It's Never too Late to InterRail Around Europe
Thought exploring by train was just for the youngsters? Think again.
Tailor-made rail journeys and ticketing services for the over 50s from Ffestiniog Travel.
As summer draws to a close, and families up and down the country brace themselves for ‘back to school’ blues, others are gearing up to travel without the crowds, using Europe’s impressive and efficient rail network.
Says Maria Cook, General Manager at Ffestiniog Travel: “For the mature traveller and those without dependent, school-age children, autumn brings endless opportunities to explore Europe’s classic cities and glorious coast and countryside, journeying comfortably and efficiently by rail. Following the success of recent TV series featuring rail travel - including Michael Portillo’s Great Continental Rail Journeys, Joanna Lumley’s Trans-Siberian Adventure and Billy Connolly’s Tracks Across America - rail travel has seen real resurgence in popularity amongst travellers of all ages, including the over 50s.
Once considered the domain of school leavers and gap year students, keen to flex their independence with a summer of backpacking using an InterRail pass, Ffestiniog Travel has seen an increasing demand from older clients seeking a European rail adventure of their own. And, whilst the youngsters may be content with bunking down in hostels and campsites as they tick off countries from their wish list, Ffestiniog Travel’s discerning clients are looking for welcoming, well-located B&Bs and hotels in which to relax between sightseeing stops, as well as for expert advice in putting together their perfect rail itinerary… all of which can be provided by Ffestiniog Travel’s experienced team.
No longer limited to those with time to travel the long distances by rail to get to their chosen destination, the increase of high-speed lines across Europe has made short breaks and multi-centre itineraries accessible to all. Travelling at speeds in excess of 300 km per hour, rail services such as the French TGV, Belgium’s Thalys, Spain’s AVE and the German ICE trains are some of the fastest on the continent, enabling journeys that would have once taken several days to be completed within just 24 hours.
The introduction of a wider range of flexible rail passes has also made travelling by train a more appealing and affordable prospect for all ages. The Global InterRail pass offers flexibility and value for money, giving unlimited train travel on most of the scheduled train services run by national rail operators across Europe, whilst InterRail One Country passes can be purchased for unlimited travel in single destinations such as Italy, Germany and Spain. Both offer a senior discount for travellers over 60.
Spend a week exploring Germany by rail – visiting Munich, Dresden, Berlin, Cologne, Heidelberg and Füssen – using an InterRail One Country pass. The rail pass price is just £252 pp* in standard class (£227 pp* for the over 60s) and £396 pp* (£356 pp* for the over 60s) in first class. Alternatively, travel between Brussels, Cologne, Hamburg, Copenhagen, Stockholm and Oslo on a seven-day multi-country itinerary using the Global InterRail pass that costs £280 pp* in standard class (£252 pp* for the over 60s) and £436 pp* (£393 pp* for the over 60s) in first class.
Got a month to spare? A 30-day train jouney visiting Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest, Zagreb, Ljubljana, Venice, Rome and Paris costs from just £412 pp* (£371 pp* for the over 60s) using a 15 days in one month Global InterRail pass or from £556 pp* (£501 pp* for the over 60s) if clients wish to use the rail network every day. Upgrade to first class and travel 15 days in one month for £643 pp* (£579 pp* for the over 60s) or continuously for one month for £874 pp* (£788 pp* for the over 60s).
*Prices are subject to currency fluctuations at the time of purchase and do not include travel on Eurostar, flights or seat reservations. When using the Global InterRail pass, travel within your own country of residence is included to transfer passengers to their exit/entry point (e.g. port, airport or Eurostar terminal). This is not included in the InterRail One Country Pass.
As well as using an InterRail pass to cross Europe, clients can also purchase rail passes in specific countries that allow them to explore both by train and other modes of transport. In Switzerland, for example, a Swiss Travel Pass offers unlimited travel on trains such as the world-famous Glacier Express and Bernina Express (supplement payable for both), as well as postbuses, lake steamers, and many city buses and trams. It also gives the holder free entry to over 490 museums.
Arguably one of the earliest InterRailers, George Bradshaw’s 1913 Continental Railway Guide was the inspiration for former Cabinet Minister and self-confessed rail fanatic Michael Portillo’s popular BBC series, Great Continental Railway Journeys. Retrace his steps on one of Ffestiniog Travel’s tailor-made itineraries - created to mirror each episode - that include all ticketing and accommodation arrangements. Excursions and guided sightseeing tours can also be included (additional cost) to create an unforgettable holiday. For example:
‘Warsaw to Krakow’: Featured in series three, this nine-day journey makes full use of the Polish InterRail pass, travelling deep into central Europe, where east meets west in a fascinating fusion of contemporary and traditional experiences. Sample the elegant and artistic atmosphere of Warsaw, Łodz and Krakow, and visit Poznan, where steam engines still haul the city’s commuter trains. The price is from £970 pp (two sharing) and includes flights (London) to Warsaw/from Krakow, travel by a variety of Polish trains, eight-day Polish InterRail pass, sightseeing in Warsaw & Poznan and eight nights’ B&B, two of which are spent at the five-star Hotel Bristol (Warsaw) and two at the five-star Grand Hotel (Krakow).
Whether InterRailing or simply planning to explore Europe by train this autumn, Ffestiniog Travel’s expert team can assist with all the elements of planning an enjoyable holiday. Working closely with clients to create an itinerary that best fits their preferences and budget, the team will take into account factors such as whether travellers wish to reach their destination as quickly as possible, or consider ‘getting there’ as part of the holiday experience: for these clients, Ffestiniog Travel will recommend a relaxing itinerary that encompasses some of Europe’s slower-paced, scenic rail routes.
As ticketing agent for Europe’s main train operators, Ffestiniog Travel is ideally placed to advise clients on any early booking offers, special rates or upgrades that might be available when making reservations - which are required on all high-speed and long-distance trains in France, Spain and Italy. For itineraries that include an InterRail pass, Ffestiniog Travel also advises downloading the free InterRail Rail Planner app (for Android and iPhone) which provides offline access to European train timetables as well as a trip planner, city maps and a find stations nearby feature.
Prefer to travel in an escorted group? Ffestiniog Travel offers a great selection of rail tours across Europe including – new for 2017:
‘The Danube from Sea to Source’: Follow the course of the Danube – by train and on the river – on this 15-night escorted tour that begins in the Romanian city of Tulcea. A lunch cruise through the Danube Gorge, a hydrofoil trip in Budapest, an evening cruise in Vienna and visits to Grinzing (renowned for its wine) and the Donaueschingen source fountain in Germany’s Black Forest are among the many lovely experiences included in the tour. Departing 30 June 2017, the price is from £2,595 pp (two sharing) including all rail travel, transfers and excursions as per the itinerary, B&B and the services of a tour leader throughout plus a professional Romanian guide within Romania.
Or why not try one of Ffestiniog Travel’s Rail Holidays Direct? Introduced for the first time this year in response to clients’ requests for shorter duration escorted tours based in a single location, these itineraries offer a price-friendly way to visit many of Europe’s most popular destinations. Each features outward and return journeys (from London) which can be reached the same day by rail without a stopover and include a number of delightful excursions. As well as Rail Holidays Direct to Switzerland’s Lake Lucerne and Bernese Oberland, Ffestiniog Travel has added three new choices for 2017: Amsterdam and Haarlem (five days, departs 12 June 2017, price from £690 pp**), Strasbourg – The Jewel of Alsace (five days, departs 20 July 2017, price from £700 pp**) and Bruges – Canals, Culture & Chocolate (five days, departs 15 September 2017, price from £550 pp**).
**Depending on the itinerary chosen, prices include rail travel and transfers, flights, accommodation on a B&B basis, excursions and the services of a tour leader throughout. All prices are based on two people sharing – single supplements apply.