Interrail vs. Self-Planning

Recently, I read a piece from a travel blog I like a lot, On the Luce, on the popular Interrailing. I have never used an Interrail pass personally, but I’d like to speculate on the pros and cons based on Miss Lucy’s post.

To summarize, Interrail is an extremely flexible service that lets young people travel within a country or between several countries by rail, getting on and off when they please over a fixed time period, for a fixed price. Eurail is the sister service for non-European citizens or residents. 

I have traveled through quite a bit of both Germany and Italy by train, both for ten days each, which more than the maximum time allotted for the Interrail passes. For simplicity sake, I will only use my traditionally booked Italy route to compare to the Interrail and Eurail passes.

Here was my route (taken in mid-March 2016) and current, average prices on the Italian train service, TrenItalia, for the last week of July (for last-minute planners) and the second week of August respectively:

  • Venice → Florence: 35, €55
  • Florence → Rome: 25, €40
  • Rome → Naples: 20, 20

These train journeys work out to be under $100 and $135 respectively. Mind you, they are for a specific service, with peak service hours costing a bit more, so if you miss your train or change your plans, you have to buy a different ticket. But, as you can see, booking immediately does not have a massive price difference from booking even a week in advance and train tickets can be even cheaper the more in advance you book. Not to mention, there are services several times an hour so if you happen upon a fully booked service, it won’t be long until the next one.

An 8-day within one month Interrail and Eurail pass costs $210 and $350 respectively to travel within Italy. While the price is much greater, these services are much more flexible, allowing you to take the train any time and day you want as well as a refund option. However, you would have to do quite a lot of traveling within those eight days for the money to be worth the cost of the rail pass rather than booking in advance.

I have toggled around on the site and these rail passes may be more appropriate for more long-term travel, especially as plans can change so much and often. But, again, I would get this pass more for convenience sake than money, but as I don’t have the funds to justify buying such as pass, I’ll stick to planning my cheaper journeys. You are likely to still save money buying a ticket immediately from the station as you go than buying a rail pass.

Personally, I don’t mind planning in advance (in fact, I love it), so you probably won’t catch me using a Eurail pass any time soon.

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