How to Travel to Europe by Train

Europe, Europe, Europe! Where to begin? More difficult a question - where to end? Undertaking a substantial European adventure likely means visiting more than one country in Europe. There are certainly so many phenomenal places it makes it difficult to choose.

Why choose at all? Buying an interrail pass can make all these weighty decisions that much easier and provides an easy and accessible way to explore as much of Europe as you want by train. In this article I include the most essential information for choosing your train pass and creating the perfect European adventure.

What is an Interrail pass?

An Interrail (or Eurail) pass gives you the opportunity to travel Europe unlimitedly, by train, over the period of time you buy the pass for. This means you have the freedom to travel to as many or as few European countries as you want within the chosen period, using one ticket the entire distance. The tickets cater to you - you could buy one that allows unlimited travel within one country, or you could do the whole hog, and pick one that includes the entire 28 European countries.

Pretty liberating, right?

The trick with this is planning. It would be rather silly to buy the more expensive and wide-reaching ticket to only get on the train once or twice over a few months. But with a little agenda creating and route-mapping, it can be your ticket to freedom. Imagine: you, a backpack, a ticket and the whole of Europe.

So how does this whole thing work?

European citizens buy the Interrail pass. Non-Europeans purchase the equivalent Eurail pass. There’s not much more to it than that.

When it comes to types of passes, things get a little more complicated. There are a wide range of different tickets available, depending on factors such as the duration of your trip, the quantity of desired countries, family discounts, age and more. This is where, as mentioned, some travel planning comes in handy. Before you begin the process of buying a pass, work out exactly what you want your adventure to entail. How many days, months, cities, countries, and so on. Ticket choices range from the one country pass to the global pass.  

A further element to bear in mind is that there are often discounts for passes and it is worth researching this before you pick one. If you’re a youngster, you’re in luck, as there is almost always a price-slashing for those under 26.

In terms of first and second class, what you choose really depends on your budget constraints and fuss level. Being Europe, most trains are more than acceptable whichever class you decide on, with the better ones offering free wifi and water bottles.

What are these reservation fees I am being asked for?

Unfortunately, buying a pass does not mean you can get on whatever train you want, whenever you want. On some trains - particularly night trains, fast trains and ones at popular times during high season - you may have to pay a fee to reserve your seat. Booking night trains is mandatory and prices range from 10-40 euros. That being said, you can avoid paying for a hostel for a night and save a day of travelling by using the night train. And they’re pretty comfortable too!

Not convinced? Countries such as Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the Netherlands don’t have any reservation fees. And for the countries that do, it is possible to avoid the charges by only booking regional trains - but this in mind, it is likely you will want to travel on a fast train at least a handful of times.

Last word of advice - once all the planning is underway, get to the App store and download the Rail Planner App. Here you can keep up to date on train times, connections and cancellations. Even available offline!

Forget passports and luggage checks, an Interrail pass ensures easy, hassle (and passport) free travel for pretty reasonable prices, giving you the freedom to roam Europe as you please.

Between Interrail travel passes and Airgofx currency cards and stellar exchange rates, you’re almost ready to take that trip. Get planning!

Published date: 04/04/2018