Stasher’s Favourite Interrailing Routes: Discover Europe on a Train

Stasher’s Favourite Interrailing Routes: Discover Europe on a Train

by George Mouratidis
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If you are a resident of any European country, there is a good chance you have heard about the Interrail pass: a kind of master railway ticket that covers unlimited train travel within the EU. Especially popular among broke college students and gap year takers, Interrail is one of the most fascinating ways to discover continental Europe in all its weird glory. In this article, we will share with you three of our favourite interrailing routes, complete with some practical info and costs. What are you waiting for? Ride on!

Types of Interrail passes

First of all, let’s start with some information about the tickets. There are three major categories of Interrail passes:

  • Global pass
  • One-country pass
  • Premium pass

The “Global Pass” is valid for travel within 30 European countries, while the “One-Country” pass is better if you are planning on a thorough visit on a single country. The “Premium Pass” is a newer addition (replacing the older regional pass), valid for Spain and Italy. The advantage of the Premium Pass is that seat reservations for trains are for free within these two countries.

interrail passes

IMPORTANT INFORMATION: You can not use your global pass to travel within your own country, but you are entitled to one outbound and one inbound journey.

Prices vary depending on the type of the pass and the age of the traveller. EU citizens under the age of 27 have significant discounts on their tickets. For example, the cheapest Global Pass (three days of travel within 30 days), costs €160 for youth, while regular price is €218. Nevertheless, it is still a good deal, considering that trains in Western Europe (especially the newer ones) tend to be quite pricey. You can find detailed information and prices about all available types on the company’s official website.  Through the Interrail Benefits Portal, you can check all of the available discounts that come with your pass.

A “three days within a month pass” means that the pass is valid for 30 days, three of which can be used for travel. You can ride unlimited trains between midnight and midnight and you can spread them out as you see fit. The best tactic is to save your travel days for longer travels so you can take your time enjoying each destination.

overnight interrailing routes
Some interrailing routes are best enjoyed asleep.

A nice little workaround to this is the “overnight rule”, that is mainly used by experienced Interrailers. If you get an overnight train you only need to use one travel day for night trains thanks to Interrail’s rule. Even if you leave on one calendar day and arrive on the next, you only count the day of departure for that train.

*Disclaimer: As of January 2019, Interrail did away with the 7pm rule. Passes purchased in 2019 require you to use a single day of travel, regardless of departure and arrival times. However, the 7 pm rule works as intended for passes purchased in 2018.

Train reservations with Interrail

While Interrail grants you free access to most trains in Europe, it is not exactly a universal free pass. Local and regional trains usually do not require reservations, but high-speed, overnight and international trains almost certainly do. That often comes with a small to moderate surcharge (discounted for pass holders). On the bright side, you will get your money’s worth with free Wi-Fi or onboard meals.

Tickets can be reserved through the dedicated Interrail reservations service, through the Rail Planner App or at the train station. However, the earlier you make your arrangements, the better. In fact, we recommend going the extra mile and booking all of the important tickets of your journey in advance to avoid nasty surprises.

Don’t forget to watch Eurotrip to get some inspiration for your trip.

Especially during the summer, bad planning can easily ruin your budget (and mood). Being proactive is not that hard and you ensure a smooth trip, focused entirely on the experience.

Some of the trains that require a reservation are:

  • Eurostar (London to Paris, Amsterdam and Brussels). The booking fee is £27, plus a £10 service fee for reservations made at the station.
  • Thalys (Paris to Brussels, Amsterdam and Cologne). Expect to pay about £10-20 for 2nd class and £25-30 for 1st class.  
  • TGV (High-speed domestic French train). £10-20, depending on the season.
  • Trenitalia (Italy). The reservation fee is £8 for the following trains:
    • Frecciabianca
    • Frecciargento
    • Frecciarossa
  • AVE (Spain). £8 for 2nd class, £16 for first class. We recommend booking in advance for long-distance trains as well (£4-5).
  • Swedish high-speed trains (SJ) and the train that reaches Copenhagen. £5 for a 2nd class ticket and £12 for a 1st class.
  • Seat availability for pass holders is limited on most high-speed trains in France (TGV, Thalys, Renfe SNCF, Intercity trains, ICE trains).

Book your reservations for the major trains a couple of months in advance. If you find yourself with no viable option, you can always find workarounds with local trains, or even buy a full-price ticket.

Eurostar and Interrail

If you’re departing from the UK, you will eventually need to book a Eurostar ticket. You can use your Interrail pass to book a ticket, but you’ll need to pay a £25 reservation fee.

Interrail of Eurail pass holders can only travel in Standard or Standard Premier classes. All trains are equipped with free WiFi and cafes, so this will be one of the easiest parts of your Interrailing experience.

Suggested interrailing routes around Europe

Nothing sounds less sexy than “planning your holiday”. After all, Interrailing should be all about fun, and the unexpected and living for the wrong turn. Right?

Well, kinda.

We hate to break it to you, but major European train operators do not share your wanderlust spirit. Their job depends on punctuality and precision. Although some degree of spontaneity can help spice your trip up, venturing forth to the unknown armed with nothing more than an Interrail pass is a recipe for disappointment

Map out your trip with Interrail Planner

We don’t want you stranded in some village in the middle of nowhere. Therefore, we’ve prepared three of our favourite interrailing routes around Europe, using the help of our friends at Interrail Planner. Using their handy interactive map and calendar tool, you can keep track of where you’ll be and when, and click through to book travel, accommodation and city activities. Another cool feature is that you can simply design your route and let Interrail Planner book everything (from tickets to accommodation) in advance!

A handy tool to plan your train trip!

Below you will find our suggested interrailing routes around Europe. Feel free to follow, adjust or downright disregard them. For the sake of simplicity, each plan is for the 2nd cheapest available Global Pass (seven days of travel within 30 days/£220 youth ticket) and start from London. Serious globetrotters are welcome to add more stops or even combine them for an even more exciting adventure!

The “Mainstream Mary”

The least tiring of our suggested interrailing routes, this option covers many of the must-visit destinations around Europe. Your journey will begin from St.Pancras International train station, from which you will ride the Eurostar to Paris. Reservation is mandatory, as we saw earlier. If you’ve never been, we suggest you stay for 3-4 nights to really get a taste of the French capital and everything it has to offer.

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Photo by traversefrance

Our next stop will be Lyon, one of the prettiest cities in France. You will want to ride the TGV there since the extra fee is not too steep (provided you’ve booked in advance). The journey will take you about two hours.

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After 2-3 nights in Lyon, it’s time to head out to the fashion capital of the world, Milan. Although it is not as picturesque as other Italian cities, it is definitely worth a visit, if anything for the fascinating city centre.

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After that, make your way to Venice. As this is a short trip and won’t cost as much, we suggest not using your pass for it, to save an extra day. The journey will take about 2.30 hours and will cost around £20-25. Walking around Venice is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, although the place tends to be packed with tourists almost all year long. However, as you’ll see, there is a good reason for that!

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Photo by leos.lens

When you’ve had your fill of ciccheti and spritz Aperol, it is time to work your way up! Catch the RJ train from St.Lucia train station to Villach and then to Salzburg, one of the prettiest cities in Austria. You may as well stay there for a couple of nights to rest and enjoy the views before you push on further. This train ride takes about seven hours, so catching a night train will save you money on accommodation and ensure that you’ll arrive in tip-top shape for the rest of your journey!

De Pijp – Photo by alexandros_tziampiris

Then it is time to spend a day in Frankfurt, one of Germany’s most modern cities, with an abundance of entertainment and dining options. Finally, the last stop: Amsterdam, the famous capital of the Netherlands. Dubbed as one of the most fun destinations in Europe (with neighbourhoods such as the Red Light District and De Pijp), Amsterdam is a great place to unwind before you ride the Eurostar back home!

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Total costs for pass, tickets and accommodation: about £800-1000

Use this link to adjust your journey and calculate the costs according to your budget.

The “Odd Olga”

Eastern Europe is not the first region to come to mind when it comes to interrailing routes. That’s a damn shame though because you can find some pretty amazing places east of Germany!

Krakow from above – Photo by discover_europe_

This itinerary is a little bit different, as you’ll start by taking a plane to Berlin. Be sure to stick around for a while, since this is one of the coolest cities in the world, with an amazing nightlife and culture. Then, it is time to visit the Czech Republic. Catch the train to Prague, the homeland of great beer, goulash and dumplings.

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Next stop is one of the prettiest cities in Poland: Krakow. Although Warsaw, the capital, is more famous, Krakow is more beautiful and much more fun, as it is considered a “backpacker’s paradise”. Next, make your way south, to Bratislava, Slovakia. Although admittedly it’s not the prettiest place around, this town has a reputation as a famous party destination and a visit there will prove it.

One of Budapest’s famous thermal baths – Photo by samvandervalk

The best cure after all those fun nights in Slovakia is a visit to the thermal baths in Budapest. Although it is not as vibrant nor as cheap as the previous destinations, the capital of Hungary is a fascinating place to be, with breathtaking castles and impressive architecture. After you spend some time here, catch the night train for the journey to the lively city of Belgrade as you eat and drink your way around the Balkans.

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After Belgrade, there are three different routes you might want to take. At this point, don’t expect to return back to London on a train. You’re a long way from home! Besides, all of your options will get you straight to some sun-drenched summer destination that has a direct flight to the UK, so you really can’t go wrong.

  • Option 1: Ride the train to Zagreb and make your way to the Dalmatian coast. See if you can reach Dubrovnik and see King’s Landing in real life!
  • Option 2: Continue going south through Macedonia and reach the Greek port town of Thessaloniki. From there you can catch a ferry to the islands or just explore the beaches in Halkidiki.
  • Option 3: Go further east towards Bucharest and continue until you reach the Black Sea. There are some amazing beaches to be found along the coast of Romania and Bulgaria.

Total costs for pass, tickets and accommodation: about £600-800

Use this link to adjust your journey and calculate the costs according to your budget.

The “Mediterranean Marco”

Ah, Mediterranean Europe. Often called “the cradle of Western civilisation”, it is filled with sites of historical significance, romantic seaside villages, exclusive resorts and turquoise beaches. Riding along the coast of the Mediterranean is certainly of the most scenic interrailing routes you can choose.

Since you don’t want to lose any valuable days, start off with a flight to Barcelona. Admire the architecture of Antoni Gaudi and the local cuisine before moving on to the French Riviera and the cities of Marseille and Nice, possibly with a stop at Cannes in between. Famous for its perfect sandy beaches, this region is one of the top tourist destinations for people all over the world.

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Photo by @tranhaanhhh

The next part of this journey will take you deep inside the heart of Italy, the home of glorious cities and picturesque villages laying under the sun. Not to mention the finest cuisine in this hemisphere! Visit Genoa, Italy’s largest port city, a former empire that used to rule over the Mediterranean sea back in the 13th century. Next up is the opulent city of Florence, the place where Renaissance was born. The Tuscan capital will surely captivate you with its art and local cuisine, so make sure to stay here for a while.

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Perugia is a hidden gem – Photo by chic4_

Perugia is not as famous as other Italian cities but its rich heritage is visible in every corner of the old town. Every summer it becomes home to one of Europe’s most famous jazz festivals, so be sure to check it out if you’re in town!

From here you can catch the slow train to Rome (pay full price to save a day of travel — you’ll need it) and visit one of the world’s most famous destinations. The Italian capital needs no special introductions. Drenched in history, world-famous landmarks and quite a few hidden gems, the Eternal City is a sight to behold.

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Night falls in Palermo… – Photo by Federica Gentile

It is often said that northern and southern Italy are completely different. See that for yourself as you make your way to Naples, a city of contradictions, spontaneity and almost volcanic spirit! From there, take the night train to Palermo, Sicily’s largest city.

Feel free to rent a motorbike and explore the rest of the island at your leisure before you make your way home. From Syracuse to the Aeolian Islands, this is a place you really want to spend your summer holidays in, so take your time!

Total costs for pass, tickets and accommodation: about £800-1000

Use this link to adjust your journey and calculate the costs according to your budget.

I didn’t like your suggestions!

The interrailing routes we shared with you are just an example of how far you can go with an Interrail ticket in your hands. Feel free to experiment with them and remember to store your bags with Stasher while waiting for the train that will take you to the next destination.

With hundreds of StashPoints across all main transport hubs in Europe, you can always count on us for affordable, convenient and insured luggage storage!

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