This is probably the most clichéd thing I’ve ever said, but interrailing round Europe was truly one of the best experiences of my life. I won’t go so far as to say I ‘found myself’ but it was still a brilliant way to spend a summer with my friends. Though summer may seem forever away at the moment (it’s drizzling as I write this), now’s the perfect time to start planning your interrailing trip. So I thought I’d compile my 11 best tips from things I learnt along the way:
1.Don’t Buy an Interrail Pass
Interrailing without an interrail pass? Sounds a bit like horse-riding without a horse.It’s much better to buy your train tickets direct from the country’s station. You can do it through their websites, and even have the tickets posted to you or collect them when you get to the station. This is better because it works out cheaper, and it means you get guaranteed seats. We definitely felt a little smug getting to snooze in our pre-booked seats whilst everyone else was cramped on the floor… Check out Seat61’s blog to learn which websites are the best ones to get tickets from.
2.Book Hostels in Advance
Rooms sell out fast, particularly in the summer. If it’s only you, or one other person, you won’t have to worry about booking so much. However for larger groups (there were 7 of us!), advanced booking really is needed. We saw lots of travelers getting turned away, so don’t leave it till the last minute to get somewhere. Air B’n’B is also good to use, and it can work out cheaper than staying in a hostel, depending on group size.
A summer trip outside England automatically makes us think of sun. Sadly, the rest of Europe can have just as much of a rainy summer as us. We all found ourselves buying jumpers and tights within the first few days of starting the trip. Be prepared for rain!
4.Bring Washing Powder Sheets.
This is mainly one if your using Air B’n’Bs, but some hostels also having washing machines yet no washing powder. You will have to wash your clothes at some point on the trip, unless you plan on packing your whole wardrobe (which I really don’t recommend). Washing powder sheets are small and light enough to take in your bag, so a good option. It’s not the most luxurious product, but it does the job. You can buy some here.
If you’re planning on eating out for every meal, you’re going to run out of money pretty quickly. Don’t get me wrong, going to restaurants and café’s is lovely, however, it’s not affordable to do all the time. Bring a small lunchbox with you, so when you get to countries you can stock up at their supermarkets and then bring packed lunches with you when you head out. Yes it makes it seem a little like a school trip, but you can have some great picnics as well as save money.
6.Quality Over Quantity
You probably want to see as many countries as possible, but if you’re spending barely any time in each country, you won’t really get to enjoy it. It’s better to stay longer in less counties, having about 3-4 days in each place, than to only have a day or two in more countries. You don’t feel so rushed and get to see much more of the sites.
7.Bring a Padlock
Lots of hostels have lockers for you to put your things in, however you usually have to pay for padlocks. Having to do this in each hostel quickly racks up money you’d much rather be spending on tatty souvenirs (or food, probably food), so save the pennies and bring your own.
8.Get a Map of the Country’s Underground
Interrailing typically means visiting capitals cities, which tend to have underground transport systems. Considering it took me a while to figure on the London Underground (I’m still working on it), I was bound to get confused when trying to navigate other countries underground systems. Luckily one of my friends on the trip was brilliant at finding her way around.If you don’t have a human compass with you, it’s best to get a map of the country’s underground system on the first day. Then make sure it always stays in your bag!
9.Bring More Underwear!
Your hygiene is not going to be the best on this trip. Kind of gross, yet also true. Some hostels may not have washing machines, or you just won’t have the time to wash things. With clothes, it’s not so bad, as you can just share things with your friends – our group quickly descended into wearing whatever smelt less, even if it wasn’t ours. However with underwear, it’s best to bring more than you think you will need. Luckily, they’re small so won’t take up too much room in your bag.
10.Speak to Hostel Staff
They know the city better than anyone, so don’t be afraid to ask. It was only really towards the end of our trip that we started asking the hostel staff where to go, and I wish we’d done it sooner. They knew all of the secret, less tourist-filled spots, meaning you can enjoy the city in all its glory.
11.Take Your Friends!
Solo-travelling is great, yet sharing the experience with your friends is even better. However, remember you are with each other 24/7, so bring people that spending that much time with doesn’t make you squirm. As a group of 7 girls lots of people (our parents included) thought we would soon descend into fights, but we’d been friends for 7 years and knew we’d get along. If we had any issues, they’d also be easy to sort out. Thankfully, we were right – the trip ended, and having to spend so much time together meant we were actually closer than when we left. Yet if we had gone with the wrong people, it could have been a month from hell. Choose wisely!
Article by Jennifer Richards.