Interrail for grown ups – a great option for independent travel

Is Interrail for grown ups?

Well, we certainly love train travel. Since starting this blog in February 2016, we’ve sped, trundled, and choo-chood over 7,000 miles of track, including the luxury of the Rocky Mountaineer in Canada and the rustic simplicity of the Sri Lankan tea country. And this spring, it drove us to base our Scandinavian adventure around epic train journeys.

Thumbing through our trusty copy of Europe By Rail: The Definitive Guide, we picked out two routes that make it onto most rail lovers’ bucket lists – the Bergen to Oslo route in Norway, and the sleeper up to Narvik, tucked well inside the Arctic Circle. We worked out a route that took in these two trips and joined them together with flights, a coach, a ferry and a yet more train travel.

Scandinavia route

It’s a common misconception that Interrail passes are only for students and young adults. In fact, passes come in 4 price brackets based on age – Children (4-11), Youths (12-27), Adults (28-59) and Seniors (60+). And savings  compared with patching together tickets yourself can be significant. In our case the cost of the 5-day-in-15 pass that we bought was equivalent to the price of the rail tickets in Norway, meaning that we saved the price of the train from Narvik to Stockhom – a train trip of 1,100 miles.

We’ve written about the stunning trip from Bergen to Oslo here. It really is one of the most incredible travel experiences we’ve had. But the two sleeper trains – up to and back from the Arctic Circle – were equally stunning. It’s easy to run out our of superlatives for the Norwegian scenery. On the route up via Lillehammer and up to Trondheim, its lakes and mountains. From there on up its fjordland until it’s time to hit the sack. We find sleeping on trains really easy and the sleeper carriages on this route were no exception.

The next morning, we hopped off the train at Fauske where a bus dutifully turned up for the 4 hour trip (including a 45-minute ferry ride) to Narvik. Every mile reset the backdrop – a new waterfall, mountain, forest, village, waterway.

1am in Narvik
1am in Narvik

So why did we want to haul ourselves up to the North of Norway? To an iron ore port, attached to a small, remote town? The answer came at 1am that night. When it was still light. At the end of May, Narvik has just about teetered over into its two months of midnight sun. And it was one of the eeriest and most magical experiences. According to the locals, the 2 months where the sun doesn’t rise cast a melancholic spell over the town, and the Northern Lights do little to raise spirits. We’re determined to head back to Narvik to experience that too one January.

And then the even longer rail trip down to Stockholm the next day. The train rises up over the dramatic mountainscape, through avalanche traps and alongside frozen lakes. We entered Sweden and headed through one of the biggest seams of iron ore in the world before starting an 800-mile chunter through endless expanses of pine forests and lakes. Time for another night’s sleep in a cosy cabin.

The Blue Train

Our five days of Interrail pass were up at this point and we worked out it would be cheaper to buy a separate ticket for the last rail leg of our journey on the delightful, ‘vintage’ Blue Train from Stockholm to Gothenburg. And I guess that’s one of the tips that’s important to raise. Some European countries have very inexpensive rail travel, so it’s worth doing your research to see if an Interrail pass will save you money. Often, point-to-point tickets bought well in advance will work out cheaper.

Is Interrail for grown ups? We think so. But then, to us, the idea of heading off on an adventure by rail, is even more exciting than heading to an airport. Maybe you should try it too?!

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