Last summer I went Interrailing and it was the best week of my life so far. In this post I will share everything you need to know if you decide to go Interrailing. Tips & trick’s, do’s & don’ts and much more.
For those of you who have never heard of Interrail; it basically means you get to travel around Europe by train. There are a lot of Interrail passes but we had the “5 days within 10 days” pass, which meant we could travel five days in a time-spawn of ten days (well, dûh). Interrail is such an amazing experience. By traveling you feel a sense of freedom I had never experienced before. It was my first (big) vacation without my parents and the best I had so far. I have to say; if you like having things planned, staying in a place for a long time and to have a relaxed summer; Interrail is not for you. It is one big adventure, it takes a lot of arranging and you don’t get to see everything in every place just because you have just a few days there (Not if you buy a pass for more days, but that is, of course, more expensive). Also you have to love a bit of culture. If you want to go out every night and sleep all day, you might be happier at Chersonissos (nothing against that though; that is my plan for this summer hahaa). Personally, I would recommend Interrail to everyone who loves adventure, freedom and seeing new things.
Before you leave
Once you have decided that you want to go on Interrail (and for how long), you have to arrange a lot of things. Here are some of the key-points to organizing your perfect Interrail trip.
TRAVEL-BUDDIES: You have to decide with whom you want to travel. I traveled with three friends, two of which I did not even know that well before the trip. But a trip like this is just perfect to strengthen your friendship and make memories for life. There are however a few things you have to keep in mind while picking your travel-companions. Firstly; are they on the same budget as you are? How good a friend someone might be, it is not fun if they want to go and sit on a terrace every time and go for diner somewhere expensive while you don’t have as much to spend (or the other way around of course). So make sure you have the same expectations on how much you are willing to spend while on the trip. Secondly; Don’t go with a group that is too big. We were with four and that was just perfect. I would recommend going with an even number and no more than six people. It is hard if your only have two days in a city and everyone wants to go/see/do something else.
HOW MUCH FREEDOM DO YOU WANT? I do have to say, we had a big part of our trip planned beforehand. The route, the hostels, the trains etc. You could also just go and see where you land but I think you get to see a lot less than when you plan it all beforehand. International trains don’t go every ten minutes like the train to Amsterdam so if you don’t plan what trains you will take, you have to be really lucky that the trains go when you want them to.
THE ROUTE: Of course, you all want to go to different places. It may be hard to plan a route that everyone is happy with but it definitely is possible. First; pick a direction in Europe you want to go in. We choose Eastern-Europe because it would be where we were least likely to go to anytime soon. Of course France, Spain, Italy etc. are also amazing (I believe every place is awesome as long as you are feeling good and the sun is shining) but we had all been there before and we wanted something new. So Eastern-Europe it was. Once you have picked your direction, you have to decide on the cities (or villages) you want to visit. Tip: all make your own list of places you want to go and then compare them. You will be surprised how much alike some of your choices will be. Keep in mind that you have to be realistic in the places you pick. Do you really want to be sitting in a train for one whole day? (let me tell you; you don’t). Go and visit the Interrail website (or download the app) to see how long a travel it is from one place to another. The route we did was; Berlin, Prague, Budapest and Bled. The first three are a common Interrail combination but Bled was a bit off the route.
PACKING LIST Of course, your packing list will vary depending on where you go and who you are. But there are a few essentials you should not forget:
- A big backpack. You know, the ones backpackers wear that put the weight on your hips
- A small backpack. Or any other small purse for you to take with you when exploring a city
- Sun protection: sunglasses, a hat, sun cream etc.
- A camera. I only had my phone and my Polaroid camera because I did not want to be worrying over my expensive canon. Just make sure you have something to capture the trip.
- A book. You will be bored very soon while on the train. Make sure to bring a book with you to relax! Don’t take a big one though because you have to carry it.
- Something salty. I brought a pack of salty crackers with me on the trip and it was the best decision. Especially with warm weather, having something salt to eat is a must because it makes sure your body actually takes in the water your drink so that you don’t get dehydrated.
- A spoon. Well, that is a weird tip. But very necessary! We ate a lot of fruity yogurt on the trip. It is not very expensive, makes you feel satisfied, is easy to bring with you and tastes good. We had one problem though: you can not buy one plastic spoon, you will have to buy a set of 25. So spoons were everywhere in my backpack. Make sure you don’t have the same problem and just bring a spoon.
- Plastic bags. For your dirty shoes and clothes, wet swimwear, or just to organize.
- A first aid kit. We had a broken toenail, some heavy scrapes and so the kit was very useful.
- A portable charger for your phone! When you travel with multiple people, you all want to have your phone in the socket at night. Unfortunately, there are almost never more than two sockets in a room. A portable charger is the way to go!
- Two pair of shoes; your everyday sneakers and your flip flops. I can walk on flip-flops for days and they were very handy for when we went swimming or for the sometimes gross showers in the hostels.
- Easy fashion. Bring things that are easy to put on. You want to be comfortable on the train!
- Mix ‘n match. Make sure all the pieces you bring can work together. What I did was: a few basic tops, a jeans short, a printed skirt, a printed dress and a printed jumpsuit.
- Layer! This is a key word. You want to take as little as possible but you also don’t want to be cold when the weather turns on you. I had a thin flannel, a kimono and a warm sweater.
- More than one swimming suit. You are going to swim more often than you think, for instance at a hostel, a lake, or even in the city as some cities offer a lot of opportunities to go swimming.
Apps you should download:
- Currency: We had to pay in Euros, Czech Republic Koruna and Hungarian Forints. This app makes it very easy to know how much something costs.
- Rail Planner: The Interrail app to check on your trains and see discounts you can get in certain cities with your pass.
- Offline city guides: Especially apps with an offline map are extremely useful for when you don’t have wi-fi. That way you can still see where you are.
If you want 10 tips everyone should know for going on a road trip, make sure to check out Janne’s blog, where I wrote an article about that! If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment or send me an e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org). What are your summer plans?