Western Europe in 18 Days: How to Interrail/Eurail for First-time Visitors to Europe

Whether you love train journeys, or you loathe them, the rail system in continental Europe remains the easiest way for travellers to see as much of Europe as they’d like to, and Interrail/Eurail is a great way to take advantage of them at a budget-friendly rate.

For the price of a beach holiday in Thailand, we were able to visit nine cities in four countries, on a mini backpacking adventure (OK, a suitcase – I need to learn how to travel light)!

If you’re on a budget, have time constraints, or it’s just your first time travelling in Western Europe, this Interrail itinerary is for you. This itinerary will allow you to see the best of Europe, in terms of popular, tourist friendly locations, rich in activties, history and culture.

If, instead, you’re a slow traveller and like to spend around a month or longer on the continent, then perhaps a more intensive itinerary would be better. Get ‘off the beaten track’ tips here.

In this post, you’ll find my complete itinerary for spending 18 days in Europe, a cost breakdown and some other tips for using an Interrail/Eurail Global Pass to get around. There are pros and cons to the service that you should be aware of before purchasing your ticket. However, I hope I cover the main things you need to know here. Let me and other readers know of anything I’ve missed in the comments!

This post is not sponsored by Interrail/Eurail.

The Route

Here are the places we visited on this tour: Limburg and Frankfurt (Germany), Vienna (Austria), Venice, Rome and Milan, (Italy), Monte Carlo (Monaco), Nice and Paris (France).

As you’ll recognise, most of these places are top global tourist destinations, which makes it easier for rail travel and navigating between each country. These destinations (excluding perhaps Limburg) are very much on the beaten path – and again, if you’d prefer a more ‘local’ European experience, then see another itinerary with more complex train changes.

Once we arrived in Limburg, all trains we chose were direct, allowing us to easily hop on a train and get to our destination with relative ease.

When I was working out this trip I had a few fixed places in mind. For my final year at university, I arranged a 4-day trip to Vienna with many people from the course and one of our lecturers. It was our aim to arrive in Vienna on the fourth afternoon of our trip. Using Vienna as this goal, I then decided all the places I wanted to visit in Europe, with the goal of ending in Paris to get the Eurostar back to London.

Germany and the French Riviera were top of the list, and with those two destinations in mind, I was able to incorporate a few stops in Italy along the way.

Because we were limited on time (graduation, wedding and house move all the following month), there were so many places I regrettably had to leave out, including most of Germany, Budapest, Bratislava and Florence. They could have easily been added to our route if we had the time, so keep your options open if you have more time than us!

The Budget

OK, let’s talk figures… this budget is for two people sharing a double room, and each room was close to the city centre, which again, made some rooms that little more costly. If you’re travelling solo and intend on staying in hostels, then your price breakdown will, of course, be significantly different.

Below is only a breakdown of transport and accommodation costs. While you can certainly do hostel accommodation cheaper than this, for a variety of reasons (the main being my husband’s sleep disorder) we decided on hotel rooms. If any maths below is incorrect…  sorry in advance I’m really bad. The general price is about right for what I budgeted so I’m satisfied haha!

Transport:

2 x Interrail passes: £506

Booked during December/Janurary discounts and I was a student at the time.

Additional reservations: £228

As we did a lot of cross-country, high-speed train travel, many of our journeys required an additional reservation fee. Your Interrail app can help you choose trains without a fee where possible, so keep that in mind if you have more time in Europe and can, therefore, travel on slower trains.

Total transport: £734

Accommodation:

x2 nights in Limburg: £0

(Thank you Klaus and Erika – I will be forever grateful for your hospitality.)

x1 night in Frankfurt: £41.85

x4 nights in Vienna: £258.69

x1 night in Venice: £79.05

x2 nights in Rome: £94.76

x1 night in Milan: £96.34

x3 nights in Nice: £171.30

x3 nights in Paris: £120

Total accommodation: £861.99

 Grand total: £1595.99 

Disclaimer: I used Booking.com to purchase our accommodation and if you book using the search box below I earn an affiliate sale.

You can choose from a range of accommodation styles, including hostels, glamping or even an entire villa or holiday home.

If you do proceed with Booking.com through The Veggie Passport, you can really help me out at no extra cost to you. 🙂

Top Tips

An Interrail Global Pass is a great way to go to multiple destinations in Europe hassle-free, with a widely recognised pass. But like anything in life, there are pros and cons, and here are a few things to be aware of:

Reservations:

While Interrail boast unlimited rail travel with their Global Pass, there are a number of certain trains in most Western European countries that require a reservation. Sometimes these reservations can be cheap, and other times they’re not.

Many people would argue that reservation costs should be included, but these fees (including the cost of the pass) are a reduction of the total cost you would pay if you booked the trains independently. I researched this via Trainline.eu adding the total cost of the trains if I hadn’t bought a Global Pass. The price difference was astonishing and reminded me that I had made a great choice with the Interrail pass.

Choosing ‘no reservation’ trains just means that you get even better value for money, but you’re still saving a lot with Interrail.

To avoid them, you either need to choose the countries that do not require reservations, like Germany, for example, or travel on slower trains that do not operate on a high-speed rail. For trips such as Frankfurt to Vienna, and Vienna to Venice, even on high-speed, these journeys took 7 hours, so a reservation and a comfortable seat was worth it.

Punctuality and delays:

It goes without saying that if the train journey you have chosen only runs once or a couple of times a day, or, even more importantly, you have made a reservation – make sure you arrive in good time to the platform.

We had one near-miss experience that could have totally ruined us. In Vienna, the metro from outside our hotel to the central station was delayed. Twice. With two large suitcases and two backpacks, we had to make a fifteen-minute walking distance in around ten. We just about made it. If we missed the train to Venice, we would have ruined our entire trip, being largely unable to make the majority of hotel and train reservations for the rest of the trip. Although it technically wasn’t our fault, it taught us to be extra punctual, even if we had half an hour to spare, just in case of any issues beyond our control.

If you lack in the ability to be punctual, ensure that you don’t have too far to trek for your next train. Choose a hotel close to the train station or a direct metro stop. They might be more expensive, but you won’t need to naviage your way through the city with heavy bags and heavy eyes.

Have a back-up plan:

With that in mind, a top tip that I didn’t even consider when I was travelling was to have a back-up plan. Sure, we had a credit card and could make any necessary purchases if anything did happen, but still would have eaten into our time by having to plan and accommodate for such an issue.

Your back-up plan could be some extra cash in case you miss a train, but could also be an alternate route or method of transport in case of any cancellations, delays or personal circumstances that mean you have to delay moving on.

Likewise, don’t be afraid to modify an itinerary either on the move or as you feel like it. If you’d rather spend longer in Venice and skip Milan, you should do – just make sure you book hotels through Booking.com that allow free cancellation up to a certain date. Our train to Limburg (where we had family friends) stopped in Cologne, you could spend the weekend there instead.

Maximise your travel days:

It might sound like common sense, but to save money and travel days on your Global Pass, choose your travel days wisely. The pass works by allowing you to travel, for example, 10 days within a month. For those 10 days, you should absolutely take advantage of any longer or more complicated journeys (although as I said, all of the journeys on this route are direct past Limburg) and not waste them on silly trips.

When we were in Nice, the train to Monaco was half an hour and around 4 euros. If we were to use a travel day on that one journey, it would have been a waste, meaning we could have ended up missing out on a certain destination due to not having enough days left.

Also, if you’re in Vienna and would like to visit Budapest, save your travel day for later in the trip, instead of using Flixbus similar coach service or to get there. The trip to Budapest from Vienna is only around two hours, and really cheap – allowing you to use that extra travel day elsewhere on something bigger.

Use the Interrail app:

We found the Interrail Rail Planner app so helpful before and during our trip. We could double-check times and make reservations on the move, amongst many other great features.

I can be quite absent-minded and forgetful at times, so having the app meant I could view the train times whenever I needed to – because I always forgot the exact time.

As stated above, the app can filter and select trains ‘without compulsory reservation’ which will allow you to save money (but not necessarily time).

Booking.com
Posted in Destinations, Europe, Travel, Travel Tips.

11 Comments

  1. This post came at the perfect time! My boyfriend and I are planning a long Eurotrip for this summer and we’re trying to decide on an itinerary and how to get around. Interrailing sounds perfect!

    • That sounds amazing, any idea of the places you’d like to visit yet? In between the longer train journeys I took on this trip, you’d easily find some other places to stop along the way so I hope it can be of some use to you. 🙂

  2. Interrail is a classic way to travel in Europe. In the eighties, it was the most popular transportation among students in my country. I missed that, but plan to go on a train trip this summer. Thanks for your tips!

  3. This is a really good itinerary – you got through some excellent cities! So useful that you included the costs for everything too. How expensive did you find Italy in general? We’re going in April this year for 16 days (and going to some of the same places you did).

    • Thank you! I really tried to see ‘the best of Europe’ on this trip, as there is so much to see! I’m currently working on another post about my time in Italy specifically. We found that street food and pizza by the slice in casual restaurants/cafes was really cheap, so you’d be able to visit on a budget. Rome was similar, there were many places around that you could get a meal at a decent price.

      In terms of activities, we found that many of the popular tourist destinations either had elements which were free (walking around the Colosseum for example) – you should be absolutely fine! 😀

  4. This is a really wonderful review! I spent a lot of time on trains during my 8 months in Europe last year. It was amazing to get to experience a mode of travel that’s not often used back home. I just worry the turn around would be too quick for me.

    • 8 months? That’s incredible, you’d naturally be able to visit and experience so much more of the continent that I did in that time haha. What are your highlights?

  5. I know the tourist infrastructure and public transportation in Europe are superb but you sure managed to cover so much in just 18 days! Keep up the great work

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