Sadhbh, 20, Fashion and Lifestyle Blogger. Cork, Ireland

Interrailing: Reaching your destination, finding accommodation and saving €€€


Last year Eoin (my boyfriend) and I spent a month Interrailing on mainland Europe on a small student budget. It was definitely a trip of a lifetime, and we learnt a lot about how to travel smart, and on a small student budget. There's a lot that we would have loved to know about before leaving, so I've decided to share some of those tips with you now, in the hopes that it might make your trip a little more comfortable. 



TRAINS

When you're beginning your interrail journey, figuring out how to use your tickets and planning what trains to take can be daunting. One question that we had, and that lots of you had too, is 'do we need to book the train?' The simple answer is typically no, but there are exceptions. In most countries all you have to do is write down where you're going and at what time on your interrail pass. The ticket inspector stamps this on every journey. However, in some countries, like Italy, you have to have a seat reservation. This is usually around €8 per person.

- Try to only reserve a seat where absolutely necessary. Try to travel really early in the morning, or overnight to make sure you do get a seat. If you're travelling at a peak time, you might end up standing for a while. That never happened to us on our journey, but some of the people we met in hostels told us about it. 

- Usually you have to pay a bit extra for night trains. We didn't take any of these during our trip, we just left really early in the mornings instead (around 5:00am), and stayed in hostels the previous night.

- In some trains, seat reservations aren't displayed, so be prepared to be asked to move a few times if you're sitting in someone's seat!

- Bring snacks!


APPS

There's an app for literally everything these days. Before you leave, there's a few apps you should download just to make your trip a little easier.

- Eurail/Interrail Rail Planner: This app lets you look up European train times offline, reserve seats, plan your route and get discounts.

- Hostelworld: You can book all hostels really easily on the Hostelworld app, and read reliable and honest reviews about where you're staying. I'll talk more about this later in this post.

- Google Maps: You can star your must-see places on Google Maps, and use the maps offline, so it's really handy if you have no mobile service.

- Train Apps: Almost every country has an app for their train system. These give you the most accurate train times.

Apps like TripAdvisor can be handy to find out what's most popular in the place you're staying, but I prefer to look at travel blogs to find some unique, cool things to do. Just google "<city your staying in> travel guide" and you'll quickly find some unique things to do



HOSTELS

Whether you're going solo or with a group of friends, staying in a hostel dorm is always the cheapest, most reliable accommodation, and a great way to meet new people. During my trip, we mostly stayed in mixed hostel dorms. This seemed pretty daunting in the beginning; I had never shared a room with people I didn't know before, but it was honestly no big deal, and a great way to learn about different cultures and make new friends.

As I mentioned, the Hostelworld app is an essential, but there's a few things you should make sure to do when you're using it. 

- Only book hostels with free cancellations if you're unsure about your destination, or what the weather will be like. Tying yourself down to a location usually isn't a great idea. Your interrail ticket is so flexible, take advantage of that!

- Always read the most recent reviews. Even if a hostel has a good rating, you should read recent reviews just to make sure what you're getting yourself into. For example, if they've recently have a bed bug outbreak, you should definitely avoid. When you're leaving make sure to leave your own review for fellow travellers.

- Try to avoid hostels with a rating less than 7.

- If you want to extend your stay, ask at reception, don't rebook on Hostelworld. This way you can probably keep the same room, and you might get a cheaper rate. 

I know that it can be cheaper to book directly sometimes, but when you're on the go it's just not practical to spend time ringing up hostels and looking for the best deals. In an average European hostel, a bed in a dorm typically costs €25 per night. In some countries this might be cheaper, and in others more expensive, but this was what we paid on average. 


SIGHTSEEING

What we didn't realise at the beginning of our trip is that so many cities have discount cards for sightseeing. You can usually buy these at the hostel you're staying in, or a tourist information desk. These really make sightseeing a lot cheaper. They're usually around €20 and cover most of the attractions you probably hoped to see. 

- Try to ask locals what the best things to do and see in your destination are. Hostel staff are always happy to help.

- Chat to other people in your hostel about what they enjoyed and didn't like so much. This can also help inform your route. 



ROUTE PLANNING

Its easy to become obsessed with planning an interrailing route, but I don't really think that's what the experience is all about. Eoin and I made a loose plan of what we wanted to see ahead of leaving. We booked accommodation for our first two cities, but after that we just played it by ear, and booked different things as we went. This meant that we could change our plan at any time with no strings attached, and it helped us work around the weather. 

- Hostels are easy to book last minute, so don't worry too much about changing plans, and finding new places to stay.

- If you're enjoying a city, give yourself more time to explore, and if it's not for you check out early. 

- Ask your hostel-dorm-mates about where they went, and how the journey was. 

- The train systems in some countries aren't quite as good as others, so look up the time it will take you to get from A to B before committing to visiting them. 


FOOD

Food will probably be one of the biggest expenses of your entire trip if you, like me, are hoping to try all the best that each destination has to offer. I like to try at least one breakfast, lunch and dinner in each new city/country.

- Most hostels have kitchen's fully equipped to make a proper meal. If you're not keen on cooking your dinner, you could at least buy a box of cereal and some milk for breakfast. 

- Pick up some street food or pastries for lunch on the go.

- Tourist trap restaurants are pretty easy to spot. Avoid anything that has pictures of the food on the menu, and always ask locals about where is best to eat. If it looks like there's a lot of tourists around, it's probably not great. 

- Try new things! It's all part of the adventure. 

- Search for restaurants on Instagram using hashtags, For example, I searched #PragueFood and found some of the best gems the city had to offer. 

- It's easy to get hangry, so bring snacks and try to plan where you want to eat before you get hungry. 



Having the opportunity to explore Europe using the Interrail pass is amazing. We are so lucky to share part of our identities with Europe, as EU citizens, and to have the opportunity to explore so many countries by train. Hopefully this post answered some of the questions you all have ahead of your adventure. If not, feel free to drop me a line for more advice. 

Happy travelling!

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