Train travel is arguably the most enjoyable form of travel, and also often portrayed as the most romantic! No driving, navigating, or waiting around at airports. Instead, you can stretch out, unpack your lunch, and decide whether you are going to read a book, chat to your fellow passengers, or just enjoy some romantic time with your partner, watching the country unfold from your window.
"The overnight crossing under the stars from Italy to Corfu was amazing"
Paula Gardner, press officer at Essential Travel, went interrailing visiting France, Spain, Italy, and then over to Corfu and back to London through Milan and Paris. With advice from Paula, we take a look at why interrailing is still a sensible choice for anyone on a budget and who wants to concentrate on European travel. Paula comments, My time interrailing was a mixture of highs and lows. Travelling across Italy and seeing the real Spaghetti western country was amazing, as was the overnight crossing under the stars from Italy to Corfu. In hindsight, we did try to fit too much in and if I did it again I would pick fewer locations and spend some quality time in each.
What is an Interrail Pass and is it worth getting one?
"Train travel is arguably the most enjoyable form of travel, no driving, navigating or waiting around at airports...strech out and watch the country unfold from your window"
An Interrail pass (http://www.internationalrail.com) can save you money over long-distance full-price train fares bought on the day, meaning that you can plan out an itinerary of travel around Europe for a fraction of what it could cost if you just turn up and go. Its designed for EU residents, if youre from outside the EU, you need a Eurail (http://www.eurail.com).
It gives unlimited free travel throughout the countries it covers (on services run by the national train operator, and some private train services (e.g. in Switzerland). The Interrailing website gives a country by country breakdown of what services are covered, but at time of going live countries listed are:
|Countries Covered By The Interrail Pass|
|Republic of Ireland||FYR Macedonia||Romania||Serbia|
It also covers ferry crossings between Italy (Bari, Brindisi, Ancona or Venice) and Greece (Corfu, Igoumenitsa or Patras).
There are four types of ticket - child, youth, adult and senior. Youth tickets (12-25) are only available in second class.
There are a number of different types of pass, from 5 days of travel to one month.
What You Need to Take Interrailing
- The European Train Timetable app found at Eurial (http://www.eurailgroup.org/) is a really useful way to check times and routes
- A very strong rucksack that you can comfortably carry
- Something you can roll up to act as a pillow for those long journeys
- A light blanket or pashmina for air conditioned journeys that leave you a little goose pimply
- Train journeys can be long so bring things to do - a journal, the novel youve always wanted to write, some good books/Kindle, cards, travel games etc
Why Choose Interrailing Over Flying?
- Train stations are often near the centre of a town, and not a hefty train fare or cab ride away
- You can reach places that are more interesting and tucked away than you can by flying alone
- Theres no need to check in hours before your flight: you just turn up the station at the right time and get on
- Interrailing can be a great way to make friends as it is a very social way to get around. There are hotspots and hubs where you will meet other interrailers (Milan station for instance), and it is easy to meet up with other people and combine plans
- Being savvy and booking onto a night train can save on hostel accommodation, although do be aware your train is not going to be as comfortable as The Orient Express
- If you dont have a set plan and love the seeing where the wind takes you, interrailing can work well. Theres no need to cancel or change flight times: you can just hop on and hop off
- Your baggage is with you at all times, so much less likely to get lost in transit.
What are the Downsides of Interrailing?
- It is not always cheaper. If you have a set itinerary and know that you wont be changing your plans it is worth looking at the websites of the individual train operators throughout Europe as you may be able to book advance tickets which can work out even cheaper than a pass. Do be aware that these are often not able to be refunded or changed, so you do have to be extra sure of your plans
- Rather than check your luggage in and travel with your hand luggage only, youll be lugging that rucksack throughout the train
- Sometimes there are extra charges for reservations and supplements, especially in countries like France, Italy, Spain, Portugal & Sweden. These supplements can be as much as twenty euros per trip, and can drastically eat into the budget
- If your itinerary is very simple and youre only planning to make a small number of stops and spend time in each of those places, it may well be worth buying the tickets in advance separately
- If your ultimate destination are countries like Poland or Romania, it may be worth getting a cheap flight there and buying your train tickets when you are out there to avoid travelling through the expensive parts of Europe
- Its not ideal for small journeys where the price is low anyway
- Train journeys in your home country are not included, and neither is Eurostar
- It does not cover Metros and some city services.
Contributor: Paula Gardner
Paula Gardner is the Press Officer for Essential Travel. Paula is big Italophile and loves many things about the country. On a career break inn her 20s she travelled the world, visiting every continent, but travel now tends to be to European cities. Apart from just about anywhere in Italy, other favourites are Lisbon and Palma in Majorca. Sicily is top of the bucket list. You can contact Paula via Google+.