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Holiday by train - from Britain to Sweden

Our holiday this year was great "grounded travel" - we went from the UK to Sweden, going all the way by train! We stopped in multiple cities on the way, in Germany and Denmark as well as Sweden.

I want to tell you how we did it. But before all that there's one handy thing you need to know:

  • Yes you can go by Interrail - it might be the cheapest way - and no you do not need to be a teenage student, any age can do it!

We met LOTS of people on our travels who said "Oh I thought that was just for under-25s". It's not. There are some extra-cheap offers for young people, but even without those it was the most economical way for us to do it.

I'm not going to tell you the details about Interrail passes, because I don't need to: the magnificent Seat 61 Interrail guide is all you need. We bought ourselves Interrail passes, and then added a couple of reservations: there are some services in particular Eurostar (Channel tunnel) where you'll need a reserved seat in addition to the pass. I used the UK phoneline for Deutsche Bahn to book my Eurostar and other reservations, and it was all really easy and friendly.

A nice European train

Taking the train in Europe is great. The trains are generally more modern, spacious and relaxing than UK trains, at least in the countries we've seen. You get to see some great countryside - fields, mountains, lakes, rivers, little town centres - from your seat. And of course there's none of the hassle of flying (getting to the airport; going through security; hanging round after security). We only had to show our passports at two points: the Eurostar, and at the Danish border when we got off a boat.

Oh yes, a boat: we didn't 100% exactly take the train all the way. There was one point in Denmark where we took a rail-replacement bus. And in order to get from Germany to Denmark we took the train that goes on a ferry, woo!

We met lots of lovely people on the way. We shared food with people, we got some excellent local tips for things to do. We even played Yahtzee with some strangers, and played a game of memory-game with a six-year old Swedish girl :)

Playing Yahtzee

How far did we get? Stockholm. It takes two days to get from London to Stockholm (stopover in Hamburg or Cologne) and seat61 has some tips for other ways to do it.

Saloon in our lovely train hostel

We then went into the Swedish countryside and stayed in a... converted train! In a beautiful setting by a lake.

Lakeside train view

We spent about £350 each on getting the Interrail pass that lets you travel on 10 different days (over a stretch of two months), plus about £60 extra on reservations (mainly the Eurostar). In the end we only travelled on seven of the days meaning we could have gone for a cheaper (£300) ticket, but we weren't sure which we'd need.

You can do it much cheaper if you don't want to visit other places on the way. We deliberately wanted to hop around.

Here's our route:

Our route map

Some random tips for you:

  • Use The Man In Seat Sixty-One to work out how to do your trip, wherever you want to go. You can also use the German train website bahn.de for searching all kinds of trains (NOT just German trains), to work out your timetable. You can also make reservations using the site, or as I said before, you can ring their helpful English phoneline.
  • Brussels Midi station (Eurostar) is great for connections, and there are food shops there, but there's not much you can do for a short stopoff (e.g. 3 hours) - there are very few good eateries in the area, for example. Conversely, Paris is good for that sort of thing, and the Eurostar to Paris drops you in the heart of it.
  • The Scandinavian trains were all on time. We were surprised that lots of the trains in Germany were delayed (I really expected them to be more efficient than that...). However the Deutsche Bahn website gives you live information about all of that, and even recommends journeys that take account of any delays live as they happen. It was very useful for us to be Interrailing because it meant we could switch on to a different train, going via a whole different German city, at no extra cost.
  • Our Interrail pass was accepted on a long bus route in Sweden too (we didn't expect it to be), so it's always worth trying.
  • Pack some snacks - sometimes you don't have time to buy food in the station, and sometimes there's no onboard catering.

And enjoy it! We did :)

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