How to use an InterRail pass

Interrail - Eurail pass logo

If you live in the UK buy from www.myinterrail.co.uk.

Buy a pass from Myinterrail.co.uk

Anyone resident in Europe can buy at www.interrail.eu

Buy a pass from InterRail.eu

Immediate delivery: After buying a mobile pass you simply load it into the Railplanner app.  You can activate the pass any date in the next 11 months. More info.

Click here for the Interrail reservations guide

Download the Railplanner app

How passes work on Eurostar

What is an Interrail pass?

Interrail is the railpass range for European residents, giving unlimited train travel on the scheduled train services of the national train operators across most of Europe.  It started in 1972 as a railpass for young people, but there are now Interrail passes for adults, children youths & seniors, an ideal way to explore Europe at ground level with someone else doing the driving.  Here I explain how Interrail passes work.

small bullet point  Who qualifies for an Interrail pass?

small bullet point  Interrail global pass types & prices

small bullet point  Interrail one-country pass types & prices

small bullet point  How to buy an Interrail pass

small bullet point  Is Interrail cheaper than point-to-point tickets?

small bullet point  How does an Interrail pass work?

small bullet point  How to use a mobile pass

small bullet point  How to use a hard-copy pass

small bullet point  When do you need to make reservations?

small bullet point  Sleepers & couchettes on overnight trains

small bullet point  How to make reservations

small bullet point  More information about Interrail

small bullet point  Other useful railpasses: Swiss, Spain, Germany

small bullet point  Train travel in Europe general information

small bullet point  Recommended timetables, maps & guidebooks

small bullet point  Hotels & accommodation in Europe

small bullet point  Travel insurance, mobile data, VPN & other tips

small bullet point  Interrail reservations guide:  Which specific trains & operators are covered in each country?  Which specific trains need a reservation, how much does it cost & can it be booked online?

small bullet point  How passes work on Eurostar - how to buy a Eurostar passholder fare

small bullet point  Download the Interrail map showing train routes in the participating countries.


Example InterRail train passWho qualifies for an Interrail pass?

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Interrail global pass types & prices

An Interrail Global Pass covers all participating countries from Portugal to Poland, download the map here.  Check prices at www.myinterrail.co.uk.

 Global Interrail
 pass prices
2nd class Interrail 1st class Interrail

Adult

(aged 28-59)

Youth

(under 28)

Child

(under 12)

Senior

(over 60)

Adult

(aged 28-59)

Youth

(under 28)

Child

(under 12)

Senior

(over 60)

 4 days in 1 month (flexi)

£226

£171

£0

£203

£287

£215

£0

£258

 5 days in 1 month (flexi)

£260

£195

£0

£234

£330

£247

£0

£296

 7 days in 1 month (flexi)

£308

£231

£0

£278

£391

£294

£0

£352

 10 days in 2 months (flexi)

£369

£277

£0

£332

£468

£352

£0

£422

 15 days in 2 months (flexi)

£454

£341

£0

£409

£576

£432

£0

£518

 15 days continuous

£408

£306

£0

£367

£517

£388

£0

£465

 22 days continuous

£477

£358

£0

£429

£605

£454

£0

£544

 1 month continuous

£616

£463

£0

£555

£782

£587

£0

£704

 2 months continuous

£673

£504

£0

£605

£854

£641

£0

£769

 3 months continuous

£830

£623

£0

£747

£1,053

£790

£0

£948

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Interrail one-country pass types & prices

You can buy one or more Interrail passes covering just one country each.  These also come in 1st class adult, 2nd class adult, 1st class child (aged 4-11), 2nd class child (4-11), and 2nd class youth (aged 12-25 inclusive) versions.  Prices vary by country, see www.interrail.eu or (if you're in the UK) www.myinterrail.co.uk.

 One Country Interrail prices    

Adult 1st class

Adult 2nd class

Child 1st class

Child 2nd class

Youth 2nd class

 3 days within 1 month (flexi)

Prices vary by country, so check & compare prices at

www.interrail.eu or www.myinterrail.co.uk

 4 days within 1 month (flexi)

 5 days within 1 month (flexi)

 6 days within 1 month (flexi)

 8 days within 1 month (flexi)

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How to buy an Interrail pass

Interrail - Eurail pass logo

If you live in the UK buy from www.myinterrail.co.uk.

Buy a pass from Myinterrail.co.uk

Anyone resident in Europe can buy at www.interrail.eu

Buy an InterRail from InterRail.eu

To buy a Eurostar passholder fare, see the Eurostar passholder information here.

You can choose either the classic printed card pass sent to you at extra cost, or a mobile pass which which can be downloaded instantly to sit in the Railplanner app on your phone.  The mobile option was introduced in September 2020 and 97% of people now choose a mobile pass.

If you choose a mobile pass

If you choose a hard copy pass

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Is Interrail cheaper than point-to-point tickets?

 

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Interrail pass

user guide & map

InterRail train passes come with a guide & free European rail map

Hard-copy Interrail passes usually come with a user guide and a simple European rail map, or download this map here

 

How does an Interrail pass work?

When must you make reservations?

 

Where do you need reservations?

...an easy rule of thumb

 

Map showing where Interrail pass reservations are required

 

Green = Travel freely!  Pass-friendly countries, seat reservation usually optional.

Yellow = Travel easy!  Also pass-friendly, reservation often required, but no big deal, the same €2-€5 that any passenger with a full-price ticket pays.

Red = All inter-city trains require a special passholder reservation, budget for €10+ a pop. Some international trains to/from France charge €20-€40.

Can I avoid paying reservation fees?

 

A 2-berth sleeper

 

Couchette (4-bunk)

 

2-berth sleeper:  A typical 2-berth sleeper, berths made up.  More info.

 

Couchettes, 4-berth:  Much more room than 6-berth!  More info.

Overnight trains

How to use a mobile pass

Interrail mobile pass - planner   Interrail mobile pass - My trip   Interrail mobile pass - My pass   Interrail mobile pass, ticket   Interrail mobile pass, ticket lower

1. Planner:  Click Save journey to save a journey to My Trip.

 

2. My Trip:  Edit as you like.  Toggle to add a journey to your pass.

 

3. My Pass:  Click Show ticket when the conductor comes along.

 

4. Interrail ticket, upper.  The conductor will scan the QR code.

 

5. Interrail ticket, lower, showing list of trains added to pass.

How to use a hard-copy pass

Example Interrail pass   Interrail pass travel diary

Hard-copy pass:  This is a 10-days in 2 months Interrail global Flexi pass.  Courtesy of Rail Europe.

 

The Interrail train travel diary: You need to fill this out each time you board a train.  Larger image.

How to make reservations

'Pass' and 'reservations' are two totally separate things

Option 1, online at the train operator's website

Option 2, online using the Interrail reservation service

Option 3, online at b-europe.com (Eurostar only)

Option 4, make reservations by phone with a UK booking agency

Option 5, in person at the station

Tips for finding accommodation

  Book hotels at Booking.com

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More information about Interrail

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Other railpasses worth knowing about

Interrail is the main pass range for European residents, but several countries also have their own national railpasses which can be worth knowing about.

Switzerland

 

Swiss Travel Pass:  3, 4, 5, 6, or 8 days unlimited travel in Switzerland within 1 month.

Swiss passes cover one or two more very minor private operators than Interrail does, plus things like postbuses and some boats.

Swiss rail fares are expensive, so unlike in many other countries these days, you don't have to rack up a huge mileage to make a railpass worthwhile.  And as virtually no Swiss train requires a supplement or reservation, a railpass gives you that wonderful 'hop on, hop off' convenience.  There's more information about Swiss Travel Passes & Swiss Travel Pass Flex here.

You can check Swiss point-to-point fares at www.sbb.chMap of the Swiss rail network showing which routes are covered by a Swiss rail pass and which only give a 50% discount for passholders.

Is an Interrail cheaper?  If you're a European resident, it's worth comparing the cost of a Swiss Travel Pass with the cost of an Interrail One-Country Pass for Switzerland as the Interrail option can be a lot cheaper.  Both passes cover the major train operators such as Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) and major private operators such as the Rhδtische Bahn (RhB) and Bern-Lotschberg-Simplon (BLS).  A notable gap in Interrail's Swiss coverage was the Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn which operates the line to Zermatt and half the Glacier Express route, but from January 2017 Interrail passes also cover the MGB so the gap in coverage between a Swiss Travel Pass and Interrail One-Country Switzerland pass is narrowed, really we're talking the post-buses, boats and a few very small private operators.

Germany

 

Only for people not resident in Germany.  A single-country Interrail pass for Germany is often a cheaper option, especially if you are under 28 so can get a youth Interrail.  But the German Rail Pass can be cheaper if there are two of you as there's a twin German Rail Pass for two people travelling together. 

Unlike the Interrail one-country pass for Germany, the German Rail Pass also covers ICE services between Germany & Brussels, and the German/Austrian-run EC trains between Munich, Verona & Venice, and trains between Germany & Innsbruck.

You can check German Rail Pass prices & buy online at www.bahn.com/.../german-rail-pass.

Spain

 

As well as the one-country Interrail pass for Spain, Renfe (Spanish Railways) now offers its own Spain Pass to anyone resident outside Spain, see www.renfe.com/.../renfe-spain-pass or www.petrabax.com.

The pass covers a specific number of journeys, from 4 to 12 trips in one month, rather than unlimited travel, but unlike Interrail passes, there are no extra fees to pay for reservations, although reservations must still be made. 

I'm also glad to say that there are no hidden quotas for passholder reservations on Spanish trains so once you have a Spain Pass you are entitled to get a free reservation on any train which physically has seats left available.

The pass saves money over full fares, although the cheapest 'web' fares are still a cheaper way to travel if you pre-book. 

You can buy the pass online at www.renfe.com/.../renfe-spain-pass or (if you have any payment problems) www.petrabax.com.

If you live in the UK, you can buy a Spain Pass by phone and make any associated reservations you want with UK-based International Rail on 0844 248 248 3 for a small booking fee (£10 for orders under £100, £20 for orders £100-£300)

European East Pass   5, 6, 7, 8, 9 or 10 days unlimited train travel within one month in Austria, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia.  Choose 1st or 2nd class.  Buy at www.internationalrail.com/european-east-pass-(eur)  
Balkan Flexipass  

Unlimited train travel in Bulgaria, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Greece, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, The Serbian Entity of Bosnia Herzegovina and Turkey, with a choice of 5, 10, or 15 days of unlimited train travel in a one-month period.  Available to anyone except residents of the countries it covers.  Now almost impossible to get hold of outside these countries and of doubtful value.

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Timetable & maps

European Rail Timetable -  click to buy onlineRail Map of Europe - buy onlineThe European Rail timetable has train, bus & ferry times for every country in Europe (eastern and western) plus currency and climate information.  It is definitely worth buying if you're planning an extensive tour with a Interrail pass - having your own comprehensive timetable puts you in control of your own trip, and will save you hours in queues for station information desks or struggling with station timetables which show only the most basic information.  It costs around £15.99 from www.europeanrailtimetable.eu.

The European Rail Map of Europe is easily the best and most comprehensive map of train routes all over Europe.  High speed and scenic routes are highlighted - well worth buying to go with your rail pass!  Buy online at www.europeanrailtimetable.eu (with worldwide delivery).  There are other maps & even two good European Rail Atlases, see here.

The all-Europe online timetable:  You can check train times for almost any European train journey online at int.bahn.de.  This is an extremely useful resource for trip planning, provided by the German Railways.

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Recommended guidebooks

If you're planning a grand tour, I strongly recommend investing in a Thomas Cook European Timetable for in-depth train information, and the relevant Lonely Planet Guide for in-depth country information on the sights to see, places to stay, places to eat.  Alternatively, the Europe by Rail guide combines basic train info with country information.

Click the images to buy online at Amazon.co.uk

Europe by Rail - click to buy online at Amazon   Lonely Planet Western Europe - click to buy online   Lonely Planet Eastern Europe - buy online at Amazon.co.uk   Rough Guide to Europe - click to buy online at Amazon   Lonely Planet Europe on a shoestring - click to buy online

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Hotels & accommodation

Tips for booking hotels in Europe

Find hotels at Booking.comMy favourite hotel search: www.booking.com

Booking.com is my favourite hotel booking site and I generally use it to book all my hotels in one place.  I've come to trust booking.com's review scores, you won't be disappointed with any hotel that scores 8.0 or more.  Crucially, booking.com usually lets you book with free cancellation, which means you can confirm accommodation risk-free before train booking opens and/or you can hold accommodation while you finalise your itinerary and alter your plans as they evolve - a feature I use all the time when planning a trip.  I never book hotels non-refundably!

www.tripadvisor.com is a huge resource, and a good place to browse independent travellers' reviews of all the main hotels.

Budget backpacker hostels

www.hostelworld.com:  If you're on a tight budget, don't forget about the hostels.  Hostelworld allows online booking of dorm beds or ultra-cheap private rooms in backpacker hostels in most European cities at budget prices.

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Travel insurance & other tips

 

Staysure travel insurance

 

Columbus Direct logo

Always take out travel insurance

You should take out travel insurance with at least £1m or preferably £5m medical cover from a reliable insurer.  It should cover trip cancellation and loss of cash & belongings up to a reasonable limit.  These days, check you're covered for covid-19-related issues, and use an insurer whose cover isn't invalidated by well-meant but excessive Foreign Office travel advice against non-essential travel. An annual policy is usually cheapest even for just 2 or 3 trips a year, I have an annual policy with Staysure.co.uk myself.  Don't expect travel insurance to bail you out of every missed connection, see the advice on missed connections here.  Here are some suggested insurers, I get a little commission if you buy through these links, feedback always welcome.

UK flag  www.staysure.co.uk offers enhanced Covid-19 protection and gets 4.7 out of 5 on Trustpilot.

UK flag  www.columbusdirect.com is also a well-know brand.

US flag  If you live in the USA try Travel Guard USA.

 

Maya.net logo

Get an eSIM with mobile data package

Don't rely on WiFi, download an eSIM with a European mobile data package and stay connected.  Most newer mobile phones can download a virtual SIM including iPhone 11 & later, see device compatibility list.  There's no need to buy a physical SIM card!  Maya.net is a reliable eSIM data retailer with a 4.5 out of 5 Trustpilot rating and a range of packages including unlimited data.

 

Curve card

Curve card

Get a Curve card for foreign travel

Most banks give you a poor exchange rate then add a foreign transaction fee on top.  A Curve MasterCard means no foreign transaction fees and gives you the mid-market exchange rate, at least up to a certain limit, £500 per month as I write this.  The money you spend on your Curve card goes straight onto one of your existing debit or credit cards.  And you can get a Curve card for free.

How it works:  1. Download the Curve app for iPhone or Android.  2. Enter your details & they'll send you a Curve MasterCard - they send to the UK and most European addresses.  3. Link your existing credit & debit cards to the app, you can link up to two cards with the free version of Curve, I link my normal debit card and my normal credit card.  4. Now use the Curve MasterCard to buy things online or in person or take cash from ATMs, exactly like a normal MasterCard. Curve does the currency conversion and puts the balance in your own currency onto whichever debit or credit card is currently selected in the Curve app.  You can even change your mind about which card it goes onto, within 14 days of the transaction.

I have a Curve Blue card myself, it means I can buy a coffee on a foreign station on a card without being stung by fees and lousy exchange rates, just by tapping the Curve card on their card reader.  The money goes through Curve to my normal debit card and is taken directly from my account (in fact I have the Curve card set up as payment card on Apple Pay on my iPhone, so can double-click my phone, let it do Face ID then tap the reader with the phone - even easier than getting a card out).  I get a little commission if you sign up to Curve, but I recommend it here because I think it's great.  See details, download the app and get a Curve card, they'll give you £5 cashback through that link.

 

Express VPN

Get a VPN for safe browsing.  Why you need a VPN

When travelling you may use free public WiFi which is often insecure.  A VPN encrypts your connection so it's always secure, even on unsecured WiFi.  It also means you can select the geographic location of the IP address you browse with, to get around geoblocking which a surprising number of websites apply.  See VPNs & why you need one explainedExpressVPN is a best buy with a 4.7 out of 5 Trustpilot ranking which I use myself - I've signed up as an ExpressVPN affiliate, and if you go with expressvpn.com using this link you should see a special deal, 3 months free with an annual subscription.  I also get some commission to help support this site.

 

Anker Powerrbank

Carry an Anker powerbank

Tickets, reservations, hotel bookings and Interrail or Eurail passes are often now held on your mobile phone.  You daren't let it run out of power, and you can't always rely on the phone's internal battery or on being near a power outlet.  I always carry an Anker powerbank which can recharge my phone several times over.  Buy from Amazon.co.uk or Buy from Amazon.com.

Touring cities?  Use hill walking shoes!

One of the best things I've done is swap my normal shoes for hill-walking shoes, in my case from Scarpa.  They're intended for hiking across the Pennines not wandering around Florence, but the support and cushioning for hiking works equally well when you're on your feet all day exploring foreign cities.  My feet used to give out first and limit my day, now the rest of me gives up before they do!


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