Why Interrail remains a great choice for rail travel
If you suddenly had to catch a train from London to Manchester today, with no time in hand to pre-book, find a deal or hunt for discounts, you would have to fork out £166 one way. For the privilege of sitting in First Class that would be £237.50.
It can be so costly to get around Britain on the rail networks that we tend to search for alternatives. It’s lovely to catch the sleeper train to Scotland, for example, but why pay £145 when you could fly up in a fraction of the time for £20? The railways are now invariably the most expensive option.
So much so, it’s amazing to see just how far you can get outside of the UK for the same sort of money. Trains in Europe are faster, cheaper and newer! UK rail prices are by far the highest in Europe, and commuters have no choice but to pay up to 13% of their monthly salary just to get to work. Then, they often don’t even get a seat in an overcrowded old carriage. Six times more is spent than by our European counterparts, and the service is unreliable. No wonder we look enviously across the Channel.
To see just how far you could go throughout Europe for the same price as that pricey single to Manchester, it is interesting to look at Interrail. Since 1972, Interrail has been providing all-in-one rail passes which are a gateway to many countries. Their Global Pass, at £170, offers access to an astounding 30 European destinations. This incredibly popular ticket is valid for an entire month, extends unlimited travel on trains and ferries and covers the whole of Eastern and Western Europe and Scandinavia. Crazy though it may sound, for that extra £4, which would probably not even buy you a coffee and a snack on that Manchester express, you could cover thousands and thousands of miles on an epic cultural odyssey.
Interrail has followed the same basic principles since its inception. It has always been cheap and flexible, allowing a multi-trip experience, and the creation of your own itinerary. No longer just the domain of students and backpackers, it is now used by all ages and by families, who recognise its incredible value for money. Supplements have always been payable for super fast trains and for sleeping cars, but overall the pass allows unlimited exploration, as long as there is a timetable and a train scheduled to depart, to wherever you want to go!
That infamous flexibility has been tweaked over the years, to afford customers more specific journey planning. You can now buy a pass to just one country or one precise area, such as the Greek Islands, if you know your holiday is going to be more centralised. This is a huge favourite with young people who like to visit the music festivals over the summer, and may therefore like to base themselves in Croatia, Hungary, Germany, Serbia, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Portugal, or anywhere else hosting a live event where they can pitch up, pitch a tent, and dance the days away.
Multi-stop trips are still enormously popular, however. The most travelled route is through Western Europe, taking in Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam, then onto Germany, Switzerland and northern Italy, heading back along the Riviera to Marseilles, and back to Paris. This whistle-stop tour takes in key cities, staggering scenery and unparalleled art and architecture en route. Four or five countries is the usual recommendation to try and fit into one month.
Scandinavia has become another highly-favoured Interrail route. Although it is relatively more expensive there, this is more than made up for by the incredibly friendly people, beautiful landscapes, and how much there is to see and do. Flying into Copenhagen, a trip could take in Gotenberg, Oslo, Stockholm and Helsinki, all four of the countries, giving a real insight into our northern neighbours’ lives.
Southern Europe will always be a magnet for the sun-starved Britons, and with Interrail, it is easy to get from Rome down to Bari, then across on a ferry to Patras, then possibly onto Turkey or the Greek mainland or islands. Lisbon in Portugal is another great start point, with onward access to all the major Spanish cities of Madrid, Seville, Grenada and Barcelona.
With Interrail’s unique potential, travel is only limited by your imagination. It’s worth pointing out that you have to be an EU citizen to buy an Interrail pass. Non EU members can get a Eurail pass which is very similar. For almost the exact cost to travel from London to Manchester you can explore the beauties and cultures of Europe. Making interrailing a perfect eco-friendly, pound-stretching travelling experience.
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