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.
- 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
- 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 cons 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!