I don't recommend Interrail. Very bad experience.

  • 25 August 2023
  • 20 replies
  • 1260 views

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We are a family of four, two children aged 8 and 11 and two adults. We wanted to take an Interrail trip, excited about traveling by train and trusting that it would be pleasant and fun. How wrong we were! Our experience has been horrible. We have taken 8 trains and we have had delays in 5! the shortest 45 minutes, the longest 160! Because of this we have lost the link with the following trains, so we lost the seat reservations we had in first class. Result: on one occasion we had to travel in the train bar, on another we had to spend the night (9 hours!) in a seat despite having reserved beds. I insist: with two small children. If you don't trust our words, take a look at Interrail's compensation policy: they do not compensate any delay of less than 60 minutes. Because? obvious: because there are so many, they would lose money. And the biggest delays equally at ridiculous prices. But that is not all! Changes in train schedules without prior notice, mistreatment by train and station staff, impossibility of reserving seats, lack of information, absolutely overloaded trains, closed offices...

The most humiliating of all: when we asked for compensation for so many problems, the compensation that Interrail offered us was ridiculous, miserable.

DO NOT do an interrail, especially if you are families with children. They ruined our vacations, it was constant mistreatment.

If, despite that, you decide to do so, keep the following in mind: do not trust the links proposed by the Interrail train search engine because, due to the numerous delays, you risk losing links with other trains. Do not take links with other trains of less than 2 hours.

If you want to take a train at night, and sleep in beds, first get to that city, sleep there, and take it the following night. Do not trust to arrive and connect to take the train at night because if you miss it, because of the delays, even if they find you a train for the next day you will NOT have a bed.

Finally, do not trust the schedules or the numbers of the trains. They change them at the last minute and nobody notifies you. And in Europe from 5-6pm all station offices are closed. Nobody helps you.

One last thing: train and station staff are usually rude. The consequence of poor service is suffered by them, which makes them end up being very aggressive and rude. There is even corruption (we saw an employee get paid in cash inside the train for leaving beds that were free for some passengers). There are exceptions, of course, but kindness and empathy are hard to find despite the poor service.


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Userlevel 2
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I have to disagree with some of this. Not about trains being delayed. They often can be, just like planes can be, or buses.

I've been on my interrail pass for about a week now and my first couple of trains were fine. My train from Vilnius to Poland was delayed but the guards on the train kept everyone informed constantly and were extremely friendly and helpful.

In Bialystok, the next day, I had planned to get a train to Hajnowka but I saw from the train board it was cancelled. I went to the ticket booths and got great help from a very helpful and friendly lady. She also booked me a seat reservation for a train from Warsaw to Berlin later in my journey.

There are ups and downs. There was a big fault in the whole Bialystok area a few days ago and lots of trains seemed to be running late. I noticed that the Vilnius to Krakow train had been cancelled and buses were being put on. I saw that on PKPs site.

I think it is harsh to blame Interrail for delays. They merely provide the tickets and the guides. It is essential to use the travel resources in each country to make sure of trains.

I suspect it is hard for Interrail to offer compensation as they do not run the trains. I know it can be frustrating though to miss connections. I was a nervous wreck when I was struggling to find a train from Bialystok to Hajnowka. In the end I missed a bus connection from Hajnowka and had to get a local taxi. A Polish guy in a local shop phoned the taxi for me. He didn't speak English and we used Google to have a conversation. It was fantastic if him to phone for me and the taxi driver was super friendly too.

I don't know if you can get compensation from the train operators. I am not sure how that works, but I did see on PKP's site that tickets were being honoured.

Sure I have found some people in Europe to be a bit unfriendly, and sometimes intolerant that I struggle with languages, but that is often the case anywhere. So many people I have met have seen really friendly and accepting that I know just English.

I am sure it is much easier to travel Europe by train as a solo young person, or with friends, than it is with children. I think you have to be very careful with your planning and make provision for possible delays. Make sure there is a big enough time gap at connecting stations and that you have alternatives outlined. Travel insurance is a must if you miss connections.

It is a shame that you had a bad experience but don't let this put you off trains. I hope you had some fun on your trip around Europe and saw some lovely sights.

 

Userlevel 6
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Hi @Sergio de Maya 

Thank you for taking the time and sharing your experience on our community. As @nidriks mentioned before, we do not operate the trains, therefore we are not responsible for the delays. We act according to the law and passenger rights specified on this document of the International Rail Transport Committee which can be found here: Groupe de travail 4 CIM (interrail.eu)

If you do not agree with the compensation given by my colleagues, we can review your case once more. As @nidriks says in his comment, we hope that this experience does not cause you to lose interest in sustainable modes of travel, such as trains.

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Interrail does not operate the trains but offers a product based on them. They share responsibility for this. If the train service is poor, the service that Interrail promotes and sells will also be poor, by definition. Their service contributes to the overall functioning of the trains, but it doesn't do anything to compensate for issues. Let's consider an example: if you have plans to take a train on August 17 and Interrail knows the train number, time, and the number of passengers, shouldn't they notify you if the train's schedule changes unexpectedly? They currently direct you to check the operators' websites for changes. With today's technology, it should be quite straightforward for software to monitor train changes and inform customers through the Interrail app. Don't tell me it's impossible.

Here's another example: in the app, I initially planned to take a train on August 12, but later I reserved seats on a different train. I forgot to update this information in the app, but it's evident that we took that train as Interrail users and paid for the seat reservation accordingly. However, they inform me that they can't compensate me for the significant delay on that train because the app shows a different planned train. This feels like a mockery and an insult. I could provide more examples, but what would be the point? When my friends ask me about the Interrail service, what should I tell them?

To reiterate three points:

1.           The fact that Interrail only compensates for delays exceeding one hour speaks volumes about the poor train service in Europe. I'm not saying this; Interrail itself demonstrates it with that criterion and the meager compensations.

2.           Considering point 1 and everything mentioned above, I would not recommend Interrail to families. Perhaps young travelers don't mind sleeping at the station, on the train floor, being treated poorly, or dealing with delays and connection issues, but for some children, this means crying, exhaustion, and frustration.

3.           I strongly advise against planning travel itineraries with train changes of less than 1 hour and 30 minutes because delays are common. Especially since Interrail doesn't compensate for minor delays themselves! To emphasize: 8 trains, 5 delays, with a minimum delay of 45 minutes, adding up to a total delay of 9 hours.

Finally, we embarked on this family Interrail journey because we genuinely BELIEVED in the importance of train travel to combat climate change. We also trusted in its comfort and in the superior service of companies, staff, and Interrail itself compared to airlines. However, the dreadful experience and the poor treatment received, including from you, have left us with no choice. What can I say when asked about our vacation? What about the companies? What about you? I can tell them: "at least Interrail's service is excellent, they provide more information than the airlines, they compensate you, they advocate for you...". I can't say that, I can't lie. You have ruined our vacation, the train services in Europe, and Interrail as an essential part of those vacations. That is the reality, and I will warn everyone about it.

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I think the problem here is: the difference between expectation and reality due to the complexity of the (railway)world. All European countries are actually islands in terms of railways that have their own system, some more, some less. As a layman I am thinking of perhaps the following comparison: Suppose the EU Commission were to force all airlines to offer a ticket that allowed unlimited travel on all airlines, perhaps against their will. (Environmental effects disregarded). Those companies (must) say OK - but on OUR terms. Let's call that ticket "Interair". Interair goes public with a map of possible destinations and timetables to get an idea of ​​the possibilities. airports, flights, etc. if the EU Commission does not impose any further obligations with regard to "Interair" all those airlines, provided they are not in the same alliance, will not take responsibility for what the other airline does in terms of delays, canceled flights etc. Then we shouldn't create “Interair”? No, say many potential travelers, that “Interair” is unique, I'll take the objections into account, except separate tickets or possibly free travel tickets within one company there is no alternative! Now many travelers say: I'm glad that interrail is here, there is no alternative, otherwise I would have to limit myself to one country! 

You might say to your friends, familymembers: 

“Interrail, interesting but be prepared! Take the objections in account. Interrail is currently the best compromise between the passenger rights imposed by the EU and the commercial interests of the individual companies. Consider the app. as a PAPER timetable, because the journeys stored in it must also be able to be consulted without internet (e.g. by a conductor). Use the apps of the different railwaycompanies for up-to-date information. Read all the advice of some very experienced community members in advance and adjust the expectations accordingly. That is honestly a science in itself! And(!): adapt the trip to the possibilities and not the other way around”. 

My wife and I took advantage of the anniversary offer last year: three months first class Global Pass for €530 p.p. (seniors). Our expectation was that something would go wrong, it went wrong a few times. However, we have traveled almost 40,000km . As an older couple we have more flexibility than you with children and thanks to this community we avoided the “difficult” interrail countries Spain, France and Italy but after all it was a really fantastic experience!

Userlevel 7
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"The fact that Interrail only compensates for delays exceeding one hour speaks volumes about the poor train service in Europe. I'm not saying this; Interrail itself demonstrates it with that criterion and the meager compensations."

@Sergio de Maya this are the rules of the EU for trains in EU and EEA. The train comapanies can give compensations before but have not to. 

The rule says:

25% of the Ticket price for more than one hour delay and 50% of the Ticket price for delays over 2 hours. For Interrail you don't get 25% of the pass price but on the price of one day would cost with the pass or something about it. 

If you want something better in Europe please vote politicians that want this. Without it will not better. Like others says Interrail is not able to combane all the systems because every train company has to do theyr own thing. 

Mostly RENFE and SNCF are making trains like planes with no connection to ticket systems of other countries/companies. 

 

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If you want, responsibility can be directed towards the EU, the companies, or anyone else, but the undeniable facts remain: 5 delayed trains, a cumulative delay of 9 hours, unannounced schedule changes, children sleeping in seats despite having sleeping car tickets, poor treatment, and paltry compensation. @eurofima How low should my expectations have been for this to seem like a good vacation to me? The text you suggest I write to my friends leads to a very clear conclusion: avoid Interrail, especially if you have young children, because vacations are meant to be enjoyed, not endured. Interrail will require a great deal of advance preparation, reading, and information gathering (what I did, btw!!!), all without reducing the stress. You'll always have to be on the lookout for last-minute changes, never knowing when you'll depart or arrive. Planning accommodations and meals will be impossible, and you may likely encounter poor treatment. You'll often end up traveling under much worse conditions than what you paid for, and you'll lose a lot of money that no one will ever compensate you for. The result: a disaster, a nightmare that I will share with everyone.

On the other hand, it's a shame that the text you quote isn't Interrail's primary warning to families! Perhaps Interrail isn't directly responsible for this disaster, but they market a service as ideal for families when they know very well that it doesn't work smoothly (I repeat, that's why they don't compensate delays of less than an hour). Maybe it's great for young people or retirees without a tight schedule, but if you have children, you won't know when they'll eat or sleep, or where they'll do it, whether you'll catch the next train, how much money you'll spend finding late-night accommodation in an unfamiliar city...

And certainly, it's undeniable that Interrail fails to take meaningful action to rectify this subpar service. You can review the examples I mentioned in my previous message. It's entirely possible for Interrail to integrate various systems, as many apps perform far more complex tasks. It's a matter of determination and setting priorities. Interrail could certainly implement a more comprehensive compensation policy; there are no legal barriers to it! What explains their refusal to compensate me for a train delay just because I didn't change the schedule in the app!!? And finally, if Interrail believes they are not at fault, they could, at the very least, advocate for us and assist in securing adequate compensation from the train companies, applying pressure on them, and providing legal support. However, they have not taken any such measures.

P.S. @Angelo I am a dedicated supporter of the Spanish Green Party. Why else do you think I chose to spend my vacation traveling with my entire family by train? I advocate for more train travel. Unfortunately, the current state of affairs makes it impossible to recommend at the moment. On the contrary, I want my friends to have a happy vacation and book a good service, but I have received the opposite.

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 Children sleeping in seats despite having sleeping car tickets, poor treatment, and paltry compensation. 

...

You'll always have to be on the lookout for last-minute changes, never knowing when you'll depart or arrive.

...

What explains their refusal to compensate me for a train delay just because I didn't change the schedule in the app!!? And finally, if Interrail believes they are not at fault, they could, at the very least, advocate for us and assist in securing adequate compensation from the train companies, applying pressure on them, and providing legal support. However, they have not taken any such measures.

 

I’m not going to mix in the discussion here, but some constructive thoughts and suggestions for your issues highlighted above

  1. Something went very clearly wrong there: such a bad service is not okay! The railway company should have provided you with alternatives ánd accomodation according to traveller’s rights. What you had to endure is absolutely not okay. Some for occasions where you had to look for accomodation yourself. You might want to think about legal action on this one, if you’re up for it.
    If you mention by which company, when and on which route and when this happened, I’m sure some of us here can guide you to the right channels to get your complaint heard by the company or the right ombudsperson, to get you proper compensation for this awful service.

    (But it’s very railway company related. E.g. I’ve been treated abominally by SNCF on one occasion and got meagre compensation, lots of pointless discussions and had to look for solutions myself. But on another issue been received a free 1st class upgrade and costless, absolute priority and seamless and neat rebooking because of the cancellations. Two very different kinds of service, by the same company. Anyway, bad service is not okay and shouldn’t be tolerated. It should be spoken of in order to get it improved.)
     
  2. Yes, this can be tricky for the unseasoned train traveller. (And I think all of us want an all-encompassing, correct, real time, easy to use, rail planner. But it doesn’t exist up to now.)
    But that’s also the case for any other form of transport: car, ships, planes, busses,… Detours, delays, traffic jams, incidents, bad weather,… just happens and surprises all. On a lot of these occasions you cannot rely on apps or navigation systems or the respective apps because some technical faults, and sometimes you’ll just need to get along and try to figure it out via other means. With trains no different. Sometimes railway staff themselves doesn’t know what is happening. It sometimes takes hours before the railways themselves can get grip on the situations and try to solve it before they can communicate clearly about it. A few minutes bad luck are enough to disrupt traffic for the rest of the day, whatever transport option you chose.
     
  3. If I’m not mistaken, you can still add/register the correct journeys to your pass even after you have travelled. You might want to do that if that settles the discussion on which train you were that needs to be compensated. Everyone here always stresses the importance of registering everything correctly, to avoid discussions as these.

 

Userlevel 7
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And certainly, it's undeniable that Interrail fails to take meaningful action to rectify this subpar service. You can review the examples I mentioned in my previous message. It's entirely possible for Interrail to integrate various systems, as many apps perform far more complex tasks. It's a matter of determination and setting priorities

 

You are right, should work like that, but it is at the moment too complicated. There is no app in Europe that at the moment can show live data of train for all Europe. Than you have countries that does not send the timetables, like Estonia, Lithuania or Latvia you will find no timetable in the Railplanner App. They do all their thing. We need from EU a standartisation. 

And to end, Eurail the company that owns Interrail has as shareholder all train companies in Europe.

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Suddenly it won't let me post any more texts in this forum. It seems that now there is censorship!? I get a message that says "Your post has been submitted. It will be published after a review by our moderators." I have not insulted or disrespected anyone, why are my texts not published? It is outrageous!

 

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@BrendanDB   The company in question is SNCF. I have already filed a complaint. Do you know what their response was? They are refunding me 50% of the seat reservation for the first train, and that's it. They are not compensating me for the nearly €300 I spent on the sleeper train reservation that I lost due to their extraordinary delay (the next day, they told us there were no sleeper berths available and made us sleep in seats, with two young children, after several arguments to find seats for them).

Yes, similar issues can occur with other modes of transportation (although not as frequently). However, I'm not taking eight flights! I had to take three trains to reach Prague, which involved 23 hours of travel, including one overnight train. And I'm not complaining about that!! Obviously, I was already aware of this, and we wanted to do it anyway because of our commitment to lower emissions and the belief that it would be more comfortable and pleasant (what a mistake on my part!)... The problem is that the service was a nightmare: a 150-minute delay on the first train, 120 minutes on the second one (the following day), and sleeping in seats instead of beds on the third one. I say this with sadness because I believe in trains and the fight against climate change. But the reality is what it is: a disaster.

And the worst part is that when you file a complaint, the response is even more disappointing, both from the companies and Interrail.

Userlevel 7
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Suddenly it won't let me post any more texts in this forum. It seems that now there is censorship!? I get a message that says "Your post has been submitted. It will be published after a review by our moderators." I have not insulted or disrespected anyone, why are my texts not published? It is outrageous!

 

Relax, chill out. This happens sometimes. Most of us have experienced this, and most posts give polite answer on random question.

These posts never gets posted, it looks more like a bug than something else. Just try again (and copy your text, to avoid time-consuming rewriting).

Userlevel 7
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@BrendanDB   The company in question is SNCF. I have already filed a complaint. Do you know what their response was? They are refunding me 50% of the seat reservation for the first train, and that's it. They are not compensating me for the nearly €300 I spent on the sleeper train reservation that I lost due to their extraordinary delay (the next day, they told us there were no sleeper berths available and made us sleep in seats, with two young children, after several arguments to find seats for them).

Yes, similar issues can occur with other modes of transportation (although not as frequently). However, I'm not taking eight flights! I had to take three trains to reach Prague, which involved 23 hours of travel, including one overnight train. And I'm not complaining about that!! Obviously, I was already aware of this, and we wanted to do it anyway because of our commitment to lower emissions and the belief that it would be more comfortable and pleasant (what a mistake on my part!)... The problem is that the service was a nightmare: a 150-minute delay on the first train, 120 minutes on the second one (the following day), and sleeping in seats instead of beds on the third one. I say this with sadness because I believe in trains and the fight against climate change. But the reality is what it is: a disaster.

And the worst part is that when you file a complaint, the response is even more disappointing, both from the companies and Interrail.

 

You can always escalate it to the SNCF- mediator if you’re unhappy with the response: https://mediation.sncf-voyageurs.com/saisir-le-mediateur/?lang=en

Was the nighttrain you took an ÖBB Nightjet? Then you should ask your complaint there: https://www.oebb.at/en/reiseplanung-services/kundenservice

But yeah, it should be easier to get these things sorted.

But anyway, Interrail is considered as a through ticket, so you should be able to get adequate compensation for missed connections like that. At least very much so for your unused Sleeper reservations, since you missed that train because of the excessive delay of another train.

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@BrendanDB   The company in question is SNCF. I have already filed a complaint. Do you know what their response was? They are refunding me 50% of the seat reservation for the first train, and that's it. They are not compensating me for the nearly €300 I spent on the sleeper train reservation that I lost due to their extraordinary delay (the next day, they told us there were no sleeper berths available and made us sleep in seats, with two young children, after several arguments to find seats for them).

Yes, similar issues can occur with other modes of transportation (although not as frequently). However, I'm not taking eight flights! I had to take three trains to reach Prague, which involved 23 hours of travel, including one overnight train. And I'm not complaining about that!! Obviously, I was already aware of this, and we wanted to do it anyway because of our commitment to lower emissions and the belief that it would be more comfortable and pleasant (what a mistake on my part!)... The problem is that the service was a nightmare: a 150-minute delay on the first train, 120 minutes on the second one (the following day), and sleeping in seats instead of beds on the third one. I say this with sadness because I believe in trains and the fight against climate change. But the reality is what it is: a disaster.

And the worst part is that when you file a complaint, the response is even more disappointing, both from the companies and Interrail.

 

You can always escalate it to the SNCF- mediator if you’re unhappy with the response: https://mediation.sncf-voyageurs.com/saisir-le-mediateur/?lang=en

Was the nighttrain you took an ÖBB Nightjet? Then you should ask your complaint there: https://www.oebb.at/en/reiseplanung-services/kundenservice

It's disheartening that my only recourse is to continue lodging complaints with the same company that has already made it clear they have no intention of providing further assistance. Furthermore, it's equally disheartening that Interrail has been unresponsive to the situation. This situation feels like a double victimization: first, due to the poor service and mistreatment endured, and then, being compelled to submit endless appeals and claims, a process that demands considerable effort and seems to be often disregarded in the end. But one can't help but sympathize with SNCF and Interrail (Irony mode on).

Regarding OBB, the issue arose when we missed the night train due to SNCF's delay. Unfortunately, the OBB staff treated us poorly. They didn't assist us in finding at least one seat for the children to spend the night, and they even suggested that we pay money to secure some available beds. However, I lack concrete evidence of this incident, which is why I hadn't mentioned it until now.

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Userlevel 7
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The mediator is a neutral actor that is your go to if the answer of the customer services is seen as insufficient. Big organisations are legally required to have an independent position that mediates and reconciles conflicts between clients and service providers. Often leading to more satisfying results and wholesome answers.

Userlevel 6
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Hi @Sergio de Maya 

Our system filters out messages that may appear to be spam, therefore it won't post them, especially if they appear one after another. If you wish to add anything, feel free to do so. I left all of your most recent messages.

Once more, I am happy to review the compensation my colleagues gave you. Let me know if I can help. 

Have a nice day!

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Hi @Camilo. Of course I would love it if you could review the compensation your colleagues gave to me. How may I proceed?

Userlevel 6
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Hi @Sergio de Maya 

Could you please send me a private message?

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Hi @Camilo. I wrote you a private message three days ago, as you told me, asking for indications about how to proceed, but I haven’t received your response, yet. 

  1. @BrendanDB 
Userlevel 6
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Dear @Sergio de Maya 

Please check your inbox. Kind regards, 

 

Camilo 

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