Sunday, September 25, 2016

The Complete Guide to Traveling Across Europe With an Interrail Global Train Pass!

Have you heard about Interrail or Eurail? When I was globetrotting across the Europe continent, I was quite surprised at the number of people who doesn't know about these train pass, including Europeans themselves! Hence, today I decided to write a complete (or almost complete) guide about it, from "how to buy a pass" to "how to return the pass" at the end of your journey!    

I've been traveling on a train pass for 10 days in Switzerland and the Central Europe. By purchasing a train pass, I was able to board any train anytime I wanted, so I've made full use of this new-found flexibility: I did not plan ahead of time... without booking any hostel, nor attraction tickets, I only decided where would I go next when I felt like leaving the city I was in. 

Step 1: Buying a train pass


I bought my train pass directly at the Ticket Counter in Konstanz Main Train Station. I had choosen to travel with a "10 days within 1 month-- Global" train pass. Frankly, I can't tell you if a "1 or 2 months global pass" is well worth it (since I haven't tried it myself), but according to my experience, a 10-days pass is sufficient... so that there is enough time for you to explore a city to the fullest between train rides. 

Where can I buy the train pass? 
They are available in all main train stations in Europe and you can also buy them online here and have it sent to your house. Just make sure you've given it enough time (2 weeks to 1 month) to reach you before you start your adventure of a lifetime!      

What are my options? 
In terms of destination, there are Global Pass (all 30 countries) and Country Pass to choose from. 
As for travel period, you can choose to travel 5 days in 15 days, 7/ 10 /15 days in a month, 15/ 22 days/ 1 month continuous. Visit the Interrail website to find out more!

5 days in 15 days means a pass holder can travel by trains for only 5 days within a 15 days period. 
For example, your pass is valid from 1 January to 15 January, so you can choose to travel on 1, 4, 6, 8, 10 January (any 5 dates, your call!)  

Which one should I buy? Eurail or Interrail?
This is a good question, I myself was confused too! If you currently live in Europe, regardless of your nationality, you can buy an Interrail ticket; If you are not living in Europe, Eurail should be your choice. Note that residents of the Russian Federation is also eligible to buy an interrail pass. 


Unlike an interrail pass, a Eurail pass is more expensive, but at the same time, it provides more options. If you only wish to visit 3-4 bordering countries in Europe, you can even choose a "Select Pass". Not only that, you can travel 2-3 months continuous with a single Eurail Pass!

- If you are 26 years old or below, make sure you purchase the correct pass! It should be a "Youth" pass, as printed on your train pass.  
Children under 4 travel for free without a pass while children age 4-11 travel free with a family pass. 
- Senior citizens above 60 travel with a discount. 

Step 2: Plan your journey

This is what you'll get in a "Travel Pack". 
You should receive a eleborated Europe map with rail network together with your train pass in a "travel pack". Look at the destinations dotted on the map and start drafting a rough plan. However, note that not all train routes are shown on the map, you'll have to check on the official website, or the Eurail/Interail app. 

After you had your rough plans done, download Eurail/ Interail travel app on your smartphone and write down the prefered departure time for your ride. The travel app will also tell you whether you need to reserve a seat for that particular train ride. If reservation is compulsory, you'll need to do that or else you'll get fined on the train. Get the app on Iphone and Android

Is there any extra benefits I should know? 
Yes, you can ride on S-banns in Switzerland, Germany and Austria for free with your train pass. Global Interrail Pass holder is entitled to free deck passage on most European Ferries

Step 3: Reserve your train tickets

Interrail night trains, Europe night trains
My collection of night train reservation tickets.
Most train rides do not need a reservation. In such case, simply turn out at the correct plateform on time to catch your train. 

If a reservation is needed, you can prebook all your tickets on the website BUT I personally don't do this and I definitely don't recommend doing so. Why? Because: 

1. You will lost flexibility. 
What if you love a city too much and all you ever wanted at that moment is to stay a little longer? Don't turn time against yourself when it is initially on your side! 

2. Train travels can be unpredictable. 
Trains could be delayed due to sercurity reasons, train tracks could be closed down due to fallen trees, suicidal cases, hail and so on. In such cases, it could heavily mess up your travel plans, and you'll need that fllexibility! 

3. Reservation tickets are NON-refundable!
This happened to me when my train was affected by hail. My train was delayed and so I missed my connection that I've paid for. I bought my reservation ticket to the counter and asked to renew my ticket. The gentlemen at the ticket counter explained to me that a refund is not possible, on top of that, I'll need to pay for another reservation. I explained to him that the missed journey was due to train delay but it was not accepted. 
The reason why refund was not granted (according to the employee at the ticket counter): I paid for the reservation in Ljubljana (Slovenia) to the train company "Slovenske železnice" so I am not eligible to ask for a refund in another country, in my case, from the company "trenitalia" in Mestre, Venice. 

How did you do it? 
I normally reserve my ticket ON my planned departure date at the ticket counter in the station I will be leaving from. If I plan to leave 10pm at night, I'll go to the station at 8am to reserve my seat. However, never leave seat reservations to the very last minute! Your train might be full and you could be stranded if there were no other alternatives. 
My experience: 
I once need to go from Vienna to Ljubljana and I tried to reserve my tickets 2 hours before departure. The train was full but luckily, the girl at the counter found me another alternative: to ride on a train towards Zurich, change in Salzburg and take another train towards Zagreb.   

How much should I pay for a reservation? 
This depends on your whereabout. 
For example:
- Polish domestic train reservations are free, international reservations start from 3 Euros per journey.     
- In Austria, international reservations start from 5 euros per journey.
- The most expensive reservation I've paid for is probably the train from Milan to Zurich. It costed 11 Euros. However, my friend told me she once paid 35 Euros in Italy for a ticket reservation. I do not know how true is that, but according to my experience, I was asked to pay 20 Euros for a reservation in Italy, and of course, I changed my plans-- I used bus instead. That was how I discovered that bus travel in Italy is wayyyyyyy better than train travels: Check out my Guide to Bus Travel in Italy here.

What do you mean by 3-5 Euros per journey???
This was exactly what caught me off guard too! I never knew about it until I've reach Venice. I'll take this journey from Venice to Zurich as an example.

As you can see, there are 2 legs in this journey: first one is from Venice to Milan and the second half of the journey goes from Milan to Zurich, which gives you a 25 minute transit time in Milan, just enough for you to grab a coffee+ a sandwich and look for the correct train plateform.

(I got this information from the ticket center in Mestre, Venice):
For this journey, you'll have to pay for each leg seperately, which means 10 Euros for Venice to Milan and another 11 Euros for Milan to Zurich, which sum up to 21 Euros.  

A Premium Pass let you make advance reservation for free.

Step 4: Enjoy your ride!

Interail Global Pass
Remember to fill in the travel dates before ticket inspection!
You need to fill in your travel dates before taking any train rides. Ticket inspectors will check your tickets from time to time so make sure you have your tickets ready. However, it doesn't mean that you have to stay awake all the time. You can just turn to the page where the previous ticket inspector had checked and stamped and hold it in a way the next ticket inspector could easily see without the need to wake you up.

How to fill in travel dates on my train pass?
If you are taking the train ride during the day and it reaches your destination before 00:00 midnight, you will fill in the date of your departure. It is pretty straight forward.
If you are taking a night train, then the "7pm Rule" should be applied : If you board a train after 7pm and reach your destination after 4am, you will need to fill in the date of your arrival.
For example: 
Depart at 7pm, arrive at 1am. The correct date: Departure date
Depart at 8pm, arrive at 5am. The correct date: Arrival date

Step 5: Complete your journey and send your train pass back. 

The instruction is stated at the back of your train pass. Just send your pass back and you'll get a gift in return!

Last but not least, these are some places I managed to check out traveling on my Global Pass!

Interail, Kutna Hora, Czech Bone Cathedral
Kutna Hora, Czech
Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland, Miss Happy Feet, Vivian Lee, Interrail
Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland. 
Budapest, Miss Happy Feet, Vivian Lee, Hungary, Interrail
Budapest, Hungary.
Zermatt, Interrail, Switzerland, Miss Happy Feet, Vivian Lee
Zermatt, Switzerland.
Strasbourg, France, Interrail, Vivian Lee, Miss Happy Feet
Strasbourg, France.
Geneva, Switzerland, Interrail
Geneva, Switzerland. 
Lucern, Switzerland. 
Lake Bled, Interrail, Slovenia
Bled, Slovenia
Poland, Crooked Forrest, Szczecin, Interrail
Crooked Forrest, Poland. 
Cesky Krumlov, Czech, Interrail
Cesky Krumlov, Czech. 
Hanggliding Interlaken, Switzerland, Miss Happy Feet, Vivian Lee, Interrail
Interlaken, Switzerland.
Vienna, Miss Happy Feet, Vivian Lee, Interrail, Austria
Vienna, Austria.
Florence, Italy.
Plitvice National Park, Plitvice, Croatia, Zagreb, Interrail
Plitvice National Park, Croatia.
Zurich, Love, Interrail, Switzerland
Zurich, Switzerland.


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Thank You for Reading! This post is based solely on my personal experience. 
 Feel free to share your own experiences or thoughts with me by commenting below!


Kat said...

Really great post! I've never been interrailing, which is crazy as Europe's right on the doorstep.

Stacie said...

That train pass sounds great! Everything in Europe is so close together, it can be a nightmare crossing all those borders. Thanks!

Kristina said...

Saving this one for the future. Thanks for sharing!

Mom Knows Best said...

What a great way to travel. I like that you can ride as many times as you like.

Unknown said...

That is my dream travel. I want to travel Europe (especially Switzerland) by train. This is very good to know

Andrea said...

Ahh! I did this 20 years ago and it was so fun!

Unknown said...

Awwww, I want to travel like that! Europe is my dream.

Ileana said...

This is so useful! I used to live in europe, but never fully understood their train system!

Elizabeth O. said...

I can imagine how much more convenient traveling to Europe is because of that train pass. It's really awesome that you put together this guide, it's very good reference!

lisax31 said...

What a great informative post. The pictures are stunning by the way!

Nicole said...

So beautiful! Thanks for sharing all the tips! Love the photo of Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland. :)

Unknown said...

I like the idea of buying a train pass. As you said it is a great way of travelling across Europe for sure.

Nikki said...

Wow! You had a blast! I wish I can travel more often, next stop is Europe!

Christy G said...

I love the photos that you shared. I haven't ever been to Russia. It looks like a beautiful country. I think that traveling by rail would also be fun too.

Unknown said...

Oh, I think I am missing a lot of traveling opportunities! I always wanted to be a travel blogger! These are wonderful tips!

thetiptoefairy said...

I would love to travel through Europe this way. I think it would be great to get to see several countries.

Ann B said...

This would be a fantastic way to travel. These are beautiful photos. It looks like an amazing trip.

C. Mahan said...

Such gorgeous photos. I would love to travel through Europe someday.

Unknown said...

How fun for you! This post is packed with such great information. I will be going to Europe at some point in time. I really appreciate this post!

Unknown said...

Those pictures look amazing. I've never visited Europe, but I so want to one day.

mail4rosey said...

I like that you don't have to make reservations. Sounds like a great spur of the moment trip to me. :)

Aduke Schulist said...

This looks amazing! I would love to travel like that. Cool that you get a gift for returning it.

Liz Mays said...

This is super helpful and your trips looked like fun! I think I'd consider traveling by train.

krystal said...

You have taken beautiful pictures. I have never been to Europe but after seeing your post It is on my bucket list.

diana ajih said...

Thanks for this super helpful guide! I'm planning a trip to Europe next year and this will come in handy.

Dr. Norhaniza Bahar said...

May I know if we buy Eurail pass, can we use the train same as swiss pass offered. And whether there is any discounted rate for transport to Jungfraujoch?

littlemisshappyfeet said...

Hi Dr. Norhaniza,
There are some differences in Eurail and Swiss pass. To go up to Jungfrau, Swiss youth pass offered 50 percent discount but aural pass holder need to pay in full. Some goes to Zermatt, Swiss pass holder ride for free, Eurail pass holder need to pay half price.
In my opinion, if your trip based primarily in Switzerland, it is better to get a Swiss Pass.
Happy planning!

Unknown said...

Very insightful post! Thank you. I was hoping I could ask a couple of questions as my boyfriend and I are planning our route and looking at trains etc for April 2018. Like you, we are visiting Croatia and then Slovenia. We are then looking to visit Italy but are particularly interested in visiting the North where the lakes are (Como & Garda). I see you went to Venice and Florence. Do you know if there are easy links to the lakes?

John Smith said...

Certainly an informative post! I have heard that Switzerland Rail Network features world’s most scenic train journeys. I would love to get to Switzerland & undertake the picturesque train journeys with my family. All that we need is a Switzerland Schengen Visa!