Four years ago my boyfriend and I decided we wanted to go interrailing through Europe. In 2019, we bought tickets to go interrailing in 2020. That didn’t happened because of COVID-19. However, this past month, September 2023, we finally managed to go! From august 31st till september 21st we traveled through Europe by train. In this post I want to tell you all about it. Here are my experiences with interrailing through Europe.
The Interrail Card
When you go interrailing through Europe, you buy an interrail card. With that card you can then travel through Europe (33 countries). There are about 10 different interrail cards available. They range from 4 travel days till 3 months. You can either choose a period in which you want to travel, say 2 months, and then travel unlimited during that time. However, you can also choose a period, let’s take 2 months again, and then choose how many days you want to travel in that period. You then buy a card for, as an example, 2 months with 10 travel days. You can then travel by train for 10 days within a period of two months instead of unlimited, but it is much cheaper! For that reason, we bought a ticket for a month with 5 travel days.
Interrail regularly has a sale. Our ticket (a month with 5 travel days) costs 226 euros, but we bought it during a sale for 200 euros. That’s 40 euros per travel day. And it gets cheaper the longer you go. If you choose the two months plan with 15 travel days you pay only 27 euros per travel day. I would therefore recommend getting the 1 months with 7 travel days ticket or the 2 months with 15 travel days ticket. Unlimited travel days in not neccessary.
The length of our interrail
As I said, we bought the 5 travel days in one month ticket. That’s because we did the interrail for 3 weeks (instead of the entire month). The reason for that is I work full-time and have limited days off. If you do have the time to go one month, I would recommend getting the 1 month with 7 travel days ticket. That’s just optimal if you’d ask me.
Once you buy the interrail card, you can start planning the trip. You don’t have to, you can also just leave your home and see where you want to randomly go. But that’s not really my style. We planned our locations and travel days. When you do so, two sort of rides will appear in you interrail app (which you need to activate the card). One: a trainride where a seat reservation is recommended. Two: a trainride where a seat reservation is mandatory.
We had three trainrides with mandatory seat reservations. And so, when interrailing through Europe, it’s impossible to avoid those extra costs. Yes, reservations cost money. For us it was 6 euro per reservation per person, resulting in 18 euros of additional costs per person. Not much, if you’d ask me. For all the other trainrides we did not make a seat reservation. Interrail always recommends it, but I would recommend you to not do so. We had to switch places twice during the whole interrail, because we took a seat that was reserved. But there was always enough room, so we always had a seat. Those recommended reservations would have been a waste of money. So my advice: only reserve a seat when it’s mandatory.
Something remarkable: the mandatory reservations we made were never checked. So, I think that when you even don’t make those, it’s all right. But that’s a little bit of a risk. Maybe I will take that risk next time.
The amount of locations
I would recommend staying about 4 days in one location. That’s 4 full days. Meaning that the day you arrive and leave don’t count. We had a location with 2 days, two with 3 days and two with 4 days. I would say 4 is the optimum. Trust me, you don’t want to rush from city to city. This was our route:
Amsterdam (home) – Dresden – Krásná Lípa – Bratislava – Warschau – Copenhagen – home
Maybe that’s nice for some inspiration haha. I would recommend making a circle-ish shape. If you go straight down or up, you have to make the same route back, which is a little lame. By the way: the route above is not 100% accurate because on Google Maps I can only show it by car, but as you know, the route was by train.
Out of the 6 travel days in total (we paid for 1 travel day ourselves seperately, apart from our interrail ticket), we had a delay in 3. We were a bit unlucky haha. But you know what? That’s okay. When you use a travel day you have the entire day to use it. If you miss one train, there’s always the next one. Usually, an international train goes every two hours. We had no instances where we couldn’t get to our location at all. It just took a little longer. Be prepared for that. And just enjoy the ride.
This was the first time that I traveled in my life. Before I had only been on holidays, where I would sit at a pool or beach and chill. Traveling is something different. It’s exploring the world! I loved it, but it’s a little exhausting as well (I know I sound spoiled, but I want to prepare you). Traveling is not the same as a holiday. Anyway, it was also the first time I took a backback instead of suitcase with me. And honestly, I will never go back. A backpack is essential when traveling this way. It’s just an easy and comfortable way to take a lot with you. I imagine traveling with a suitcase while interrailing being horrible. My recommendation would be not to do it: lend or buy a secondhand backpack.
During our interrail we stayed in AirBnB’s and hostels (and one luxurious hotel for my birthday). It’s a nice mixture. You have the comfort of your own place at an AirBnB and the cozyness, fun and cheapness of a hostel. However, I never recommend AirBnB, it’s a shitty company. FairBnB is a better, meaning more social, alternative. However, FairBnB is not available in any of the locations we visited. It’s still a small platform and it needs to grow for it to be available in all cities. Another good alternative I’ve heard of, but haven’t tried myself yet, is TrustedHousesitters. On that platform, you can sit someone’s home and pet, and in exchange you can stay in their home for free.
Interrailing is a very sustainable way of traveling. That’s why we did it. Haha. A walking or biking holiday are the only two options that are even more sustainable. However, those options did not seem very appealing to us (yet!). I want to do that in the future though. Cars or vans are also an option, but way less sustainable than train (especially if you use high-speed trains). I think traveling by train is just most relaxed and fun as well. You really get to take some time for yourself while traveling. I read books, stared out of the window endlessly or played a game.
Why interrailing through Europe
Most young wealthy people in Europe travel right after they’re done studying. And where do they go? Asia. I honestly don’t understand that. If you’re in it for the traveling itself, it shouldn’t matter if you go far or not. I am quite guttered that most people don’t take the climate crisis into account. It’s our own future. I think money is a big factor (and herd behavior) because people think Asia is cheaper. It’s sickening to me that the richest people in world just go wherever they spend the least.
I honestly doubt whether it’s cheaper to fly further. You can’t fly to Asia and back for 200 euros (the costs of this interrail). And the countries itself in Europe can be cheap too. In Poland, we spend 18 euros per person for a 3-course meal with drinks and a hostel is 11 euros per person per night. If you care that much about the money, visit cheap countries in Europa.
Sure, I want to visit Asia during my lifetime as well. But I want to discover Europe first, as that is close-by. If I go to Asia, I want to go by train (or electrical plane by then). And yes, that takes more time. But by that time I hope to have a bit more financial freedom because I’ve worked longer. And so, I can then take the time to stay for a longer period of time.
Would I go again?
Would I go interrailing again? Definitely! Not next year, because we already have some different plans for next year haha (stay tuned). But maybe the year after that, or after that. I mean, there’s so much to still discover in Europa! I would love to see Slovakia for example. And also, I have mostly seen the capital cities. In Poland for example, I have seen Warsaw now, but what about the rest of the country? Krakow is great too, I heard. Next time I would however go two months if I can afford so. It’s, relatively speaking, cheaper and you can make a bigger circle. I am excited and grateful for all the memories I have already made while interrailing through Europe.