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How to Plan an Interrail or Eurail Train Trip Around Europe

Steam train England

The best way to travel Europe is by train. It may not be the cheapest (flight prices can be ridiculously low), but it’s the most comfortable, relaxing, and easiest. There’s no need for the endless queuing like in airports, and most train stations are in the heart of the city. And you can enjoy the views along the way.

 

In September we did our third trip with an Interrail pass, which allows you to hop on trains all over the continent. We travelled from London to southern Spain via France, Switzerland, and Italy. Our first Interrail experience was when we were newbie backpackers aged 19 and visited 10 countries in a month, and the second was three years ago when we travelled from London to Sicily via France, Germany, Slovenia and Italy. We loved each of our Interrail experiences, and despite travelling at a faster pace than we usually do these days, we find train travel much less tiring than flying.

Mountain views on the TGV from Milan to Paris

Mountain views on the TGV train from Milan to Paris

What is an Interrail/ Eurail Pass?

An Interrail Global Pass is a rail pass that allows you to travel on most trains in 30 countries in Europe. Although you need seat reservations for some trains (I’ll cover that below), you can hop on and off many trains without having to buy a ticket. It makes European train travel easy and often saves you money.

You can buy passes for various time periods, such as seven days of travel within one month, 15 days continuous, or one month continuous, which is the pass we’ve always used.

Interrail also has one country passes for individual countries, but the Global Pass is the most popular and best value.

Interrail passes are for European residents. Everyone else can travel with a Eurail pass instead. These are similar but have slightly different time periods available—there are passes for up to three months continuous.

How to Buy an Interrail/ Eurail Pass

Interrail trip finished in Lubrin, Spain

Our final stop on our latest Interrail trip was Lubrin, Spain. Here’s us with our completed passes.

You can buy passes online from Interrail.eu or Eurail.com and get them delivered to your home. You must buy them before you start your trip. There are currently early bird sales with up to 20% off passes until the end of 2016. You can use the pass to travel now or next summer.

Prices vary depending on the length of the pass and your age. It’s cheaper if you are under 25 and choose 2nd class. If you are on a budget, 2nd class is totally fine. We love travelling first class, but mostly that’s because we work as we travel and first class carriages are quieter and more likely to have tables and power points. In many cases (especially on slower regional trains) the difference between first and second class isn’t huge.

Sample early bird prices are €407 for a one month continuous Interrail Global Pass for under 25-year-olds or €532 for the same pass if you are over 25. See all the price options on the Interrail or Eurail websites. 

You can order a pass up to 11 months before your trip starts. For Interrail passes, your start date will be printed on your pass. For Eurail passes, you don’t need to choose a start date, but you must activate the pass before your trip starts at a European train station or online.

Is an Interrail Pass Worth it?

Working with a view on the TGV from Nice to Marseille