A few months ago, my sister and I had the idea of going interrailing. It was one of those days where you are like “please, let’s do something different” –translate this into Spanish so that the conversation looks more realistic.
Now, scarcely a week before heading to our first destination, I can say that I feel like I have graduated from a Master’s degree on travelling across Europe by train (clearly, my knowledge about this renowned railway ticket has grown exponentially). Therefore, this post aims to be a summary of all I have learned before getting on to the first train for those of you who are thinking about buying a ticket.
1. How many countries do you want to visit?
First of all, once you have decided that the way you want to travel Europe is by train, you have to think about how many countries you want to visit because the kind of pass you have to purchase will depend on that. If your intention is moving around several countries (you can visit up to 30), which is the norm in this kind of trip, you will have to buy the Global Pass. If, on the other hand, you are just looking to visit one particular country, you need the One Country Pass. But bear in mind that in both cases (and the same applies for other tickets offered in its website) you will have to be a European resident. But if you are not, don’t sweat it because you will be able to travel with the Eurail pass.
2. It is cheaper if you are under 25 or over 60.
As a lot of things in life, for practical reasons, you stop being young at 25 (although I will always defend the idea that it has more to do with your spirit than with your date of birth, but…). And that doesn’t escape Interrail, which will also be a lot cheaper if you are over 60.
If you are between 25 and 60, worry not, there is also a promotion for you (and for everyone, really), because if you purchase your pass before 31 March to travel before 16 May, you will get a 15% off from the original price. Either way, the price will always vary according to the number of days you want to travel (you can find them –with a discount– for 224 euros to travel for 5 days out of 15 and 532 euros to travel for a whole month).
As for the One Country Pass, the price will depend on the country you want to visit, ranging from 48 euros to 131. Check the price of the Global Pass and the One Country Pass on their official website.
3. A travel day equals as many journeys as you like.
As I have already said before, the ticket fare depends on how many days you want to travel within a specific period of time. What does this mean? It means that on the days you choose to travel, you can get on as many trains as you like (in fact, you can spend your whole day in one if your like). Additionally, you should know that if you take a direct train from 7 p.m. on, arriving to its destination later than 4 a.m., it will be computed as one travel day and you will be saving one.
4. Not all trains are valid.
Most European trains are included in Interrail passes, but not all of them are. For example, you can take regional and scenic trains with your pass but not high-speed ones. You can check them out, by country, on their website.
5. Travelling at night: a great option.
Choosing a night train is a great option if you are travelling long distances (in our case, it is only worth it for the journey Prague-Kraków) because you can go to sleep in a country and get up in a different one, which saves a lot of time (travelling at night and sight-seeing during the day) and money (you won’t have to pay for a hotel!). The only thing you have to take into account is that night trains require to book –and pay– in advance, and the price will vary depending on the train, country and conditions you want to sleep in (seat, sleeping car, etc.).
6. If you have any doubts, check social media.
From my experience, Interrail’s Twitter account is pretty efficient and quick on their answers, so you can use it with any comment or question. They are also very active on Facebook so it is very easy to go to them with questions, at any time really (believe me when I say that you end up having tons of doubts).
7. You can book your pass little time in advance.
The time it takes for it to be delivered (if you order it online, because you can also purchase it at some train stations) will depend on the country you are in. In my particular case –I am in Spain–, it was barely two days since I ordered it. You can estimate how long it will take to arrive using their website.
You should seriously consider it, because there is still time to get your tickets before Easter!
8. The app might be useful…
… but you will have to do some browsing through the websites of the trains running in the countries you are visiting. It is true that Rail Planner’s mobile app (available for iOS and Android) is pretty useful because you can look up all train connections you want, besides offering other useful information, such as additional discounts you are entitled to with your pass. Still, I needed to check the websites of official train services in each country I was visiting because information was clearer.
9. Feel like a kid playing Train Tetris.
This has exactly been my case in the last few weeks: I have spent the whole time playing Train Tetris but, hey, who says I didn’t have fun? Who says we are not going to laugh it off if we miss a connection because there wasn’t actually one? In all earnestness, I must confess that taking care of all the arrangements has ended up being a very fun part of the trip, and I can state, without reservation, that Google Maps is my new Bible.
10. You decide your budget.
In the end, the kind of trip that you want to go on and how much you spend will depend entirely on you because you have the power to choose the kind of ticket you want, and as I have already pointed out in section 2, whether you rather stay in a hotel, hostel or youth hostels, or do what we are doing, which is sleep on the train every chance we get. It’s all in your hands!
*Remember that not all European countries have the same currency
For instance, we are travelling across Germany, the Czech Republic and Poland for about 10 days, so we have to take with us three different currencies (Euros, Czech Crowns and Polish Zlotys). Remember that you can exchange however much you need with Global Exchange before departing, or rather get your GlobalCard and forget about having to carry all currencies in cash.
I would be lying if I said that I am not nervous, but this is good nerves, those that say that something really, really good is about to happen. I promise I will brief you when I come back!
Where can I exchange currency for my trip?
Global Exchange has more than 260 offices in 21 countries.
After all this, do you have any more questions about currency exchange?