Note: If your ad blocker is off for our blog, there’s a window below where you can search for accommodation in the whole of Europe with a small or full kitchen.
How does Interrail Works?
Your Interrail pass grants you permission to hop on and off on most of Europe’s trains for free (with a couple of exceptions). Fast trains, local trains, public trains and some private trains are valid with Interrail.
Some trains are super busy; you might need to reserve your seat. For that, you’ll need to pay a bit extra. Night trains most times you have to reserve, but I’ve heard from different travellers that no biggies if you find your empty spot. But this is only valid for normal sits; sleeping carriages with bunk beds or stuff like this is extra. Ask before you get on to avoid nasty surprises.
All Interrail passes are personal and non-transferable. In other words mean that you, and only you can use it, ok? And most times, you may have to prove you’re you. Keep your passport with you at all times.
An important notice: Interrail travellers are not permitted to travel in their own country of residence with their pass. So if you’re German, you can’t travel to Germany. But some discounted rail tickets are available if you present your pass when purchasing a rail ticket.
How does Eurail Works?
Basically, the same as Interrail when we’re talking about reservations and where it’s valid. The main difference is that you’ll be entitled to 15 travel days within 2 months. So for example, between the 1st of June and the end of August, you can take 15 travel days.
This does not mean that you can only take 15 trains, ok? It means that you’ll have 15 valid days to use the rail service, even if this means 20 hours taking different trains.
We did Berlin to Torino with our Eurail pass, and it took us almost 24 hours of travel because we had a stopover in Zurich to write this post here.
Since we hopped on the train around 4 or 5 am and arrived in Torino almost midnight, it counted as 1 travel day. We took 3 trains in total—Berlin to Zurich, Zurich to Milan and Milan to Torino.
It is more than enough for a super complete Eurotrip, even though 15 is a small number of travel days for some. Keep in mind you’ll stay some days in 1 location to explore everything.
I’m always up for doing fewer cities with more time in each one than as many as I can. When I hear stories of travellers doing 10 or 15 countries in less than 3 weeks, I ask myself: “Why do people do that?”
Using Berlin again as an example: you need 1 week for daytime Berlin and 1 week for nighttime Berlin at the very minimum. Huge cities like Paris, Rome and London demands way more.
How safe are the trains?
When you’re doing Europe by train, please keep your valuables in a money-belt around your waist and under your clothes. And please don’t forget to use a lock to secure your backpack to your seat or the luggage rack. Get one of those cable locks for bikes, and you’re ready to go.
And please don’t think that you can relax just because you’re not going through airport security. Most times, you don’t even notice when you’re crossing a border, and the border police can – and sometimes will – check the passengers inside. Keep your passport ready with you at all times, and don’t carry anything illegal.
Landscape: truths and myths
One of the arguments that you’ll always hear and read about travelling by train is, “The landscape is beautiful! You’ll see so much more if you take the train”.
In my experience, I have to say that this is true, but life isn’t that amazing. As a professional photographer for over a decade and since I work with travel photography for at least 3 years now, my advice is: check the routes and check the weather.
There are many parts of Europe’s railroads that you can’t see because of the fog; there are many tunnels, many ugly scenarios and so on. But, when it is beautiful is the most incredible thing ever.
Especially if you’re doing Switzerland, where you can find iconic bridges like the Landwasser Viaduct.
Sleeping on the train
Before you get too comfortable, make sure you won’t have to pay for this privilege. Like I mentioned earlier, ask before.
Actual beds inside the sleeping cabins are generally not included in your pass; if you want to sleep in one of these, you’ll most probably need to pay extra. However, most night trains will have empty seats that you can sleep on for free.
Another pro-tip here: pack your sweatshirt and your jacket close to the surface of your backpack. Night trains can be a bit cold even during summer times. Use your sweatshirt as a pillow with this folding technique here>>>
Another cool thing to keep in mind is to have a bottle of water and your toothbrush ready for the morning.
Hostels and hotels
The favourite option by many backpackers, hostels are a great place to meet people and save money. Hostels can give you many levels of privacy with the options of private rooms or shared dorms. Besides, in Europe, hostels can be super stylish and modern. Some even have infinite pools, saunas and much more.
A great way to check the cheaper hotels is to use Booking.com to show you hotels and hostels. If you’re already a fan, book your nights here in this blog. It will have no extra cost and can help us quite a lot.
Pro-tip for every trip: Write down the name of your hotel or hostel, its phone number and address on a piece of paper and take it with you everywhere. Please trust me on this one; you don’t want to get lost at night in London or Paris for hours looking for your bed. Been there, done that, don’t recommend.
What if you find yourself without a place to sleep?
You haven’t booked anything in advance, and you’ve arrived in a town where everything is full? Don’t panic! I’d never find myself in this situation, but I can assure you it is not the end of the world.
The first thing you must do is ask if the train station is open all night or find yourself a 24hrs cafe and get your name on the slowest coffee drinker’s wall of fame.
I know that none of those solutions is safe, but friends and acquaintances tested them, and they are very much alive.
Remember to arrive early if you’re not a planner. By doing that, you’ll have plenty of time to find yourself a bed or change cities if it gets to this point.
Interrail and Eurail are great options for a memorable trip. It is more flexible, easy and comfortable than doing Europe with low-cost airlines. And greener, right?! Train is still the most sustainable way of travelling.
And trains give you a lot of flexibility too: You can bring your bike if you want, you can carry 2 pieces of luggage, not worry about exceeding the maximum weight, and you leave and arrive from the middle of your destination. No extra for the cab from a neighbour city to your final destination because you decided to take the cheapest flight.
On the other hand, it can be way more expensive than doing everything with buses and cheap flights. Europe is working hard to make trains more affordable to hit their green goals, so hopefully we’ll see a drop of prices soon,
We did Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Italy using our passes, and everything worked out great. Totally approved!
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