How to Plan an Interrail Trip

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  • Post last modified:May 3, 2024
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Interrailing is having somewhat of a resurgence as people of all ages take to the tracks across Europe, from gap years students to retirees, interrail is for people of all ages.

With a single ticket, it’s possible to travel across Europe’s extensive train network as well as access to buses and ferries in some parts of the continent.

Pro Tip: If you’re having your pass delivered to the UK, it’s cheaper to buy your pass through Interrail by National Rail. They also offer faster delivery and theft protection for 40% OFF- See Passes.

Remember, if you are not European, you’ll need a Eurail pass instead of an Interrail pass!

Step One: Planning Your Trip

Choosing Your Route

The first step to planning your interrail trip is route planning. But with almost infinite options, it can seem daunting at first.

Luckily, your plan doesn’t need to be too rigid. One of the biggest benefits of travelling with an interrail pass over other forms of transport is that you can remain flexible on your travel plans until the very last minute and it will never cost you more.

I could list countless times when I’ve changed plans at a moment’s notice after meeting fellow interrailers heading in another direction.

Here are some tips for planning your Interrail route:

  • Write a list of destinations that interest you the most.
  • Mark the destinations on a map, I always use Google Maps. As you find each destination, click ‘save’ and create a dedicated map to keep them in.
  • Use blogs to find other destinations to add to your itinerary – I have specific interrailing guides to Switzerland, France, Italy, and Spain that might help.

I’d recommend planning out a rough route that covers the key attractions or activities you have identified. But don’t book your accommodation too far ahead of time.

I typically make my bookings between 1 to 3 days ahead of arriving in each destination.

This is enough time to acquire seat reservations and book a good hostel. But, it also allows you to remain sporadic and easily change your plans if required.

Choosing An Interrail Backpack

Your backpack is the most important piece of gear you’ll be travelling with so put lots of thought into your choice. You can use a suitcase if desired, but I’d always recommend a backpack instead.

It’s important to pick something that is comfortable as you could find situations where you’ll be carrying it for long distances. In terms of size, you’ll want to look at around 40-60L.

I always travel with a 40L backpack, this holds about 7-10 days of clothes and I use washing facilities in the hostel to make them last my entire trip.

I highly recommend the Osprey Farpoint 40, it is comfy to carry and opens like a suitcase which makes it very easy to find your belongings. This is one of the most common interrailing backpacks so ensure you tie something recognisable to the front so that you don’t get mixed up.

Another selling point of this backpack is that it fits the requirements for cabin baggage of most airlines around the world.

If you will be travelling in colder parts of Europe, a 60L backpack might be more suitable for the extra layers..

What to Pack?

Remember to pack light. It’s never hard to find washing facilities on your travels. Most hostels or hotels will offer this service for a small fee.

I’ve put together a full interrail packing list so that you don’t forget anything.

Interrailing Costs

The cost of your trip can vary depending upon which countries and destinations you visit. For most interrailers, I’d recommend staying in hostels which are widely available and much more budget-friendly.

If you’ll be staying in hostels and living frugally, I’d recommend budgeting around €40-100 per day in Western Europe, or around €30-60 per day in Eastern Europe.

These might seem like wide ranges, but there tends to be a huge price difference between tourist-driven capital cities and smaller cities or towns.

Use the lower number for smaller destinations and the higher number for popular hotspots.

These costs do not include pre-trip expenses such as your Interrail pass, gear, and travel insurance.

Step Two: On The Road

Rail Planner App

The Rail Planner app from Interrail is a great resource as it will tell you which trains you can travel on and which ones require reservations – more on reservations below.

The Rail Planner app is available on both Android and iPhone.

Some trains only allocate a certain number of seats to Interrail passengers and require a reservation, these are usually high speed trains and night trains. Sometimes these may be free, other times you may need to pay for the reservations.

For some countries you can book your reservation easily via the Rail Planner app or the Interrail website for a €2 booking fee.

TOP TIP: If you want to avoid reservations, there is almost always an alternative route that will not require a reservation. These will usually be slower local trains and you may need to change multiple times.

Using the Trains

Once you have your pass, using it is very simple. If you have a continuous pass, you can simply show your pass on any valid train during the date range shown on the pass.

If you have a flexi pass, you’ll need to fill in the date of travel on the travel pass.

This should be done before your tickets are inspected, however, I generally wait until the first ticket inspector comes along on the off chance that they never check my tickets.

You will also be asked to show any reservation on trains that require this.

Train Reservations

There are some trains that require advance bookings, these are usually high speed or over night trains.

  • For high speed trains, the reservation fees are usually around €10-20.
  • For overnight trains, the reservation fees for a couchette bed (similar to a shared dorm) are usually around €20-40.
  • You can also book a single/double sleeper with reservation fees usually around €70-100.

Find out which trains require reservations using the Interrail Rail Planner app. You can book reservations at the stations or in some countries through the app and Interrail website (€2 booking fee).

I’ve Arrived, Now What?

Getting to Know a City

Whenever I arrive in a new city, after having a wonder around by myself I always look to do some kind of walking tour.

This is a great way to get a little extra information about the culture and history that you may have missed when exploring by yourself.

Often in the larger cities there are free walking tours, a few companies that offer tours across Europe are Sandermans, Strawberry Tours and Generation as well as many smaller independent tours in each city. My personal favourite is Sandermans.

If you’re struggling to find a free walking tour, here are a few other ways you can get to know a city:

  • Rick Steves Audio Tours for Europe – I love the Rick Steves audio tours, they’re always entertaining and are put together very well to help you navigate your way.
  • AirBnB Experiences – This is an up and coming part of AirBnB’s offering and I expect it to continue growing. You’ll find all sorts of experiences such as guided tours, classes and entertainment, usually hosted by locals or expats.

Ready to book? Visit Interrail by National Rail for the best prices if you are having your pass delivered to the UK or for delivery to other European countries.

Remember! Non-European citizens will need to book a Eurail pass instead of an Interrail pass.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you go Interrailing at 17?

Yes, it is possible to go Interrailing at 17 without an adult but there may be a few limitations.

Most airlines will allow you to fly without an adult from 16 so getting to your starting destination should not be a problem.

Drinking will be the biggest problem you encounter as most European have a legal drinking age of 18.

However, there are a surprising number of countries that allow you to buy beer and wine from age 16. – check this map.

It is unlikely that you’ll be able to go clubbing if you’re under 18.

You will need to check that your hostel/hotel allows 16 or 17 year olds to stay without a parent.

This information is usually on HostelWorld or under the ‘house rules’ section. They usually fall in to these 3 categories:

  • 16 or 17 year olds can’t stay without an adult
  • 16 or 17 year olds can stay without an adult but aren’t allowed in shared dorms
  • 16 or 17 year olds can stay without an adult without restrictions

TOP TIP: Take a letter signed by your parent or guardian with permission to travel on your own. Ask them to include the dates you’ll be travelling alone AND take a copy of their passport or ID in addition to your own.

Is Interrailing affected by Brexit?

No, the UK remains a full member of the Interrail scheme so there will be no impact on Interrailing itself. However, keep in mind that there may eventually be requirements for Brits to get a visa to visit Europe.

Ready to book? Visit Interrail by National Rail for the best prices if you are having your pass delivered to the UK or for delivery to other European countries.

Remember! Non-European citizens will need to book a Eurail pass instead of an Interrail pass.

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Kieren is the avid traveller behind the blog. His adventures have included Interrailing through Europe, road tripping the US and backpacking SE Asia.