Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Why You Should Go Interrailing || With Added Tips and Tricks

This might be a weird time of the year to start talking about and thinking about planning for summer next year. But it is actually the perfect time! It was about this time two years ago that myself and my friend Emily started seriously talking about, thinking about, and planning for our interrail trip around Europe in summer 2015. And boy, was it the best summer of our lives so far.

I know a lot of people who have gone travelling in places like Asia and Australia as their first big travelling adventures without their parents, and that's all well and good, and probably an amazing experience. However, if you are more like me and prone to a lot of anxiety, travelling around Europe is a nice 'dip your toes in and see what travelling is actually like' experience, without being hours away from help should everything go tits up. Which, if you've spent what felt like years of your life planning every detail, it shouldn't. And travelling via train with an interrail pass is surprisingly cost effective, and a lot less than multiple flights.

Europe itself is an absolutely incredible place to explore in it's own right, cram packed with culture, history, and delicious food. (Or McDonalds, if you're lazy and don't want to spend a fortune or try and communicate!). Emily and I decided to go for a month in between our A Levels ending, and university starting, and it was the busiest and best month I've ever spent. We decided to visit as many places as possible, which meant that we only spent two nights and a full day in each place, but got to take in so much more, and so many countries. In the end we visited Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Lienz, Venice, Verona, Innsbruck, Stuttgart, and Paris, as well as exploring London before we set off. And honestly, if you're travelling for the first time I actually recommend doing the flying tour of each place, as now we have a whole arsenal of countries we want to go back and explore in greater detail, but we still managed to see the main sights and then some of each place we stayed in.

Every one we met out in Europe was so friendly, and despite a few tears three days in, the time went so quickly and we had no hiccups! We did opt for private twin rooms rather than dorms, which did raise the price slightly, but we ended up spending no more than three thousand on trains, accommodation, food, and souvenirs. Lots and lots of souvenirs. We're very good at shopping.

All in all, interrail is amazing, and the fact that you can get one ticket that enables you to travel around so many countries in a month is just mind blowing. If you're debating going travelling, I definitely recommend trying interrailing, or at least looking into it. And with that in mind, here are some of my top tips and tricks for making your experience as smooth as possible! (I'm aiming these at people like Emily and I, who hate winging it and want things to be planned)

1. Don't leave everything to the last minute. We started looking into the trip and planning where we wanted to go and arguing about the route about this time, and then proceeded to start booking everything at the beginning of the year so that we knew we had accommodation and that was one less thing to worry about.

2. Do your research. Don't just settle for the first hostel/hotel you find. Utilise every booking resource you can, such as Hostel World, booking.com, Hostel Bookers, and many other websites so that you can find the right deal on the right place in the right location.  We probably spent the most time just researching different places to stay and comparing prices and locations, and bar the hostel in Amsterdam (an hours trek from the train station!) all of our accommodation was a stones throw from both the stations and the town centres, without costing the earth.

3. Plan your routes. Unless you really are a free spirit and want to go wherever the mood takes you, use the interrail website to plan your route. We ended up planning ours down to the exact times we would be getting on the trains, and it saved a lot of hassle.

4. Pay a little bit extra to reserve your seats. We didn't work this out until we were actually travelling, but if we had a long journey and wanted to make sure we could sit down and relax, we were straight down the train station information desks and paying around 5 euros each to reserve our seats. It was worth it for the peace of mind, and to rest our poor little leggies.

5. With that in mind, ensure the train you are taking does not require you to have a seat booked, as I know several of them do. You don't want to find out when the guard comes around. Get that knowledge in your head before you leave.

6. Don't be afraid to just point to a place on a map and go 'lets go there'. We did that several times when we needed to stop off somewhere on the way to a major city, and ended up discovering Innsbruck in Austria, which became one of our favourite places!

7. Have a wallet where you can put all the important stuff (interrail ticket, passport, seat reservations, timings, hostel bookings etc), arrange it in the order you will need it, and do not let that wallet go anywhere but in your personal bag that you keep close to you. It's a life saver, honestly.

8. Document your experience! Trust me, you're going to make memories you want to remember. Take pictures, keep a journal, keep tickets and receipts and everything and anything. Blog about your experience. Share those memories on social media. Don't (both) break your phone. In a years time, they will be some of the most precious things you own.

9. Utilise the interrail app. It can be used offline, so perfect when you're travelling, and has a feature where you can find train times etc, so if you're in a pickle and don't know when the next train is, it could just save your hide.

10. Get to important places in plenty of time. Give yourself time at the train stations to familiarise yourself with the layout, work out which one is your train and where it's going from, find that platform. Don't leave it to the last minute. It will make the experience much better, I promise.

1 comment:

  1. Oh wow it sounds like you both had an amazing time! I would love to travel around Europe xx