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Europe’s train network is incredibly extensive and it is no wonder, that the train is a popular mode of transport for locals and travellers alike. The question is though, is it cheaper to get an InterRail pass, or just buy the tickets individually?
During the past few weeks, I have been inter railing through Europe, on a quest to answer just this question. The folks over at InterRail kindly provided me with a 30 day continuous global pass, in return for a honest review. The thing is, that for the route I had in mind, the 30 day pass was overkill and would not be the best choice. I therefore decided to compare the price of a 10-day InterRail global pass (valid 22 days) with the prices of the individual tickets, as this is the pass I would have chosen for myself.
First off, travelling with InterRail was an amazing experience. Train travel in Europe is very comfortable, there are connections to just about anywhere (and if there aren’t, the InterRail pass covers a lot of busses as well ), and the times are frequent and well organized. I was able to gaze out at the beautiful passing landscape, experience some parts of the countries that I wouldn’t have seen if I had chosen to fly and I was able to work comfortably in the spacious seats.
So here are the results from just about three weeks on the road with InterRail:
All the prices are the full fares, without reductions or specials, calculated for a 24-year old traveller. Date: 28.11.2013
So is InterRail worth it? On my chosen route from Basel, Switzerland to Split, Croatia, getting a 10-day InterRail pass would have saved me 172 Euros. That’s quite a lot, considering that I spent most of the time in Eastern Europe, my train rides were usually not too long and only took one overnight train.
Even with the reservation fees, an InterRail pass will save you huge amounts of money, since individual tickets can be ridiculously high. So if you’re travelling through the big cities of Western and Central Europe, travel long distances and/or plan on sticking to the high speed and sleeper lines, InterRail is DEFINITELY worth it. A hundred times over.
If, on the other hand, you want to explore the more obscure places, want to travel in Eastern Europe, plan on taking regional trains and don’t want a lot of travel days (aka want spend more days in one destination), I’d advise you do a few calculations before buying an InterRail pass. In such cases, it might just be cheaper for you to buy the individual tickets. As you can see in the spreadsheet above, in Eastern Europe, even longish train-rides tend to be much cheaper.
But even if the prices between InterRail and individual tickets happen to be in a similar range, it might still be worth it to get a train pass. The InterRail pass allows for a lot of freedom. If there are no reservations required, one can just walk up to a train and hop on. It doesn’t get much easier than that! InterRail can also save you a ton of time. Trying to book train tickets online can be, depending on the country, basically impossible in Europe. Already having all your tickets in your pocket and not having to worry about locating ticket counters, sold out seats or language-barriers is a huge advantage. To make sure you get your seats on trains that require reservations, I recommend doing all of them at once at the first train station you get to.
The drawbacks of travelling with InterRail are, that you do have to keep in mind that there can be some extra fees, like mandatory reservations, which are not included in the InterRail pass. Travelling with InterRail also requires a fair amount of research and planning. In order to decide which pass suits you best, you will need to have a pretty fixed route in mind and research prices thoroughly. Spontaneous travel becomes much more difficult.
All things considered, InterRail is a very cool concept. Although it might not be an option for absolutely everyone, it probably is a good choice for most travellers who want to explore Europe by train.