My Interrail Experience

31 March 2018


I promised that I'd finally get my interrail post up! I'm really sad that this will be my last proper France post :( There's not a whole lot more that I can really talk about during my time in France but if you have any ideas or things you want me to talk about that I haven't mentioned then please let me know either in the comments or on one of my social medias!

Anyway. So, what is Interrail? The easiest way to describe it is that it's a sort of agreement between different travel operators, including some ferries and coaches, but mostly consisting of rail operators. This agreement is between a bunch of European countries. You're able to select a set number of "travel days", ie 3,4,6 or 8, where you're able to use unlimited transport, within a month, for free. (From participating operators, and considering that you've bought the pass, it's not really free but you can really get your money's worth from it.) Basically it's a hassle free way of travelling.

You can buy passes for one country, or multiple, which is a global pass. If you reside within the EU, the pass you can buy is called Interrail, however if you're from outwith the EU then it's called Eurail. They're identical. Like I said, it's a hassle free way of travelling. You have your ticket attached to a logbook and all you have to do is note down all your journeys in the logbook, and show the conductor that, alongside a form of ID (resident's card or passport). Easy peasy.

In saying that, though, sometimes you need to purchase an additional seat reservation, particularly for high speed trains, and this was something I had to do in France.

I bought the 4 day France pass which meant that I'd have unlimited (with the aforementioned restrictions) travel within the country, for 4 days, within the month of February. Once I bought the pass, it gave me time to decide which routes I was going to take around the country. In the end, I chose to visit Toulouse, Marseilles, Menton, Grenoble, Lyon, Versailles and Paris. My travel days were to be Grenoble - Toulouse (3 trains), Marseilles - Menton (2 trains), Menton - Grenoble (4 trains) and Lyon - Paris (1 train), with me making my own transport between Toulouse and Marseilles (which 
didn't quite happen, if you've read my Toulouse post then you'll know this already, and if you haven't, then why not!?) as well as between Grenoble to Lyon (where I got the coach with Joanne).

On my travel days, I travelled only by train, and the rail operators were all SNCF. I found it kind of odd was that there were so many different kinds of trains, a lot more than I'm used to here in Scotland! There were double decker trains, trains covered in graffiti, older styled trains, newer styled trains, trains with an upper level but not quite a double decker and trains that had carriages reminiscent of a Harry Potter film. The conductors also all had really cool uniforms. They had hats! Which I thought it was the coolest thing ever... But then again, I'm easily impressed.

There was a few trains that I got on that had their own security guards. It was really strange. I noticed it mostly on trains in Menton, both when I arrived and departed, but also when I travelled to Monaco. I thought it was really odd, but it was later explained to me that they do it when the train crosses borders, to make sure there are no illegal immigrants on board trying to get into France/other countries. It does make sense. Though, it put me at unease when I googled about the security and found out that one of them in the team will be carrying a gun. My British heart, where we generally have no armed police, skipped a beat in fear!

Impressively, as well, all of the trains ran pretty consistently on time. Although, pickpocketing is a problem. My last of three trains between Grenoble and Toulouse was delayed by 30 minutes. I could hear that the tannoy was talking about a pickpocket, but I have no idea what made the entire carriage let out a synchronised, and loudly audible, gasp.

Overall I had a really positive experience with interrailing (not perfectly positive). I met a lot of people who were really nice to me, and a few who were not so nice (an old French man shouted at me because I didn't know where I was to go for my seat because I'd never been on a double decker before and DIDN'T KNOW WHERE MY SEAT WAS.) During my first experience in a French train station, a guy I talked to on the coach from the airport to Grenoble walked with me to my exact train platform so that I didn't get lost, and the french station employee, who had limited English, helped me out as much as she could. And, with my limited French, we filled in each other's blanks. Then, on the train itself a lot of people kept starting up conversations with me, which was actually pretty strange. It happened on virtually every train!

I also really got my moneys worth out of it! My missed Toulouse to Marseilles train (non-interrail) would have cost me 60€ on the day, so I instead stayed in Toulouse an extra night and spent 11 hours travelling from Toulouse to Menton, which took about 5 trains, instead. Which cost me nothing. My interrail pass cost me £136 (including £75 for seat reservations), so that one journey was roughly half of what I paid for for four travel days. Definitely worth it. The added benefit was that Interrail also have a downloadable app that you can use to plan your journey out, which is what I used to get from Toulouse to Menton. It gives you the option of searching for trains with non compulsory reservations. So, if you don't feel like buying a seat reservation, and you have some extra time on your hands, it's a decent option to have. It can be really relaxing to sit and stare out at the scenery as you travel from one side of the country to another, though not so good when you're hungry - so be sure to stock up on some snacks if you decide to take this route!

So, why did I do it? It gave me a way to explore the country and into situations where I may be forced more into trying to speak French. It's a relatively cheap option for me that allowed me to see more of the country as I passed through, and it was flexible.

I suppose that's it for my interrail adventure. Have you enjoyed this series? Do you have any questions about what it was like to travel solo, or of interrailing? Have you ever used interrail before, and if so how was your experience of it? Let me know!

Until next time, be excellent to each other.


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