Everything You Need to Know About Interrailing Around Europe
Many of us envisage the azure blue waters of Thailand, the vibrancy of India, or the untouched beaches of Jamaica and believe they are the best places to spend a holiday. Although these are once in a lifetime treats that many students experience (with thanks to Mum and Dad), sometimes it can be liberating to save for your own foreign travels.
Interrailing is a popular option for students throughout the UK and Europe. The continent is home to some of the most beautiful landscapes and beaches, intriguing landmarks, and sites of historical significance. We know that Europe is a fascinating continent to explore, but what makes interrailing such a hit with students?
Pros & Cons of Interrailing Around Europe
If you have your heart set on interrailing, it is always wise to know the downsides too. Setting realistic expectations of your adventure throughout Europe means that you will be prepared for any of the negatives and take it in your stride. Interrailing is a unique experience, but don’t expect it to feel like traditional holiday. Although, I am sure you can squeeze in some time for relaxing!
Paying for your interrail ticket and the first few weeks of hostels in one go can leave you wincing at your bank balance. Many students are put off when doing rough calculations as interrailing can seem expensive. Furthermore, with some countries not using the Euro, converting money can bump up expenditure a little.
However, when you consider the period of travel and the numerous countries you will experience, the cost of interrailing is cheap. Chances are, if you visited all the countries on your itinerary separately on mini-breaks, you’d be paying into the thousands. If clever with money, interrailing is perfect for students on a shoestring budget as everything can be tailored to suit your requirements.
Around a fifth of the British population alone are frightened of flying, and 10% stay firmly grounded due to this. However, wannabe globetrotters should not put their wanderlust to bed due to their phobia as interrailing can eliminate the need to hop on a plane completely.
Those living in the UK can simply travel on the Eurostar to Paris or the ferry to Calais and be greeted with the whole of Europe laying out in front of them to explore. Furthermore, flights can be expensive and student budgets can rarely facilitate travelling abroad by plane.
Pre-Planning Your Trip
Okay, we cannot lie, planning an interrailing trip can be a logistical nightmare. A high level of planning is needed to set out a route, secure accommodation, keep everybody happy, and be savvy of visas and restrictions. Although the planning (especially if there is more than two of you) can be the most stressful endeavour of your life, it will mean that you can make the most of this one-off experience.
However, there is an alternative option. If you’re planning on travelling around Europe for a month, or longer, throw caution to the wind and wing it! Have an idea of the route you want to take, have the first couple of weeks’ hostels booked, and take it from there.
Shorter interrailing trips require planning so that you don’t miss out on anything. Want a more relaxed pace? Treat yourself and add an extra couple of weeks onto your escapade.
Travelling solo, or with one other companion, is an ideal situation for an interrailing trip. Going it alone is nothing to fear, but many can feel safer with a friend. Avoid travelling in threes and if you’re travelling in group, prepare to compromise and have the patience of a saint.
Travelling as a twosome is breezy; compromising is easy and you most likely agree on the majority of plans. Groups of three should be avoided like the plague as one person always ends up feeling like the spare part. Four is passable, but any group size over this can cause chaos. The more people, the more potential for clashes of personality, and the more chance for dominating individuals to rule the roost. Furthermore, trying to rally groups together for travel connections with undoubtedly end in some missed trains.
Travelling as a twosome, or very small group, is the best way to go with interrailing. Whatever your arrangements, travel with people you trust and would feel safe with in a foreign country.
Catching 40 winks on train journeys is not enough sleep to function on, even if sleeping on a night train. Making sure you have somewhere safe to rest your head every night is important to keep energy levels up. Hostels are the cheapest for of accommodation for interrailers and rooms sleep anywhere between four and 40 people, using with multiple bunkbeds. Hostels can be very grim, so do your research beforehand to check they are safe and clean. Don’t worry about your belongings, you will have a locker.
If you are travelling in a group, sometimes it is possible to rent an entire hostel dorm to yourself. You might need to pay for the couple of empty beds you are not using, but this is usually a small cost when split between you.
If you do find yourself pining for one night of luxury, Airbnb has some fantastic apartments that can be ridiculously cheap, especially if booked for a week night.
The night train, an interrailers best friend or worst enemy. Not only do they mean you don’t miss any valuable daylight hours travelling but they are also cheaper than hostels. If travelling in a group, you may also be able to secure a private compartment to yourselves with beds. If you can sleep absolutely anywhere, night trains will be no bother to you.
However, ten or more hours on a sometimes sweaty, sometimes crowded night train can have even the strongest of us begging to go home. Trying to snooze next to strangers can feel very awkward, especially is sitting bolt upright in a chair. Equally, sharing a compartment with others can be equally as uncomfortable.
It is worth remembering that your interrail pass will only cover basic rail travel. Sleeper trains require an extra fee but it is super cheap. It is compulsory to book your seat on a night train.
Night trains are a great way to save time and money, especially if you can nod off at the drop of a hat. Does the concept sound miserable? Or, are you a light sleeper? Stick to the day trains!
Interrailing can seem very confusing. With an extensive rail network covering 50 countries, knowing where to even begin can seem like a daunting task. If something is troubling you about a potential interrailing adventure, check out the frequently asked questions below.
How Do I Purchase an Interrailing Ticket?
Some shrewd individuals like to purchase their train tickets separately from the operators of specific countries as a way of saving money. However, this leaves little room for flexibility and, rarely, any substantial savings.
The vast majority of interrailers get their ticket from Interrail. Their One Country Pass is great for those wanting to travel around one specific European country. However, most people opt for the Global Pass, which allows for travel in and around 30 European countries.
You can purchase your pass up to 11 months before you travel.
How Does the Interrail Pass Work?
How your interrail train pass works will depend upon which one you selected. There are seven different options available for both 1st class travel and 2nd class travel. Most students will fall into the ‘Youth’ category for ages 12 to 27, which has cheaper prices, winner! With your interrail pass you can travel freely within and between countries, with the exception of your own country.
Below, we have provided everything you need to know about the three most popular interrail tickets:
Global Pass: travel every day within a period of 1 month
1st Class: €575
2nd Class: €419
Best For: a traveller who wants total freedom
This pass is ideal for interrailers who have done little in the way in planning and want to be able to chop and change their plans as it suits them. This Global Pass allows for unlimited train travel on any day during the one month period. You simply need to make your reservation at the train station (if needed) and hop aboard. Some train services will require a fee for a reservation or night train. However, this can be avoided with research.
Global Pass: travel everyday within a period of 15 days
1st Class: €379
2nd Class: €296
Best For: a traveller who wants total freedom but has less time to travel and a tighter budget
Work commitments and university holidays sometimes only allows us to escape for a certain amount of time. Like the pass before, this option allows for unlimited train travel but for only 15 days. This is also great for those on a tight budget as saving up for a month of travelling isn’t always an option as a student. Some people manage to squeeze in 10 countries on this pass with ample planning.
Global Pass: travel on 7 days within a period of 1 month
1st Class: €286
2nd Class: €215
Best For: a traveller who wants to spend a few days in each country and likes to plan
Pre-planning will be needed with this option but it is one of the cheapest. Putting together an itinerary before travelling will allow you to spend a few days in each country and allow you to relax before heading on to the next destination. Great for those who want to feel as if they are on holiday and experience this in a few different locations.
What Currency Should I Take?
Most countries in Europe use the Euro, but Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Sweden, and the UK do not. To make life easier, you could just avoid these countries. However, if you have your heart set on a trip to one of these destinations, don’t let the currency situation put you off.
As a first move, check with your bank to see if your card can be used abroad. If these is no fee associated with transactions in Europe this is an option and does not require you to change any money, aside from having a few euros handy.
A fantastic option for students in the UK is the Travel Money Card from the Post Office. It is a pre-paid multi-currency card that can be picked up from your local branch or ordered online. It is completely hassle free, has no charge, and eliminates unnecessary credit charges for overseas purchases.
Currently, having the one card can be used in countries that have currency operating in:
* Croatian Kuna
* Polish Zloty
* Pound Stirling
* Swiss Franc
* US Dollar
* Australian Dollar
* Canadian Collar
* New Zealand Dollar
* South African Rand
* Thai Bhat
* Turkish Lera
* UAE Dirham
Money can be withdrawn from over 1.2 million ATMs worldwide or used as a regular debit card with contactless functionality. You can only spend what is on the card and can keep an eye on your spending or top it up with the accompanying smartphone app. Parents can also top up these cards online for those who didn’t keep an eye on their balance.
Does the Travel Money Card still not cover the currency you are after? Withdraw some cash and get it converted. If you are worried about the amount of money you are carrying, keep it safely tucked away in a bum bag.
Which Countries Does my Global Pass Cover?
There are 50 countries in Europe and you are free to travel to and within 30 of them using your Interrail Global Pass. These countries include:
* Crazy Republic
* FYR Macedonia
* Great Britain
Other countries in Europe can be travelled to, but separate train tickets will need to be purchased. Everything you need to know about routes, night train routes, and compulsory reservation routes can be found in Interrail’s Travel Map (which can be downloaded or printed).
How Can I Book Hostels?
Even if you want complete freedom during your trip it can be best to book the first few night’s worth of accommodation. Interrail have a search function where you can find hostels, or simply use Google or Google Maps if already in your destination. You can book and pay for hostels online or by simply enquiring if they have any availability in person. If they don’t, they will always point you in the direction of another hostel.
Which Countries Require a Visa?
None of the countries in Europe require a British tourist to acquire a visa.
What Should I Pack?
Not only option for interrailing is a rucksack. You are going to be walking and getting on and off trains, so having something to fling on your shoulders is convenient. Opt for a rucksack under 50 litres or, if possible, go smaller. Pack the essentials, even if going away for a month. Most hostels have washing facilities for any clothes that need washing.
When it comes to documents, make sure you have the following in a folder, safely concealed:
* Interrail ticket
* ISIC card
* Travel insurance documents
* European Health Insurance Card
Interrailing is a unique way to see many countries, cultures, and famous landmarks. It is best to be prepared so that you make the most of your adventure, but don’t be afraid to stray from your itinerary if different opportunities arise. Remember to remain safe and take countless photographs! It may not be a luxury holiday, but it has its own charm.
This article is sponsored content.