How to prepare an Interrail trip
Tomorrow I will start my Interrail trip around Europe! In one month I will explore the highlights of the continent by train. It’s gonna be an epic journey across 11 destinations and I couldn’t be more excited! However, a trip like this requires quite some preparation and therefore I will share how to prepare an Interrail trip.
For those of you who don’t really know how Interrail works, I’ll start with a short explanation. The Interrail Pass is a train ticket that allows you to travel to and around 30 countries in Europe. It’s an amazing way to see the continent as the trains ride across the mountains and through the little towns and big cities. Interrail is only for European citizens and residents but the same concept is available non-EU citizens and residents, which is called Eurail. Check here to see which pass you need!
Below you find a step-by-step guide to prepare an interrail trip!
Step 1. Make a timetable
In order to make the rest of your planning work start creating a timetable/schedule. I always use Excel to do this so I can easily adjust it and have it on my phone as well (I use the online worksheet on Google Drive). In the first column write down the number of days your trip will last (mine is a full month so it will be 31 days). In the next column write the dates down starting at the first day you will be starting your Interrail trip to the day you arrive at your final destination.
Step 2. Brainstorm destinations
Europe has so much to offer and most cities are very well connected by train. It will be difficult to decide where to go but just start with thinking of all the places you’d like to see! Think of the highlights such as Rome, Paris, London, Amsterdam and Berlin but also of lesser known places in for instance Switzerland and Portugal.
Step 3. Draw a map of Europe
To get a good overview of the places you want to visit draw (or print) a map of Europe and put a little dot at destination (with city names). This gives you a good indication of where the cities are located and which ones are close to each other (and probably are connected well).
Step 4. Download the Rail Planner Interrail app
Interrail launched a really good app where you can see the trains that are covered with your Interrail Pass. There are some trains that are not included and also some trains that require reservation costs (more about this later).
Step 5. Check the travel times between cities
Use the Rail Planner app to see how long it takes to travel from one destination on your map to the other. Connect the cities with a line and write the times down. If you want to save days and travel times make sure to check which night trains you can take. Also write down which connections require reservation.
Step 6. Find a route
Based on the connections and travel times decide what would be the perfect route for your Interrail trip and start planning the days and travel times in your timetable.
Step 7. Make train reservations
For some trains it’s compulsory to reserve a spot, which is indicated on the Rail Planner app. Keep in mind that there is a reservation fee (could be between 3-60 euros) as well as a booking fee on those trains (8 euros per train). If you want to save money it’s often possible to take another train route – the app will give you various routes and options.
You can easily make the train reservations on the Interrail website., simply enter which trains you’d like to reserve and Interrail will make the bookings for you all at once. You can choose to get the tickets delivered to your home address or to receive e-tickets.
Step 8. Book accommodation
In Europe you generally need to book your accommodation in advance. It’s not like Asia where you can just show up and there are still lots of rooms available for no money. Also, the longer you wait, the more expensive it gets.
One of my favourite hostel chains in Europe is Europe’s Famous Hostels. They are located all around the continent and offer high quality for budget prices. I always love staying at chains since you often meet the same people at different places and get to make more friends!
Step 9. Research destinations
You can decide yourself whether you’d like to be fully prepared and know about all the activities you can do at your destinations or if you are more of an adventurer and just see where the journey takes you. Usually the hostels have loads of information for you! However, make sure to take a look at the top 5 citytrips in Europe when you make up your mind.
Step 10. Enjoy!!!!
The most important thing about travelling is that you enjoy it. There are always some things that go wrong or you wish were different but don’t let it bother you. Make friends and enjoy the beautiful places you’ll visit. In case you travel solo read these tips before you go!