Interrailing Around Europe

Train Passing On Tracks

Interrailing in Europe is a great way to see this fabulous continent and is great value for money. You’ll fly through as many countries as you please during your time in relative safety and ease. You’ll meet plenty of interesting people and see the landscape that you would otherwise miss by plane. It may be one of the oldest and most traditional forms of backpacking, but it’s still one of the best.

Getting Prepared

Your preparation may vary depending on the sort of backpacker you are. I, for one, adore planning trips, trying to fit everything in, looking at train schedules and working out complicated arrangements to make sure I get to as many countries as possible. My brother, on the other hand, prefers to buy a plane or train ticket and head off with only a hostel address in his hand for the first night, playing it by ear. Both approaches have their advantages and disadvantages, but it is important that you have at least the basics prepared.

Packing List for Interrailing

Shop On Platform

Passport (of course) with all necessary visas which you may need for non-Schengen based countries, especially in Eastern Europe. Europeans and Americans can get visas at the border of many eastern European countries which are not part of the EU, and Turkey is the same.

Travel Wallet – your travel wallet is your best friend and will keep the most valuable of your possessions safe at all times. Keep it tucked away around your neck or your waist.

Wet wipes – you’ll need these if undertaking long train journeys. You’ll not have showers on tap every day and you need to be fresh before disembarking.

Hand sanitizer – another hygiene necessity. Train toilets are disgusting, and only get worse as the journey goes on. Sanitise, sanitise, sanitise.

Train Tracks

Entertainment – Nowadays, it’s easy to have videos, iPads and all sorts of gadgets, but back in my day (and that’s only three years ago), it was all about cards, books and perhaps a mini backgammon board. You don’t want to haul expensive gadgets around – you want to be free of worry and capable of making your own fun!

Tickets and Rail Passes

Rail passes are an excellent up front investment. European rail travel is indeed expensive, and if you’re planning to buy tickets at every journey you’ll soon find your funds rapidly diminishing. An interrail ticket can solve all this – the up front investment is definitely worth the initial cost, as you’ll have a pretty flexible economy ticket that can take you through Europe. You’ll not need to pay for anything else! Choose from cheaper tickets which offer travel across one or two zones, or a pricier but longer term ticket which will give you access to 30 countries in Europe from Ireland to Turkey!

Planning Your Trip

Interrailing Europe

Before you go, look at the countries that you really want to visit and make sure you can get there by train. Some trains require no advance booking and you can simply hop on and off in 2nd class as you please. However, some international trains require reservations, so you should check the specifics of your route online to make sure you’re not missing out. Try and pick a route that doesn’t double back on itself, although you may have to do this in Eastern Europe where the connections aren’t as developed. Night trains are the best way to travel – you’ll be able to sleep and not waste an entire day crossing a vast area by train.

If your route is a popular one you may have to pay a reservation charge. Of course, we want to avoid this if possible, so check out alternative routes which are often on older, slower trains. The Deutsche Bahn website is an excellent tool which covers all of Europe and will enable you to plan your routes and see if reservations are necessary from a certain country.

Safety En Route

Sleeper Train

Take care to prepare a little for safety en route. Trains in Europe are safe, but you should never leave anything unattended in your cabin, and certainly never leave your private carriage unlocked when heading to the toilet. Consider getting a money belt for night time and for hanging around train stations. Also, photocopy your rail pass, passport and homeward flight ticket and keep it in a safe place, as well as a copy with someone back home. It is best to cover all eventualities.

Keeping It Cheap

The beauty of interrailing for the cash strapped backpacker, if you’re completely broke, is that you need never pay for accommodation. Yup, that’s right. You can spend a whole month sleeping on trains. You’ll feel like rubbish and stink like hell, but it is possible. Of course, it’s not the best way to see Europe, and you’ll need to break up some (the sometimes) long journeys with nights in hostels (if only to get a decent shower). But you will perhaps be able to reduce accommodation costs for about 10 nights out of a month. That’s a great saving.