I’ve not been on an interrail journey before. I only know one person whose been interrailing and they’re currently cycling through Europe and I’m leaving them to it. So, as I’ve been buying, trial packing, booking and organising myself to set-off, I’ve obviously been thinking about what it’s going to be like to actually go, to actually be on my own in Europe.
At once, this makes me feel amazing and also apprehensive, which is why I’ve been searching for the best interrailing tips so that I can prepare myself and relax a bit more. Here’s the best of what I think and have found so far:
1. There’s a lot of Europe so prioritise
So much Europe. When I built my own route I went through every country the interrail global pass includes and constructed my itinerary from what I wanted to see and what was possible in the fairly tight timeframe I had. Over at Travelocafe, they suggest prioritising as well and mention that you can’t expect to see all of Europe in one trip. I like this advice and the general vibe of taking the pressure off. If you’re going travelling round Europe on your own, you need to own it and not worry about seeing what other people expect.
Apply it: Go to that weird place the tourists don’t and be a trailblazer.
2. Take overnight trains to sleep the travel time away
Most of what I’ve read actually says overnight trains save on the cost of accommodation, but I’m not convinced; I’ve seen a night in a hostel for £13 and the reservation fees are roughly the same (respectively, depending on where you are). The main benefit I can see is feeling like you haven’t travelled and just waking up somewhere new, bright and early with the whole day ahead. This, fingers crossed, should be true for me as I can sleep anywhere.
Apply it: Buy a travel pillow and doze as the train travels along the tracks… quite a rhythmic, lullaby sound? Beware of nearby snorers.
3. Have a word with hostel staff before exploring
This gem rings true as I experienced it time and time again in Canada and Lisbon. Hostel staff love their cities and surroundings and love helping newbies. They know all the must-see tourist sights as well as little eateries away from the maddening crowds. One of HostelWorld’s top rail tips and I couldn’t agree more. I’ve also seen in action that many hostel staff will also recommend tours and call up to book you in to avoid any miscommunication/mistranslation over the phone.
Apply it: Anytime you’re unsure, go for it. If you want somewhere budget-friendly that does amazing food, it can’t hurt asking the guy at reception.
4. Make the most of free walking tours
I’ve been seeing this tip all over TripAdvisor and can admit it’s not one I’ve actively followed before, however, in Brussels sat drinking Delirium Nocturn, a walking tour did stop right by my table and I got an impressive free taster. In Copenhagen I’m aiming to go on one of the city’s most famous walking tours. You get to see so much and you still don’t lose your freedom; if you want to duck out early because you can’t resist some top attraction, simply tip the tour guide and go on your own way. No pressure.
Apply it: Try a free walking tour in the bigger cities to get your bearings and see a lot of the main sights in one go. Got a favourite attraction? Go back and revisit in more detail with the benefit of knowing exactly where it is.
5. Be aware of cabin fever
This one I didn’t want to hear but Essential Travel put it out there to prepare travellers and I feel the duty to do the same. While their advice is for travelling with a partner and losing sanity in close proximities, I think it also applies to the solo traveller, who, after spending 6hours a day for the last three days on trains, is no longer looking forward to the small living quarters and lack of personal space from other guests.
Apply it: On a hot train, tired and aching? Take a breath, think about why you’re there and if possible, go for a walk through the corridor to get the blood flowing.
6. Only take things you definitely need
Okay, surprise tip number six, cleverly thought up after my latest Amazon package arrived…
Apply it: Leave the kitchen sink behind.
Thank you to all online who share their tips, I promise to continue to do so as well. I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t be apprehensive but it’s all part of the adventure and becoming part of this community.