How to use an InterRail pass

Buy an InterRail train pass online and see Europe by train

Buy an InterRail from InterRail.eu

www.interrail.eu is the official Interrail website - buy in euros with delivery to any UK/European address...

Click here for the Interrail reservations guide.

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 children, youths, adults & 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 pass or point-to-point tickets?

small bullet point  Interrail global pass types & prices

small bullet point  Interrail one-country pass types & prices

small bullet point  How does an Interrail pass work?

small bullet point  Filling in the travel diary

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  How to buy an Interrail pass

small bullet point  How to find 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, Curve card & VPN

small bullet point  Country-by-country guide:  Which trains are covered?  Which trains require reservation & what does it cost?

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


Example InterRail train passWho qualifies for an Interrail pass?

Interrail pass or point-to-point tickets?

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Interrail global pass types & prices...

The Interrail Global Pass covers all the participating countries, meaning almost most of Europe from Portugal to Poland, download the map here.

 Global Interrail
 pass prices 2020
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) £209 £157 £0 £187 £279 £209 £0 £249
5 days in 1 month (flexi) £239 £180 £0 £215 £319 £239 £0 £286
7 days in 1 month (flexi) £284 £213 £0 £256 £378 £284 £0 £340
10 days in 2 months (flexi) £340 £255 £0 £306 £453 £340 £0 £408
15 days in 2 months (flexi) £418 £314 £0 £376 £557 £419 £0 £501
15 days continuous £376 £281 £0 £338 £501 £376 £0 £450
22 days continuous £439 £330 £0 £395 £586 £439 £0 £527
1 month continuous £569 £427 £0 £512 £758 £569 £0 £682
2 months continuous £620 £465 £0 £558 £828 £620 £0 £745
3 months continuous £766 £575 £0 £689 £1,021 £765 £0 £919

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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.

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.

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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Interrail pass

user guide & map...

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

Interrail passes come with a user guide and a simple European rail map.

You can also download this map here

 

How does an Interrail pass work?

 

 What does an Interrail pass look like?

'Flexi' InterRail pass

 

Example pass:  This is a 10-days in 2 months Interrail global Flexi pass.  The real thing will be printed on security-background ticket stock.  As you can see, the overall validity period here is from 29 February to 28 April, and there are 10 spaces marked 1 to 10.  Simply write the date in one of those spaces each time you want to 'spend' a pass day.  Each box gives free travel from midnight to midnight (or beyond midnight when using a sleeper train), subject to paying any reservation fees or surcharges of course.  A Continuous pass looks very similar, but without the 'flexi days' boxes.  Courtesy of Rail Europe

 

 The Interrail pass travel diary...

The InterRail pass 'travel diary'

 

The Interrail train travel diary: You simply need to fill this out each time you board a train.  You send it back after your trip (free postage) and it's used for market research purposes.  If you forget to fill it in, most conductors will simply wait while you get your pen out (if they even bother asking to see it in the first place), but in theory there could be a 'fine' so remember to fill it in before (or as soon as) you board.  You can ask for more pages at any main station if you run out of space.  Larger image.

Filling in the travel diary...

When must you make reservations?

Using a pass on overnight trains...

Making reservations at stations...

How to make reservations online...

How to make reservations by phone...

What does an Interrail pass look like?

'Flexi' InterRail pass

Example pass:  This is a global 5-days in 10 days 'Flexi' Interrail pass.  As you can see, the overall validity period is 10 days, from 17/11 to 26/11, and there are 5 spaces marked 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5.  Simply write the date in one of those spaces each time you want to 'spend' a pass day.  Each box gives free travel from midnight to midnight, subject to paying any reservation fees or surcharges of course.  Overnight trains only use up one pass day, see the explanation here.  A 'Continuous' pass looks very similar, but without the 'flexi days' boxes.  Courtesy of Rail Europe.

The InterRail pass 'travel report'

The Interrail train travel report: You simply need to fill this out each time you board a train.  You send it back after your trip (free postage) and it's used for market research purposes.  If you forget to fill it in, most conductors will simply wait while you get your pen out (if they even bother asking to see it in the first place), but in theory there could be a 'fine' so remember to fill it in before (or as soon as) you board.  You can ask for more pages at any main station if you run out of space.

Tips for finding accommodation...

  Book hotels at Booking.com

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How to buy an Interrail pass...

Buy an Interrail online at

www.interrail.eu

Buy an InterRail from InterRail.eu

Buy an Interrail by phone...

Find out more 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.

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/EN/viajeros/viajes_internacionales/spainpass 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/EN/viajeros/viajes_internacionales/spainpass 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, Republic of 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.  You may be able to buy one at www.internationalrail.com, they are UK-based but will send to any address worldwide.  Available to anyone except residents of the countries it covers.

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Timetables & maps...

European Rail Timetable -  click to buy onlineRail Map of Europe - buy online

The 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 www.bahn.de/en.  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 site: www.booking.com

www.booking.com is my favourite hotel booking site and I generally prefer booking my hotels all in one place here.  You can usually book with free cancellation - this allows you to confirm your accommodation at no risk before train booking opens.  It also means you can hold accommodation while you finalise your itinerary, and alter your plans as they evolve - a feature I use all the time when putting a trip together.  I never book hotels non-refundably.  I have also come to trust their review scores - you won't be disappointed with anything over 8.0.

Tip:  It can pay to compare prices across multiple hotel sites:  HotelsCombined.com is a price comparison site which compares hotel prices on Booking.com, Hotels.com, Expedia, Accor, Agoda and many others.  Though if there's not much in it, I prefer keeping all my bookings together in one place at www.booking.com.

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 & VPN

 

Columbus direct travel insurance

 

Confused.com logo

Always take out travel insurance...

Never travel without travel insurance with at least £1m or preferably £5m medical cover from a reliable insurer.  It should also cover trip cancellation and loss of cash & belongings up to a reasonable limit.  An annual multi-trip policy is usually cheapest even for just 2 or 3 trips a year, I have an annual policy myself.  However, 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, Seat61 gets a little commission if you buy through these links, feedback is always welcome.

UK flagIn the UK, reliable insurers include Columbus Direct.

UK flag

If you have a pre-existing medical condition or are over 65, see www.JustTravelCover.com - 10% discount with code seat61.

UK flagYou can use www.confused.com to compare prices & policy features across major insurance companies.

UK flag

 Australian flag New Zealand flag  Irish flag    If you live in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland or the EU, try Columbus Direct's other websites.

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

 

Curve card

Get a Curve card to save on foreign transaction fees...

Banks often give a poor exchange rate, then charge a currency conversion fee as well.  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 balance 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 app for iPhone or Android.  2. Enter your details & they'll send you a Curve MasterCard - they send to most European addresses including the UK.  3. Link your existing credit & debit cards to the app.  4. Now use the Curve MasterCard to buy things online or in person or take cash from ATMs, just like a normal MasterCard. Curve does the currency conversion and puts the balance onto whichever of your debit or credit cards you choose.  You can even change your mind about which card it goes onto, within 14 days of the transaction.

I use a Curve Blue card myself - I get a little commission if you sign up to Curve, but I'm recommending 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, too.

 

Express VPN

Get a VPN for safe browsing.  VPNs & why you need one explained...

When you're travelling you often use free WiFi in public places which may not be secure.  A VPN means your connection to the internet is encrypted & always secure, even using unsecured WiFi.  In countries such as China where access to Twitter & Facebook is restricted, a VPN gets around these restrictions.  And lastly, you can select the geographic location of the IP address you browse with, to get around geographic restrictions which some websites apply - for example one booking site charges a booking fee to non-European visitors but none to European visitors, so if you're not located in Europe you can avoid this fee by browsing with a UK IP address using a VPN.  VPNs & why you need one explained ExpressVPN is a best buy and I use it myself - I've signed up as an ExpressVPN affiliate, and if you go with expressvpn.com using the links on this page, you should see a special deal, 3 months free with an annual subscription, and I get a small commission to help support this site.


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