Ultimate Guide to Planning an Interrail Trip

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  • Post last modified:May 5, 2020

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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.

Choosing Your Interrail Pass

When considering which Interrail pass to buy, there are 3 things you need to consider:

1: Global Vs One-Country Pass?

A GLOBAL PASS is valid in 31 different countries across Europe.

Countries include Austria, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Montenegro, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey.

Passes are not valid for travel in your own country of residence, however the global pass does include one outbound and one inbound journey to help you start and end your trip.

A ONE-COUNTRY PASS is only valid in one country which you choose when purchasing it.

This is perfect if you want to spend a longer amount of time discovering a single country.

One-country passes are not available in Bosnia-Herzegovina or Montenegro. Also, it’s worth knowing that The Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg share a one-country pass called the Benelux pass.

2: Continuous vs Flexi Pass?

A CONTINUOUS PASS is when your pass is valid from the start date right through to the end date.

You don’t need to do anything, just hop on the train with your interrail pass, passport and the relevant reservations.

A FLEXI PASS gives you a set number of travel days within an overall period.

For example the ‘5 days within a month’ pass means you can choose 5 travel days within the month that your pass is valid. Most people will want to choose this.

On your travel days, you can travel as much as you like on valid trains (provided you have any relevant reservations).

You do not need to decide which days will be travel days in advance. When you decide to have a travel day, simply write the date in one of the spaces on the interrail pass before getting on the train (and ensure you have any required reservations).

3: How long do you want to go for?

The final decision is the length that the pass is valid:

If you have opted for a CONTINUOUS PASS, the options range from 15 DAYS UP TO 3 MONTHS.

For a FLEX PASS, options start from 3 DAYS WITHIN 1 MONTH UP TO 15 DAYS WITHIN TWO MONTHS


Officially you need an ID card or passport, but I’ve never needed to show these with my pass. I expect this is only if you’re suspected of breaking interrail rules such as travelling in your own country or not being a European citizen.


Planning Your Trip

Here are my top tips for planning an interrail trip:

Route Planning

Choosing your route can be a little daunting at first, but 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’d recommend planning out a rough interrail route that covers the key attractions or activities that you’d like to do but booking ahead is not required.

I normally make any bookings between 1-3 days ahead of my planned travel to ensure I can get any seat reservations and a good hostel.

This allows you to remain a little sporadic so that you can stay longer in destinations you really like and move on quicker from those you dislike.

The Best Backpack

You’re going to want to make sure that you have a suitable backpack for your adventure.

When choosing a backpack, 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 (assuming that you don’t require camping equipment).

One of the best brands around is Osprey and their Farpoint 40 is perfect for a typical interrailing trip where you’ll be staying in hostels.

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

What to Pack?

Remember to pack light. It’s never hard to find a launderette on your travels and most hostels or hotels will offer this service.

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


On The Road

Using the Trains

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 is supposed to be done before your tickets are inspected but I generally wait until the first ticket inspector comes along on the off chance that they never check my tickets.

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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 app – details below.

You can book reservations at the stations or in some countries through the Interrail website (€2 booking fee).

Interrail app

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.

The Interrail app is a great resources as it will tell you which trains require reservations.

For some countries you can book your reservation easily via the Interrail website for a €2 booking fee. This cannot currently be done in the app.

TOP TIP: If you want to avoid reservations and the fees, 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.


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.

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 Booking.com 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?

The UK will remain a full member of the Interrail scheme so there will be no impact on Interrailing itself.

However, there may be changes to visa requirements for UK citizens travelling to the EU or EU citizens travelling to the UK, these will come in to force from 1st Jan 2021 and will become clear as we get closer to that date.




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Kieren

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