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.