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There are but a few experiences in the world similar to inter-railing. When and where you travel, the choice is completely in your hands; cross the borders between many exotic countries and destinations, pace yourself and find spots of pure relaxation—or do both in equal measure. Its praises cannot be sung enough, but with anything involved in a trip of this scope and size, there's plenty of information to be absorbed beforehand.
Your route planning will be decided by the length of the journey and the countries/cities you wish to visit; it is vital that you have a brief idea on where you want to go—even if you want to visit one country in particular, you can then plan a journey around that location. Many choose to simply "wing it," opting for a more in the spur of the moment type of trip where you have no pre-planned destination. Both work well depending on the individual's experience in travel as well as their confidence that they can move around with little planning. We would recommend writing a list (especially if this is your first-time inter-railing), as it’s quite easy to forget off the top of your head where exactly you wish to visit. With inter-railing, you are constantly moving, and more often than not you will miss a train or find that you want to stay somewhere longer. So be prepared to drop or cut your plans short at any given moment, as your lists are usually far too ambitious!
For some journeys, you might find that it's not always a necessity to buy the Global Pass (see next section on tickets) to get to your next destination. If you are traveling in Eastern Europe where the Euro is not their currency, you might find that it is a lot cheaper to buy your tickets on the fly as you go over pre-booking them for a potential higher price.
Now we come to the topic of accommodation. For those wanting to see lots of cities and countries with no set plan, booking the night before gives you incredible flexibility. However, if you have something special in mind it's advised to book ahead, as it will give you peace of mind and also something to aim your journey towards. Keep in mind the change in seasons and the popularity of certain locations before attempting to book hostels. It goes without saying but the summertime is when everyone from students to professionals will be grossing new territory when they begin their inter-railing trips. Try to get to hostels in the mornings if you aren’t pre-booking beds as a lot of travelers arrive mostly later on throughout the day, or later in the night/early hours of the morning depending on their route/mode of transport.
When planning routes to travel you may not want to leave every journey to a night train, as most major stops are no more than 4 or 5 hours between each other. Europe—although quite small compared to other continents—is quite big but doesn't require days to get from place to place (this depends on where you are traveling too of course). Some journeys are marginally faster by taking night trains and night buses: Barcelona to Paris being a notable example. If you book early enough in advance, night trains can also help you save on hostels, cutting out the possible long stretches of travel time in the process!
The Global Pass lets you travel most European countries, allowing you to choose from four different types of options that are all different depending on the duration of your planned journey. This pass is perfect for those who want to visit as many places as possible in one summer. The Global Pass (like its grandiose name suggests) grants you continuous travel for either 22 days all the way up to a full month. There's also the option for limited-day travel, which can be either 5 days of travel within a 10-day period or 10 days of travel within a 22-day period. Plenty of options for you to choose from depending on your time frame, remember also that trains are just one example of traveling from country to country—we are only highlighting it here due to the word "rail" in inter-"rail" and how efficient they are in getting you places quickly.
The Global Pass itself is valid in around 30 countries, however be aware that it is not valid in your own country of residence. Some of the countries included in this pass include: Austria, Germany, Portugal, France, Greece, and Germany.
You also have the One Country Pass which gives you unlimited travel for only one European country of your choosing. The One Country Pass lasts for one month, and you can choose between 3-8 days of travel between cities. There a lot more different options to choose from other than the tickets we've just mentioned. For example, if you are wanting to travel to Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands, then you may want to look into the Benelux Pass which might work out cheaper for those countries alone if that is your plan.
If you want to find out how to purchase your own Inter-Rail Pass, and to find out more information regarding fares/restrictions visit this site.
It's recommended to budget between £25 and £40 for a day for your accommodation, food, travel (trams, buses), and entrance fees to museums etc. Remember to include the cost of your ticket, backpack, and other equipment on top of this.
It might be difficult depending on the type of spender you are, but try not to spend all of your money on the first day—otherwise, you'll end up hiking it all through every country and you could run out of money! And although the thought of being stranded in Spain sounds like a lot of fun, remember that you can get into a lot of trouble if your stay there extends your visa.
When inter-railing, space is limited in your luggage so you need to pack lightly, but you also need to be sure to pack all of the essentials. The key to packing lightly is to pack a limited amount of clothing; it doesn't sound too appealing but learning to live off of 4 shirts and 2 pairs of trousers was embedded into the unwritten laws of inter-railing before you even went on your first holiday. Towels are a must, especially if you are in a hot country and burn quite easily, you will honestly find so many functions to a towel on a trip like this that you will probably start walking round with one when you come home!
When you consider that you're going to be walking, getting on and off trains etc, it's recommended to bring a rucksack no bigger than 50 litres. Also by taking a smaller bag, you actively force yourself to take less of the unnecessary things that you might have thought were a good idea at first, but now only see to weigh you down.
Documents You'll Need
- Inter-rail Ticket
- Travel Insurance Documents
- European Health Insurance Card (i.e. the EHIC, the card which has replaced the E111 form)
- A European Train Timetable Book
It is very important to keep copies of all these documents. You should photocopy or record the details of each of these documents and put them somewhere safe. Make sure to email yourself copies of these documents should you lose them, this will save you a lot of time when going through the borders of each location.
Finding Places to Stay
Ask anyone who's been inter-railing about accommodation and they will all tell you the same thing: hostels, hostels, and hostels. These are perfect for those seeking wanderlust as well as those who want a relatively cheap place to rest their eyes from a days worth of sightseeing and/or traveling. When you travel will dictate the availability of beds in some cases, so it's best to book ahead as we stated above. Some locations will have busier times depending on the season, festivals, and hot spells of weather will probably mean that a lot of places are more than likely full. Hostels can be booked up to 6 months in advance or you can simply turn up on the door—cancellations can tend to happen so if you find yourself in a struggle there could be a beacon of light just around the corner.
Websites such as hostelworld and europeanhostels are very simple and easy to use at finding the right hostel for you. Pretty much every hostel is on these sites where you can also find a lot of information on the hostel itself as well as ratings from other travelers who should give you an idea on the condition of that particular hostel. Hostelworld, for example, has a star rating function that should provide an accurate summary on the overall experience of each hostel.
Chances are your trip will take you through several different language zones, and although English is quite a popular language, you will have to forgive the natives of certain countries if they haven't caught on yet. Try to learn a few basic words in the language of each country you'll be visiting, it really goes a long way for just a few moments of your time en route to the next location. To help you out we’ve noted down below a few phrases you should practice:
We'd recommend learning the word "thanks" over any other word. Then if you sound like an ignorant tourist, at least you'll sound like a polite ignorant tourist.
Most of All Enjoy!
Inter-railing is an amazing opportunity to see many countries, cultures, and landmarks within what feels like the blink of an eye. Make sure to take pictures, create a daily diary, and grab a few lasting memories in the form of souvenirs to reflect on your time spent away. The experiences when inter-railing will last a lifetime, bringing you and your friends even closer together. Remember to bring that home with you over everything else.