I’ve loved to travel for as long as I can remember. It’s a love that I got from my parents and something I hope to be doing well into my old age. Travelling the world has always been my dream and any chance I can get I jet off to another holiday destination; usually involving sun, sand, and as much food as could possibly be consumed in a standard two week holiday, but I’ve always wanted to try just that little bit longer.
That being said, my boyfriend Jack didn’t quite share my same passion for all things abroad when we met. Although he could see the appeal of a holiday and had ventured as far as Amsterdam himself, he didn’t view it as an essential in the way that I did. After a lot of convincing we finally settled on a month away, which quickly became three weeks due to work commitments, and finally our Interrail (Eurail for anyone who is not a European Resident) adventure could begin.
In case anyone doesn’t know, Interrail is a train ticket that allows you to travel around the 30 participating countries in Europe using one ticket and a passport.
Rather than the spontaneous ‘anywhere next’ approach that I know a lot of people choose, we planned our trip to fine detail (this was because of our short time frame). We both came up with couple of a places we wanted to go and for the rest I used an amazing website called RoutePlanner to help me map out where we were going and how long we wanted to stay in each spot. I added in the places we had already chosen and, using sliders to customise what we were looking for (eg. Urban/country, city/beach), it gave us so many suggestions on potential places and even how to get between them, though by this point we had decided on Interrail. In the end we settled on Bordeaux and Nice in France; Milan, Rome and Venice in Italy; Berchtesgaden and Munich in Germany; ending our travels in Amsterdam, Netherlands.
RoutePlanner is definitely my top tip if you’re not exactly sure where you’re going and are looking for ideas or, if like me, you find it helpful to have a visual plan of your journey. Although you can, we didn’t book any accommodation through RoutePlanner as I thought the prices seemed a little on the steep side. Instead we used AirBnB, spending roughly £40-£50 a night with some places being a lot cheaper, like Bordeaux, and Berchtesgaden being the most expensive at around £200 for a three night stay, though in my opinion Marketta’s lovely home was worth every penny.
Once accommodation was sorted it was time to get our heads around the actual Interrailing and we decided to go for the 2nd class youth global pass. This gave us 22 days of consecutive travel for around £320. Whether you plan your trip to a ‘T’ or you’re thinking of something a little more ‘spur of the moment’ my biggest tip would be to read all about this and maybe even watch a few ‘top tips’ videos on YouTube (I’ll soon be doing a post about my top tips and what I’d do differently).
Although Interrail was a great option for travelling around Europe and I would absolutely recommend it, it’s not as easy as the ads make out. Firstly, you can’t just jump on any train and head off to any destination as is often implied. Some of the passes only allow so many days of travel and so many journeys so it’s worth looking into the right option for you before you buy. Also, not all European train companies take part in the Interrail scheme. This never stopped us from being able to get to a destination but it did mean that for some journeys, such as Venice to Berchtesgaden we were forced to take the only Interrail train available, arriving in Berchtesgaden a lot later in the evening than we would have liked.
Secondly, many of the trains require Interrail pass holders to buy seat reservations. The upside of ths is a guaranteed seat (our three hour train journey to Nice crammed into a tiny sauna-like corridor laid on the floor still gives me nightmares). The downside of this is that the reservations, particularly in France, come with an added price tag not included in the Interrail ticket. These can be upwards of €20 and add up to quite a hefty sum if you don’t plan in advance. None of these came as a shock to us because we had done our research beforehand but I do remember hearing the horror stories of people being turned away from the trains because they didn’t have reservations and were left without a room for the night…*shudder!
You can, however, pay an additional fee of €26 per person and Interrail will manage the administration & book all your reservations for you. Despite the cost, which I agree is a steep admin charge, unless you love organising and planning train journeys I would without a doubt recommend it. The alternative is to go one by one through all the national train companies and booking your reservations directly – this will often require you to phone up in order to claim the discounted price of the reservation only.
What I loved the most about Interrailing was the accessibility. There are few places that can’t be reached by train in Europe and many of these can be reached by the bus services also included in the price of the ticket. Thanks to this Jack and I were able to see four countries (five if you count Vatican City) in just three short weeks. Travelling by train also makes for fantastic sightseeing between stop offs. Many of our most spectacular views of the Alps came from speeding past them on our way from Italy to Germany. And forget the tedium & delays of old fashioned English trains – these European trains (with a special shout out to the German ones) were incredible. They ran like clockwork, had all the amenities you could want and were extremely spacious and comfortable, or at least as comfortable as sitting on a train for nine hours can be.
I absolutely loved Interailling and I would recommend it to anyone looking to travel around Europe. It’s a fantastic way to see a lot of Europe in a small time frame and makes for a very convenient, if occasionally stressful, way to travel.
Let me know if you’ve been Interrailling and what your favourite places to travel to are. I’m always on the lookout for my next destination.
Thanks, Megan x