Using an Interrail pass to ride trains around Europe has been a rite of passage for travelers since the 1970s, back when the Berlin Wall was still standing and ABBA was topping the charts.
Of course, much has changed in Europe since then, but the Interrail pass endures as the ultimate ticket to ride. Here’s a guide to get you started on an Interrailing adventure around the continent.
Interrail passes give you freedom to explore Europe by train © Elijah Lovkoff / Shutterstock
What is an Interrail pass?
An Interrail pass is a ticket that allows European travelers to roam the continent by train and ferry for a set number of days or months. (The train pass for non-Europeans is called Eurail, but the prices and premise are the same.) Interrail’s Global Pass is valid for travel to more than 40,000 destinations in 33 countries in Europe, whilst its One Country Pass is valid for a single nation of your choosing.
In years gone by, Interrail passes were a physical paper ticket and whilst you can still buy and use paper passes – you fill out the fields for your outbound and inbound destinations as well as your dates of travel – Interrail passes are now available as a mobile app. As reservations are required for some trains across Europe, such as high-speed and night trains, plus many trains in France, Italy and Spain, using Interrail’s Rail Planner app takes care of this for you.
What countries can I visit with an Interrail pass?
The Interrail Global Pass is valid on participating train networks in Austria, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Montenegro, the Netherlands, North Macedonia, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey.
Note the word “participating” – if you’re set on a particular train journey, make sure that route is included in the pass before you buy. The Interrail website shows all of the available routes.
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Which Interrail Pass should I buy?
Interrail’s Trip Planner can help you determine which pass is best for you, but if you’re looking to cover more ground, then the Global Pass is the obvious choice. Travelers looking to explore one destination in detail, meanwhile, should opt for a One Country Pass.
Note that you cannot travel around your country of residence with the Global Pass. However, you can use it for one outbound and one inbound from/to your home country of residence. A One Country Pass does allow you to travel around your country of residence.
Interrail pass prices depend on your age and how long you’ll travel © MariusLtu / Getty Images
How much does an Interrail pass cost?
The cost of an Interrail pass depends on several factors, including how old you are and how many days you want to travel. Youth travelers, which Interrail defines as ages 12 to 27, pay €194 for the cheapest Global Pass, which allows train travel for four days in a one-month period. The youth price for a three-month unlimited pass is €711. Adults aged 28 to 59 pay €258 and €947 respectively for the same passes.
Although adults pay more, they can travel with up to two children (up to 11 years old) for free, making an Interrail pass an affordable way for families to see Europe. Interrail offers discounts for seniors (travelers 60 years and older), who pay €232 and €853 for the same passes.
Interrail passes have other costs too, which can sting if you don’t do your research. For example, the Global Pass can be used for only one outbound and one inbound journey in your home country. Then there’s the issue of seat reservations, which are compulsory on long-distance trains in France, Italy, Portugal, Spain, and Sweden, and on the Eurostar between London and Europe. Seat reservation fees start at around €10 a journey, but can be as much as €35, potentially adding many euros to the cost of your trip.
Is an Interrail pass worth it?
If you’re only going to make a handful of train trips, you might be better off buying individual advance tickets rather than an Interrail pass, says rail expert Mark Smith, better known as The Man in Seat 61.
“If you only want to make one or two journeys, and you know when you are going to make them, just go online and book your tickets as far in advance as possible to get the cheapest rate,” Smith says. “If you want to explore Europe extensively and have the freedom to wake up in the morning and say ‘where shall we go today?’ you are in Interrail pass territory.”
Although booking individual advance tickets can also work out cheaper than an Interrail pass for long itineraries, Smith advises against doing this. “You only need one landslide, fire or national rail strike to bring the whole house of cards crashing down,” he warns.
Can I use an Interrail pass on night trains?
You can use an Interrail pass to ride night trains, but more often than not Interrail pass holders will need to pay an additional fee to reserve a cabin. The Night Train section of the Interrail website has more information on Europe’s sleeper trains, which often get booked up in advance. If you want to ride Europe’s night trains, it’s essential to plan ahead.
What are the benefits of having an Interrail pass?
Beyond train travel, Interrail passes also allow free or discounted travel on European ferries, meaning travelers can go island hopping in Greece, Spain, and Italy. There’s a dedicated Interrail Greek Island Pass, which allows visitors to travel around 53 islands in Greece for four or six days within one month. Interrail pass holders can also get discounts on tourist attractions, bicycle rentals, bus journeys, accommodations, and SIM cards. There’s a huge list on Interrail’s website under Pass Benefits and Discounts.