One of the best things about living in Ireland is that you are only a stones throw away from many of Europe’s main cities and with cheap flight deals always popping up, especially now in the off-season, it’s the perfect time to start planning your interrailing adventure.
For those of you that haven’t hear about interrailing before it is a rail pass that comes with two options: a Global Pass, which gives you the freedom to travel in 30 European Countries, or the One Country Pass which does what it says on the tin and entitles you to travel as much as you want in one country for a set number of days. These passes give you an amazing opportunity to see so much of Europe and believe me, you definitely get your money worth.
Having said all that I’m going to share with you some tips and tricks I learned along the way during my three weeks of interrailing.
- DON’T OVER PACK
This is mostly aimed at all my fellow ladies out there. I know it may be hard to pick between the 20 t-shirts that would look so cute on a Gondola but trust me, when you’re wandering around the city at 10pm at night looking for your hostel, you will be cursing all the extra clothes you brought! Try packing stuff that can be used as both day and night wear and that is light and will dry quickly if it needs a wash. Repeat after me: YOU DO NOT NEED 7 PAIRS OF SHOES.
- Book your Hostels ahead
This is key if you want a hassle free interrailing experience. There is nothing worse than traveling in high season and having to ring five different hostels every time you move location looking for a place to stay. And you can multiply the difficulty of getting a place to stay with every extra person in your group. Most hostels only charge you a small deposit when booking so if your plans change along the way, you aren’t out a whole pile of cash. Another tip when booking hostels is sometimes it pays to spend a bit more on your accommodation in certain cities. The Wombats chain of hostels are really modern and affordable and are great for meeting other travellers and won’t blow your budget out of the water. We decided to stay in a Guest House instead of a Hostel in Lake Bled which meant we were a 3 meter walk from the lake, with a stunning view. (I can’t praise Carmen Guest House in Lake Bled enough!!)
I would also recommend googling how to reach your hostel from the train station before you set out as it can be confusing once you get there.
The view from the Carmen Guest House in Lake Bled.
- Roughly organise your trains
I say “roughly” because you don’t want too tight of a schedule but rather to be flexible and go with the flow. But having some plan of where you are going is better than none. This can also help you figure out where you might need to use your pass on an overnight train, instead of booking into a hostel. One thing I highly recommend is booking a bed on an overnight train… Believe me there is nothing worse than being on a seat in a cabin with six other adult for 10 hours straight on a chair…it ain’t fun.
- Download helpful apps.
When travelling the one app we all found so useful was the XE Currency app. This handy app lets you see how much Euro you will get if you convert it into other currencies, which is helpful in places like Hungary, Poland and Czech Republic and it works offline too! Other apps like hostel bookers and Trip Advisor are also great for finding out the best rated attractions and accommodations in that city, and a travel guide can be worth the extra weight. And if in doubt do the old fashioned thing and buy a map, or failing that make hand signals at confused locals until they can figure out where you want to go.
- Go to the SPARTY (Spa Party) in Budapest
This was one of my most memorable nights during my trip. You can buy tickets from your hostel which is recommended because it can sell out during the day. Then you are free to party the night away in heated pools, with a DJ on the deck all night- a one of a kind experience. The next day head back to the baths and chill out for the day in what will be the best hangover day ever. Nothing to cure the post night blues like a dip in a medicinal pool from a natural spring and an ice cold beer.
6. Do the touristy things
Don’t waste the day away in bed, get up and explore the city and soak up the culture of whatever city you happen to be wandering around. Take a trip in a Gondola, pose with the US Army at Checkpoint Charlie, visit the Jewish Quarter in Krakow, learn about the Holocaust at the memorial in Berlin, touch Juliet’s boob for good luck in Verona, the option are just endless. Most cities offer free walking tours where the guides work for tips instead of charging and many are of a really high standard and are a cheap way to discover a city in a short space of time. If you only have a day to cover a vast city, then paying for one of the City Tour Buses is a great way to go. Trust me, there is no point in paying out to visit all these cities to spend every day hungover because it’s likely that this will be the only time you visit these places.
- Find local treasures off the beaten track
Want to taste the best Gelato in all of Milan? Head to none other than Cicciolatitaliani. Want to see Il Duomo from a great view? Head to Aperol Cocktail bar which overlooks Milans main square. The best meal in Venice for us was the slices of pizza and bottle of wine we got to take away and ate by the canal. There are so many smaller places to see off the main tourist route so take time to visit those to and sample some of the local cuisine. Eat plenty of pizza in Italy and sample the Kebabs in Berlin, but don’t forget to try the famous Bled Cake in Lake Bled. This goes for the places you choose to visit also, try pick a city that you would never fly to direct from Dublin, for us that was Ljubljana in Slovenia, a small university town which is definitely one of the most underrated travel destinations.
- Explore Lake Bled by Boat and Bike
Lake Bled in Slovenia is a great getaway from all the hustle and bustle of city life when you’re interrailing.You can rent boat from all sides of the lake and row yourself out to the beautiful island in the middle. Which was a challenge at first for three Irish Girls who never rowed a day in their lives, (let’s just say there was a lot of going round in circles). After this I recommend hiking up to the castle to take in the breath taking views from above. If you have a second day, rent some bikes in town and cycle out to the beautiful Gorge just outside Bled. Make sure to take a map and get them to show you the route in the hostel before you leave so you won’t end up travelling 20 minute in the wrong direction like us!!
- Do the Drunken Monkey Pub Crawl in Prague
Not much to say here…Just do it. So much free alcohol. So worth it. I promise.
10. Take loads of pictures and enjoy yourself.
You’re going to want to remember this adventure when you’re old so invest in a decent camera and snap away till your heart is content. And no, you can never take too many pictures. (I myself took 800 in just three weeks) Just enjoy it and remember whatever happens it’s just all part of the experience that is Interrailing. (Although, try and make it back in one piece.)