Read anyone’s bucket list and it’s more than likely you’ll find ‘interail across Europe’ on it. It has always been on mine and I recently took the leap to tick it off. Interailing is ideal if you can’t make up your mind where to travel, if you want to take a solo trip or intend to do a relatively budget conscious trip. The reasons to go are endless.
Most people tend to Interail during their college summers; I however was a little different and decided to go interailing in my mid-20’s. I studied French at University so my uni summers always consisted of saving to go to France. It felt like Interailing was something that had just sort of slipped me by, but I never stopped thinking about it somewhere in the back of mind.
I made the leap to go now as I have been working for a couple of years and the itch to travel again was getting greater. In retrospect I’m happy that Interailing was something I did at this point in my life. By now, I am surer of myself than I would have been as a college student meaning that I knew how to plan the kind of trip that I properly enjoyed.
One of the perks of Interailing is there’s so much on offer you can do your trip any way you want. When talking to other Interailers it’s amazing to see just how differently they are taking on the experience; someone’s trip might be all about hiking while someone else might be partying their way through Europe.
I decided to take this trip alone- I booked it pretty suddenly and I thought it would be a great way to get out of my comfort zone. Arguably the hardest part of doing this trip by myself was getting around new cities with my comically bad sense of direction. To cope I decided I was not lost- but taking in the scenery!
One thing that can be overwhelming about interailing is just how much there is to do. You have to be really present in whatever city you are in- just enjoy what you find time to do and immerse yourself in that. People will differ on this. Some will completely go with the flow and others will plan everything to a T. It comes down to personal choice. My route was as follows- Lyon, Geneva, Zurich, Munich, Vienna, Prague, Dusseldorf and lastly Amsterdam.
So, here are some interailing tips to keep in mind for your travels:
Research is Key:
It’s worth considering this before you leave: would you prefer a planned trip or to go with the flow? Whichever is more you, keep in mind that when Interailing you might only be staying in a city for a night or two! To make the most of this, I recommend picking out three to four things you want to do in a day. Some of my recommendations include the Museum Quarter in Vienna, The Foodhallen in Amsterdam, An Art Deco Swimming Pool and Spa in Munich, visiting a brewery for beer and pretzels in Munich, a riverside walk in Lyon and strolling the grounds of Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna.
Be Prepared to Unplug while Travelling:
Most trains in Europe are pretty impressive; there’s actually leg room, usually a little restaurant on board and sometimes there’s even toilet roll in the bathroom! However, I often failed to find a plug socket or get service. So be prepared for some digital free time. Bring a book, a notebook, catch up on sleep or simply stare out the window. I only failed to get a seat on one four-hour train from Prague to Berlin, however it was so overcrowded that it was actually comical and the floor wasn’t really that uncomfortable.
Be sure why you are taking this Trip
There’s a tendency to think that every moment of traveling (excluding airports) is bliss. But when you haven’t eaten in six hours, you are exhausted from a terrible night’s sleep in a hostel and your phone battery dies just as you need to find your accommodation- you may question how much you are really getting out of this. That’s why it’s important to have a goal for the trip. This could be something as simple as I want to push myself by navigating Europe independently or I want to experience something new. Accept that not every minute is going to run smoothly and you’ll get through the difficult moments more easily.
Embrace the Culinary Scene
I think most of us can agree that one of the best parts of travelling is the food! Find out about the traditional foods of the country you are visiting as well as the best restaurants and cafés. It’s easy to fall into the trap of ending up in a touristy restaurant so try and find out where the locals eat. Ask the staff at your hostel as they probably have a pretty good idea. Don’t forget to let yourself pig out- it’s all part of the experience! Some of my food highlights included Dutch pancakes, buttered pretzels in Munich, the excellent Japanese food in Dusseldorf, Sachertorte in Vienna and chimney cake in Prague.
Don’t expect to love every destination
Part of the fun of traveling around Europe is that so many different countries and cultures are at your fingertips. The diversity from destination to destination is incredible- however this doesn’t mean that every city you visit is going to appeal to you personally. There’s no point staying in a place that just isn’t you – but the beauty of an Interailing ticket means you can move on quickly enough! My favourite was definitely Vienna as it was great for coffee, history, art, walks and food.
Don’t over pack
This may seem like an obvious one but consider the fact that you’ll be catching trains and checking in and out of hostels all the time so don’t burden yourself with a heavy load! You’ll be surprised how easy it can be to be minimal. Avoid bringing anything too expensive or treasured- be open to leaving some stuff behind to make space for new things you might pick up. I found a small 10kg wheelie bag and a back pack worked for me.
Pick Central Accommodation
Choose where you are staying wisely ensuring that it is within walking or cycling distance of the places you want to visit. If you have to take an hour’s bus journey back and forth to the city you can easily lose motivation and end up missing out. Two of the hostel’s I stayed in can be found in various locations across Europe and they both organise events and have spaces for drinking/eating and also chilling out. Visit wombats and Generator, both have hostels in several locations across Europe.
Budget, Budget, Budget
Interailing tickets are particularly good value but when you are out and about everyday costs can really add up! Don’t be afraid of doing a “cheap” day – visiting parks, eating street food, wandering through the city and finding free exhibitions. That doesn’t sound so bad does it? Don’t forget to avail of anything that’s free- some of my hotels provided free public transport passes for the day and most cities have some sort of discount card for tourists.
Don’t Worry about Sticking to the Plan
So much of everyday life depends on planning and organisation so don’t be afraid to get away from scheduling and live more freely. Try not having an agenda for the day and see where it takes you!