Interrail tips for first timers

Written by Maria Aardal

May 12, 2020

Interrail is one of the easiest and best way of travel if you want to explore Europe. It means that you travel by train with a special “interrail” pass through Europe. This way of travel is especially popular among young backpackers, but it is possible for anyone. The best thing about interrail is that you can customize it to fit to your needs. No matter who you are or how you travel interrail can be perfect for you. Keep reading to get the best interrail tips and find out everything you need to know to have the best interrail experience ever.

How to create a perfect budget and follow it

creating a budget is the first interrail tips

Creating a budget that suits your needs in five steps

1: Find out how much money you will have when your trip starts. Look at how much you have saved up already and how much you will be saving each month.

2: Decide on your range, if you are luxury, mid-range, budget, or shoestring. Make this decision based on the standard of travel you want. Do you want to stay in hotels, hostels, or coach-surf? Do you plan on doing tours or exploring on your own? Are you prepared to cook for yourself most of the time, or do you want to eat all your meals out?

3: Decide on what countries you want to visit and do research about the cost per day in your range for those countries.

4: Put together your budget and find out how long you want to/can stay at each destination. For this point, you need to add up the cost per day for your destinations and you need to make it work with how much money you have. You can start out with a base about how long you want to travel and just start adding numbers. If the sum is less then your savings, you can add more days at certain destinations or add a whole new destination. If it is more than your savings, you need to cut down on some places, or perhaps change some destinations for some cheaper ones.

5: Add it all in excel or your preferred method. I love excel and I always use it for my budgets. Write down how much you can spend at each destination and how long you will be there. This way you can track your spendings and add them into your budget as you go. I prefer this method to the one where you just take the total and divide it by the number of days, weeks, or months. This is because some destinations will vary greatly in costs and if you have the same amount per destination it will be harder to follow your budget.

Other budget interrail tips

  • Bring at least two different cards, preferably one credit card in case of emergencies.
  • Do not keep all your money in one account. Maybe trasfer the money you need per week according to your budget to your “normal” account. Keep the rest in a savings account or just another account.
  • Always keep some backup cash.
  • Never carry too much cash.

Interrail tips for packing – How to pack like a pro

Interrail tips - Investing in a good back is important

Invest in quality luggage

Spending money on luggage while you could be spending it on travel itself sucks. I know, but it will save you money in the long run. It is better to spend money on it once than to buy something cheap and have to buy a new one every year because it breaks.

Quality luggage is also extra important if you are backpacking and therefor an important interrail tips. Carrying around a backpack that you can adjust and that is comfortable will make all the difference. Even if you are not planning on carrying your backpack around a lot, you will appreciate it.

Personally I love Osprey backpacks. I have the Osprey Fairview 70L and I love it. It is the perfect size and it is very comfortable to wear. It also comes with a day pack that you just zip right on it. I highly recommend this backpack.

Create a good packing list

A good packing list is key. If you do it right you only need to have one that you can use for every trip. What you need to do is create a basic packing list with what you need for any trip. Then add categories depending on the trip. For example, have one category for cold destinations and one for warm. Then if you are going somewhere in winter you just follow the base list and add everything from the cold list and so on. The duration of the trip does not really matter as you can wash clothes along the way. Washing clothes is essential especially for trips like interrails and backpacking where you want to pack as lightly as possible.

Pack properly and use packing cubes or compression cubes

It can seem a lot easier to just throw everything in your luggage and try to close it, but I highly recommend taking the time to pack properly. One of my best interrail tips for packing is to use packing cubes or compression cubes. Both are great for organizing. You can pack things within one category in each. Like I pack warmer clothes in one, nicer clothes in one, and summer clothes in another. So that I can find everything I need for the day in the same pack. It is smart to buy them in different colors or the see-through ones so that you know which is which. Personally I love compression cubes because they are also great for saving space in your luggage.

Packing cubes makes packing a dream

Bring a day-pack

A good day pack will make your life so much easier. A day pack is a smaller backpack that you can use on excursions, sightseeing, and so on. I use the day pack that comes with my Osprey Fairview backpack. It is the perfect size, and I can just zip it onto my big backpack when I am moving destinations. I also use my daypack as my carry on when I fly.

When buying a day pack make sure it is big enough to carry everything you need for a day. From towel, bikini, snacks and water-bottles to laptop, jacket, and toiletries. You should also make sure it has a few different pockets and somewhere where you can store your cash, cards and passport relatively safely.

Interrail tips for getting through long train rides

Interrail tips for getting through long train rides

What to do

You might think I do not need things to do on the train because there is beautiful scenery, people to talk to, and you can sleep. While this is all true, you will get bored of staring out the window. You will not always have someone to talk to (or want to talk to people), and sleeping on trains is for most people, not the easiest.

  • Play games (board games, card games, quizzes, drinking games, homemade games… only your creativity is stopping you)
  • Read – I suggest bringing a kindle if you are a big reader. It makes it so much easier and creates a bit less waste.
  • Audio-books – I personally use Storytell and I love it.
  • Draw or color – I find adult coloring-books to be the perfect activity when I am restless but do not want to do too much.
  • Write – In a few years you would love to have a diary to look back at from your travels.
  • Learn languages – Whether you focus on one language or you want to learn a few phrases from each of the countries you are going to visit, the train rides are the perfect time for this. You can use free apps like Duolingo, watch movies in that language, or even talk to locals on the train.
  • Watch movies and tv-shows – You can now download tv shows and movies on most streaming apps. It is perfect for long rides where you want to relax and be left alone, but there is no internet.
  • Talk to strangers – Make friends with locals. You can learn so much about new cultures and languages from just talking to people.
  • Listen to music – Download your favorite Spotify playlists.

What to bring

  • Clothes – You should always make sure to bring some warmer clothes with you in case it gets cold. Layers are key. Make sure you can easily change from something colder to something warmer without having you change your whole outfit.
  • Pillow and blanket – No matter if it just a few hours during the day or an overnight train I suggest having a small pillow and a blanket in your day-pack. Whether you are sleeping or just curling up with a good book, it will be so much more comfortable if you have a blanket and a pillow.
  • Toiletries – After spending 7 hours on a train you are going to be very happy that you brought your toothbrush, toothpaste, and deodorant in your day-pack. It is also a necessity for overnight trips.
  • Things to do – Games, books, cards, and so on.
  • Padlock – Bringing a padlock to lock your luggage is always smart. Especially for overnight trips where you want to be able to sleep without worrying about your things.
  • Moneybelt – For safety, I also suggest you bring a moneybelt where you can put your cards, passport, phone, and cash while you sleep. Even if something were to happen to your luggage you can still make sure your valuables are safe.

I suggest packing everything you need for the train rides in your day-pack. So that you do not need to open and looks through your big bag every-time you need something.

Bringing a day backpack is smart when you are on interrail

Other tips

  • Take overnight trains when it is possible. Overnight trips are perfect for saving a bit of money on accommodation and at the same time not waste valuable time you could be spending at your destination.
  • Do not overestimate how much time you want to travel on trains. It can be easy to go overboard and want to go everywhere. Make sure to take some time between each time to travel to relax and just enjoy the destinations.
  • Get 1st class or sleeper cabins when you can. With the interrail ticket you usually pay between 3 and 10 euros to upgrade to 1st class. This is however usually only available on higher-quality. trains. This price will usually be worth it on long train rides. The seats are usually better, there is airconditioning, more space, and it is just a bit more comfortable.

How to pick and use your ticket

When you have decided that you want to go on an interrail through Europe, you have probably visited the interrail.eu or eurail.com website and been very confused about what ticket to chooses, what does everything mean, and how do you actually use your ticket. Here I will break it all down for you. This is probably the most important interrail tips I will give you. I will explain the different tickets and how you use them correctly on your trip.

Interrail tips for how to use the interrail pass

The different tickets

Global pass

The interrail global pass is their most popular option. It lets you travel through 33 different countries with only one ticket.

Who is the global pass forThe global pass is for anyone who wants to go on an interrail throughout multiple countries in Europe. For those who want the freedom of choosing destinations and travel routes for themselves.

How it works – You buy one ticket that is valid for a certain number of days and has a certain number of travel days included. The travel days means that you can travel as much as you want to on those days (you can take as many trains as you want to on those days). You use these days as you want to within the time frame. For example, you can buy a ticket with seven travel days that are valid for one month. You can then travel on seven of those days (as much as you want to) as long as they are within the month of when you started. There are also some tickets that have unlimited travel days.

How to use it – Before you get on a train you have to write down on your ticket what time your train is departing and arriving as well as where you are departing from and to. When there are controls they will check if this is correct so it is important that you do this before entering the train. This is what keeps track of how many of your travel days you have used and how many you have left.

On most trains, you can just hop on and off like you please with the interrail pass, but on some, you need to book a seat reservation. This is important to be aware of ahead of time because it is something that you can easily burn yourself on. You usually need to make reservations on night trains and international high-speed trains. The seat reservations are not included in the price of the interrail pass so when you do need to reserve a seat you need to pay a small fee. These trains are often more comfortable and will save you a lot of time. If you do not want to pay for reservations you need to make sure to take regional trains. On the interrail website there is a place where you can check your route and find out if you need reservations.

Which ticket should you chose – If you have decided that the global pass is for you all you need to decided is how many travel days and how long the ticket should be valid. My suggestion is to first decide on how long it should be valid. This can be anything from 15 days to three months. This all depends on your personal preferences and your budget.

When you know your time-frame you can look at how many travel days you need. This also depends on budget and personal preferences. You need to look at how many different destinations you want to visit. If you want to visit 6-8 destinations you should do seven travel days, and so on. My biggest interrail tips here is to not go overboard. I know you want to go everywhere and see everything, but make sure to take enough time to actually enjoy the destinations.

One country pass

The one country pass is very similar to the global pass except that it is only valid in one country.

Who is it for – This pass is perfect to those who want to really get to know one country. It is great for travelers who love to travel slowly and how does not want to spend their whole trip on a train, but spend more time at their destinations.

How it works – It works exactly like the global pass in the way that you get a set number of time and travel days. The only difference is that you first need to chose one country that you want to buy a ticket for.

How to use it – You use it the same way as the global pass

Which ticket should you chose – The first thing you need to decide on is which country you want to travel through. Here you can look at which is cheaper if you are on a budget, remember to look at both the ticket price and how much it costs to live there. When deciding on a country you should look at what you want from the trip. Do you want a relaxing trip with lots of beaches, do you want more historic sights, or do you want nature, hikes, and adventures? You can also look for countries that have combos of this. Italy is a great example as it is famous for its beaches and for its historic sights.

After you have decided on the country you need to decide on the length of the trip and how many travel days you need. Remember that for this one you probably need fewer travel days than with the global pass because the distances are shorter.

Interrail pass packages

The interrail pass packages are pre-made itineraries. These are tickets where everything is already planned and accommodation, tickets, seat reservations, and some discounts on activities are already booked.

Who is it for – The interrail pass packages are perfect for those who are looking for a hassle-free trip. If you want to take away all the responsibility of booking, planning, and making decisions this is perfect for you. All you need to do is show up and enjoy.

How it works – You buy a pass that you want and everything you need is already included. You get all the information you need when you buy your ticket and you just need to show up for the train tickets and the accommodation that is booked for you. If you want to you can also make any custom changes to your tickets. You just need to reach out to them about the changes you want to make and they will make the pass perfect for just you.

Which package should you choose – There are plenty of interrail packages to chose from and it can seem overwhelming at first. You should definitely use the filter options to see the packages that fit with how long your trip should last and which type of accommodation you want (hostel, hotel, or luxury). Remember that if you find one you really like, but it is too short or missing something you can always request to customize it. You also have the option to create your own package from scratch.

Additional interrail tips for using your interrail pass

  • Interrail pass vs. Eurail pass. If you are a European citizen you need to get the Interrail pass, if you are not a European citizen you need to get the Eurail pass. They work exactly the same.
  • Make sure you know which countries are included. The global pass included 33 countries in Europe. So you can not use the interrail pass in every single country in Europe. This also counts if the train travels through a country that is not included, so make sure you are aware of this.
  • 1st class vs. 2nd class. When you buy your tickets you need to decide if you want to buy the 1st class tickets or the 2nd class tickets. Which one you want depends on your budget and preferences. Notice that sometimes you do still need to pay a small fee to get upgraded to 1st class even if you have the 1st class tickets.

Tips for the destinations

A translation app – I suggest getting a translating app that can be used offline. They often work so that you download certain languages and then you can access them offline. You can download the languages you need before your trip. An app like this will help you so much, and maybe you will end up learning a few phrases.

A map app – As with the translation app you should get one that can be used offline. It works the same also, you can download certain countries, cities or regions while on WiFi so that you can access them when you’re offline. I live the maps.me app and highly recommend it.

Book accommodation in advance during high season – If you are traveling during the high season. In Europe, this will be during the summer. A lot of hostels and hotels will be completely booked. I suggest booking at least a few days before arriving at the next destination. You can of course also wing it, but only if you are comfortable with it. Then you must also be prepared that you might not get the standard you want or all the features you want. If you are going to wing it, and book when you arrive somewhere I suggest only doing that if you arrive early in the day. This is to make sure you have enough time to find somewhere to stay.

Don’t plan too much – When you have decided on where you want to go it can be tempting to set up a rigid itinerary for when you are there to see the most in the shortest time possible. I would advise against it. I am not saying don’t plan, or don’t find things there you want to do. Maybe just make a list of things you want to see and take it as it comes from there. A more loose plan makes more room for unexpected events as well as spontaneity. Some times things aren’t going to go by plan. Transport might be delayed, maybe you will get sick and so on. It is easier not to get disappointed by this if you do not have a strict schedule you need to follow.

Ask for advice – The locals know best. They often know of off the beaten track destinations. The ones who can give you the best interrail tips are those who live there. They know when is the best time to see the touristy things and so on. I always suggest talking to the staff at your hostel, hotel, or your Airbnb host. They will most likely be more than happy to give you advice.

Tips for socializing

Especially if you are traveling alone meeting people will be an important part of your travel. If it is your first-time solo-traveling this aspect can seem very daunting and scary. I know for me, even though I have traveled solo before it is still so scary. Here are my best interrail tips for socializing and a few extra tips for if you are travelling with someone.

Top interrail tips for meeting new people

Stay in hostels – Staying at hostels is the nr 1 way I have made friends while traveling. Most people who stay at hostels are people who love to be social, and who want to get to know other travelers. Everyone is in the same situation which makes it very easy to talk to people. You will most likely have something in common with everyone. Sleeping in dorms is a great way to start a conversation with other people. When you are literally sharing a room it is kind of hard to avoid it actually. Just strike up a conversation, you can ask if they know where the nearest store is or where you can get some pizza. Next time you see them in the room say hi and tell them the pizza they recommended was great, and boom suddenly you have friends.

Staying in hostels is a great way for meeting new people

Participate group activities – Hostels often organize different activities. This can be anything from bar crawls and beer pong to safaris and hang gliding. These activities are perfect for getting to know people. Even if you are not staying in a hostel you can look for activities like this in other places. Sometimes you can even book them through a hostel even if you are not a guest there. Activities are great for making friends because you already have something to talk about (the activity) and that way it does not have to get awkward and silent.

Say yes – Saying yes more than normal is something that has helped me so much in making friends while traveling. People have invited me to go to sights and activities that I do not really have much interest in, but I still say yes. That way I get to know people. Maybe the activity even turns out really fun, especially when I was not expecting it to be such fun. Of course, I only mean say yes when you are comfortable. Do not say yes to anything just to make friends.

Be willing to compromise – Something that helps a lot, especially when you are traveling alone and want to meet people is that you are willing to compromise. If you are always dead-set on getting things your way it can be difficult to meet people and make friends. Be willing to change your plans, and be spontaneous. Go with that group to the beach even though you were planning on going to the museum that day. Again still only within reason, do not cancel everything you want to do for new people.

Top interrail tips for travelling with someone

Communication is key – Communication both before the trip and on the trip will be what saves you from ending up killing each other. This is the number one interrail tips for traveling with someone. You should take some time before the trip to really talk about your expectations for the trip. Talk about what you want out of the trip, what is important to you, and what you expect from the other people. Find out if your expectations align if they do not find out what you need to do to make them align. Some good questions to ask are:

  • How much alone time do you need?
  • How often are we going to eat out vs cook ourselves?
  • What level of comfort are we expecting and what are we willing to pay to get it (travel style)?
  • How much do we want to party?
  • How much do we want to socialize?

Respect each other – This is not just a interrail tips, but a general tip that is also important for traveling together. Respect each others boundaries and remember that people are different with different expectations, reactions, and ways of doing things.

Be willing to compromise – This is a interrail tips that are great both for meeting new people and for traveling with someone you know. This does only work if all the people on the trip are willing to compromise. If one day you really want to do something, but your friend is kind of neutral they can compromise and come with you. Then maybe you let them decide what you are going to eat for dinner that day. It is all about giving and taking. Throughout the trip, it should equal out.

Spending time apart is not a bad thing – Some people need more alone time than others. Spending a day apart can be great. It will give you a break from each other and you will be able to do exactly what you want to for a day without thinking about anyone else. You will also have something new to talk about when you meet again.

Trains in Europe

Have you ever been interrailing in Europe? What do you think of these interrail tips?

Welcome!

I am Maria, a 20 year old student. I am here to show you that traveling is possible for everyone, including you. I belive that traveling can be done in a lot of different ways and that you never have to limit.

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