In the course of the #CrossBorderRail project I have learned a fair bit about how to use Interrail passes in a bunch of different countries.
While this is far from a complete guide, here are a bunch of tips and tricks I have picked up. All are correct as of summer 2023. If some of these stop working in the future I will – within reason – correct them!
Do these tips work for Eurail too?
They might, but as I live in Europe I have never used Eurail – so can’t confirm one way or another.
Should I trust the Interrail app?
What are you on about?
The Interrail app has a whole slew of problems, with passes and timetables. It downloads timetables to the app, so unless you keep it up to date all the time, that data can be wrong. And – especially for Poland in my experience – even with the app up to date it can still be wrong. Instead trust timetable data 1) in DB Reiseauskunft for every country except Poland, 2) if you cannot find data in DB Reiseauskunft or you’re in Poland use one of the timetable sites listed below.
But it worked fine for me!
Good. I am happy for you. Maybe you were in a country that doesn’t change its timetables ad-hoc. Or maybe you are on Android rather than iOS – anecdotally it seems to go wrong more often on iOS. And really, in 2022 and 2023 I have been to 27 countries personally using Interrail, and had dozens of online discussions about the problems with the app. “It worked for me” does not cancel out all of that.
My Interrail app keeps crashing or losing my trips – what do I do?
Hell knows. I have never been able to adequately solve this. Putting your phone in flight mode can sometimes temporarily help. But make sure you keep your mobile pass code handy (it’s a 6-digit PNR code – something like 7H6TGE or 9IZ2WL) so as you can retrieve things if you have to.
Should I even use a digital Interrail pass at all then, and not just revert to paper?
If you buy a pass on paper you have to state your start date for the pass when you buy it. For a digital pass you do not – and that offers you more flexibility. You can order a paper pass online, but it takes a while to get to you, or you go and buy it at a station – also a bit time consuming. So there are pros and cons to each.
Can’t find all the trains in a given country in DB Reiseauskunft?
DB’s Reiseauskunft is still the best route planner, but for no fault of DB’s the data in it for some European countries is full of holes – because rail firms in some countries do not upload data into the UIC Merits system that DB uses. For these countries you need to use separate site(s). This list is likely not complete!
Poland – Portal Pasażera
Sweden – resrobot
Czechia – IDOS
Romania – Mersul Trenurilor
Latvia – PV
Lithuania – LTG Link
Estonia – Elron
Greece – Hellenic Train
Serbia – Srbija Voz
Spain – a total effing nightmare, but Adif’s app (iOS, Android) is probably the best bet, but will not help you much in the Basque Country – for that try Euskotren
Want to find out if there are Eurostar or Thalys Interrail seat reservations available, and book them online?
Use this website of Belgian railways SNCB. A €4 service charge is levied, but it’s easier than calling Eurostar.
Want to find out the prices of seat reservations on TGVs and book them – and you are not in France?
Again SNCB to the rescue – with this website. This does not work for international TGVs though. €4 booking fee.
Best way to get seat reservations for TGVs – and you are in France?
Go to a station that has long distance trains, and go to SNCF long distance “Grandes Lignes” ticket machine like the one shown. Make your reservations there and there are no extra booking fees, and the PDF ticket QR code is emailed to you. You can even cancel reservations at those machines.
HELP! The TGV I want to reserve doesn’t seem to have any Interrail seats on it any more!
If you’re trying on a ticket machine, try on the Interrail website. And vice-versa if you can. If that doesn’t fix it, try other stations where you could change instead – I have found Nîmes-Barcelona reservations when Montpellier-Barcelona reservations are sold out on the same train. It makes no sense, but it is SNCF and Interrail, so of course it’s not going to make any sense.
Best way to get reservations for Renfe-run trains in Spain?
This has traditionally been complex outside of Spain, although online booking might be partially available on the Interrail website in future. But Renfe reservations can be sold at Deutsche Bahn ticket offices – although sometimes not all the stations show in DB’s systems. Entering the station code (see here for a list of codes) can sometimes do the trick instead. Until the end of 2023 this also works at ticket offices at stations in Switzerland.
Want the cheapest online reservations for Trenitalia trains in Italy?
Obvious! Book them from Austrian railways. Choose “Interrail” as a discount when booking on ÖBB’s site.
Want the cheapest online reservations for DB IC and ICE trains in Germany?
Depends how many trains you are taking. DB has a flat rate of €4,90 for 2nd class reservations, and €5,90 for 1st class reservations – regardless of how many trains you take – providing they connect. However ÖBB has a price of €3 per train. So 1 train? ÖBB. 2 or more? DB. Reserve here on ÖBB’s site.
Want free seat reservations for trains in the UK?
Use the GWR website – even if your train is not operated by GWR. Yes, really.
Struggling to get seat reservations on trains across the Poland-Czech border?
Use PKP IC to book a seat as far as the last station in Poland (e.g. Chałupki) for 1 Zloty, and then use the railway website on the other side of the border for the reservation for the next bit (ČD, DB etc.) Note that if a train manager is especially arsey about this they might try to fine you – so tell the train manager about the situation rather than let them get annoyed.