Last summer, I went interrailing through Europe with a few friends. It was an amazing experience and my first backpacking adventure. Interrail allows you to travel through Europe by train using a single pass. It’s a nice way to travel through Europe. Even though the train rides can be long and exhausting, I loved being able to see all the landscapes (especially in the Czech Republic and Austria, the mountains and countryside were so breathtaking and poetic).
Since summer is just around the corner, I thought I would share with you some of the lessons learned and things I wished I had known before my first Interrail adventure. Hopefully, this will inspire some of you to take your own backpacking adventure this summer.
You don’t need to plan out every second of your trip, but be sure to keep a list of key spots to hit in each city. Knowing the location of the places you want to see will save you so much time and confusion! For me, the most important thing to do before leaving is map out how to go from the train station to your accommodation.
Accommodation wise, if you’re on a budget, I would recommend checking out Airbnb. Of course, hostels are great, but most of the time we found that Airbnb was way cheaper. It depends on the city, so you want to compare every option to find the best one for you. Another option for expensive cities is CAMPING! In Amsterdam, hostels and Airbnb’s were quite pricey, so we stayed at a camping site outside the city center. With a free ferry, it took us less than 30 minutes to go to the train station located in the tourist district, so it was a great alternative. Not to mention that if you’re visiting countryside areas, camping sites are not only affordable but incredibly beautiful.
Do not reserve all your trains! You will miss some of them (yes, even if you are super careful) and it will cost you extra money. With the Interrail App, you will be able to check out all the trains leaving for your destination on real time. As a group of 6, we always found spaces, so don’t worry about the trains being crowded. Also, not having a train reservation allows you to change you plan last minute, which is always appreciable!
Pack wisely! I know, “do not overpack” is such a basic tip, but I swear, you will be wearing the same four pieces of clothing over and over again. I packed five tees, two jeans, a jumpsuit, one pair of shorts, a sweater, my Stan Smiths and a pair of flip flops. I was so proud of how little I brought, but in the end, I wished I had planned a bit better. After a few days wearing the same jumper day and night (Thank you, Amsterdam, for the cold weather) and complaining about badly my feet hurt, I had to buy a hoodie and a pair of running sneakers in a thrift shop. My friend also gave me her old pink rain poncho. At some point, staying comfy, warm and dry becomes more important than style! It’s always hard to select the items you will wear all along your trip, but in case you don’t know, maybe leave some space in your bag to fill it with the things you will buy on the road. I also recommend bringing more underwear than you think you will need: you can wear a t-shirt two days in a row, but you don’t want to risk running out of panties and socks. After experiencing half of my socks being blown away by the wind while they were drying on our Belin window… that’s something I will do in the future.
During Your Travels
Keep your important items safe: During all our train rides, I kept a case containing all our accommodation addresses, a copy of my ID and my Interrail pass in the safest pocket of my backpack. That way, all of my important papers were in the same place, and they could not be lost or stolen. One of my friends had a belt with a secret pocket where she kept most of her money and her ID. Do what works for you to make sure all your important items are safe, especially when you’re sleeping on trains or in the train stations.
We also kept our sleeping bags at the top of our backpacks. This way it was always convenient and easy to take it out during the train rides, or even when we waited in the train stations. It can easily get cold at night, and it’s always nice to use your sleeping bag as a blanket, or even as a pillow.
About cheating: I wouldn’t recommend, at least for the countries we’ve been to (Switzerland, the Netherlands, Germany, Czech Republic and Austria), our tickets have been checked almost every time (never in France though…).
My last tips are really important if you’re like me and can easily get weak if you don’t eat enough: always keep food and water with you! While backpacking, you never really know what’s going to happen; maybe when you arrive in a city all of the stores will be closed for two days (Thanks Berlin for this lesson), maybe you will miss your train, maybe you won’t be able to buy dinner as you planned to… That’s why we always had some snacks with us (energy bars and fruits are life savers), and most importantly some water. Especially when you walk a lot, it’s easy to get dehydrated, so don’t forget to bring a bottle of water in your bag.
Of course, there are so many more things to say about backpacking and Interrailing, and I’m sure I forgot a lot, but those where my little tips for you. This was my one and only backpacking experience, so if you have any more advice and stories feel free to share them with us in the comments! They will benefit both me and the other readers.
I hope you will be spending great holidays, filled with adventures and new experiences (and if you ever come to France, please message me if you want to meet up).
+What’s the best lesson you’ve learned through your travels?
+Stay safe and adventurous!