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".|
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
|My collection of night train reservation tickets.|
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.
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.
- 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.
(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!
|Remember to fill in the travel dates before ticket inspection!|
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.
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!
|Kutna Hora, Czech|
|Crooked Forrest, Poland.|
|Cesky Krumlov, Czech.|
|Plitvice National Park, Croatia.|
📌For more travel tips, like Eat Love Travel Breathe with Miss HappyFeet.
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Feel free to share your own experiences or thoughts with me by commenting below!