by Natalie Schneider
Want to travel Europe on a budget but with maximum flexibility?
The best way to travel through Europe with maximum flexibility is Interrail or Eurail. While many people choose flights and weekend trips to explore Europe, I recommend Interrail for your next vacation and here are some reasons why:
- you can see multiple cities in one or several countries
- you are flexible
- you don’t have to spend hours at the airport
- you see Europe’s amazing landscape while traveling
What is Interrail or Eurail?
Interrail is a train pass which allows European citizens to hop on and hop off trains within one country (One Country Pass) or within 30 countries of Europe (Global Pass). If you are from a non-European country, your ticket is called Eurail.
The differences between these passes are the prices and the amount of countries you can visit.
NOTE: Great Britain and Croatia are excluded from Eurail.
What ticket is the best for you?
To be honest, I believe choosing a ticket type is the hardest part of “interrailing”.
To be able to pick the best ticket for yourself, you should have your route roughly planned out. That doesn´t mean you should know the exact cities you are traveling to, but you should have an idea if you are visiting one country, just a couple of countries or half of Europe.
As I already said, there are two different main passes to choose from – the Global Pass and the One Country Pass. So your first step will be: deciding on one country vs. many countries – easy, right?
If you choose to get a One Country Pass you don´t need to worry about this, as the One Country Pass is valid for a whole month.For those who choose the Global Pass: you have to consider the length of the trip, as you need to know how long you want to travel – 15 days or 30 days?
what are travel days?The next step is a little harder and requires you to plan your trip more carefully. There are two options which influence your flexibility and the money you spend: If you go for the Continuous Pass you can take trains on every single day of the period your pass is valid for. This gives you maximum flexibility, but is also the most expensive option. You can save money by reducing the amount of travel days within the validity period, sacrificing a little of your flexibility. This option is called Flexi Pass. So again:
On travel days you are allowed to use the interrail transport system from 12 a.m(midnight). to 11:59 p.m.
For example: You buy a Global Pass valid for one month. With the continuous version you can travel on every single day of that month. With the Flexi Option you only have a certain amount of travel days within that month.
The Global Pass is available as a Flexi Pass with 5 travel days in a period of 15 days, or 7, 10 and 15 travel days within a month.
NOTE: Just traveling out of your country and back home, already costs two travel days. You cannot use the Interrail inside your home country, except for the out- and inbound trip.
If you use these cheap Flexi Passes, you have to plan your trip way more. However, if you can´t do that and want full flexibility, pick a Continuous Pass, which allows you to travel whenever you feel like it. These are available for 15, 22 and 30 days.
How to plan your route?
You don’t want to end up in stress! Compared to the USA, Russia or Africa, Europe seems to be small. However, don’t underestimate the travel time and distances.
A route like Amsterdam – Paris – Lisbon – Madrid – Barcelona – Marseille – Rome – Vienna – Munich – Amsterdam is almost impossible in 15 days unless you travel every day.
So check beforehand how long certain distances will take you and how long you want to stay in the cities.
Insider´s Tip: Add at least 3 variable days at the end for being more flexible and stress-free. This way you can stay somewhere longer, if you like the place. Don’t forget: You’re on vacation, it’s not about how many countries you can visit.
How to buy an Interrail pass?
You can easily buy your pass online HERE. There are several payment methods and the delivery of the ticket takes 1-2 weeks depending on the country. If you are unsure, whether the ticket will make it to your house in time for your last minute vacation, check the shipping calculator by Interrail.
NOTE: There are also fast deliveries available for an extra charge.
Make sure that your personal details and the first travel day are correct as a change will be difficult.
How to use the Interrail pass?
The ticket basically allows you to use any trains in the 30 (28) countries.
Unfortunately some trains are not free to hop on. In most high-speed and night trains you will need a mandatory seat reservation. The prices for those reservations vary from 3-12 €. If you travel on a budget, take regional (slower) trains, which don’t require a seat reservation.
To find trains without seat reservations, put your itinerary HERE or get the European Rail Timetable.
In addition to trains you can use ferries and public transportation in certain countries.
You also have to track the trains you are using – especially when you have the Flexi Pass. In this case you also need to write the travel days directly on your ticket.
- Choose between a Global Pass and a One Country Pass
- Choose the amount of days you want to travel
- Select a ticket according to your flexibility – Flexi Pass or Continuous Pass.
- Book your ticket online
- Recieve your ticket per post
Useful tips & tools in short
- Plan the trip roughly – don’t plan too much, but don’t loose track of your ending date!
- The 7 p.m. rule for Flexi Pass holders: save one travel day by taking a night train which starts after 7 p.m. and arrives at your destination after 4 a.m. This way you can use the arriving day as your travel day.
- Pay for an insurance in case the pass gets lost or stolen.
- The European Rail Timetable for easy access to timetables, routes and train fares without the need of internet.
- Use Interrail before you turn 26! You’ll have lower prices.
- Pack your backpack as light as possible.
Traveling around European cities and want to find information about accomodation, transportation, tours and activities. Check our section Breaking Cities and find more about it.
About the author
Nate is changing her life to a digital nomad in summer. When she travels, she is an adventure addict – always looking for the best spots off the beaten path. It doesn’t matter, if on a mountain or in the water, she loves the exploration.