Interrail vs Flixbus vs Flying – Which I Choose to Travel Europe

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  • Post last modified:January 6, 2021
Interrail vs Flixbus vs Flying – Which I Choose to Travel Europe

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If you’re reading this post, then you’ve probably decided to travel Europe but can’t quite work out the best way to get around.

Your main choices will be bus, train, flying or by road. As I’ve never actually been on a road trip, in this guide I’ll be comparing Interrail with Flying and Flixbus.

Quick Answer: If you’re looking for a quick answer, I’ll tell you that my favourite way of getting around is using Interrail as it’s a nice balance between price, convenience and speed. However, each method has a place and there’s no reason why you can’t combine all three during your trip.

Interrail vs Flying

I try to fly as little as possible unless I really have to. The biggest advantage of flying is generally that it is the fastest way to get from point A to B. But, in practice once you account for getting to/from the airports, check-in, security, immigration and all the other hassle that comes with flying, a 2 hour flight can easily take 6 or more hours from door to door.

The cost of flying can vary significantly and can actually be competitive compared to Interrail, provided you are willing to fly at unearthly hours or book months in advance. As I tend to prefer a casual approach to travelling, booking that far ahead always puts me off.

On top of this, the price is usually higher, there are baggage restrictions, it’s the worst mode of transport for the planet with 83kg of CO2 per person when the plane is full and you have to book. I try to keep my flying to longer journeys.

One of the biggest advantages of using the train network is that you can go to almost any city or town as long as it has a train station (most do). I also tend to find trains more comfortable than planes, there’s a chance you’ll get a row of seats to yourself and there’s WiFi if you’re addicted to your phone screen like me.

On the downside, trains can get over-packed meaning you’ll have to stand, it’s just the luck of the draw.

Where Flying Wins Compared to Interrail

Shortest journey time for longer journeys
Food + drink usually sold on board planes
Flight information easy to find online no matter who you are flying with. This isn’t always the case with trains, especially in Eastern Europe.
Prices can be comparable to Interrail if you book in advance or super early/late flights.
You’ll always get a seat as ticket numbers are limited to the number of seats available

Where Interrail Wins Over Flying

Highly flexible as usually you don’t need to book in advance, or if you do need to book it’s only a day or two.
No baggage limitations to worry about or the hassle of checking in and getting through security.
Every town and city has a train station so you can travel almost anywhere you like however flights are limited to major cities.
Train stations are usually central, whereas airports can be far outside the city centre.
Quicker for shorter journeys once you’ve accounted for all the hassle of flying.
Access to the internet while you travel.
Trains are better for the environment than flying.
An Interrail pass comes with loads of extra benefits including discounted hostels, tours, transport and more.

Is Flying or Interrail Better? In my view, both have a place and I will frequently use both flying and Interrail. Flying tends to be better for longer journeys such as travelling across large countries, or when time is limited such as long weekends. By comparison, I use Interrail when I want added flexibility to my trip and don’t want to commit to travel dates ahead of time.

Read More: Guide to Choosing an Interrail Pass


Interrail vs Flixbus

The final option is bus travel. Generally when travelling in Europe I find it most conveneient top use Flixbus. This is a service run by a German company that operates across 28 countries in Europe. It provides simple, low cost bus travel workign with regional partners in each of the countries.

This is the cheapest option out of the 3 here and the benefit of using Flixbus for all of your journeys is that you can purchase an InterFlix pass. This is a similar concept to Interrail passes, only with buses. At 5 trips for 99EUR (About £88), this is an absoloute bargain.

It’s slightly less flexible than Interrail which will allow you to jump on almost any train you like without notice (apart from a few exceptions where you need a seat reservation) as Interflix still requires you to book your bus in advance using the voucher codes given when you purchase the pass. Although it’s rare that the buses get fully booked so usually you’ll only need to book 1 or 2 days ahead.

The biggest downside of using buses is clearly the time it takes. A bus journey can sometimes take twice as long as a train journey and traffic can sometimes be unpredictable which can cause delay – this can be a problem if you’ve made plans at the other end. I’ve also had experience of Flixbus not turning up and we weren’t informed for hours after it should have arrived.

Where Flixbus Wins Over Interrail

Cheapest option
Consistency – there is consistency with Flixbus, you know that you’ll get a comfy seat with WiFi and a USB port every time, trains can vary by operator and class
You’ll always get a seat with Flixbus as you’ll choose this when booking, however with Interrail you could end up standing for all or part of your journey when it’s busy
With Flixbus you won’t ever have to pay extra charges after buying a ticket, however with Interrail you may need to buy reservations for night trains or high speed trains

Where Interrail Wins Against Flixbus

Trains are usually quicker than buses and more likely to be on time as you’ll never get held up in traffic
With an Interrail pass you can choose almost any start and end destination including significantly long distances. Flixbus is limited to the journeys they have available.
Available information at stations and onboard is generally better and more accurate for trains than buses
Trains are more reliable compared to buses – I’ve had cases of Flixbus not turning up however when Interrailing I’ve never had issues like that
No need to book in advance – unless you need to buy a reservation, you can just turn up and board the train
An Interrail pass comes with loads of extra benefits including discounted hostels, tours, transport and more.

Is Interrail or Flixbus Better? If you’re on a really tight budget, then Flixbus is almost always the cheaper option, however you will be limited to the routes on offer and will need to book a seat a couple of days ahead of your journey. For me personally, I tend to prefer Interrail as it’s more flexible and the benefits are worth the slight cost premium.


Costs of Interrail vs Flying vs Flixbus

Before summing up, I thought I’d do a little comparison of the costs for each mode of transport:

Flixbus: This is usually the cheapest option with journeys costing between £10-30 and the option to buy 5 trips for £88 (equivalent to £17.60 each).

Interrail: The cost of interrail significantly decreases per trip as you buy longer passes. A pass with 3 travel days will cost around £50 per journey, whereas a pass with 15 travel days will cost around £22.50 per journey. This is based on the Global Pass for travelling between countries, single country passes can be cheaper.

Flying: It’s hard to put a cost on flying as it varies significantly, a flight could cost as little as £12 if you book in advance with a low cost airline, or could cost triple figures at peak times.


Summary

My preference is usually Interrail as it best suits my preferred style of travel, however each has a role which can be summarised as:

  • Flixbus – low cost option, great for shorter journeys
  • Interrail – good value if you’re travelling for longer periods and a great all-round option
  • Flying – if you’re limited by time and able to book in advance then flying is best

I hope you’ve found this guide to be valuable.


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