InterRailing round Europe is a great way to spend your summer – I’m doing it right now. With one ticket you have the freedom to explore as much of Europe as you have the time and inclination for. I’m travelling from Barcelona to Copenhagen, with a few stops in France, Germany, Luxembourg and Sweden in between.
I’ve already been on the rails for a week now and I’ve been using my journeys to think about how you can save money InterRailing, so you have all the more to spend in your destinations.
Buy food before you get on the train
On my recent San Sebastian to Barcelona trip a coffee and ham sandwich combo was €7 on the Renfe train. If I’d have bought that when I was on land I could’ve easily got it for half that. If there are a few of you travelling you could set yourselves up with a whole picnic for the journey for even less.
I’d recommend not only getting your snacks before you get on the train, but before you get to the station. Most stations only stock carby, fatty, overpriced food. Get yourself to the supermarket and get some greens!
Book trains overnight
In Western Europe you’ll find that even hostels average about €25 per night. If you can book yourself on an overnight train you’ll save money on accommodation costs, and sightseeing time in your next destination too.
Book accommodation near the station
If you’re moving around fast it makes sense to book your hostel close to the station, this way you avoid stressing when you get there and having to worry about finding your accommodation in town with your backpack in tow. Obviously this will depend on how close the station is to where all the action is, but it’s something to consider.
Prepare your maps
If you don’t know where you’re going when you arrive in a destination it can be tempting to jump in a taxi, or to turn on the old data roaming, both of which are crazy expensive for us budget backpackers. Before you leave home print off maps of where the station is in relation to where you want to stay, or even just to the main town, then at least you have an idea of where you need to be.
Know the pass you need
You don’t necessarily have to fork out for the continuous pass when you’re InterRailing, there are regional ones which don’t cost quite as much but still give you access to all the trains in that area too. If you find that the destinations you want to go to are quite close together check there isn’t a cheaper way to see them, perhaps by combining a regional InterRail pass with a point to point ticket too.
Book your trains early
If you know there are specific trains you want to use on your journey just get them booked asap. That way you won’t have to change your plans, which could be expensive, if the train you want isn’t available. This especially makes sense during peak times of Interrail travel, such as university holidays and over the summer.
You can book some trains up to three months in advance.
Check your days, and your carriage
Be aware that a travel day lasts from midnight to midnight, so if you’re booking overnight trains on anything other than a continuous pass you might end up using more days than you intended.
Make sure you’re in the right carriage as you could be charged a penalty if you’re in 1st class but only have a 2nd class ticket.
Fill in your Travel Report right
You need to fill in the Travel Report (the little booklet you need to fill in as you go), before you check in to the train. If you’re on the train without it filled in and the conductor comes round, you will be charged a penalty and the price of a new full ticket. It’s not worth it.
If you add a wrong date to your Travel Report you cannot change it. This means that if you’re on anything but a Continuous Pass you’ll lose a day of travel, costing you unnecessary money. Always use black or blue pen too – they’re fussy like that and can decide not to accept it if you use anything different.
Download the app
Download the InterRail Rail Planner App so you can have up to the minute information on your phone. This helps if ever there’s a delay, or you need to get another train. It can help with any potential printing costs you may have had otherwise. Many of the features are available offline, helping you out even more.
Know your pass benefits
Read up on the InterRail website to find out exactly all the benefits you can get with your pass. Even if a particular train is not valid with the pass you have you could still get discount. There are also discounts available for other ferry, bus and boat options as well as tours, hotels and museum tickets too.
Have a plan
Of course you don’t want to plan every second of every day, but it will definitely help the finances if you have some sort of idea of the cheap hostels / destinations you’d like to include. Having a plan set out also means you can avoid wasting time on planning when you should be travelling.