It is no secret that I love Interrail. There is a level of beauty in being able to visit Europe in a non-restrictive, free-spirited manner. My own experiences with Interrailing have been unforgettably brilliant.
However, it’s important to recognise that a trip of this nature may never be perfect. Any traveller has the right to reflect on their experience in terms of things that could be changed for the future.
What is Interrailing?
Interrail (or Eurail for those travelling to Europe from other continents) is a rail pass recognised by many major and domestic rail operators. These major rail operators include Trenitalia, Eurostar and Deutsche Bahn.
An Interrail pass allows a tourist to get on almost any train in Europe and venture from country to country. The exceptions are trains that need to be pre-booked or trains that aren’t permitted outside of one’s ‘travel days’.
In Interrail/Eurail language, ‘travel days’ are the number of days a traveller can use the pass. For example, if you don’t plan to travel every single day, maybe the 7 days within 1-month pass would be suitable. This pass allows a tourist to travel on any 7 days within a set month.
If you want more freedom and spontaneity, the 1-month pass may be more worthwhile. This pass allows you to travel any day within 1 month. It’s far less restrictive for those who want the flexibility to decide last minute.
The Eurail pass is very similar to the Interrail pass, just with a different name. The only real difference is that Eurail tickets are for travellers inbound from continents outside of Europe.
Both passes offer a one country pass that allows travel in one select country. On the other hand, the global pass allows for travel in any participating country in Interrail/Eurail. Each pass offers discounts for select travellers such as those under 27 and over 60.
Simply put, if you are from Europe, purchase an Interrail ticket, and if you are travelling into Europe from another continent, go for the Eurail ticket. More information on these passes can be found on the Interrail official website to help you plan your trip suited to your needs or desires.
As soon as I’m able, I plan to organise another Interrailing adventure. This time I’ll be using what I have learned from experience.
Here are 6 things I wish I knew before my first time Interrailing:
There’s nothing wrong with dreaming about seeing the world. On a personal level, I would love to be able to say I have explored all the destinations on my bucket list. However, this may not be realistic.
With my first Interrail experience, my initial plan was an over-ambitious, country-crammed plethora of European destinations. Costing far too much than the average 18-year-old could afford. Naivety on my part, but I was just an excited young traveller looking for adventure.
For me, planning a Europe trip is part of the adventure. However, overplanning can create a stressful and unachievable itinerary. Therefore, I would advise others to learn from my experience and try to find a balance between aiming big and aiming far too big.
Set a Daily Budget
On my first Interrail adventure, I made the mistake of failing to budget. It can be difficult to budget when the next leg of the trip is a mystery. However, some form of monetary plan is necessary.
I had spent the entirety of my euros on hand by the time I had reached Salzburg on the fourth day of my trip. Plus, I had spent fluctuating amounts on my bank card each day.
Fortunately, this did not negatively affect my experience as I had saved extensively in order to have more spending freedom. But, it’s safe to say I would have benefited from at least a loose budget.
Make Plans Around Local Events
One of the liveliest destinations I chose to visit was Frankfurt. This was not because of the sights, locals, or cuisine. Although all those things make Frankfurt worth visiting. The atmosphere is what made my experience unforgettable. Unbeknownst to me, the 2018 Ironman European Championship was taking place in Frankfurt.
Stalls lined the streets, locals and tourists gathered in celebration and competitors were out in full force. This was one of the most amazing atmospheres I had experienced so far on my Interrailing trip.
It got me thinking of how great trips could be if I visited destinations when special activities or celebrations were taking place. I decided that in the future it may be worthwhile to plan around interesting or fun events.
When it came to booking accommodation for my trip I found I’d lacked preparation. But, adventure comes with learning as you go. One amazing thing I learned, through research after my trip, was the helpfulness of Hostelworld.
This site is great for those looking for the affordability of hostels, especially when travelling on a tighter budget. Hostelworld provides dorm rooms for those wishing to book the cheapest possible form of accommodation. Plus, there’s the added bonus of having the opportunity to meet like-minded travellers.
Many hostels also offer private rooms, often cheaper than an average priced hotel.
Take Advantage of Free Walking Tours
I love a walking tour. Sure, it’s easy to use a search engine to learn the history behind the Hanging Man sculpture. Or discover the reasons behind the bullet holes on the side of Saints Cand Methodius Church. But, having a local guide bring a story to life with anecdotes is a much fuller experience.
What better way to explore a destination than on foot, with a knowledgeable guide to let you in on the hidden charms of the place you are visiting? Well, how about a free walking tour?
At the ripe old age of 18, I discovered the allure of free walking tours while in Prague. Free walking tours are often readily available across major cities. Local tour guides work for tips and happily take tourists around their city showing off what it has to offer.
Travel In the Morning
I prefer to avoid late evening travel. Partly because I end up feeling frustrated that I can’t go out right away to explore. Partly because it can be stressful.
On one occasion, my poor planning had me arriving in Zurich with pitch-black skies, very little phone charge and a struggle to get into my accommodation. This experience was nothing but stress.
Although it’s humorous to look back on my foul mood that night, for my next Interrail adventure I will plan differently. Travelling early morning ensures you can seize the day and get exploring as soon as you arrive at your next destination.
If You Go:
Utilising the Interrail site allows travellers to research types of passes, potential routes, reserve seats, find deals and even book accommodations.
There is an endless range of articles like this one that helps travellers select destinations and sights to see. A google search of the best places to travel to in Europe will provide the inspiration and information you need to make the best choice for you.
Alternatively, articles like this provide travellers with the ‘hidden gem’ destinations that are often overlooked in favour of the bustling capitals of Europe. I would recommend incorporating at least two hidden gems in your trip. This will give you a well-rounded experience of Europe as opposed to hitting just the highlights.
Author Bio: Emma Ritchie is a Scottish travel fanatic with a degree in International Business and Tourism Management at Glasgow Caledonian University, now embarking on her master’s degree. Her passion for travel stems from her father and his equally strong desire to see the world. Emma has travelled extensively and loves meeting new people, trying new food and keeping written and photographic records of her travels.