Is An Interrail Pass Worth It? AKA Conquering Luxembourg, Switzerland, and Lichtenstein in 9 Days

Short Answer: No. No you should not. You should get a bus pass from a company like Flixbus.

Longer Answer: Ryder and I found ourselves with two weeks vacation and a chance to visit a friend in Switzerland from high school. Then, naturally, my mind normally begins whirring to try to fit in another country or two along the way. So Ryder and I got an Interrail Pass. It was five days all day train riding included within a 15 day period. For the family pass, required when you travel with a child four years old or older, it was 228 euros.

Though I would have loved to fit in Ukraine, Romania, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and I looked at every which way I could find in order to do so, the distance was over 24 hours of riding trains straight and just wasn’t feasible. So we stuck with Luxembourg and Lichtenstein. Tiny countries which can be seen in a day. I had to be back in time for Thanksgiving dinner I had planned with Daniela, my German foreign exchange friend from high school, anyway.

And we also stopped in Amsterdam and Delft, because they weren’t that far away, and I still have my excellent museum pass that works all over the country.

I had several problems with my rail pass, but do you know what was not a problem? Traveling with this amazing kid:

 

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Problem #1

If you don’t get off the train in time, you can miss your connection. If you miss your connection, you might arrive hours later than you originally intended. It is surprisingly easy not to get off the train on time. In this case we were on a double decker, and climbing down the stairs proved laborious. The train hadn’t left yet, but the doors were locked so we couldn’t exit. We ended up having to take 3 extra trains and arrived to Amsterdam 4 hours late because of going 5 minutes too far down the line.

Solution #1

Take the bus. You can find a direct bus which does not require you to get off and change. Missing a connection no longer is a problem.

Problem #2

I thought the Interrail would be great for overnight trains. Nothing as efficient as traveling while you sleep. However, at no point in any of my intercountry travel was there an overnight train available. All trains from Germany to Switzerland, for example, were during the day and required at least one or two changes.

Solution #2

There are overnight busses. They aren’t as comfortable as overnight trains, but they exist, even if you don’t live in a large city.

Problem #3

Seat reservations. They’re required for many of the faster trains. If you don’t make them, you don’t ride. And the biggest surprise for me was, that one seat sometimes cost 20 euros to reserve rather than the 2 or 3 I assumed it would. That adds up quickly. If you don’t take the faster trains, then the speed of the slower trains is actually equal to or even longer than bus time.

Solution #3

You will not incur hidden fees with your bus pass like seat reservations. The most important is to have a mobile that can receive text message in case your bus is delayed or changed.

Problem #4

Unforeseen train delays and problems with the schedule.

On our trip from Luxembourg to Chur, a tree fell on the train line so we all had to get off and wait for taxis to come pick us up. And wait. The lone one that finally showed up, asked us all to pay. I couldn’t miss our train to Zurich or we might miss our hotel reservation altogether, so we had to pay extra for the taxi. Which supposedly will be reimbursed but I had to mail in proof to the head office in Frankfurt. We’ll see what actually comes of it.

Solution #4

If you buy your ticket from point to point, you won’t be under as much stress to get to the next station in time for your connection. I don’t believe the costs are actually that different. And you often have to take an extra bus ticket anyway. For example, there is no train to Lichtenstein from Switzerland.

Problem #5

The particulars of the ticket are unclear. I basically didn’t follow the rules of it at all but got away with it. You should only leave Germany once and reenter once, for example. Well, the day I was to go to Switzerland, when I showed up at the train station I learned that that particular track was closed and I would need to ride a bus to get to the next station, which by the time I would arrive my connecting train would have already left. It would have gone through France. Instead, I decided to reroute and to go through Germany so I didn’t arrive in the middle of the night. Strike one. Then again, I didn’t know that once you have crossed back into Germany, it has to be on the same day. I was informed that on the evening I crossed into Munich. But I was planning to see Munich for one day first. Strike 2. I risked it, got my stamp, didn’t get kicked off the train, but it was some needless stress, because had I known that, I would have planned a day in Zurich instead.

Solution #5

Some of these problems can’t be resolved in advance, for example the train track closing, or all seats being reserved on a reserve only train-which also happened. The scheduling required on an Interrail pass, means that it’s likely easier just to arrange ticket to ticket, day to day.

WHAT WE SAW IN 9 DAYS

Amsterdam, Netherlands-we went to the Maritime Museum and the Bacteria Museum. Ryder absolutely loved the latter, as did I. Both were great. And it’s a breath of fresh air, in somewhat insular Europe, to chat with friendly Dutch locals.

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Delft, Netherlands—I think they gave us a free upgrade to their suite. It was a gorgeous, old fashioned room. We went to the science museum and Ryder loved it. There’s nothing quite like a small, quaint city in the Netherlands.

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Munich, Germany—Another science museum, the largest in the world, was not quite the hit with Ryder that the others were, nor was it with me, because it was was so advanced and technical it went over both of our heads. The best part was probably seeing the city surfers in the river, and going to the Christmas market and having the most delectable white chocolate covered strawberries.

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Vaduz, Lichtenstein is a tiny place of 5,000 people and just one main street of things to see. It has a worthy museum—I wished we could have spent more time—and a playground just outside the bus stop. Otherwise not even a full day is necessary here. I was surprised to learn that, despite its size, it’s had a lot of Olympic medals. This has to do with the relative wealth and education levels of all the inhabitants.

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Chur, Switzerland was definitely charming, though a certain grumpiness (someone told me it was ‘squareness’) still seemed to pervade the culture. Case in point: lady followed me up the stairs in the toy store. I ask her if it’s ok if Ryder plays at their play station set up specifically to be played with because she is staring at me. She says yes, then fiddles with toys around me while continuing to stare. After just two minutes, she says that he is not allowed to play there because I am not browsing. This has never happened before to me in the history of toy store browsing. Ryder cries. We go hang out at the library. Meanwhile, the food was fun to try as a cheese lover, though Ryder begs to differ. The place we stay at smells so strongly of old cheese Ryder holds his nose when we walk inside, every time. Makes me laugh. He won’t even try the fondue because of it. It was great seeing an old friend from high school and catching up.

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Luxembourg was a surprise hit. Downtown is a UNESCO world heritage site, and the views are breathtaking and storybook. You can get a bus ticket to last you all day for only five euros to go anywhere in the country. And it had the best Mexican food I’ve ever had in Europe. Chi Chi’s even has free, and excellent, chips and salsa. Ryder liked the enormous pirate ship themed park.

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Kalli Hiller

Article by Kalli Hiller

Kalli Hiller is a voluntary vagabond who, with her husband Jacob, has traveled full time for the last eight years.

Kalli has written 361 awesome articles for us.

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