For anyone who’s thinking of spending a summer travelling Europe, do it! Interrailing is one of the most freeing and exciting experiences I ever had and it’s what inspired me to go travelling and even start this website. Read on to see what my tips and recommendations are when planning and undertaking an inter-rail holiday.
1) Plan your route first
Plan your route before you buy anything, this will determine what type of travel pass you need. There are limitless possibilities on the route options you can take. Plan exactly where you want to go and what you want to see. We travelled in August and spent 18 days travelling across Europe. Our route was Dublin-Prague-Krakow-Ljubljana-Bled-Zadar-Pag-Zagreb-Budapest-Dublin. We timed our trip so that we finished up in Budapest at the same time as the Sziget festival which was unbelievable.
www.interrail.eu is a great site for planning your journey and they have a great app that has all the train information for Europe. Best of all it works offline so make sure to download it before you head off.
2) Choose your ticket carefully
There are two pass options, a single country pass or a global pass which lets you travel freely between 30 different countries in Europe. The tickets vary in price depending on how much travelling you intend to do. We went for the “5 in 15 days” pass. What this means is that we could travel on 5 different (non-consecutive) days over the course of 15 days. The day you arrive is the day that’s counted as your travel day, something to bear in mind when planning your route. If you plan your trips carefully, this can be used to your advantage. Your ticket is the single most important item you’ll have on your trip, so mind it with your life.
3) Choose your companions even more carefully
Choose your travel buddy carefully because you’re going to be spending A LOT of time together. I went with my two house mates so we were already used to living together and how to handle all our little quirks. Luckily we all got along perfectly for the duration of the trip but be prepared to have an argument or two with your companion(s). You have to be very honest with each other and if you are disagreeing on something make sure to settle it quickly, you don’t want a small argument ruining your entire trip.
4) Book your accommodation in advance
Before we even left Ireland we had all of our hostels booked for our trip. This saved an awful lot of stress and as well it gave us a destination when we arrived in each city. We knew exactly where we were staying and how much it was going to cost.
There are several companies/agencies to choose from when it comes to booking hostels. Personally, I tend to use booking.com the most. I find they are the cheapest for me but other good companies include Hostelbookers.com, Agoda.com, Expedia and even AirBnb as well. If you want 10% off your next stay with booking.com click here.
5) Travel at night
Overnight trains are the single greatest invention for anyone who travels. Not only do you get a bed to sleep in but it maximizes your time during the day to see and explore the cities that you’re in. Pre-booking overnight trains are essential and although your rail pass will cover the cost of the train, you will have to pay extra for a bed. It’s 100% worth it though. If you’re really stuck for cash then your rail pass covers you for a seat. Some trains have reclining chairs which are a bonus if you don’t have a bed.
6) Pack light – you’re carrying it remember
The first time you pack your bag, unpack it because you’ve definitely over packed. There are very few “essentials” that you’ll really need. I’ll admit being a boy makes packing light much easier. For two weeks travel, I only packed one week’s worth of clothes and even at that I had too much stuff. One week’s worth of clean socks/underwear (hostels have laundrettes) and then 4 or 5 pairs of shorts and tops are plenty! On top of that, all I had were my sunglasses, a hoodie, a travel towel and my toiletries. I had one pair of shoes and sandals, my passport and my ticket and that was me. Anything else is just excess baggage (excuse the pun). Remember, you have to carry all these things so the less you pack the lighter your bag will be.
7) Keep souvenirs to a minimum
Buying all sorts of trinkets and memorabilia might seem like a good idea at the time but remember all those small little things build up quickly. If you are going to buy souvenirs I recommend you keep them small and keep them light. If you can’t carry it in your already full backpack you probably don’t really need it. Stick to badges, pins and fridge magnets. They’re small, light and inexpensive.
8) Get to know the hostel staff
These guys are the best people to get information from about the city. They’ll have all the maps and travel guides you’ll need and they’ll be able to give you all the best tips on things to do, where to see and places to eat. If you’re looking to book tours or excursions the hostel staff are the guys to book from. They know which companies to use and trust and take away a lot of the hassle of booking. They can also be great fun. In Krakow, we went on a pub crawl with our hostel staff and it was one of our best nights out over our holiday.
If you do nothing else, I urge you to plan your trip in advance. Simple things like pre booking and doing a bit of research before you leave will make your travelling so much easier and definitely a lot less stressful. Interrailing is one of the best experiences Europe has to offer. It was my first real travel holiday and it inspired me to go travelling even more. Europe offers such diverse cultures and history across its many countries there really is something for everyone. I’d love to go on another inter-rail holiday to new destinations I enjoyed it so much. I would recommend it to everyone.