Interrailing across Europe is the perfect trip for first time travellers. Nothing beats that sense of freedom when heading off on a journey, where you can go anywhere and do anything you want – when you want, and with the closeness and familiarity of Europe.
Interrail passes were born from this very notion. Travel at your own pace while weaving between town and country and prepare for an authentic feeling of adventure as you wrestle with your map and your desire to see everything there is to see – whether you’re on a 2 week or 6 month trip.
There’s something exciting about travelling by train, it’s got more character; there’s an alluring romanticism about it and you can sit back, zone out and enjoy the view.
So if you’re thinking about choosing the railroad to uncover all Europe has to offer – here’s 10 tips from those who have ‘been there’ and ‘done that’ to help make your Interrail trip run super smoothly.
1. Think ahead
If you have an idea of where, and when, you want to go next, it’s worth booking your seat for your next journey as soon as you arrive into a city. You’re at the train station already anyway and just a few of Euros will make sure you’re guaranteed a decent seat for your next journey, which is especially handy if there’s a group of you travelling together.
2. Grab that window seat and get the best view
We are totally spoilt with some of the most beautiful landscapes and incredible architecture in the world right here in Europe, and one of the massive plus points of Interrailing is that you get to kill the hours during journeys by gazing out of the window and absorbing the sights as you travel. Ask around for tips on which side of the train to sit before you set off; it’s no secret that there are some incredible views to be had, especially through Switzerland and along the Alps.
3. Take your own food
It’s no secret that food on any kind of public transport can be a little….how can we put this….dodgy. You can save on costly train food by bringing your own dinner/snacks aboard. It’s also a great way of meeting people too, bringing little snacks and sweets and offering them round to fellow travellers is a great way to strike up a conversation when you find yourself seated with the cute girl/guy, group of fun looking locals, sweet old granny or interesting fellow traveller.
4. (Subtly) Bat off unwanted attention
Bring bright coloured earplugs or headphones that signal “don’t talk to me” when the excitable person next to you keeps trying to impose his sharable drinks and snacks on you at 1am.
5. Save money on hostels
Night trains are great for saving money on accommodation, but don’t do them just for that reason: you could end up missing some great stop offs and scenery en route because you chose to sleep through them!
6. Take advantage of all the perks
As part of your pass you can get decent discounts on ferry crossings: So make sure you know what you’re entitled to before you start spending unnecessarily.
7. Save room (and your back muscles)
Travel as light as possible, train travel can mean a little bit of a walk; either to your accommodation or between stations. Also, you’ll need room for the souvenirs you pick up between stops. But remember, whatever souvenirs you buy will probably have to be carted around for the rest of your trip so while that giant sculpture of the Leaning Tower of Pisa may have seemed like a good idea at the time, chances are it will prove to be an annoyance once you’re back on your way.
8. Lock up your personals
Train station lockers are perfect if you rock up in a place in the morning, and want to take the night train out the same day. Store all your belongings so that you have the freedom to dart between sights and make the most of your time without being weighed down by all those items you have bought with you but are yet to use.
9. Be prepared
Plan carefully, maximise your time in each city – especially if you are on a limited time frame. Work out where you want to go and if possible, plan your accommodation before you arrive so that you know exactly where you need to get to with your big bag as soon as you leave the station. This piece of advice also stands for the train journey itself. Wear comfy travelling clothes and take something to keep you occupied en route or the time could drag.
10. Get off the beaten (train) track
The Interrail route doesn’t cover the whole of the Balkans but don’t be put off. This is one of the most interesting and friendly regions of Europe. Plan your train route along with some side trips using other local transport. They are cheap and if you don’t jump off the train and explore you’ll miss on places as stunning as Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina.