InterRail. An experience that frequents many a 20 somethings bucket list these days and it’s little wonder why. No other continent on the planet has Europe’s history, charm, architecture and general brilliance. A few hours train ride can put you in cities that seem worlds apart. For all these reasons when interrailing was suggested within my friendship group we all jumped at the chance.
Once you decide to go it’s time to tentatively plan a route. Our trip was to last just two and a half weeks; a considerable amount shorter than some people choose to go for. Due to this we decided to plan a pretty hard set itinerary and booked our hostels ahead so we weren’t spending hours of our time trying to find one in each city. The route decided on was…
AMSTERDAM – BERLIN – PRAGUE – VENICE – BUDAPEST – MUNICH – PARIS
General Hints and Tips
- TICKET – for our itinerary the InterRail global pass with 10 travel days in 22 was ideal. It allowed a level of flexibility and covered us for how much travelling we would do. It cost £224.00 in 2014 which is great value.
- RESERVE – always reserve trains to avoid disappointment as trains can get pretty full, especially in peak season. When we arrived in a new city we told ourselves that we wouldn’t leave the station until we booked the train to the next city. This usually meant that we were booking the next train a couple of days in advance.
- TRAINS – in Europe trains split and we very nearly found out the hard way; at one point three of us were heading to Rome and two of us to Budapest. At least two of us were going to be where we wanted to be! Always make sure you sit in your reserved seat and carriage to prevent an unexpected journey to the other side of Europe.
- FRANCE – reserve French trains even earlier, even before you leave home. This is because French trains only allocate so many seats to interrailers.
- APP – download the ‘InterRail Rail Planner App’. It’s free and you don’t need an internet connection to use it. It’s really useful for checking train timetables, hotels and hostels and also has city maps in case you get lost.
- PACKING – pack light whatever you do. Even with hostels already booked finding it can still take a long time and having a super heavy rucksack on your back makes it even worse. Not to mention the temperature some of these European cities can get up to! Sweat upon sweat upon more sweat.
- NIGHT TRAINS – firstly they’re a bit strange. Keep your wits about you. We seemed to experience quite a few ‘characters’. Also to reserve an actual bed is quite expensive, we just got seats. If you are wanting to definitely get a bed for a night train journey factor this in to your budget.
- BUDGET – don’t get to your first city and go mad. A few of us did this and ended up needing to get more money sent over from home whilst in Paris. It kind of took the edge of Paris as we were literally very poor. Also, not all of Europe uses the Euro. Prague and Budapest have what we called ‘monopoly’ money. It’s very easy to spend quite a lot without realising as you lose track of how much everything actually is. Just remember that if you spend more than the equivalent of a £1 in Prague on a beer you’ve been ripped off.
- TRAVEL GUIDE – whenever I travel I always have my trusty guidebook with me. You may be thinking what a saddo in your head but they really do come in handy. For this trip I purchased Lonely Planet’s, ‘Europe on a Shoestring’. I’ll leave the link at the bottom.
- RELAX AND ENJOY – there isn’t many times in life that you feel as free as you are when interrailing. Hopping from city to city and enjoying your friends company is amazing. Create your own adventures and go with the flow. You’ll have an amazing time!
- AMSTERDAM – it is estimated that 65% of residents use a bike to get around so why not join in? It is a fantastic way to explore the city in a short amount of time taking in highlights such as Anne Frank Huis, the Red Light District and the Museumplein which boasts the Van Gogh and Rijksmuseum. If we’d had more time we’d have definitely been found sipping on some Dutch beer at the Heineken Experience.
- BERLIN – it is huge but walk it as that way you discover hidden treasures and immerse yourself in the now trendy, historic streets. Just walking around you can stumble upon Checkpoint Charlie, Hitler’s Bunker, the Holocaust Memorial and the Brandenburg Gate. I’d 100% suggest Berlin Zoo which is frequently listed as one of the top zoological facilities in the world. Also, get your camera at the ready for the ample photo opportunities provided at the East Side Gallery; a 1.3km stretch of the Berlin wall decorated with over 100 murals created by dozens of famous artists in 1989.
- PRAGUE – literally one of the most stunning and beautiful cities I have ever been to. Whilst the cheap beer is a main highlight, I’d seriously recommend a late night walk up to Prague Castle. The views from the top are out of this world; looking down upon all of Prague’s gothic architectural heritage takes your breath away. I also found the cuisine in Prague to be a major draw. You must try the beef goulash and dumplings!
- VENICE – when you arrive in Venice it can seem daunting as it instantly feels a little bit alien. The usual car-choked roads and one way systems are replaced by a system of canals, gondolas and ferries. I’d recommend to just walk round and get lost in the cities complicated canal systems with a few pit stops for ice cream along the way. I would also like to plug the ‘Generator Venice’ hostel as it was by far the nicest hostel we stayed in on our trip. Set on the island of ‘Giudecca’, it looks out on to San Marco square providing unparalled views of the city. I’ll post the link down at the bottom.
- BUDAPEST – The name Budapest is an amalgamation of the words ‘Buda’ and ‘Pest’ which are the names for the west and east sides of the river Danube. Just thought I’d throw that random fact in there. The two sides feel worlds apart. I’d definitely suggest a tour around the Royal Palace on the Buda side. If you love to drink and party I’d time your visit to Budapest for the weekend so you can go to the baths party. It’s a crazy night to be had.
- MUNICH – if I’m honest I can’t really comment or give any recommendations. Due to a nightmare with trains we only got half a day and one night here. From what little we saw I’d definitely like to visit again. Maybe for Oktoberfest or the Christmas markets? Munich does, however, have a lovely Pizza Hut.
- PARIS – last stop and we were really out of pocket so it was time to embrace some FREE culture and sights. It’s an obvious to check out the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, the Louvre and the Arc de Triomphe. Just don’t blow all your money before Paris as it is one of those cities that just drains money from you. Luckily a lot of the museums in Paris were free and coffee doesn’t cost much to keep you going at the end of a tiring trip. We ended up people watching in typical Parisian cafes; one of my favourite pastimes.
A Final Word…
I had an absolutely amazing time interrailing and cannot believe it was a year ago. The feeling you get exploring seven of some of the most famous, beautiful and iconic cities in the world with friends that you love and CONSTANTLY laugh with cannot be described. Like any time travelling it can be the most random moments that really stay clear in your head. From dancing across Charles Bridge after a few too many pints to sleeping on Venice train station floor; I wouldn’t change a thing. Even though you may not have the time nor the budget to really see a lot of each city it provides ample time to get the feel of each and plan future trips. I’ve already been back to Amsterdam and hope to go to Budapest at the beginning of next year. Start planning your European InterRail trip now…you won’t look back.
Feel free to comment any questions or tips of your own below x
InterRail website – http://www.interrail.eu/
Lonely Planet Europe on a Shoestring – http://shop.lonelyplanet.com/europe/europe-on-a-shoestring-travel-guide-8/
Generator Venice Hostel – http://generatorhostels.com/en/destinations/venice/