/ Travel & Leisure

Would you go interrailing?

Earlier this month, the EU announced it’s giving away 15,000 free InterRail passes to 18 year-old EU citizens. But interrailing isn’t just for teenagers. Would you go?

I’ve never actually been interrailing myself, so I’ve had a chat with three people at Which? who have been to find out more about their experiences.

As I’ve also been working with our Which? Travel team over the last few months I’ve seen some amazing European destinations in their features, so I was curious: is it the best way to see Europe?

Kirsty Robinson

How old were you and why did you go? I was 20 and went with a group of friends from university. We chose interrailing because it looked like the best and cheapest way of seeing loads of different places.

Where did you visit? Prague, Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest, Llubljana, Lake Bled, Rome, Split, Hvar and Dubrovnik.

Was it cost effective? I think it was. We teamed up with cheap hostels and managed to save on accomodation by sleeping on some over-night trains. I was impressed that the ticket also covered boat travel!

Is it the best way to see Europe? 100%. I’ve been to a lot of places, far and wide, and I would still say that interrailing was one of my favourite experiences ever. The whole thing felt like a bit of a pilgrimage across Europe and a rite of passage at that age. I would do it all again in a heartbeat!

Melissa Massey

How old were you and why did you go? I’d always wanted to do it, and was lucky enough to have friends to visit in different European cities. At 25 it was also my last chance to take advantage of a discounted youth pass!

Where did you visit? Oslo, Gothenburg, Copenhagen, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Zurich, Munich and Vienna.

Was it cost effective? As I could only take a limited amount of time off work, and I knew where I wanted to go (no spur of the moment decisions for me!), it worked out cheaper to book in advance onto specific trains. If I’d had more time (and been more spontaneous) I’d definitely have considered paying for the pass.

Is it the best way to see Europe? Absolutely. I saw loads and had the best time doing it. If you go alone, I find the free walking tours are a great option. You’ll meet other visitors to the city, potentially make some friends and also get some good pointers on where to start exploring from the guide.

Lauren Jackson

How old were you and why did you go? I was 19. I choose to do interrailing as my then boyfriend and I wanted to visit Europe’s biggest countries. I was on a break from university so interrailing seemed like a convenient and time efficient way to see a lot of places in a short amount of time.

Where did you visit? Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Czech Republic and The Netherlands.

Was it cost effective? Yes and no. We had a short space of time and a fairly set itinerary so it may have been cheaper to book specific trains. Although we did make a few deviations which the interrailing pass gave us the flexibility to do.

Is it the best way to see Europe? If you have a flexible schedule then, potentially, yes. I think it also depends on where you want to go. The quality and reliability of trains in central Europe are very impressive, and there are many different options and connections. However, I don’t think this is the case for everywhere.

Would you go?

It was great to hear about the interrailing experiences people here have had. As a Southern Rail commuter, it was a nice change of pace discussing positive rail stories! With adult prices starting at £243 for a pass, I think it’s something I’d consider in the future.

I also discovered that there’s an equivalent for non-Europeans named Eurail. Michelle Cini told me that it’s an extremely convenient way for non-Europeans to see the continent in one go, with stations generally being far more conveniently located than airports.

Do you have an interrailing story to tell? I’d love to hear how it went, and whether you’d recommend it. Not been? Let us know if our Which? staff members’ stories could tempt you for your next holiday.


Hungry ?!

I am always pleased to hear of people travelling by train as ooposed to car, bus or plane. There are increased chances of seeing scenery in a relaxed way and also meeting natives. : )

When I travel I actually download all the relevant details of the countries, places I will be seeing, staying and passing through from Wikipedia as a .pdf. On train it is easy to read the detasils and comprehend the scenery etc.

Having country maps is nice but they are bulkier than an e-reader or smart phone so downloading or scanning is the alternative. I mention the e-reader as my A4 size one is good for a month of normal reading without charging so using it for reference etc conserves phones. It also has a 32GB slot for additional photo storage.

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That’s what my husband and I intend to do when we retire (c6 years to go), because then there will be no limit to the length of time we’re away. Inshallah we’ll be in good enough health. Can’t wait!

For starters, Scotland to Norway, first heading south to the chunnel, and from there along the north sea coast for a bit. Afterwards? Where and when to stop and come back? No plan!

Well, since you ask, kind of a plan: hug the coast, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, bypass Denmark and straight to Poland, Russia (if poss), Lithuania, Latvia, Esotnia, Russia again, Finland, north of Sweden, Norway, Sweden again, take The Bridge (The Bridge!!!) to Denmark, and from there, see what’s what.

This main remain a dream, who knows, but what a dream.

Europe might be closed to you if the EU children don’t behave better, Sophie 🙂 . I enjoy travelling by train rather than flying (but only had few opportunities). You see (much) more and it is much less hassle. Well, normally. My sons were due to fly home from Hamburg on a Sunday evening after a stag weekend, only to find the airport totally shut down due to a major electricity failure. Next flight Tuesday. So ensued a rail journey taking in 5 changes of train ending with Eurostar from Brussels, arriving in the UK 12 hours later. Unfortunately, little scenery to gaze at for much of the journey.

A pal is currently on the Orient Express.

If you look on YouTube there is a British family who travelled by rail to HK via the Trans-Siberian to Mongolia and then China. I rather fancy that apart from the flight back they returned on so would look to come back via alternative tracks.

Rather well done with costs:

The site for all things interesting on rail travel is The Man in Seat 61 site at “seat61.com”.

I like going on the Orient Express but it’s a bit of a misnomer – it doesn’t touch the orient and it’s hardly an express. It is a divine and indulgent experience though for all its faults!

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I was referring to Ian’s mention of his pal travelling on the Orient Express. It is now called the Venice Simplon Orient Express. The journey starts at London Victoria and ends in Venice, although there are occasional Vienna options. It is a luxurious and indulgent experience. Conveyance is in vintage carriages and some of the continental lines still have jointed rail so you get the clickety-clack sound from the wheels. I think some of the carriages have six-wheeled bogies so you get clickety-clickety-clack. It is not a speedy service, however, because – as history tells us – snowdrifts and delays at borders are included to allow time for full criminal investigations in the event of an unfortunate incident.

Since the name Orient Express is already taken, the Shangri-la Express cannot have it – which has nothing to do with US and UK dislike of Chinese enterprise [which in the UK’s case is not true].

What is even more interesting [and will give you a thrill] is that €6.5 billion is being allocated over the period 2021-27 to enable the EU to enhance its strategic transport infrastructures to make them fit for military mobility. This is likely to be specifically targeted at improving Trans-European Network routes in Eastern Europe to improve military logistics in the event of international tension or war. The Rail Baltica project aims to build a standard gauge railway connecting the Baltic states [and possibly Finland] with the rest of the European railway network via Poland. The change of gauge between the western European railways and the USSR system was what caused Mr Hitler a lot of difficulty during the second world war, holding up re-supply of his armies.

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It is ground pressure of the tracks that decides whether a tank sinks or swims in the mud not overall weight. In fact even a good average ground pressure can be misleading if there is a high point loading at either end of the vehicle.

Much against popular myth the Tiger1, around 50% heavier then the Sherman, but far better in dealing with mud.

With the MoD budget under scrutiny (hopefully it will be slashed to allow money to be spent on what we need, not on military toys) it may be the cost of rail travel will be what stops quicker transportation ( or maybe a few lines will be blown up – I saw that happen in B&W films and it seemed quite effective).

I hope talk of aggression will subside as it is depressing in this lovely weather (just like in the battle of Britain).

Continuous welded rail track
Before laying new track, repairing track, or changing the sleepers, the rail is mechanically or thermally altered (stressed) so that its length equals the same at a stress-free temperature of 27 °C. This, so the rail is fixed in place with no thermal forces in effect. The stress-free temperature that is used is dependent on environmental extremes and thus varies with location. In the United Kingdom, CWR is stressed to 27 °C (81 °F), the mean summer rail temperature. In the US, standard stress free temperatures vary from 35 to 43 °C (90 to 110 °F).[7] Despite stressing the CWR before installation, a rail may still reach its “Critical Rail Temperature” (CRT). This is the temperature of the rail above which buckling may occur.[8]
” (Wiki)

The article points out that speed restrictions will, if necessary, be applied during the hottest part of the day.

This is not a problem limited to CWR. The older short rail lengths were joined with greased fishplates and an expansion gap between lengths that allowed for the thermal effect. Again, the gap was chosen to allow for expected summer temperatures. It would still be liable to buckling if we had one of the UK’s unusual heat waves, such as we are now about to experience. A pragmatic balance must be struck somewhere.

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I prefer to travel on preserved railways in the UK. Meeting the volunteers that run them – people with passion – is part of the interest.