InterRailing is for Seniors too! – Trip 1: London to Warsaw

The Eurostar terminal at St Pancras International is as busy as ever but check-in is still far quicker and more efficient than any airport.

Eurostar Standard Premier carriageEurostar trains basically offer first, second and third class travel but as it’s not politically correct to call them that, so they are renamed:

  • Business Premier – larger seats, 3-course gourmet meal and drinks, 10-minute check-in and separate business lounge to wait in
  • Standard Premier – larger seats, a 2-course meal and drinks and a 30-minute check-in
  • Standard – more crowded, smaller seats, buffet bar and a 30-minute check-in

It’s good to know that George Orwell’s ‘double speak’ is alive and thriving 30 years after 1984. That’s my gripe for the day over and I have to admit that the economy grade on Eurostar is pretty good and easily beats the general standard on domestic trains or any airline economy cabin. Standard Premier can be quite a bargain when costing in the complementary food, wine, coffee and bottled water not to mention the more spacious seat.

Eurostar Standard Premier mealI am setting off InterRailing around Europe, my children have done it before and I thought it was about time I gave it a try. Instead of roughing it like them, I’ve opted for an InterRail pass with first class seating and have booked a couple of overnight sleeper trains so I can travel further within a week.

My first class Global InterRail pass gives me 5 rail travel days anywhere in Europe within a 10-day period and cost £331, which includes a 10% seniors’ discount. Second class would have cost £211 and single country passes can be had for around £100. Unfortunately InterRail passes don’t include travel in your own country nor do they include Eurostar travel so it won’t start working until I’m on the continent.

To compare prices I checked the cost of buying the same set of e-tickets individually from international rail ticket providers and they would have cost £980. However, if purchased 2-3 months in advance there might be additional early bird discounts; the downside of this is that your itinerary would be fixed and any variation would incur additional costs.

My first class Global InterRail pass cost £331 + £45 in seat reservations and £167 for two, single overnight sleeper cabins – so £543 in all. This is a significant saving but even more valuable is the ability to chop and change my plans as much as I like.

Cologne CathedralWhen travelling through Europe I prefer taking the Eurostar routes to Lille or Brussels (2 hours) whenever possible because it avoids the hassle of changing stations, which you always have to do in Paris.

My onward train to Cologne was delayed by 2 hours (an unfortunate suicide), which caused me to miss my night sleeper to Warsaw. Disaster yes, messed-up itinerary, yes but InterRailing is as much about the journey as the destination. So, thinking ‘hey-ho’ and going with the flow is the mentality to make travelling easy going and enjoyable – pretty much like life really.

Instead of bemoaning my fate I took the opportunity to visit Cologne’s magnificent cathedral, which is next to the station and sample some of the city’s famous Kölsch beer.

Restaurant carriage - Cologne to BerlinThe railway staff at Cologne booked me into a local hotel overnight and worked out an alternative route to Warsaw for the next day. Boarding the 08.48 to Berlin is when the real beauty of my InterRail Pass hit home – I didn’t need new tickets as my Pass breezed me through to my first class carriage, just as a second class pass would have done.

The train to Berlin had a decent cafe style restaurant with 3-4 hot dishes, which looked tasty, and a steward came around regularly to serve drinks.

Changing trains at Berlin Central was a simple matter of waiting on the same platform for the Warsaw train. But one Cologne official told me to change trains at the earlier Ostbahnhof station, which would have involved an up and down stairs platform change. I checked this with the train conductor and discovered it was poor advice. So always remember to double-check any travel information because officials sometimes just don’t care or can be mistaken.

•  Read InterRailing is for Seniors too! – Trip 2: Warsaw
•  Read InterRailing is for Seniors too! – Trip 3: Warsaw to Krakow
•  Read InterRailing is for Seniors too! – Trip 4: The night train to Vienna
•  Read InterRailing is for Seniors too! – Trip 5: Vienna
•  Read InterRailing is for Seniors too! – Trip 6: Vienna to Salzburg
•  Read InterRailing is for Seniors too! – Trip 7: Salzburg
•  Read InterRailing is for Seniors too! – Trip 8: Salzburg – Sound of Music tour
•  Read InterRailing is for Seniors too! – Trip 9: Salzburg-Brussels-London

•  Read about the benefits of the InterRail Pass and my top ten tips

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Peter Lynch

Journalist, rail and wildlife specialist & contributor to Great Train Journeys of the World

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