Interrail pass review, worth the money?

Lizet Wesselman - 13/04/2024

Interrail pass review, worth the money?

Lizet Wesselman - 13/04/2024

I’ve been travelling by train for years and pretty much full-time since March 2022. Yet, March 2024 is only the first time I travelled with an Interrail pass. Until now, I always bought individual tickets, even for big trips crisscrossing a country. But it was time to try out the Interrail pass and compare it with my single ticket system. Is it really so much easier, does it take less planning and is it worth the money? You’ll find all the answers here. And if not, you can leave a comment with your question and I’ll get back to you!

What is the Interrail pass?

For those who don’t know what the pass is at all, a brief explanation. The Interrail pass is a pass that allows you to travel by train for an x number of days “for free”. For example, you buy a pass for 7 days in a row, or for 10 days in 2 months. On those days, you can then travel by an unlimited amount of trains within those 24 hours. That’s the short version.

In reality, it takes a bit more work. It’s certainly not always free. For many trains, you still need a seat reservation. So in addition to the cost of the Interrail pass, you pay extra to board the train. These are prices from €5 to €15 or more for an overnight train. This is far from every train, and you can often get around it. It’s usually the fast trains that require seat reservations, and night trains, for example. So if you take a little more time for your journey, regional trains often allow you to make the same journey without seat reservations. This may cause more transfers, and you may have to plan a bit more.

For these trains, you still have to make some kind of reservation in the Interrail app by flipping a slider. This way, you use a travel day and can show where you’re going when you’re checked. Don’t forget this! Simply showing the pass isn’t enough, they need you to show them where you’re going. 

So it does take some planning to take the train. If you go for free regional trains, you sometimes come across trains that only go once every 2 hours. So if you miss your connection, you have to wait for 2 hours. But even if you want to make a stop for lunch somewhere in a town along the way, you need to pay close attention to the time because there isn’t always a next train going every 15 minutes. With seat reservations, the price can add up quite a bit if you have a number of transfers, and they all require seat reservations.

Benefits Interrail pass

The biggest advantage of an Interrail pass is that you can take unlimited trains in 1 day. This is especially ideal if you travel long distances that are usually quite expensive. If you spend 8 hours on the train, you quickly pay €200 or more for that in most countries. With an interrail pass, you pay at most those seat reservations. (Besides the pass itself, of course.)

In doing so, you have complete flexibility. You don’t have to take 1 train from A to B, you can get off anywhere you want and take the next one. Just watch out for seat reservations, because as soon as you get off, your seat reservation expires and you’ll have to buy a new one for the next one (if necessary).

So for example, I had a glass of wine with a friend in Rome, on the way to another destination. And I had a quick walk around Pisa, which was not a destination on my trip. If you have luggage with you, in cities you can usually store it at the station in lockers or guarded storage. So you can have a quiet lunch somewhere or check out a small town that you would otherwise drive by.

Of course, you can also make these stopovers if you buy single tickets. The only downside to this is that it sometimes costs extra. Direct from A to B is for instance € 35 and with a stop on the route you pay a total of € 38. It varies per location how big this difference is, but sometimes it can add up. Sometimes it can also be cheaper if you take regional trains. But that’s another bit of research. Interrail saves you that puzzle to a large extent, the only question now is whether or not you need a seat reservation.

Extras of the pass

Besides the pass itself, you also get some extra perks with the pass. For instance, you can get discounts on tours through Get Your Guide, hostels through Hostelworld and discounts on luggage storage at stations. This will ultimately save you money during your trip. There are also sometimes extra benefits per location, such as local food tours, city passes and local museums.

Downsides Interrail pass

The biggest disadvantage of an Interrail pass, as far as I am concerned, is really the fact that you still have to plan a lot. I expected the pass to save me a lot of time and effort, because I thought you could just hop on and off everywhere, but that’s not really the case. In fact, you still “buy” a ticket for every train, either in the form of a seat reservation or with the slider in the app. The slide is easy and could be done right before hopping on a train, but if you have to buy a seat, they might even be sold out at the very last minute.

Besides, the passes are just quite expensive. I had a 10-day pass in 2 months and a trip under €25 isn’t really worth using a travel day for. Perhaps I also just chose the wrong route in doing so, in a country that is quite cheap in terms of tickets an sich and many of my distances were so short that they rarely cost me more than €10 separately.

Are you under 27? Then you get a 25% discount on an Interrail pass. Then it’s immediately a lot more interesting.

So these points together, that for a lot of routes it doesn’t save anything AND it doesn’t save you planning time, just makes it uninteresting for me. I found it way too much effort to determine what I wanted to do each day, to figure out if I thought it was worth a travel day and how expensive a separate ticket would be otherwise. So it actually took more planning, compared to just finding the cheapest ticket.

So I have to honestly admit that I’m still not a fan myself. Although I definitely do believe it can be worth the money, if you are travelling long distances within a short time. (For example, a long weekend to a city across the continent) Or if you’re going on a mega Europe trip where you travel to a new country every few days. But as soon as you go from A to B and do some travelling around there with short distances every time, it’s not worth it.

Then why did I choose the Interrail pass this time?

I looked into the Interrail pass a few times before and came out cheaper each time if I just bought tickets, than if I used the pass. However, I still heard many people around me talking enthusiastically about the pass and by now I assumed it must be the convenience. I would have no problem paying a bit more for convenience. Time is money, so if it would have saved me planning time, it would have been worth the price. So, time to test that theory.

In hindsight, the pass wasn’t worth it this trip either, but I now know exactly how it works and when it ís worth the money. If I’d ever want to quickly cross the continent, I might look into buying the pass again. But for another trip through one or two countries, I’d rather buy separate tickets.

Need help planning a train trip?

Do you want to Interrail or train travel but don’t know where to start planning the trip? I get that, with trains you have so many choices in terms of locations that it can get overwhelming. But I can help! Take a look at my ready-made train travel guides for a nice itinerary, or let me create a custom itinerary for you.