I don’t usually provide a detailed breakdown of costs and plans for my trips because they can so quickly go out of date. But I thought you may find it useful to see how I constructed my InterRail journey, including a few hints of what you can do to get the best possible value from your tickets. All of the prices here were correct as of March 2023
How much does it cost?
I chose a one month Global Pass which covers all of the European countries in the InterRail / Eurail network – that’s 33 countries. The full price for this in First Class is €670, but I bought my pass in a flash sale for €447. The price for Second Class is €528, There are a range of options if you want to chose a different timescale or a varying combination of countries. Full details are on the Eurail Website.
Are their supplements or restrictions?
Some high speed and long distance services require compulsory reservations. The Eurail planner app is extremely useful as it allows you to search the timetable and will indicate whether you need a reservation.
For my trip reservations were compulsory for :
- Eurostar : London to Paris Gare Du Nord – Approx €40 for First Class
- TGV : Paris Gare De Lyon to Lyon Part Dieu – Approx €25 for First class
- Euro Cities : Geneva to Salzburg, Zagreb to Budapest, Budapest to Prague – €4 each booked through the OBB Website
Do you need to plan everything in advance?
No. The beauty of the InterRail system is that you can travel on just about any train you like at any time. The Eurail app has a planning tool which gives you a rough indication of the destinations you can visit – but one you have started your journey you can mix and match as you wish.
It all depends on how adventurous you’re feeling and your overall budget for things like accommodation. Hotel booking sites often offer discounts, but many also give you the chance to cancel within a set period, usually 48 hours in advance. Factors like this will determine just how flexible you can be.
How reliable are the timetables?
As described above, the Eurail Planner app can be useful in charting out your trip. However, I found the the Austrian Railways (OBB) website to be the most up to date. It also publishes timetables up to three months in advance – and clearly shows whether connections involve any long waits or transfers by road. Bare in mind that short notice cancellations don’t always show up, so it’s always useful to get to your first station of the day in good time.
OBB also allows you to secure your seat by making a reservation for about €3 per journey – even when reservations are’t compulsory. For my trip, I found this a useful extra assurance as some of the cross border services were quite busy. Depending on the country, there may not be lots of First Class seats, for example.
What about sleeper trains?
A number of overnight services still operate throughout Europe but you will have to pay a supplement if you want a compartment with a bed, as opposed to just a seat. I didn’t opt for sleeper trains on this journey as I had already budgeted for hotels along the way.
While sleepers can be a great way of getting the most out of your day exploring a particular city, you’ll also need to think about where to leave your bags. Many railway stations do have left luggage services (or their are often locker stores nearby). However, once you build in the various supplements and charges for storage, it may be just as cheap to stay in a budget hotel.
Also bear in mind that if you are staying in hotels, an early morning arrival by train may mean that your room isn’t ready. Some larger cities may have lounges or even showers at railway stations – so again, it may be worth upgrading your ticket if you want to use these facilities. That said, lounge access may be restricted to certain travellers.
Are there passport checks?
As many of the countries in the Eurail network are in the European Union, you’ll almost never have your passport checked once you leave the UK. Even those that aren’t in the EU – such as Switzerland – have Schengen arrangements allowing free travel between neighbouring countries. During my trip I witnesses the occasional group of police checking trains near the border, presumably on the lookout for known suspects.
That said, it is important that you keep your passport close to hand at all times. Technically, railway staff are supposed to check your ID along with your pass. But again, this isn’t something that happened during my trip.
Is it safe?
In a word, yes! Like any trip, it’s important to be aware of your surroundings and keep valuables secure. On almost every train I used it was possible to pay for snacks and drinks with a credit card, which meant only carrying a very small amount of cash. Make sure your passport is somewhere practical but secure. Larger bags and suitcases will often need to be stored at the end of a carriage, so of there are lots of stopping points along the way it’s worth occasionally checking on your stuff from time to time.
The biggest challenge I found was at crowded railway stations, especially during rush hour. Be aware that the platform you arrive at may not be on the same level as the exit or your connecting train. In some countries, train staff will be able to tell you where to head when you exit. Although many terminals are well staffed by police or security, be prepared to encounter people asking for money or generally trying to grab your attention. The best advice is to walk with purpose at all times, even if you’re not quite sure where you’re going.
Apart from the InterRail ticket itself (described above), prices for accommodations and food/drink varied widely.
Hotels : I opted for 2 or 3 star hotels which were within close walking distance of the city’s main rail way station. The cheapest (perhaps surprisingly) was around €52 per night in Salzburg, the most expensive was €112 per night in Frankfurt. All rates included breakfast.
Drinks : The price of drinks will very much depend on your taste. I found a perfectly acceptable beer for as little as £1.58 in Plzen (Czech Republic) rising to £6.90 for a Guinness in Munich. Even in places like Zagreb, be prepared for an average of €3-4.
Food : A main course in much of Eastern Europe will come in at about €10 per head – you can do it for less by opting for street vendors or cafes in places like market halls (eg Budapest). It’s worth noting that food and drink on board trains is relatively expensive – and shops within main railways stations can be pricey. My tip is to find a convenience store nearby and load up on snacks.
Additional transport costs : if you’re visiting a larger city you may need to use trams or the subway to get around. A 24 hour ticket in Zagreb costs just under €4, while in Frankfurt you’ll pay €17 for 48 hours, though this also includes discounts for museums and attractions. In my own experience, you’ll never need to use a taxi, unless you’re visiting somewhere remote or planning to stay out (very) late.
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