Interrailing was once the preserve of students making the most of their long summer holidays, but these days it’s an option for all. Interrailing is one of the best ways to see Europe and with flexible ticket options, you can choose how long you go for and what countries you want to focus on.
Here are 15 reasons why Interrail is the best way to travel Europe.
1. Experiencing the Journey
“I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.
So wrote Robert Louis Stevenson and who are we to disagree?
In an age of information at your fingertips and low-cost air travel, the distances between places have seemed to shrink. You can arrive at an airport terminal in a totally different country with no real sense of the leap in cultures you’ve just made.
Travelling by train lets you slow down and experience the journey for what it is, with time to think and appreciate national and regional differences as they unfold before you.
And whether it’s a week-long trip or a whole month, Interrail brings a real spirit of adventure and discovery to European travel.
2. Travelling Long Distances by Train
There’s no doubting that trains are physically slower than air travel, but they can certainly still cover long distances relatively quickly. For short to medium trips, for example, Paris to Munich (a journey of six hours by high-speed train), once you’ve dispensed with all the mucking about in airport terminals and security, the train journey isn’t actually that much longer.
And there’s a real feeling of satisfaction about crossing international borders by rail. When the border guards come on board to check your tickets you know, you’re really travelling.
3. Travel in Comfort
Interrailing is probably the most comfortable way to see Europe. It beats long-distance coaches or driving by yourself hands down. There’s also much more legroom and scope to get up and move around than you get with planes.
Add in a couchette or sleeper compartment, and you can also get a pretty decent night’s sleep as well. And you can even book first-class Interrail travel if you want an extra level of comfort.
Plus don’t forget that many services have a pretty decent buffet and restaurant cars, too. You might think you only get this level of comfort in western European train travel, but that’s not always the case. Take the Bucharest to Budapest overnight train – it boasts comfortable sleeper carriages, clean toilets and an excellent restaurant car serving up delicious hot food to order.
4. Meet Fellow Travellers
Interrailing is a great way to meet people. Everybody seems much friendlier when you travel by train. Maybe it’s because it’s a more relaxed way to go and that you’re bound to meet plenty of like-minded people keen to experience the continent with a sense of adventure.
The physical layout of train carriages also means that there’s more chance for you to get chatting. It’s an excellent opportunity to share stories and travellers tips and find out first hand about some of the highlights of the destinations you’re travelling to. And it’s not just fellow travellers you’re likely to meet; train journeys are also a great way to meet locals.
5. Flexible Ticket Options
In the early days of Interrail, you could only buy one basic type of ticket – a one-month pass covering all the countries signed up to Interrail. The advantage of this was that you basically had unlimited travel almost everywhere in Europe for a full month with few restrictions. But not everyone can take advantage of this, so these days Interrail offers more flexible ticket options.
Choose a pass letting you go to all countries in the Interrail network or focus on one country. And choose from a range of continuous ticket durations or opt for a flexi pass where you have unlimited travel on a fixed number of days.
6. Grand Tour or In-Depth Discovery
Because of the flexibility of Interrail tickets, you can choose the style and pace of your adventure.
If you’re a first-time Interrailer and have plenty of time, you could take a grand tour of Europe. Tick off as many countries and capitals as you can in a month – a whirlwind adventure that will give you a great overall flavour of the continent.
Or plan a regional tour, for example taking a route around the Balkans or maybe exploring Scandinavia by rail.
It’s also really rewarding to spend your time getting to know one country intimately. Travel further afield from its capital and main sights to explore its countryside and regions by train. It’s a fantastic way to get immersed in the local culture.
Whichever style of trip you take, Interrail offers you the flexibility to turn your plans into rail reality.
7. Not Just for Students and Young People
You don’t have to be young or a student to buy an Interrail pass. Interrail passes are available to all. Ticket prices do vary depending on your age, but they are still great value for anyone. You’ll find a great mix of ages and nationalities Interrailing around Europe.
Interrailing for the second time is widespread, and anyone over 60 can get special discounted ‘senior’ tickets. These are 10% less than regular adult tickets.
What’s more, Interrail has recently made it easier for families to travel as up to two children up to the age of 11 can travel for free with one adult. An overnight train trip is a great adventure for kids, and you can book a whole couchette for the family.
8. Cost-Effective Travel
Interrail travel is great-value. If you’re making a simple one-stop journey in Europe, then you’re likely to be better off buying an individual ticket, but if you have more complicated, multi-stop trips then you’re almost always better off with an Interrail pass.
If you’re looking for some downtime at the beach, you can swap the pricey French Riviera for Bulgaria or other beaches in Eastern Europe. With the freedom of an Interrail pass, you can travel to places where your budget will go further.
And while individual low-cost airline tickets may be relatively cheap these days, making the sort of journeys that an Interrail pass lends itself too would soon have you racking up a monster credit card bill.
9. Massive Variety and Contrasts
Europe boasts 50-plus countries and dozens of languages and myriad cultural differences. It may be just on our doorstep, but there is a world of difference and variety just waiting to be explored. From the sunny shores of Greece to the glaciers of Norway, all can be discovered on an Interrail trip.
And it’s not just the differences between countries that are to be celebrated, the regional differences within countries can be huge. For example, the beaches of the south of France and the windswept Brittany coasts are miles apart, but both incredibly beautiful and easy to reach by train. Italy’s regional cuisine is to be savoured, and the patchwork of cultures and sights in the Balkans is truly remarkable.
10. Broadens Your View of the World
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
– Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad.
Travel is a great leveller, and it indeed broadens your view of the world. Meet new people. Discover other cultures and ways of doing things. Revel in the small differences that make Europe so fascinating.
11. Get to Know Lesser-Known Parts of Europe
Air travel lends itself to visiting capital cities and big regional hubs. It’s all too easy to miss some of the unsung cities and towns and delve into the countryside.
Because Europe’s rail networks are so extensive, you can explore the continent’s hidden corners with ease. Some countries have particularly comprehensive rail networks, for example, Germany and France, which will take you far off the beaten track.
12. Arrive in the Heart of the Action
Train stations are almost always in the centre of town, so Interrailing takes straight into the heart of the action. Dispense with airport shuttle buses and flying to the obscure airports’ miles away from your actual destination that budget airlines often operate to.
Stepping off a long-distance train onto one of Europe’s grand old railway stations in the centre of a new city is one of the great pleasures of Interrailing. A few more steps and you’re in the thick of it, and there are also going to be plenty of hotels, hostels and places to eat within easy reach of the station.
If you’re on a tight schedule and only have time for a few hours in one destination before moving on, the fact that you’re dead central means you can just drop your bags in the station’s left luggage facilities and get out and get a flavour of the city in a short space of time.
13. Avoid the Misery of European Airports
Europe’s airports include some of the world’s busiest. And if you’re travelling in the summer, they only get worse. And in the enhanced security measures that we now have to go through you’re looking at longer check-in times and long queues. There’s nothing worse than a long delay when stuck at a busy airport, where all the facilities seem designed to suck up your money.
Travelling through Europe by train means you can avoid all this, and in many cases, you don’t even need to show your passport as you cross international borders. In other cases, border guards will come on board and check your passports while you’re still on the move.
Avoid lengthy airport transfers and added costs and travel straight to your destination.
14. Freedom to Change Your Trip as You Go
Some of us get almost as much of a kick of planning an overseas trip as they do experiencing it. And that’s great – an Interrail trip gives you plenty of scope for poring over maps and checking international rail timetables to your heart’s content. But Interrailing also gives you the ultimate flexibility.
You may get an insider tip of a cool regional city off the standard tourist trail. Well, Interrail means you can rip up the itinerary and head where the fancy takes you. There’s no stopping you from roaming about as you wish or sticking to a fixed plan if that’s more your style.
15. Get to Experience Some of the World’s Fastest Trains
Aside from east Asia, Europe has the fastest high-speed trains in the world. With an Interrail pass, you get to travel on most of these for a small reservation fee of €10 or less.
If you’re a train fanatic, you’ll love the feeling of travelling at high speed through the European countryside from city to city. Likely, you’ve never gone on trains so fast and with such modern facilities.
Interrail themselves list 15 high-speed trains with the prices for reservation fees and how you can book with them.
Surely You Don’t Need Another Reason…
All told, Interrailing is simplicity itself. Whatever your age and whatever style of traveller you are, you’ll love the sense of freedom and way you can experience the places you visit by train. So what are you waiting for? Book the pass that suits you, pack a sense of adventure and head out to Europe’s fantastic rail network for one of the best holidays you’re likely to have.
Image credits: poeloq, rbos, environmentblog, davidrosenphotography, pitel
Meg Jerrard says
Totally agree with all points – train travel is the best way to get around Europe – I loved that it allowed me to see much more of the countryside of each new destination than I would have otherwise seen having caught a flight 🙂
Chris P King says
Thanks for your comments. Glad you enjoy travelling by train, particularly in Europe. It’s such a diverse continent and you really miss out if you’re spending travel time in airports. As well as the countryside you get to meet lots of different people which is one of the joys of train travel. 🙂