A personal experience of using Interrail Passes

  • 22 January 2022
  • 4 replies
  • 336 views

After my recent experience with our Interrail Passes, I will not be using them again.  Here’s why.

 

First, the process of fixing reservations is unbelievably complex.  My partner and I wanted to travel from London to Seville and back, using 4-days-in-30 passes.  This was our first experience of long-distance train travel down through Europe.  Preparing the trip took me hours of work, much of it very frustrating, mainly in order to set up the required reservations.  Some I was able to do on the Interrail site - that was fairly straightforward.  Others, like those within Spain, had to be done directly with the operating rail company, who mailed the paper tickets several days later.  And even those done through the Interrail site hit problems later, the main one being that, even though I did the bookings for my partner and myself at the same time, and even though our passes were both on the same device, several of the reservations came back with us sitting not only apart, but in different carriages.  So, that meant having to go to local booking offices “en route,” to try to change these reservations.  And so on.  I filled 9 A4 pages with my notes on the process.

 

Second, given the complexity of the booking process, the support offered by Interrail/Eurail is, in my view, totally inadequate.  The automated “bot” is not backed up by human support, for when the bot can’t answer the query.  And written queries have to wait 3 or more days for a reply.  This is just not good enough.

 

Third, the raw cost of the passes themselves in no way represents the eventual journey cost.  I am used to paying around 10-15 Euros for seat reservations for flights.  But I was not prepared for train seat reservations costing me up o 50 Euros per person extra.  We wanted to get down to Seville quickly, using high-speed trains through France and Spain.  Clearly, the individual train operating companies use “reservation fees” as a surreptitious means of making a higher return on Interrail passengers who want to use their premium high-speed services.  In the event, “Passholder Reservation Fees” added another 162 Euros  per person to the cost of the Interrail trip.  If I had realised this before I bought the passes, I would not have bothered.  Next time, I will buy train tickets well in advance, and do without the Interrail passes.

 

Fourth, cancelling reservations is a lottery.  My partner had to fly back early from Barcelona, to deal with a family emergency.  Phoning SNCF for a refund was easy.  But when I tried to get a refund on her Eurostar reservation, made through the Interrail site, the message came back that it would only be possible to cancel both of our reservations, but not just hers.  So, even though she is not using the Eurostar “reservation,” there is no refund.  This is unacceptable.

 

Overall, We loved the experience of travelling down to southern Spain by train, instead of by plane.  We will do it again, for sure.  But using Interrail Passes was not a pleasant experience at all.  Even after the 20% discounted price we were offered because of the pandemic, it was not, in the end, particularly good value, in my view.


4 replies

Userlevel 7
Badge +7

I understand the frustration. France and Spain (and to a lesser extent Italy) are the possibly the most complicated countries to travel in using Interrail with rail companies that are not necessarily being very customer focussed and don't care much about Interrail. An Interrail trip in central Europe is really so much easier.

Tough when I'm doing just one return trip, I'm doing a price comparison between Interrail (plus reservations) and normal tickets before I buy anything. Often, in such a case, a normal ticket is cheaper, especially when booking in advance.

Userlevel 7
Badge +4

Nothing new here, but thanks for the effort to report this again what is already very widely known.

We warn here all the times that Espana as nr 1 and then FRance as nr 2 are tipically the very worst countries to use an IR. BUT still it seems anyone newbie want to go esp. only there. (OTOH the old goal of the Balkans/GReece etc ai is currently near out of bounds-hardly any INTernt. trains, plus that buying tix on the spot is often even cheaper as passdays on IR.
Even though a tiny minority of your fellow countrymen decided to leave EU and IR as such has not much to do with EU: they did pronounce just a few weeks ago that this old style antique horrendous system is in dire need of a thorough upgrade and much easier booking procedures-the green deal or so. We wait and see what that will bring.

Also: young people do not seem to understand this is a pass offered by all the 30+ railways concerned and THESE are the ones to give assistance etc. when on the way, not some faraway call centre. Its is/was part of the experience to travel in many other countries=different habits to learn about.

As a final note: again this shows to me (having used my 20th or so IR-for 2 full monthes last autumn) that all these modern railplanners lead all people into these very few direct trains and the old habit of finding ways-changing a bit more, using other local trains, needs to be adressed in some form.

Userlevel 2
Badge +1

And l have 20 years of living in Spain and l guarantee RENFE are the worst rail operator l have EVER dealt with. This is nothing to do with IR/ER. Every passenger suffers. 

My method of dealing with RENFE is usually total confrontation /defiance and if that doesn't work l just capitulate. There is rarely room for discussion or negotiation. 

 

Tragic as the actual journeys point to point are normally excellent. It is every other part of their customer face that stinks. 

Sadly, if you had asked in advance we could have found you much less expensive routes. Longer journeys but great journeys nevertheless. 

Userlevel 4
Badge +5

@Andrews

 

Have you contacted Eurostar directly to explain why you want to cancel your wife's ticket and want to receive a refund, an allowance ?

 

According to the conditions, I see that cancellation is not possible. But I would try it anyway, because it is due to unforeseen circumstances.

 

Good luck

 

 

@Nanja

 

It would be nice if it was clearly stated what the conditions of the train company are when reserving seats via your website. Now there is an unclear, general, explanation.

 

@Nanja

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