Summer is here and we are all aching to travel. This is the season to go train hiking. Trees are beginning to blossom and the European landscape has shed the last of the winter colors. Simultaneously cities all over Europe are slowly come alive again, cafe staff begin to put tables and chairs outside and in many a street corner in cities throughout Europe the nightlife is bustling again. The wave of spring with all the cultural changes sweep from the south towards the north, as spring conquers Europe one field, forest and city at a time.
Current Interrail Trends
The Interrail Pass can seem complicated at a first glance. It comes in different variants with different time lengths and areas. The Interrail Global Pass allows you to travel with regional trains in 30 European countries. Let us take a look at the GlobalPass that is valid for 15 days and allows you to travel 5 days. As of 1st January 2016, the Eurail Group G.I.E. changed one of its more popular passes, the 5 days in 10 days was changed to 5 days in 15 days. One of the main reasons for the change was feedback from customers and their travel behaviour. I talk with Silvia Görlach who is Sales & Marketing Manager for Eurail Group G.I.E. First off, she mentioned the trend for Interrail Passes during 2015.
“Overall both the Global Pass and One Country Passes have increased in popularity.”
It turns out that in 2015 the Global Pass 10 in 22 days made up for approximately 38% of the total Global Pass sales. An estimate of the effect of the change to 5 days in 15 days shows that this validity of the Global Pass makes out 20% of Interrail Global Pass sales during the first quarter in 2016. But what if we look further back in time, say from 2012? The numbers tell their own story with a total of approximately 223,000 Interrail Pass sales in 2012 which increased to 250,000 in 2015. That is roughly another 25,000 people who went Interrailing in 2015 compared with 2012. It seems that to explore Europe by train is still appealing to many people who want to travel in Europe. As many as a quarter of a million of people on a yearly basis.
With 15 days at hand you will not have that much time to spend in each city but you can tailor your trip to your needs and it does give you the flexibility to visit several cities and regions in one go. Whether you want to explore 2-3 cities thoroughly or visit more than 7 cities in two weeks this pass is flexible enough to customize your trip to suit your personality and wishes. The beauty with this pass (and the GlobalPass in general) is that you can create a very unique travel experience. Imagine that you are keen on visiting three cities in Europe during your Interrail trip. Plot them on a map (Google Maps is useful for this) and decide on the best starting point. You can always fly in to the first city, spend a few days there and start your Interrail journey to the remaining two cities.
If you instead want to hop along between cities at a much more rapid pace, you could squeeze seven cities into two weeks. Well, to be realistic, you will visit some cities for one day only, spend one night in a selection of those seven cities, and maybe two nights in one or two cities. Remember that you will also have to account for the time spent in trains zig zagging between cities and countries.
The Seat Reservations
Although not always compulsory, especially during the busy summer period, you may want to consider reserving a seat on some of the more popular international routes. This is to avoid having to change seats frequently during your journey. Some trains, especially high speed trains such as Thalys, require you to reserve a seat. Moreover, to hike around Europe by train can be pretty hectic as it is, always being on your toes when it comes to picking the next place to eat lunch, city to visit and so on; so having your own seat on the train does give you a certain comfort and peace of mind. Silvia helps out with some useful advice on this matter
”Some European trains, such as high speed and long distance international trains, can require a seat reservation at an additional cost. International seat reservation fees can be as low as €1 (or the reservation cost is free on some domestic journeys). Passengers are encouraged to reserve as early as possible due to the popularity and demand of international routes, especially in the summer high season. This would be the same advice for passengers not travelling with an Interrail Pass. It is important to bear in mind, that on many routes it is possible to take alternate trains to avoid paying any reservation fees. The free Eurail Rail Planner App allows travellers to easily filter route search options to only show trains that do not require reservations.”
Picking Your Hotels In Time
You want to pick hotels well in advance before you arrive on location. Then again, try not to stress out too much if you have to change your destination all of a sudden and find yourself arriving at a train station with no hotel to check into. In the larger European cities there are plenty of options to find last minute lodging, such as Booking.com and Hostelbooking.com to name a couple. If you want to try something different you can check out AirBnb.com to rent an apartment or room in a private residence. That is a good way to get out of the touristy areas and see the city from a local’s perspective. With a few clicks online you can browse through the most near at hand options for accommodation with all four of these web sites.
- Note: With AirBnb it is more difficult to find last minute lodging as it depends on the reachability and responsiveness of the apartment owner.
- Note #2: For CouchSurfing, you can also check out Facebook groups for CouchSurfing in the city where you are. If you find yourself stranded without lodging, you can post on those Facebook pages and ask for advice for last minute lodging.
- Note #3: The www.interrail.eu website has Booking.com and Airbnb.com accommodation bookings integrated in to the website as a one-stop-shop.
Adrenalin Rush Or Tranquility
If you opt for exploring seven cities in one trip you are sure to feel slightly rushed during your holiday. Maybe that’s exactly what you’re looking for. Interrail definitely caters to the active traveller who wants to be on the go all the time. Imagine jumping off a train only to stay maximum one night. You really only have two options then, either sit in the hotel or use the adrenalin rush to explore the city at a quick pace. The option to go for should be fairly obvious. To really feel a city’s ambiance you will need more than one night though, more likely two to three nights. This also depends on what you want to see and do, as well as the size of the city. For instance, three nights in Berlin will not last long for exploring the entire city, whereas Bruges in Belgium is easily exhausted of restaurants, sights and museums in two nights. The cities are different creatures, sort of speak, and you want to think of this before you decide on the time to spend in a city, as well as before you go ahead and book that hotel room. 😉
Note: Sometimes you are not sure whether you want to stay more than one or two nights. You can then book a room for a shorter period but keep in mind whether it is likely that you can prolong your stay in the hotel. At the very least, select up to two other hotels as well that you can move over to in case you want to stay longer.
Take advantage of online train booking
The online train booking web sites come well in handy when you are on the road. Deutsche Bahn, SNCF, and Renfe are a few examples. In today’s world with smartphones and near constant ability to connect to Internet anywhere you can quickly go online to check train connections in the area where you are travelling. Adjusting your train itinary on the go has never before been so easy.
Changes on a Yearly Basis
Silvia mentions how the Interrail pass undergoes an evolution according to feedback from customers and changing travel behaviour.
“Any changes to the Interrail Passes are generally introduced at the start of each year.”
She goes on to describe how some of the changes that were introduced in 2016 was the ability to book further ahead, from three months to 11 months ahead. It is now also possible to use the Interrail Pass to travel in your country of residence for the outward and inward journey from your home country at the start and end of your Interrail trip. No more additional costs for the journey from and back home to your country. This should please many frequent Interrailers as these journeys could cost a fair amount.
The Eurail Group G.I.E. is continuously working on improving their offering of flexible and affordable train passes – including youth and senior discounts, and the ability for up to two children to travel for free with an adult Pass holder. With 30 countries to visit in Europe with the aid of the Interrail Pass, the available combinations for adventurous travellers are near-endless. For every trip you go on you will certainly find inspiration for the next trip. There is therefore no reason to wait until you set out on your first Interrail adventure. Set this text aside, cuddle up next to a dear one with a map of Europe in front of you to decide where to go.