Interrailing might be the best way to see Europe. You get to see several different countries without stepping foot on a plane. A bonus is the beautiful landscape moving past you and the time you have to actually let it all sink in while enjoying your train ride. However, an interrail can seem like extra stress if you are not used to it, so it’s a good idea to plan ahead.
Plan your route
After you made your decision of going, you need to plan your route. Decide which countries you want to visit and how many days you want to spend in each city. From experience I can tell you that you will get exhausted from moving around all the time, so don’t cram too many places in.
Some ideas on routes to get you started:
- South of Europe; Portugal – Spain – South of France – Monaco – Italy
- Balkan; Slovenia – Croatia – Bosnia and Herzegovina – Montenegro – Serbia – Macedonia – Greece
- North of Europe; Denmark – Sweden – Norway – Finland
- UK and Ireland; Start in London – Northern Great Britain – Northern Ireland – Ireland
- Western Europe; France – Luxembourg – Belgium – Netherlands – Germany – Austria – Switzerland
- Eastern Europe; Lithuania – Poland – Czech Republic – Slovakia – Hungary – Romania – Bulgaria
A good rule is to stay at least two nights in each place. Of course, you can decide to move quicker if you don’t like the place. Also, keep in mind that the summer months will be more crowded and it will be more difficult to find seats on trains and accommodation. When you made a decision it’s time to buy the tickets.
Remember that plans can change and that you’re only making a preliminary route. Instead, focus more on what you definitely want to see and how many days you need. Use Interrails own site or external sites such as Interrailplanner to get an idea of where to go and how long the trains between the places are. Download Interrail’s own app before going on your trip. For us, the safest bet was always to go to the info desk at the train station before leaving for a new destination. This way we made sure that we could use the ticket for the train we wanted to go with and that we could reserve seats if needed.
This will be your largest expense after your Interrail ticket. You might want to look into Couchsurfing or sleeping in hostels instead of hotels and Airbnb.
If you decide to go for Couchsurfing, keep in mind that the host probably will be in the same apartment. Do your research. Do they have bad reviews or none at all? Stay away, especially if you are traveling on your own. We spent a lot of nights on other people’s couches, and all our hosts were men (they were the only ones who answered). They were all nice or at least OK experiences, but we did get very suggestive messages from several after we had left. Booking for Couchsurfing should be done well in advance (a few days at least). Most people won’t be spontaneous enough to take someone on the same day. With that being said, we did manage to get some sofas to sleep on when asking 24 hours before!
Hostels are generally a good idea if you are traveling on a budget. There are several sites that specialize in booking hostels so have them handy. Here you will also meet people quite easily! Hostels can usually be booked as late as when you are on the train to your destination. If the city is full of tourists (e.g. Amsterdam, Venice), it’s better to be on time. A couple of friends of mine found themselves in a situation where only one of them could get a bed while the other spent the night wandering Amsterdam with other backpackers in the same situation.
Packing, preparing, and security
Buy a big backpack and learn how to pack it and carry it. Don’t pack too much clothes and do bring washing powder to clean them. Bring two towels, one for showering and one for the beach. Pack a basic health care package with at least plasters, pain killers, and antiseptics. Bring a water bottle, a cup, and utensils in order to eat without going to restaurants all the time.
When it comes to security, there are things to keep in mind, also in Europe:
- Bring a padlock to lock your bags, and lockers in hostels.
- Make a print copy of your passport in case it gets stolen.
- Bring a smaller bag to keep in the front for valuables. Never have anything of value easily accessible.
- Get travel insurance.
- Keep in touch with your family and friends through the phone every now and then.
- Don’t visit dodgy areas.
- Have more money on your account than you might need for your trip but also keep your bank’s phone number handy in case your cards get stolen.
- You can easily find wi-fi in e.g. McDonald’s if you need an internet connection (but do remember that open wi-fi means someone can easily see what you’re doing so don’t log in to your bank).
Getting back home
When planning your Interrail, getting back home might not be on the top of your head. It is however smart to think about what your last stop will be. You can, of course, take the train back home (if you live in Europe), but that will probably take a few of your traveling days.
We hadn’t planned this part so well and ended up taking the train from Venice to Berlin just to get the best and cheapest airplane ticket home. When we reached Berlin airport we didn’t know how to buy the tickets except through the internet. On top of that, none of us had brought our bank ID with us (and we didn’t have credit cards). After a quick call to my boyfriend, he bought the tickets for us and all went well, but of course, it could have been much smoother.
Keep in mind that this is written by a European, if you come from elsewhere you need to buy a Eurail pass. You also need to figure out things like visas. Other than that, I hope you too find this helpful!
Do you have any great tips for planning an interrail/Eurail? Are you planning on going?