Interrailing on a budget
Your Interrail Pass gives you access to 33 European countries, allowing you to dive right into the heart of this classic continent's history, culture and natural beauty. And although it might seem like an expensive excursion, there are plenty of ways to ensure your rail trip doesn't break the bank. Here are some of our favourite money-saving hacks for your next European adventure.
1. Avoid seat reservations on trains
Your Interrail Pass allows you to hop on and off trains as much as you please, but some services require an additional seat reservation. For a small fee (generally around €10-20), your reservation guarantees you a comfortable seat on popular routes and often provides further comforts, such as WiFi and charging ports for your devices. On most high-speed and night trains, reservations are mandatory.
Don't want to pay the extra reservation fee? No problem! You can avoid trains that require reservations by taking regional trains with more frequent stops. The journey might be slower, but it gives you more time to appreciate the scenery and connect with fellow travellers. And, of course, you'll save the money from the reservation, which you can use for something else. Ice cream, anyone?
Tip: to find trains that don't require reservations, head over to our Reservations Service or the Rail Planner App. Simply select the drop-down filter of 'Reservation Type' and then click 'No reservation required' to find those cheaper trains.
2. Consider when to use your travel days
Depending upon your Interrail Pass, you'll either be able to travel every single day (Continuous Passes), or choose a specific number of days to access the European rail network (Flexi Passes). When selecting your travel days, it's essential to consider which days of the week will be the best (and cheapest) for your journey.
For example, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays are often the busiest days of the week to take the train due to people going away for the weekend. This means services are likely to be more popular and may sell out. To avoid having to buy a seat reservation, consider travelling on a weekday for quieter services.
It's also important to keep an eye on disruptions to the rail network in the different countries on your trip. Whether this involves strikes, incidents on the line or simply fewer services running, it's always good to know your options. Furthermore, certain services may not run on particular days or may be cancelled due to national holidays in your chosen destination.
Tip: Unable to travel on your chosen travel day? No problem! You can cancel your travel day up until midnight the day before and use it on an alternative day.
3. Check out different ways to get around your destination
So you've arrived in your first city and are ready to explore. But how?
Forget about taking a taxi or an Uber to your destination, and join the locals on public transport to save those pennies. Taking the bus, metro or even hiring a bike to get around the city is a fantastic way to save money and enjoy a different perspective on your destination. You can also check out other travel deals (e.g. 1, 2, 3-day travel passes) on the transport networks to really make the most of your money.
Tip: why don't you explore the city on foot? Many of Europe's cities are smaller than you think, and walking around is a beautiful and free way to discover all the hidden gems. Just remember to pack some trainers!
4. Travel off-season
We know, we know...it's so tempting to travel in the summer, right? But if the sticky heat and mosquitos aren't enough to deter you, then maybe consider how much money you can save by travelling out of peak season.
Europe is beautiful at all times of the year. And even more so when there aren't hordes of tourists blocking your view of the Eiffel Tower. By travelling in the autumn, winter and spring, you can take advantage of fewer crowds, cooler temperatures and - best of all - cheaper prices. From accommodation to food and travel, you'll be able to save money on all parts of your trip.
And, what's more? The very best travellers know that travelling off-season is the perfect way to see a destination in its true, authentic form. Join the locals and admire the leaves changing colour in October, or experience a festive atmosphere in snowy December. For more inspiration on the best destinations to visit off-season, take a look here.
5. Avoid the tourist hotspots and visit cheaper alternatives
Did you know that the city of Pula is just as beautiful as dazzling Dubrovnik? Or that the French gastronomy you're looking for in Paris is better found in Bordeaux?
Swap Amsterdam for Leiden and Prague for Český Krumlov to avoid the crowds and to see a beautiful city at its finest. We all know the frustration of jam-packed tourist attractions, or being charged €10 for a cup of coffee, right? By swapping out those famous cities and discovering their equally-lovely alternatives, you can be sure to save money and enjoy a much more authentic glimpse at your chosen country's culture. Find more inspiration for off-the-beaten-track destinations here.
And, if you still want to snap a photo by the Eiffel Tower or watch the sunset in Santorini, you know what to do. Simply change those summer dates, and all your problems will be solved...
6. Join a free walking tour
There are many ways to see a city: an open-top tour bus or a private food tour, perhaps. But, if you're looking to stay within budget, you've got to try a free walking tour. Join a knowledgeable local guide and discover the city's main sights by walking through the historic streets. It's a fun, engaging and efficient way to get to know a city - and a great way to get restaurant recommendations, too!
Now, full disclaimer: these tours aren't entirely free. The premise is that you pay what you think the tour was worth. The recommended amount is normally around €10-15 per person, but it will depend on the location and duration of your tour. But, when you consider that other tour companies may charge anything from €20-70 for the same experience, these free walking tours are well worth your time.
However, if you do take a free walking tour, it's important to be considerate and not take the service entirely for free. Many guides rely on tips for their livelihood, and even a couple of euros can make all the difference!
7. Discover free museums and discounted attractions
We all love a good discount, don't we? And when it comes to visiting museums and tourist attractions, sometimes it's dearly needed.
When you're visiting a destination, make sure to do your research regarding the free activities you can do during your stay. In some cities, like London, there are many museums and attractions to visit, completely free of charge. Other places may offer free entry on selected days of the week/month or an annual night where all the museums open their doors to the public.
It's also worth checking out the range of discounted ticket prices. Whether you're a student, senior or travelling with children, many discounts are available to cover your costs. Don't forget to take a valid ID to prove your eligibility!
8. Explore cheap options for accommodation
Accommodation is one of the hidden costs of travelling, so don't forget to consider it. But, don't worry! There are plenty of ways to save money.
From staying in shared accommodation like hostels to participating in hospitality exchange networks, you can often find a bed for the night at a very reasonable price. What's more, these sociable set-ups allow you to connect with fellow travellers and make memories you'd never dreamed of.
Don't want to waste a night staying in one place? Take a night train to hop from one country to another and enjoy an incredible experience riding the rails. Travel in comfort with a couchette, or opt for an upright seat to stay within budget.
Seat reservations for night trains are mandatory, so make sure to book these in advance.
Food and drink
9. Head off the well-travelled path and join the locals
It's essential to stay fuelled and energised during your travels, and trying local delicacies is an absolute must. For the most budget-friendly food, head away from the city centre and find the places frequented by the locals instead. Not only will these be significantly more affordable, but these restaurants often offer higher-quality meals and a much more welcoming atmosphere. This is a fantastic way to really get to know your destination and avoid being sucked into tourist traps.
10. Save money at the supermarket
Yep, that's right. The supermarket is your saving grace if you want to stay within budget when travelling. Stock up on your favourite provisions, while also trying local snacks and treats not available at home. If you have cooking facilities in your accommodation, great! Save those restaurant meals for a special occasion. And if you don't have a kitchen, what could be better than a picnic?
Cooking at home is also a great way to reduce costs on your travel days. Simply pop your leftover dinner into some Tupperware, and then you've got a nice lunch for your next train journey. Buying food and snacks on train services can be more expensive, or there might not be many options available. By going to the supermarket in advance, you'll keep both you and your wallet happy.
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