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Two years ago, I embarked on my first Interrail-dependent European trip. The three of us opted for the 30-day two-zone option, which currently stands at £209 (according to today’s prices on the official website). We had planned our trip well, and two zones were definitely sufficient for our purposes – Paris, Lyon, Avignon, Marseille, Rome, Salerno, Venice, Florence, and Brussels were all visited before returning to Amsterdam.
Clearly, part of the thrill of choosing Interrail is the complete freedom it gives you to travel wherever and whenever you want within your zones (as long as it is by train, of course). It is my opinion that even the most precise of people, who would plan ahead such a journey to the exact day, are vulnerable to changes in schedule. For instance, unless one has been to every destination on the route – very inadvisable, since one of the main themes of Interrail entails seeing new places – there is the chance of wishing to stay in a new city shorter or longer than planned, depending on personal or circumstantial preference.
One’s schedule could also be influenced by useful opinions of fellow travelers, who might recommend or warn against certain destinations. Taking such counsel into consideration is not dissimilar to reading relevant consumer opinions on this website, before buying a certain product.
Finally, of course, there is the chance of something going wrong, thus necessitating a change in plan.
An example of a freakish combination of the last two possibilities arose on our way to Naples. Having disastrously mistaken a full-fledged Eurostar train for the Neapolitan metro, we found ourselves on our way to Salerno. We ended up staying four days in Salerno (since it was close enough to Pompeii anyway), eventually deciding not to bother with Naples as we had recently heard numerous horror stories about the place. On the whole, we quite enjoyed our stay in Salerno, a city two of us had never heard of before and had obviously never thought of visiting.
The Interrail pass, restricted to European citizens, provides free travel on most regular trains in most countries. With my one-month trip mainly confined to France and Italy, I could already see a significant variation in the applicability of the Interrail pass, which no doubt becomes more noticeable the further one wishes to travel. France was Interrail-friendly, with very acceptable supplements only necessary for high-speed TGV trains. Italy, unfortunately, was not, with even higher supplements than in France, charged on just about every major inter-city train (none of which even came close to TGV quality). Nevertheless, the Interrail pass should always get you where you want to go – just be ready for additional expense if you want to get around your zones reasonably quickly.
The Interrail pass can also be used with a few other types of transport. I was not, and am not, aware, of the full list of these deals, but I know that within our zones, the ferry from Brindisi to Corfu was available to us with only a small supplement charged (though the long traveling time and additional hassle deterred us in the end).
Though I thoroughly enjoyed the last trip (chronicled in my numerous European travel reviews), it was not in the end not a true European trip, since we only ended up visiting France, Italy, and Belgium. Optimism before my last trip as to how many places we would end up visiting proved rather misplaced. This is why I would advise anyone seriously considering the pass to realistically think out how far one is likely to get - allowing also for a few days’ possible delay – before deciding on the number of zones to be included in the pass. It is also, of course, crucial not to forget about budgetary concerns, since doing so could mean a premature trip home. The assurance of monetary reserves in the event of disaster is highly recommended. One of my traveling companions, for example, rather carelessly managed to get pick-pocketed by gypsies at Lyon station. This forced him to return home two days early. Things could, of course, have been worse.
This summer, I am going to use Interrail again, for a second European trip with an entirely different group of friends. This time, confident that we can make much better time than my group managed two years ago, we are taking the “global”, all-zones option, which will benefit us in a possible 31 countries spread out over 8 zones. The pricing structure of the Interrail pass means that this global option is only £50 more expensive than the two-zone option. I would definitely recommend this option to anyone entertaining even the remote possibility of visiting more than three zones. This global deal also has the added advantage of including the trip from one’s home country to the continent in the price, if the starting point does not happen to be within included zones. This was not a problem last time, with the Netherlands in the same zone as France, but when traveling from Great Britain to e.g. Paris, the trip to the continent would have to be paid for if the UK zone is not included on your pass.
If touring around Europe for a month is your idea of a good holiday, Interrail is an ideal, inexpensive travel option. Unless one has a car, and is willing to use that as a means of transport, Interrail is virtually the only feasible option for independent 30-day European excursions, and is thus highly recommended for all European backpackers.
i am also planning a inter rail trip this summer. Your information about global ticket has been of help for me because me and my friend have not yet decided which ticket option would be wanting. We have not made and defent plans yet we are only researching but im sure we will be off.
Than you for your help, and have a ggod trip
LostWitness 02.05.2001 16:06
Great piece of writing - haven't seen anything new from you for ages!
CareBear 01.05.2001 16:49
I really wish I had had the guts to do this as a student...