As mentioned in a post before, I went interrailing across Europe with my friends last summer for 3 weeks. There is a lot of planning & budgeting involved in this sort of an excursion so I thought I’d share some tips for anyone who is planning on or contemplating interrailing for the future.
1. Plan but Don’t Over Plan.
So yes you need to plan your trip to a certain extent before you leave i.e. picking a smart location to fly into so that you can start making tracks across Europe. We picked Amsterdam as this was a typical place that many backpackers start. We had pre-planned our route a number of weeks in advance. However, what we found was that in some cities we ended up staying longer or shorter than expected. For example, we planned on staying in Prague for 3 nights we arrived there & realised the city wasn’t for us and we were ready to move on to the next city (Budapest) so we packed our bags and left after the 2nd night. The interrail pass gives you the freedom of choosing different European destinations & the ability to travel without much of a restricted plan of where you’re going & how long you’re staying. We also had a lot of our accommodation pre-booked before we arrived in a city to avoid being stranded on the streets with big backpacks. This did happen to us in Budapest, we were roaming the streets at 11pm temporarily homeless as a lot of the hostels were booked up. This was both terrifying & exciting at the same time, and makes for a good travel story! Obviously you should try have your accommodation booked before you arrive in each of your chosen cities to avoid this happening to you. I’m telling you, walking around a foreign city with heavy backpacks on your back at night with no place to stay isn’t fun!
2. Stay in Hostels
The best way to experience each city you travel to & to make the most out of your trip is to stay in hostels. This allows you to meet new like-minded people who are also probably backpacking. If you book apartments which obviously will be more expensive, you miss out on meeting new & fun people. Some of our favourite memories from our trip was staying in the Sunflower hostel in Berlin & The Wallaby Hostel in Zagreb where we went on pub crawls with the other people staying in the hostel & made loads of new friends.
3. Be Realistic with your Budget
You have to be realistic with your budget & whatever you think you’re going to spend a day, you’re probably going to spend more than you planned. In certain cities you will have to put aside extra than others e.g. Amsterdam which is ferociously expensive. It’s also worth noting that when you arrive in different cities you will be charged a city tax so bear that in mind when you’re planning your budget. Personally, the best decision I made was to take out a loan for this trip! I had more than enough set aside for each day that allowed me to experience each city to the full without having to worry about money. Trust me it’s worth it!
4. Pack Lightly but Realistically
Ironically I’m giving this advice about not over-packing when I was the one out of all my friends who did exactly this. You’re going to have to end up doing a wash at more than once during your trip depending on how long you’re going for. It’s worth being strategic about your packing, so loads of t-shirts and less trousers & clothes that can be rolled up easily in your backpack. When you’re packing & you’re thinking “I can’t possibly pack light”, just remember you’re going to be carrying that bag on your back around different cities to different train stations etc. Or you could be like me & swap your backpack for a suitcase!
5. Prepare for Long Train Journeys
Part of the whole interrail experience comes the dreaded long train journeys. Our train journeys usually ended up being between 6-8 hours on average. However, time can pass by pretty quickly when you book your seating with your friends, you have a good book & your own music. Our group of friends decided each train journey we would pull up a stool at the restaurant/bar on board with a pack of cards & drank beer for the duration. It’s safe to say we practically fell off the train at the end of every journey!