Interrailing is one of the most popular ways to travel during the summer. Trains not only emit six times less GHG emissions in the environment, but they also allow you to see things you may not witness when flying over them. Following a four week stint last summer, here are some top tips that I learnt along the way during my experience interrailing.
Firstly, I’ll provide some background on my trip. There were three of us, and it was a very in-the-moment decision as we didn't have many plans for the summer. The Interrail website was celebrating an anniversary, which meant all passes were half price – definitely watch out for this as you can get some amazing deals! We decided the flexible one month pass was the best option for us. It can be cheaper to buy a pass which has a certain number of stops on it, but that means you have to plan your route before you leave. However, because of the 50 percent off deal, we thought we would treat ourselves. At the time, we thought it would be a great idea to first see if we like a place or not, and then decide to stay an extra day or to move onto the next place without having the train times set in stone. This didn’t exactly work out for us. Due to interrailing becoming very popular, we found out (the day before we left) that we needed seat reservations on most of the train journeys we were thinking of travelling on. Therefore, a lot of the seats were already booked up or it was an added cost on top of the pass to buy a seat on the train. Bearing this in mind, it made more sense to buy the fixed number pass and therefore solidify our travel plans, as we had to do this anyway.
One of the best things to download before your trip is the EUrail App. Not only can you input your journey into a map and be able to see your route exactly and how far you have gone through it, but it also makes it a lot easier to track European trains. Through this app, you are able to book your seat reservations which are essential for many of the train journeys. We noticed that you didn’t really need these in Italy or on other inter-country trains. There are also other features, including figures of distance travelled and environmental benefits of travelling by train.
Certainly, if you buy the pass, then this is definitely a tip to remember. On many of the trains, a ticket inspector will pass through the cabin and ask to check your seat reservation and your interrail pass. When showing your interrail pass, it will only come up if you have either added the journey to your app or if you have service. Now, on many occasions, you would be passing through continental borders or be in the middle of nowhere with absolutely no signal. If you are stuck with an inpatient ticket inspector, they can charge you if you cannot show them the correct information. This caught us out lots!Make sure you enter the correct train details onto your app (mentioned beforehand) and then screenshot the pass when you are in your hostel or any-where with service. The staff aboard trains will probably be fed up with the amount of people who forget to do this and will be more inclined to add extra charges.
Our route went something like this: Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Croatia, Slovenia, Bologna, Florence, Pisa, Nice and finally Paris. This meant we were on the Eurostar both starting and finishing, and we made it into a loop of a journey. There were definitely places which were more expensive than others – Paris in particular. Since we have been fortunate enough to visit Paris before, we decided we only needed a day there, to have a quick whiz around the attractions. One of the great things about trains is that they also run overnight. This may not appeal to everybody, however, in Europe, they area lot more luxurious than most hostels! We decided to board a train from Nice at eight pm which drove through the night, arriving in Paris at half seven the next morning. Not only did this mean we had a night with free accommodation, it also meant we had an entire day in Paris. Places to stay in Paris are very expensive so we had booked our Eurostar back to London at seven pm that evening. From this we had our day in Paris but also were able to make it a lot cheaper by arriving home that evening. On days like this, or even days where you check out of a hostel at ten am and have a train at ten pm, there are many luggage stores in each place. These only cost a couple of euros and are definitely worth it to keep your hands free.
Travelling by train is certainly a unique experience; watching scenic views out of the window at a low price is definitely worth a trip. From the TransPennine Express to Indian Railways – the world is increasingly more accessible.