The idea of travelling across Europe by rail for a pre-arranged fixed price is a great one; one that InterRail (Eurail for non-European residents) is perceived to offer. But the one-stop European rail pass doesn’t stand up to any sort of serious scrutiny.
The InterRail pass is the bulwark of student trans-continental travel, though it’s available to absolutely anyone for varying price plans. Most people purchase the ticket with the idea that it is cheap, easy to use, and flexible.
It’s not cheap
Take a journey for one adult (26-59 year old) from a home in greater London to several European capitals, for which the ‘global pass’ – allowing travel across the continent – is most likely needed. The pass can reduce the costs of unplanned ‘turn up on the day and go’ travel – always the most expensive way to travel, but rarely competes well with pre-purchased tickets, even if only purchased a few days before. Further, travel in your country of residence is excluded, which leads nicely to –
It’s not easy to use
The exclusions list, if you every find a comprehensive one, is longer than most people’s holidays. Trying to find out more from the InterRail website? Give up now (and certainly don’t try to download their map). As noted above, travel in your country of residence is not included. Nor are Eurostar services, whose special InterRail fares – only available by phone or in person – are often more than their budget online fares. Nor are the high speed train networks in many of the European countries that see high levels of tourist traffic, including France, Italy, and Spain entirely covered. Some train companies just aren’t covered at all, leading us to –
It’s not flexible
My idea of flexibility does not include being able to travel for only 5 in 10 days, or 10 in 22… persuading travellers into longer journeys that tend to take place on high-speed services. High-speed services (like France’s TGV network) and sleeper services in many InterRail countries have supplementary costs, surcharges, and require reservations, removing the er, cheapness, ease of use and flexibility that is supposed to be built into the pass. An added issue is that train companies often run specific quotas for InterRail pass holders, meaning a train can be full to a pass holder, when the world and his dog can still buy a ticket.
InterRail is a great idea, it just doesn’t work.