Interrail Pass: To buy or not to buy

When we were planning our travels across Europe, a few Google searches left me baffled as to whether to get an interrail pass or not. A few hours later, after calculating the price of purchasing individual tickets for every journey (thanks to the excellent Deutche Bahn – or German Railways – wesbite) and it certainly looked as though getting a pass would be cheaper.

Whilst the interrail pass came out as the cheapest way to cover the countries we had chosen, let’s take a moment to think about the destinations. France, Switzerland, Germany, Austria… Western Europe. If we had selected places such as Bulgaria, Romania, Bosnia and those in Eastern Europe then I believe it could well be cheaper to buy as you go rather than opt for a pre-paid pass.

There are, of course, other pros and cons to an interrail pass.

Pros

  • Once you have paid for the pass, you don’t have to worry about shelling out for lots of different tickets – you can pay at home and know that a big expense has been sorted
  • You only need the one ticket
  • If you are aged 25 and under, you get a nice youth discount
  • There are various discounts for interrail holders – such as free rides on the brilliant Berlin S-Bahn regional trains

Cons

  • Some tickets require a reservation, which often has a fee to it
  • If opting for the option that allows travel on X amount of days with X amount of days, you must fill in the paper ticket every day that you travel
  • You have to start the pass outside of your home country (ie.not from England)
  • If you lose the pass, and don’t take insurance on it, you could be screwed…

Okay, so there are probably more pros and cons than that, based on your individual needs and preferences, but these are the main ones and they will do for now. Whilst there are a couple of consΒ  such as hidden fees for reservation you may not have realised you are signing up to when purchasing a pass, these fees are often few and far between – we only had to reserve two journeys on our month trip. The paperwork could hardly be described as grueling either, unless of course you consider writing your to and from destination, and the date of travel, hard-work.

For me, knowing that the expense of the travel around Europe had been taken care of before I had even left for the trip was a good feeling. I didn’t have to worry about sorting tickets out for each country and, whilst we opted for the cheaper pass of 10 days travel within 22 days, it worked out great. We started our first day of travel the day we left Paris, and weren’t too rushed. I like that we had to write the info down as it gave me an excuse to keep track, something I wouldn’t normally do. There was no faffing with loads of paper tickets or awkward conversations trying to book a journey in broken English (though this is Europe – broken English is quite hard to come by). The aforementioned German Railways was a god send – I downloaded the app, would put in the journey I was hoping to do and it would tell me if a reservation was compulsory. Easy!

Overall, I absolutely loved the experience interrailing, and would, without a doubt, do it again. With that in mind, if I was travelling to Eastern Europe, I would certainly spend some time with a pen, paper, calculator and the Internet, and work out the price of point-to-point travel vs. interrailing.

Train is by far my favourite way of travel (despite being from a little island and having to take boats all the bloody time, they don’t quite cut it for me) and I would tell everyone to get out on the train and explore over the land! Not only is it better for the environment, but you meet so many more people, see so much and, it’s not as scary as planes. Job done!

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8 thoughts on “Interrail Pass: To buy or not to buy

  1. 1queenofspades says:

    Until some 5 years ago the were more choices for interail passes such as whole-Europe pass, unlimited travel in one country pass, or region passes (e.g only for the Balkan Countries or only for the counrties in Iberian Peninsula etc). So even if one would plan to move only around the Balkans the proper pass would still worth it. Nowadays it is arrowed down to just a couple of choices if I remeber correctly, which is a shame.

    • aliveandontheroad says:

      I know that Interrail offer country passes, though I’m not sure about region passes. It would be great if they do – we have a couple of trips planned to certain regions. If not, I will have to sit down with my calculator and work it all out!

  2. wisemonkeysabroad says:

    Thanks for this post – very helpful! We love train travel & used a Eurail & a Britrail pass back in 2006. As we are heading back to Europe next year, have been wondering whether to get a pass again. Think you’ve given us food for thought πŸ™‚

    • aliveandontheroad says:

      I am glad you found it useful! Where are you hoping to head in Europe? I loved the ease of interrail and knowing that one expense was gone before we’d even left was great! Definitely something i’d do again πŸ™‚ I’m excited for your upcoming trip!

      • wisemonkeysabroad says:

        We will be visiting Russia, the Baltic States, Switzerland, France, Spain… And we will have a mad mix of transports including an 800km walk to Santiago de Compostela so for some parts of our trip, we are thinking train rail for France, Switzerland and Germany…. Ages away still with lots happening in between but getting excited ourselves! Thx for sharing our excitement πŸ™‚

      • aliveandontheroad says:

        Wow, that sounds wonderful! I absolutely LOVE Switzerland, it’s my favourite country (or one of!) and I can’t help but return there! The train was so easy for France, Switz and Germany. One thing to note – if you plan to take the train from Paris – Geneva (or vice versa) they only have limited number of seats for pass holders and that is one that you do have to reserve! It was the only expensive one, and paying for the journey without a pass was also just as expensive! I can’t wait to follow your epic sounding adventure πŸ™‚

  3. thebritishberliner says:

    Nice post with very good tips. I’ve never used a train pass myself but you’re right, train travel is so much more convenient and in Germany, where I live, the travel deals are already pretty good if you book ahead. For instance, up to 5 passengers can get a day pass from Berlin to the Polish border town of Sczecin for just €25. That’s €5 each. You can’t get any better than that!

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