Our Interrail Trip in a Shoestring

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We are finally back in the Netherlands after 2 weeks of Interrailing! I have to say this trip was most rewarding, especially after an intense first semester of Grad School here in Leiden. During this trip we visited 5 main cities: Prague, Vienna, Salzburg, and Interlaken. We also had a few day trips to smaller towns besides those main cities (Halstatt, Iseltwald). I know, I know, a lot of people ask: 5 cities and only 12 days? Isn’t that a bit short for an interrail trip? Most people usually spend at least a month. Some people try to fit 20 cities within 2 weeks (I had a few friends who did that). Well we certainly do have our reasons for planning how we planned our trip, one of the main ones being me having a severe backpain that does not allow me to get too tired.

We all know that it takes quite some discipline and amples of time to plan a Europe trip. So, however short and unconventional our may be, I would still like to share the technical matters about our trip (and its planning) in hopes that it does shed some light to those planning on their own.

First a some several disclaimer:

  • Everyone has a different budget and idea of how their ideal Europe trip will look like. There is no right and wrong to this: what I think is expensive and cheap, or is a worthy or bad experience may be different to yours. Let’s respect that difference 😊
  • This blog will be specifically about Interrailing. I am aware that there might be some other options to travel Europe, such as by plane (low cost airlines such as Ryan Air or Transavia) or bus (Flixbus). I will not be covering those in this blog today because for my situation, Interrailing was the cheapest and best option and I am not as familiar with the other options.
  • Interrailing is not always the cheaper option, depending on where you are from (it is more expensive if you are not resident of the EU) and what destinations you want to go to.

Now that I have that settled, let us move on to our main topic. How I will do this is list some main questions and simply answer each one – a Q&A session.

What is Interrail Pass?

The Interrail Pass is a railway ticket that allows you to travel an unlimited rail travel in 30 European countries during a certain amount of time. It is only available for European residents while people from outside the EU can purchase a similar pass called the Eurrail.

There are several types of Interrail Pass which you can check on their website https://www.interrail.eu/en/interrail-passes to see which one fits you best. The one I used was the Interrail Global Pass – Travel 5 days within 15 days. This means that I have unlimited travel within those 5 days but the validity of the pass only lasts 15 days. The price for these passes are different depending on age, for those who are under 28, the “Interrail Global Pass – Travel 5 days within 15 days” costs 206 Euros a person, or about 40 Euros a day. This is a pretty good deal if you have to travel far (like I did from Amsterdam to Prague) or to expensive countries (like I did in Switzerland).

Are there no additional costs outside the price you paid for the Pass?

There are certain trains that requires you to reserve seats. Reservation can be done on the Interrail website where you pay about 7 Euros for each reservation. Each reservation can be for more than one person, so if you are travelling in a group of four, you can split the 7 Euros reservation cost four ways.

You can also choose trains that do NOT require reservations. You can check which trains that do not require reservations here https://www.interrail.eu/en/plan-your-trip/rail-planner-app. However there are some places and times where I do recommend you to just reserve seats even if it is not mandatory:

  • Travelling anywhere from or to Germany no matter what time of the season
  • Travelling anywhere in the peak summer times (June-August)

Although I had a reservation from Amsterdam to Berlin and Berlin to Prague, I did not make a reservation for my 4 hour train from Prague to Vienna. I ended up spending most of the trip sitting on the floor in front of the train doors (which means I had to get up and move every time the train stops and someone had to go in or out). Yes, it is annoying. Just spend that 7 euros.

Is it easy to use the Interrail in all 30 countries?

Fortunately this was the case for all the countries I visited and passed by (Germany, Czech Republic, Austria and Switzerland). But I have heard that this is not the case for all countries. According to Seat61, “The countries where InterRailing is easy:  Belgium, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Denmark, Great Britain & Ireland”.

More info on Interrail and how it works?

I know the Interrail website can be confusing. If you are interested in going Interrail or Eurrailing, I highly recommended his page on beginners guide to Interrailing here https://www.seat61.com/InterRail-pass-guide.htm! It helped me a lot during my planning.

Europe is so big! How did you determine where you wanted to go?

Well, I had a few dream cities that I have always wanted to visit. Such as Hallstatt and the Jungfrauch region. From there I looked at a map and planned my itinerary. For inspirations you might want to browse on Pinterest. You can also search Eurotrip Itinerary on Google. A lot of people have made blog posts on a recommended itinerary within a certain amount of travel days.

How far from your trip did you buy your Interrail Pass and book accomodations?

I bought my Interrail Pass online in April 2017 which was 3 months before the trip. The pass arrived at my doorstep (or well, my mailbox) a week later.

To some people, the beauty of Interrailing is actually the spontaneity and freedom where you can choose where you want to go the day you want to travel. These people usually search for accommodation upon arrival to the next city.  But because I am a freak for details, I planned the trip carefully and booked all accomodations in April also. I am now glad that I did because if I hadn’t, I would have probably paid 2-3x more than I did due to the peak seasons. Also, most places (especially small towns like Salzburg or Interlaken) are usually fully booked during these times. Hence my recommendation is, if you want to go Interrailing for spontaneity, do not go in peak seasons!

Where did you find your accomodations?

I actually booked from Hostelbookers and looked for places with a rating above 8.0. I try to find accommodation that is not quite at the center of town (that way it is not too crowded) but also not too far away. Turns out this was a good strategy, as in Prague and Vienna where we booked 2 beds in a 4 bed dorm, we were fortunate to find we had no roommates and had the room to ourselves! I am telling you, in the middle of summer in this peak season, this is really rare.

Side notes:

  • Aside from hostelbookers.com you can also book from hostelworld.com. However, they do charge you a few euros more. The good side is, if you suddenly need to change the date of your stay, a booking from these sites makes the changing easier to do
  • If you are sure of the dates and want to save a bit more, then you can search for hostels with good reviews on these sites but go to the hostels personal site to book.
  • If you want a more private but still budget accommodation, try Airbnb, but be sure to find accomodations that has been nicely reviewed by a lot of people!

How much did you spend on the trip?

This one is a bit of a sensitive topic and it actually differs person to person so I don’t really want to show it publicly here. If you are however interested, please email me on Zafira.shabrina@gmail.com and I will send you a copy of my excel file.

 

I think this is all for now. I will attempt to elaborate each city – both practical things and trivias – on a different post. If you are interested in anything please comment down below!

Thanks for reading ❤

Zafira

 

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