How To Travel Cheaply and Comfortably With A Europe Rail Pass

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Interrailing is great fun – and buying a Europe rail pass is one of the most exciting and cheapest ways for anyone of any age to see the wonderful sights and attractions. If you dream of a holiday filled with lots of different countries, cities, experiences and time zones – then rail travel may be exactly what you’re after.

Travel Europe by Rail - ham on the train
Ham on the train – photo by Ruben Bos

What exactly is Interrailing?

InterRail offer a Europe rail pass that allows the holder access to all trains across Europe, meaning you can explore many different cities quickly and easily without the associated hassle (or cost) of flying. This is somewhat similar to VIA Rail’s Canrailpass, but can include cross-border, cross-continent travel. Depending on which tariff and which package you opt for, the price will increase or decrease – and this all depends on how many cities you want to visit and how many days you want to travel for. Typically passes will allow you a number of unlimited days of travel to be taken within a 30-day period, though unlimited passes are also sold:

Travel Europe by Rail - InterRail ticket
InterRail ticket – photo by Hipolito Lobato

A one-country, 3-day pass starts at 56 Euro (72 CAD), while a ‘Global’ 30-country pass starts at 267 Euros (342 CAD) for 5 days unlimited travel within a 10-day period. A one-month unlimited pass starts at 638 Euro (818 CAD).

InterRail passes are discounted 35% for under 25s, which explains why they have such a large following among students and some backpackers. Children between 4 and 11 receive further discounts. When compared to flights, trains are typically cheaper (with more transparent costs) and more flexible. The other significant benefit is that trains will typically take you to the center of each city or town you wish to visit, rather than a hub airport on the outskirts. Factor this in when considering whether to fly.

How can you make the most of your time?

Now we’ve established why you might want use a Europe rail pass – you’ll probably be wondering about the logistics of InterRailing. It’s great avoiding the hassle of  flights and airports – but actually travelling everywhere by rail can be tedious (though in most cases, you would have to take a train anyway). It requires a lot of planning and forward thinking too. These tips will save you some headaches:

  • Music will be your best friend during these long train journeys so make sure you’ve got some to hand! If there are a couple of you together, why not buy headphone multipliers – so you can enjoy the same music? It makes music a little more sociable.
  • If you see yourself making multiple journeys on your trip then a neck cushion is recommended. Most come with a clip that attaches straight onto your rucksack so they’re easy to carry about and transport. Ear plugs can help, too. Together these items will help you get a good bit of sleep while travelling long journeys – which can make the difference between seeing a new city with bundles of energy – or sleeping straight through your first day.
  • Always have a water bottle on hand with clean, fresh water. It can be easy to forget this when travelling – but the trains can get quite hot during summer in Europe, and not all of them will sell beverages or be air conditioned. Best to be prepared.
  • Travel Europe by Rail - train on the move
    Train on the move – photo by Hunter Desportes

    Plan ahead as much as possible. While a Europe rail pass certainly encourages and allows for spontaneity – by planning ahead you are able to ensure you see all the sights and attractions you wanted to without missing any (or missing the last train back to wherever you are staying). Using the journeys themselves as time to plan is encouraged.

  • Arrive for your train ahead of time, since this could mean the difference between a great window seat  and a cramped corner stood against a wall. I don’t think I need to tell you which will lead to a more pleasant journey.
  • If you’re on a tight budget,  it can be cheaper to just travel on night-trains. Night-trains are usually cheaper for one – but it also means you don’t have to fork out for accommodation when you arrive. They tend to be less busy and fairly easy to catch some sleep on, which can allow you to make more out of your “unlimited travel”.

InterRail can be amazing if you need to visit family or friends abroad – just don’t be afraid to spend time to get some sightseeing done.

Travel Europe by Rail
Arriving at the station – photo by Bert Kaufmann

George Mason is a writer at www.sixt.co.uk. An avid cyclist, he’s currently planning to get him and his bike from London to Slovakia in one piece next spring. Any ideas?

About the Author: Steph Spencer

Formerly the Editor of Let's Roll, now you're more likely to find Steph prowling the halls of incredible museums, hunting for historic landmarks, discovering mind-blowing science and literary attractions, tracking down the world’s largest whatchamacallit or attending wacky festivals. She is a freelance travel writer who explores the geeky side of travel on her blog A Nerd At Large, and dispenses random quirkiness on Google+ and as @ANerdAtLarge on Twitter.

Comments:

  • Wonderful. I think it’s quite exciting to travel via rail pass since you get to see many beautiful places along the way.

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