I started on my interrail trip 3 years ago (so apologies if I’m a little bit out of date) and it meant for the small price of a round trip ticket I got to visit (deep breath) Paris-Venice-Vienna-Budapest-Belgrade-Prague-Krakow-Berlin-Amsterdam.. all within a month! It was intense, but it was so worth it!
But what I remember at the time is there wasn’t really a simple and easy guide to planning my trip. It may seem simple – and for some people it is… you just buy the train ticket and set off to wherever you like. But if you’re like me and just winging it is a little bit too crazy for you, then planning it out is the best (and cheapest) way to do it! Whether you want to plan the trip to perfection, or just want some basic groundwork to get you going, please keep on reading for my tips for planning an interrail trip.
Getting Your Ticket
Interrail tickets can be bought from the Interrail Website which lists all the options and has a pretty helpful FAQ. But, if like me, you want to know all your options before departing with a large amount of cash, you can also visit an STA store to buy your ticket.. It’s the same price to buy it through them and I did it this way as it meant I got to go in to the store and speak to a STA travel agent about the right ticket I wanted for my trip.
For me, I wanted to go away for a month, but because of my budget and the way things would fall into place, I ended up getting the 22 day pass with 10 journeys included. The benefit of planning out my trip in advance meant I knew where I would use these 10 trips, but if you want extra flexibility and freedom there are passes with a larger time period. However if you’re on a budget, plan out the basics of where you’d like to go, and how long you reckon you’ll spend in each place, and it’ll give you a good indication of which ticket you’ll need to buy!
Picking your Destination
30 countries in Europe are included on the interrail pass so the world (well, Europe..) really is your oyster. When I started mine with my friends, we all got together and over a few drinks, made a list of the top places we’d like to visit. We then went to Google Maps to realistically look at where we could go in the time we had. We were pretty ambitious and planned to visit 10 counties within the month, averaging around 2-3 days in each city. It was intense, and incredible but it was also exhausting – so be prepared to realistically think what you can handle!
When planning out your trip in advance, take the practicalities into account – how long do you reckon you’ll really be willing to spend on a train to each place? Can you realistically get round all the spots you want to visit in enough time to really see the places you’ll visit? Each person has their own preferences, and when you go in a team you have to take other people’s requests into account. When you’re on your own you have more flexibility, but overall keep realistic about what you think you can manage. The chance to travel around Europe is great, but there’s no point if you’re only seeing it from a train window!
Look at accommodation
This preference really ranges depending on what type of traveller you are, and whether you’re travelling alone or in a group. However, the best place in my opinion to look has to be Hostelworld – I seriously love this site, as it allowed us to find some really unique places at a tiny price – you only pay deposit when you book, and the it gives you the options for mixed dorms, same-sex dorms, private rooms, shared rooms – the lot. I tend to look here now when I’m planning an upcoming holiday, as some of the hostels we visited (especially Berlin) were incredible, and were such good value for money I would want to visit it again.
I think the main reason I loved Hostelworld is that it helped us keep our trip on a budget, and allowed us to only pay a deposit on booking, so we didn’t have to have all the money upfront when we booked (this was a massive help as I was a student at the time). When I would search I would sort the results by reviews and recommendations alone, and this really helped us find some brilliant, hidden places. We stayed in a mixed dorm in Paris and Amsterdam, private rooms in Vienna and Belgrade, private huts in a campsite in Venice and even in a large camping yurt in Budapest! It was the best way to get a mix of everything, and the amount of options to stay means you can accommodate all the people on your trip, or if you’re a solo traveller – you can be assured that you can get private, smaller or same sex dorms if you wish!
I did mention earlier that my post is a few years out of date, but one thing that has changed in the past couple of years that I would really love to do if (when, when!) I do an interrail trip again is to use Airbnb. I’ve already mentioned in posts before that I love to plan out trips even when I’m not going on them, but by doing this I’ve found some really unique and cheap places using the Airbnb app. I think this would be a great shout for travelling on an interrail trip, and especially if you’re a solo traveller who doesn’t fancy sharing a dorm – the options for cheap, private rooms are everywhere.
Budget, budget and budget…
If you’re on an interrail trip with the financial freedom to not plan, or even worry about the cost of booking hostels the next day then I admire and envy you. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case for me, or for most people wanting to travel Europe. So my final piece of advice would be to look at the places you’re travelling to and realistically budget for each city. On my trip I did some research beforehand which prepared me for the fact that cities like Paris, Berlin and Amsterdam would be more pricey than others, such as Budapest, Krakow and Belgrade. I think if I’d had done some more research beforehand about Venice, I would’ve realised it’s not the best place for a budget trip as it costs quite a lot to do things there, and after a while of walking around in the sun, you really just need time to sit in some shade – and that also involves money (see ice cream & pizza the size of your head…)
Another thing that pre-trip research can really help out with is for activities when you’re there. Every city we went to we did free walking tours (where you tip at the end depending on how much you think/can give) and to the free galleries open (most places have select days where their museums and galleries have free entry). These were a great, free ways to explore different cities, and to see spots you might not see otherwise. Obviously, once you’re travelling around you get to meets tons of like-minded people who will recommend things to do and places to visit, so ask around before and whilst you’re on your trip!
Also when you’re travelling take a look at what you reckon you’ll spend on food. Most places that are traveller hotspots have lots of offers for a cheap meal, but in others it could work out better to buy the ingredients and make your own meal. Take a look at what facilities your hostel has – if they have a kitchen you can use, or if they do special deals each day for food and drink.
Overall, my interrail trip benefited from the pre-planning (I had no money..), but of course it had some hiccups on the way (late trains, be careful of the late trains…). If you’re looking to take an interrail trip I’d say just ask around and get to know where others are going/where they’ve been, as we found this the best way to discover beaches/bars/restaurants we wouldn’t have otherwise. Where you’re taking the trip to discover the world, yourself or some new friends, all of this can be done if you’re open to the opportunities available to you…
I hope you enjoyed reading this post, and that my tips weren’t too outdated! If you have any questions please just drop me a comment below 🙂