Interrail Europe: Planning your trip

Last summer we were lucky enough to win a competition with Tens that meant we were given the opportunity to Interrail around Europe (Janice doesn’t have anything on my moment of OMG realisation…) Anyway, it’s what kickstarted the whole idea of Travelavo and gave me a platform to start writing again and posting for the world (read: my mum) to see! Interrailing isn’t something we’d really looked into before but there’s lots to consider when planning so we thought we’d start a blog series to hopefully cover everything you’d need to know.

Interrail can seem a bit daunting at first with literally thousands of destinations to choose from across the continent, but breaking it down into more manageable trips is the key! There are a few things we would’ve wanted to know before planning our trip so have a read and let us know where you’re hoping the rail will take you…

It’s flexible, easy to use once you get the hang of filling out your pass and ultimately some of the best views are enjoyed from the rail! Read on for our guide to planning your European Interrail trip.

How much time do you have?

Stating the obvious? For those of us that aren’t blessed with unlimited time and budget, it’s important to set out exactly what time you have for your trip before getting too carried away with planning destinations. Once you have the time set out, blocking out days for seeing each place is much easier and will give you the best chance of making the most of the limited time you have.

It depends what you’re looking for from your trip but to really get to know a bustling city, coastal town or mountain village, and delve deeper than the tourist reel, you’ll need to think about spending more than a day there. It’s fine to get the Insta-worthy shot of the cathedral or padlock bridge but if you really want to take in a culture, eat where the locals eat, walk where they walk and just get off the tourist path a little! Slow down, you never know what you might stumble upon.

In a week you could explore the fairytale castles of southern Germany, indulge in the Viennese opera and even have time to grab a chimney cake in Budapest. Imagine what you could do in two…

Neuschwanstein Castle
Neuschwanstein Castle, a couple of hours outside of Munich

Choosing your destinations

With the whole of Europe at your fingertips, it can be tempting to try and cram too much into one trip (we were a little guilty of this!). Make a list of your top 10 destinations, grab a map of Europe and start annotating. You could aim to do it country by country and simply travel between the main cities if you’re looking to see the highlights. Or, if slow and scenic is your thing, why not map out your route based on lakes and mountains you’ve always wanted to visit? It’s the best way to enjoy some of Europe’s lesser-known-but-still-dreamy favs. Just remember to check distances and train times – it might take longer than you think to travel between destinations!

Train journey mountain views
Mountain views on the way to Hallstatt, Austria

You could be snapping the graffiti on the walls of Ljubljana one day and swimming in the crystal waters of Lake Bled the next – refer back to your list of top destinations and craft your route around it. There was so much we still wanted to see and do when we got back, but it’s about making it work in the time you have. Besides, with 40,000 destinations on offer you’ll never fit it all into one!

Choosing your Interrail pass

This ultimately depends on where you want to go. Interrail offers passes by country if you’re looking to immerse yourself in one place, or you could get your hands on the ‘Global Pass’ allowing you to travel freely across 30 countries – the dream, right?!

If you’re heading to one or two countries, it’s cheaper to buy two individual country passes and plan your trip that way. If you’ve got three or more countries on your agenda, go for the Global Pass to save a few pennies!

Based on the time you have, you can choose between 5, 7, 10 or 15 days’ travel within one month, giving you a bit more flexibility if you’re staying in each place for a few days at a time. If you’ve maxed out your schedule and are planning on living your best life in the fast lane, choose a continuous pass over 15 or 22 days or a month and hop on as many trains as you like during that time. Just remember to check train times and reserve any overnight and long-distance trains in advance.

View from Hohensalzburg Castle in Salzburg
Stunning valley views from Hohensalzburg Castle in Salzburg

Prices start from £47 for a One Country Pass and £190 for a Global Pass. Interrail offers discounts for ‘youth’ travellers (sucks to be over 28…) ‘senior’ travellers (hooray for 60+!) and kids under 11 travel FREE!

It’s also worth remembering that you can’t use the One Country Pass in your country of residence – you can with the Global Pass but it’s only valid for two of the days (one outbound and one inbound journey).

A few things to bear in mind…

  • Interrail doesn’t have an agreement with all train companies in Europe, so you’ll need to check the glossary of trains that are valid in the countries you’re travelling to. The likelihood is they will be, but it’s worth making sure…
  • Longer journeys and overnight trains require advance seat reservations and this cost isn’t included, so factor this into your budget and planning. If you know exactly where you’re going and when, you could even reserve all of your trains in advance!
  • The dedicated app is free and amazing for planning trains on the go. You can also save your trip searches in advance, as well as being able to look up train times and find nearby stations.
  • This is a very important point so take note! If you make a mistake when filling in your travel pass, you’ll have to discount that day’s travel – you can’t simply cross out mistakes! Your pass is an official travel document so it’s best to fill it in when you’re 100% sure you’ll be travelling on that train at that time.
  • Things won’t always go to plan – you might oversleep and miss your stop, or your train might be cancelled. Don’t worry too much but embrace the slight detour, it’ll work out!
Lake Bled, Slovenia
Hire a rowing boat at Lake Bled!

The beauty of Interrail is the flexibility it gives you to travel effortlessly between countries and borders, so whether you just fancy taking it easy in Italy, island hopping in Greece or bar crawling Eastern Europe, get your travel pass and get planning!

Keep an eye out for our next post in our Interrail series, we travelled five countries in two weeks so there’s plenty to share…! In the meantime, have you read our Algarve series? It’s the unsung hero of southern Europe!

S x



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