It was 1999 (yes millenials, last century, what happened) when I took my first Interrail. It was one of those experiences that imprints a personality. Regardless of your travelling style, there’s something special about the way you cover miles and miles of moorland, towns and cities using Interrail.
That summer Gemma, Marisa, Ivan and I travelled from Spain to Istanbul (and back) for a month. The fact is that I liked it and years later I repeated it, this time in Scandinavia. Although it was very different, again it was a wonderful trip, full of discoveries.
Twenty years later I’m thinking about getting back on the road. So, since we’re compiling information, how about we share it with you? What it’s all about, how it works. And we’ll also give you a couple of suggestions about cities to visit using Interrail (which you might otherwise overlook).
REMEMBER THAT: There are a lot of travel guides about Interrail. We would suggest you get carried away, but there’s a Caty Ross atlas (with a free Kindle version) that might come in handy.
What is Interrail and why is it so cool?
First of all, what is….very simple. Interrail Pass (which is officially called that way) is nothing more than a physical train ticket that is used to travel across 31 European countries (see map) for a certain period of time.
One ticket for each traveler
There are several types of tickets. To put it bluntly, we have:
- Global pass. It allows you to travel through any country, either first or second class. There are two modalities:
- Continuous: You can board the train at any time during the validity of the ticket. If you have chosen a one-month Global pass, for example, you can travel every day of that month.
- Flexible: You choose a certain number of days in advance to travel within the validity period of the ticket. A 5-day pass in a month, for example.
- One Country pass. You can only travel in one country, whichever you want.
- Premium pass. It includes advantages, the main one being not having to make a reservation (see below).
TRAVELLER TIP: This way of travelling offers you more options than you can imagine. You can take advantage of a pass of a few days over an extended period for long occasional trips, for example or give yourself some luxury for a minimum fee.
It has its conditions…
However, this type of ticket has its own rules. Basically:
- You can’t use them to travel in your country of residence (except to get in and out at the beginning and end of the trip).
- If you are not a European resident, what you need is an Eurail pass.
- It is your responsibility to fill in your travel details. Check everything here…
- Many European trains (high speed, night, Intercity), depending on the country, require a reservation; and it is not included in the ticket.
What’s so good about it?
Almost everyone who has done it talks wonderfully about touring cities and cities using Interrail. Why? For several reasons.
- First, it offers almost complete flexibility for the traveller who likes to follow his own path or improvise.
- The second, the train is a very comfortable means of transport that allows you to visit a whopping 40,000 destinations.
- And the third, it’s very cheap!
OUR ADVICE: Speaking of price, getting all the juice out of Interrail goes through sleeping on the train, saving a lot on lodging (at the expense of your own pocket, perhaps); look for long night routes to spend the night (what the pros call “the accordion”).
What every interrail traveller should know
We’ve already told you the basics. Now, a couple of very elementary tips, in every sense:
- Prepare a bit. Years ago nobody knew what this was, the reviewers didn’t even know. Today, yes. Take a good look at the types of trains you use and find out about the conditions to avoid disappointments.
- The railway microuniverse. The stations and their schedules, the wagons and their compartments… Get ready to dive into this world, and get ready for slight but significant changes as you cross each border.
- Carry little luggage. You’re going to tour countless cities using Interrail, there aren’t always lockers, some people don’t get along with the wheels. Take a backpack with the essentials. Seriously.
- Don’t be in a hurry. If something characterises the train, especially in some countries and routes, it is that it is slow. Comfortable, friendly, but slow. Here, more than ever, the journey is as important as the destination.
What cities to visit using Interrail?
Some people have asked me, when talking about the subject, the cities through which the Interrail passes. It’s not as typical a question as it might seem, because although it goes wherever you want, we can point out some “Interrail cities”.
Be it because they are railway knots, because they are unknown destinations that will take your breath away or because the itineraries that lead to them, these are our “recommended Interrail cities”:
- Ljubljana: the East Gate is a mandatory stop to warm up engines on the way to the Balkans.
- Geneva: a real European crossroads connecting the four cardinal points. Huge, but beautiful.
- Bordeaux: those of us who come from Spain tend to skip it… Error. This city has a lot to offer.
- Istanbul: a kind of “terminus station” that is actually the entrance to another world.
- Gdansk: the old Danzig will not blow your mind away unless you go to the Baltic. It will surprise you with its architectural heritage.
- Brindisi: the great unknown of the “Interrail cities” of Italy; it is the springboard of access to Greece, but it is much more than that.
- Brugge: one of the best cities to visit in Europe, you can not miss it if you are going to Benelux, Germany or the British Isles.
- Thessaloniki: even if the city is not so important, wherever you come from the route will leave you feeling at home.
YOU CAN’T MISS THIS: Well, you can’t miss anything… So get the camera ready.
All that and much more, at your nearest train station
We hope all this has helped you to get an idea and inspire your journey through dozens of Interrail cities. As always, your comments, questions and opinions are always welcome, leave them at the end of this article.
And, as always, we will be happy to help you prepare the details of your trip, be it by train through Europe or any other destination. Just contact us using this form or if you prefer something more customised, you can call us on 922 15 12 51 or send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Redactor. Especialista en Viajes.
Uno de esos que piensa que nunca se puede viajar demasiado, y que no hay que irse a la otra esquina del planeta para descubrir un nuevo mundo. Veinte años con la mochila a cuestas y sin ganas de posarla, todavía… En familia, con amigos o con las ganas de escribir como única compañía, y la afición a la historia como bastón.
Editor. Travel specialist
One of those who thinks that you can never travel too much, and that you do not have to go to the other corner of the planet to discover a new world. Twenty years with the backpack on his back and unwilling to pose, still … In family, with friends or with the desire to write as a sole company, and the love of history as a cane.