My friend and I have spent the last 2 weeks of our annual leave travelling round (a small) part of Europe. I've previously travelled around parts of Europe by train and was eager to do it again. I like the way that a few days in different cities lets you have a brief insight into the city. InterRail is a railway pass which allows you to travel on trains in participating countries within your period of travel.
*How the ticket system works*
There are different lengths of pass which you can purchase depending on your individual need. The InterRail global pass is the pass to go for if you require travel in the 30 European countries which participate within the InterRail system. InterRail works by "travel days", i.e. you can change trains as many times as needed, if it is within the same day.
The options for this kind of pass are as follows:
1. Five days within ten days - your pass begins its validity on the day which you specify and ends ten days after that. During those ten days, you are able to have five travel days.
2. Ten days within twenty two days - the same principle as above applies, with ten travel days.
3. Fifteen days continuous - your pass has a fifteen day validity period, with no specified amount of travel days. If you wanted to, you could travel for all fifteen of them.
4. Twenty two days continuous - the same principle as above applies, but for twenty two days.
5. One month continuous - again, the same principle applies.
Alternatively, there is a "one country pass", which is rather self explanatory; in that you can travel within one country for either 3, 4, 6 or 8 travel days within one month. However, the pass is not applicable in your country of residence.
If you are under 26, you are considered to be a "youth", which makes the price cheaper than the adult price. There is also a senior price and a child price for each ticket option. You also need to consider whether you wish to purchase the second class ticket or the first class ticket. If you are a youth who wishes to travel by first class, you need to purchase an adult ticket though.
Austria, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, FYR Macedonia, Montenegro, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden and Turkey. There are also certain ferry crossings included within the global pass.
The prices of an InterRail pass obviously varies depending on the options you chose. The prices of the global pass begin at £159 for a youth, travelling second class and having five travel days within ten days. If you travel second class and are a youth, the price increases to £382 for the one month continuous pass. As you can see, there is a significant difference in the price which highlights the need for you to plan your trip carefully to establish how many travel days you require, otherwise, if you overestimate, you run the risk of wasting money (that you could be spending exploring the attractions of different cities and testing out new food etc!).
The price of the one country pass varies depending on the country which you book it for. There are five different price levels. The prices listed are for a three day pass for a youth - obviously the prices vary for children, adults or seniors.
Price level one:
£126 - France, Germany and Great Britain (and Italy Plus - the Plus element indicates certain ferry crossings).
Price level two:
£111 - Austria, Italy (trains only), Norway, Spain and Sweden.
Price level three:
£71 - Benelux (Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg - an individual pass for each of these countries does not exist), Denmark, Finland, Greece Plus (certain ferry crossings), Ireland and Switzerland.
Price level four:
£46 - Croatia, Czech Republic, Greece (trains only), Hungary, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.
Price level five:
£33 - Bulgaria, Serbia and Turkey.
Although I have already explained about "travel days", the travel day is generally from 0:00 until 24:00; if you are travelling on a night train, a travel day can begin at 19:00 on the night before.
*Ordering from the InterRail website*
Tickets are purchasable from the InterRail website, which is easy to navigate. You will need your passport number to hand while you order. They will ask which is the last day you would be able to receive your tickets, however, in effect, they much before this date! The tickets that I ordered came within two weeks. They were sent out in an A4, cardboard envelope that required to be signed for. They also came with a handy guide and a map of Europe.
*So, that's it then? Just buy a ticket and hop on some trains?*
Well, not quite. Although the ticket does indeed give you free travel within the participating countries (or country) depending on your ticket, you need to watch out for reservation fees. Certain trains (night trains, high speed trains or just certain carriers) operate a compulsory reservation for your seat. You MUST book a seat and the booking carries a fee which varies from an entirely nominal sum (a few Euros) to (we found) £100 Euros - possibly more! We changed our plans to avoid these fees, which unfortunately meant not visiting Poznan, as £100 Euro per person was unaffordable for us, especially when you think about the journey of moving on from Poznan which attracts a similar fee! And that, my friends, was the "cheap option". Plan B next year, is to fly in and purchase a country ticket for Poland! It is possible to avoid reservation fees - you can travel during the day or you can go a more lengthy way i.e. stopping in other places on the way. This would be an option open to those who purchase the continuous ticket rather than a certain number of travel days. If you paid reservation fees for most of your journeys, you would be looking at drastically increasing the cost of your holiday, so exercise caution!
If you wish to make reservations, you can either do it by telephone to the Deutsche Bahn Call Centre or at a railway station with an international desk. I tried to make reservations by telephone, but gave up after staying on hold for approximately an hour. I much preferred the queue at the international desks of the railway stations! You aren't able to make many reservations online, except for travel within Germany, Italy or Sweden.
*When you're on a train*
You must also fill in your ticket correctly in order to ensure validity. When it arrives, it is already filled in with your name, passport number and validity period; however, you must fill in the travel calendar. On the ticket itself, this consists of filling in the date and the month on which you are travelling. Be careful to do it correctly, as altering a mistake could be construed as fraud. Also, you must fill in the travel calendar which is stapled to the ticket. This is a break down of your connections, showing the date, departing destination, arriving destination and whether the journey is by a boat or a bus (obviously, leave it blank for a train) and with an optional field for the train number. If your plans are solid, you could fill it in in advance; or if you may amend your plans, leave it blank until you're on the train! I made sure that it was the first thing I did after boarding the train, in case the conductor came round sharpish!
*Be very careful with your ticket!*
This goes with out saying. However, you can also purchase Pass Loss and Theft Cover for an extra £10. If your pass gets lost or stolen, you would need to purchase extra tickets to continue travelling. The Pass Loss and Theft cover would cover these costs up to the remaining value of your pass. I didn't test this out as I was almost paranoid about the location of my ticket but as you can imagine, there are lengthy terms and conditions associated with it!
*As you go*
You can plan your journey through the InterRail website, which will take you to the external site for Deutsche Bahn which shows you the different train options and whether they are subject to compulsory reservation.
*When you get home*
InterRail request that you send your completed travel report back to them. However, you can tick a box which requests the return of it when they are finished, which allows you to keep a souvenir of your trip.
Overall, if you do your research before purchasing and keep an eye on extra fees, it's a great way to see Europe. With my £159 youth 5 days within 10 ticket, I managed to visit Amsterdam, Prague, Vienna, Bratislava and Budapest. Previously on the same kind of ticket, I have visited Poznan, Milan, Salzburg and Innsbruck. I wouldn't hesitate to do it again!
===what is interrail?===
Interrail is a pass that can be used for unlimited travel (within a chosen time restraint) by train throughout the majority of Europe. To be entitled to purchase this, you must be a European resident. If not then you can buy a Eurail ticket instead which is basically the same thing, except that you can buy this if you are not from Europe. From having a quick look on their website it does appear that a Eurail ticket is slightly more expensive. I myself bought the interrail ticket - I would also like to note that you can buy this from various websites so it may be worth shopping around just in case you can find it anywhere cheaper.
===How much is it?===
I personally bought my ticket from interrailnet.com so these are the prices that I will give you. To start with there are 2 options - to either have a one country pass (which starts from £31 but varies greatly)or to have a global pass which is what I opted for. I am only going to give the prices of the global pass as that is what was relevant to me, as a person who is under 26 (also referred to as 2nd class, to buy first class you must pay adult prices)
5 days within 10 - £ 155
10 days within 22 - £ 229
Continuous travel 15 days - £ 265
Continuous travel 22 days -£ 293
Continuous travel 1 month -£ 376
===Countries covered by this pass===
This pass is valid within 30 different countries but I would like to mention that it is not valid for use in your home country. For example if you are from the UK you cannot use this pass on the euro star to Paris. Countries covered are: Austria, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, FYR Macedonia, Montenegro, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey.
A pretty good range really. You can see a lot of Europe fairly cheaply using this pass although of course this depends on how much time you have and how much money for accommodation, food etc, bearing in mind that some train journeys can be very long taking up most of a day.
===Ordering your interrail===
You order from the internet having selected what package you would like, paying by credit cards, as well as PayPal, iDeal and e-Carte Bleue. You may also need to pay for postage as I did. This is roughly £6 and can be delivered to most places in Europe. A word of warning about the delivery - the company used is DHL and I think I can honestly say that they are the worst company I have ever had the displeasure of coming into contact with. I had a huge amount of trouble with my delivery (although I won't go into much detail as this isn't really the main point of this review). Long story short the tracking they suggest you use is not accurate, I was not notified when they had attempted to deliver my ticket, and they later delivered it to a place I was no longer staying at, as this was beyond the date I said I would be available to sign for the ticket. In the end I travelled halfway down Finland to collect the ticket myself, incurring lots of extra charges which I thought DHL would be decent enough to refund but apparently not. I did also send a complaint email to interrail to which I received no response which I think is disappointing and suggests that dealing with complaints is not high on their list of priorities.
===My experience of ordering===
I ordered my interrail ticket along with the optional pass loss and theft cover at the price of £8. I didn't particularly think that I would lose my pass but for the sake of £8 I would rather have peace of mind. This will allow you to receive replacement tickets up to the price of your remaining pass. In the end I didn't need this cover but it made me feel more secure, so in my mind it was well worth it! I travelled with a friend and we both decided that 22 days continuous travel would be the most suitable for us at the price of £293 each. When I eventually did get my ticket, I also received a map, a handy leaflet and a newspaper all about interrail. I found the map was especially useful as it already showed some routes that also give you a time frame of how long a train journey should take. For example a train journey from Rovaniemi in north Finland down to Helsinki takes 9 and a half hours. This is incredibly useful when planning your journey (and I would highly recommend taking some time to plan). The leaflet also came in useful with some information about additional costs/reservations and special deals e.g. you can get discounted ferry travel with particular companies. The newspaper also gave general travel advice which is also pretty useful when planning your trip.
As I said previously said, I would highly recommend some planning prior to your journey. It is all well and good feeling like you can go wherever you like, whenever you like - however in reality this isn't necessarily how it works out - especially if you go in peak season. You could spontaneously decide to hop on a train to go to a nice city only to find that there is no accommodation available that suits your budget, which leaves you in an unpleasant situation. Myself and my friend planned the first part of our journey, and further into it when we had decided on the other places we wanted to go, we started to book other places to stay. We also had our flights booked before we even left deciding we would finish off in France - doing this nice and early meant a cheaper flight which was around the same price as the euro star.
We started in Rovaniemi where we had been living for some time travelling onto Oulu and then to Helsinki to leave Finland completely. The awkward thing about the interrail pass is that this basically only covers trains and sometimes this just isn't practical between certain countries! We then had to get a ferry from Helsinki to get to Estonia (you can't use interrail here but you don't really need it because transport is incredibly cheap). From here we got another ferry to Stockholm which I have to say was amazing. Even if you travel primarily by train I would definitely recommend going by ferry at some stage. Then from Stockholm we travelled to Copenhagen, then onto Berlin, then to Besancon and then to Azur in the south of France, before flying home from Toulousse. On average we spent about 2 days at a time in each city, with a bit longer in Stockholm because we particularly liked it there. I wouldn't recommend planning out the entirety of your trip but I definitely suggest you have at least a week of it planned.
===How to use your interrail===
To use your global pass continuously was very simple and easy (as long as there is space on the train!). you simply note down on your interrail what station you depart from and arrive at, with times and train numbers. As I previously mentioned there are some extra charges and I would highly recommend booking during peak season. There are some trains for which you will always need a booking which can be expensive e.g the one from Besancon to Azur required about a £25 charge just to reserve a seat, but in all fairness this is the most expensive extra cost that I came across. I think that on average to reserve a seat was fairly cheap - roughly £3 to £7 each. Personally I think it is better to pay this fee on some trains. We missed out on an extra day in Copenhagen because we hadn't reserved seats and by the time we went to book some they had already all sold out - which then of course impacts on the rest of your plans and where you are due to stay.
===My overall summary of interrail===
* Overall saves you a lot of money on train travel.
* One easy ticket that can be used on most train lines.
* Allows for a lot of flexibility
* Optional loss and theft coverage for a small fee
* Trains abroad I find seem a lot nicer than the ones in this country
* Easy to make reservations either online or at train stations
* Makes you feel like a real traveler!
* Easy to order and use
* Free map, leaflet and handy newspaper.
* DHL (delivery company) are poor - would recommend allowing quite some time for your ticket to arrive.
* There are additional costs for certain trains or just generally for making reservations which in some cases may be essential.
* Additional forms of transport may be needed.
===A few tips on travel===
* Plan out your journey to a certain extent
* Try not to take too much luggage wise with you - hard I know! I am definitely not a light packer.
* Check reviews for places you stay before you go and believe them! I stayed in some awful places and I knew they had bad reviews but ignored it anyway.
* Try and have some sort of budget else it will cost a fortune!
* And last but not least - have fun!
Thank you for reading!
InterRail is almost synonymous with backpacking in Europe, but I ask the question as to whether it ought to be. InterRail is a system available to those resident in Europe for at least 6 months in which they pay a sizeable sum of money to receive a ticket allowing relatively unlimited travel for up to one month. There are all sorts of tickets available with InterRail, but rather than worrying about how many 'travel days' I had used I opted for the 599 euro ticket; this granted me unlimited travel within Europe for 1 whole month.
Needless to say when I, fresh faced and ready to tackle the world with no more than two changes of clothes, stepped off the plane in my first destination I was happy to have myself this golden-ticket. For the next month this little piece of paper was my freedom; I could go anywhere and do anything with this. So, after having the time of my life in Paris I was ready to move on to Brussels and put this baby to the test. I casually bypassed the queue of commuters fumbling with their wallets and cheque books in an effort to get themselves on the north-bound 12.15, I had myself a ticket and was going to use it, or so I thought. Just as casually as I had approached this train, I was turned away for not having a reservation. Drats!
One downside of the InterRail system is that despite paying 599 euros for your ticket you are not guaranteed a place on the train for free. On that day, much to my dismay, I learned that certain trains on certain lines required quite hefty supplements. What trains and what lines? That's anybody's guess. Next day I returned to the station and, less smug than I had been before, I joined the queue.
Ultimately I ended up paying maybe 700 euros for my ticket, supplements all included, and although this is a bit more than advertised I wasn't phased seeing as I ultimately saved 500 euros on what I would have paid had I not had the ticket. Then there is the fact that that little piece of paper allowed me the freedom to up and leave a city whenever I wanted; I arrived in Hamburg and had nowhere to stay after being bailed on by some people, but rather than hang about for days I just jumped straight on the next train to Berlin. That little bit of extra money is worth it for the freedom you get.
With such huge amounts of money being lobbed around though, be they spendings or savings, there is one thing that is often forgotten. It is my belief, albeit an easily demonstrable belief, that InterRail is useless when you leave the confines of affluent Europe. My ticket expired when I reached Croatia, but I had no desire to get a new one. The reason for this is that in Eastern Europe and The Balkans, travel is dirt cheap anyway. Furthermore, owing to decades of conflict, the rail infrastructure is largely non-existent and you'll sooner take ferries and coaches than whatever trains might exist. I think that it would be nigh on impossible to make your money's worth on trains in this part of the world, unless of course you made sure to travel every single day, but what fun is this? InterRail as it currently stands is useful only in and around Western Europe; only there will you see the benefits and savings promised.
InterRail has come a long way from its origins, and being a successful company they have a huge number of deals and offers available to customers. These come in the form of discounts at certain hotels or in certain museums; ultimately these are hotels I couldn't afford to stay in anyway and so I found that the deals were useless. One offer which I could have taken part in at the time was to send InterRail my ticket when I was finished and receive a free usb pen drive; this would allow them to see how the ticket was used and ultimately improve their service, but for me I thought that my ticket was the best souvenir I had of my time in Western Europe.
It seems there are quite a few reviews on this topic, but then when it concerns such a huge experience, I believe that there can never be too many opinions on it! This experience actually did change my life in so many ways and hopefully this review will give people the extra push to do it.
> > > >> What is InterRail? < < < < <
Well I'm not going to bore you with the ins and outs, as it doesn't take long to look on the internet. It's a pre-paid ticket which allows you travel on practically most trains throughout the participating countries (most of Europe.) However, it's not valid for travel in your country of residence, although we did get a discount on the ferry back from France. There are four types of tickets (they are only available to European Citizens)-
*5 days within 10 days
*10 days within 22 days
*22 days continuous
*1 month continuous.
The prices vary depending on the ticket, with the highest price for Second Class adult 599EUR and First Class 809 EUR. What's great is if you're like me and under 25 years you can get a Youth Ticket for a discounted price. You're given a ticket within a paper envelope which you must keep and show when the ticket inspectors ask for it.
> > > > > What ticket did I get and what was my route? < < < < <
As this was a rash decision (literally a week before we left) my friend and I each got the youth monthly pass. We decided to take the more adventurous way and plan as we go, which had its spontaneous advantages but then also quite a few disadvantages as I will mention later! So in August 2008, we booked a one way flight to Helsinki, Finland as we already had decided to spend two weeks there with another friend. If you haven't guessed already, I am rather in love with Finland and its culture, people, scenery, history....And so it shouldn't surprise you that about two weeks of our trip (extra as well as just the holiday) was in Finland. Now, some people may say "why didn't you just get the one-country pass for a much cheaper price?" (from the same people who do the InterRail) and the answer is that I wanted the best of both worlds; to see more of my favourite country but also to discover more of Europe. Ok, so we could have got a two week one country pass, then a two week InterRail, but we obviously weren't that organised! And so our original plan was to see Finland, then Sweden, Norway, Denmark and back to Finland and then to get the plane home. We soon realised that was rather impractical! Firstly, the accommodation in Sweden and Norway especially was much too expensive to book with hardly any notice. Secondly, after this trip would we really have the money for a flight back home?! (Considering we had savings, but as we were only 18 at the time, not much!) Therefore, after many changes, our route was:
[ Finland ] Helsinki- Lahti- Tampere- Oulu- Turku- [Sweden] Stockholm- Gothenburg- (via Copenhagen, Denmark)- [Germany]- Hamburg- Berlin- [Czech Republic] - Prague- [Austria]- Wien- [Switzerland]- Zurich- [Belgium]-Brussels- [via France, ferry across the English Channel]- UK.
The inter-rail pass was great as it got us heavily discounted places on the deck (no cabin) on the VikingLine ferry from Turku to Stockholm. We were assured by the Finnish people that this isn't supposed to be a sleeping ship anyway, it's a 12hour long party. I reserve comment ;)
> > > > > Was it easy or difficult? < < < < <
Well the answer is a mixture of both.
* In terms of trains... The first train journey from Helsinki to Lahti was rather scary as we were unaware of the way that trains worked in Finland. We didn't reserve seats as we didn't think there would be a need to. However, on this train in particular we couldn't find a way of telling which seats were reserved and the only way to tell was when the person who did reserve it came up to you and spoke Finnish quickly, pointing at their ticket. And so, no, moving from seat to seat with baggage wasn't easy. Therefore, we learnt to always reserve seats if possible, particularly in Finland! It could also be rather hard to reserve the seats in the first place if you don't know the language. Also, some stations in particular were rather huge- Zurich springs to mind- and so can be quite nerve-wracking to navigate through. And in France when we had to change at a station, it was split in two and they didn't tell us, but luckily we found out where the other station (where our next train was going from) was. It was a 15 minute walk down the road... Then again, England has its fair share of large scary train stations, and none of the stations that I can remember were half as bad as London Paddington! That's the station where I feel there's a real language barrier- and that's where both parties are speaking English! (These people don't seem to understand the words "Heathrow Connect...")
If you're a calm relaxed person though and are willing to attempt to learn some languages (i.e Do you speak English?) then you should have no problem. If you're willing to risk not having a seat, then you can in most cases you can literally just jump on any train, although you should check whether that train company in particular accepts them. I didn't have any problems with showing the ticket to the inspectors, although they did seem rather confused at first. Just ensure that you fill out the sheet with every train/boat you've been on. I also found that in most cases, train companies in Europe are generally a lot more reliable than our English ones, mostly running dead on time (to the second) and quite often. Most of them were also rather comfortable; in particular the train from Hamburg to Berlin, when we got our own exclusive carriage in a train that looked like it belonged to the movie set from Harry Potter!
*In terms of the experience in general...It was of course easy to keep a smile on your face most of the time as you encounter such a vast range of scenery and the culture and its language always seems to be changing. However, in my experience, in this trip- travelling IS your occupation. For that one month, that is your complete life- there's no time for anything else. If you 'plan' it in the same way we did, then be prepared to learn some harsh life lessons that you simply can't learn anywhere else. You're regularly on the internet searching for the hostels, phoning constantly to try to get through to anyone - preferably someone with a room for the dates needed- and not to mention the time spent trekking with bags almost the size of yourself in search for your accommodation. Then there's the inevitable chance that you WILL find some accommodation that is truly awful: try sleeping in an unfurnished flat on a strip-club street in Prague, staying in a university church looking building with thousands of stairs to climb in Lahti and a smoke chamber where the main contributors to the atmosphere are the cleaners in Wien, for example. But then there's also the inevitable chance that you WILL find some amazing accommodation: sleeping in a cabin in the mysterious forest of Oulu, living in an apartment above a rock bar in Berlin and a cosy-student atmosphere in the hidden away "Happy Hostel," also in Wien, for instance. No two experiences are the same (unless they travelled with you of course..) but it is guaranteed that there will be difficult times as well as easy times in the InterRail experience.
> > > > > Ten Top Tips you can learn from my experience < < < < <
1- Plan ahead! - We aimed to plan at least a week before but in truth, you need at least two or three weeks before hand. Plus, more advance bookings usually mean cheaper prices and always guarantee less stress! It's probably an idea to use the lower costing ones if you plan to visit as many countries as possible. We aimed to spend at least 3 days in each place, which worked out for us nicely.
2- Learn languages!- Seriously, the reputation of us English people abroad is not brilliant! People think we're arrogant and simply don't see the need to speak in other tongues. However, not only is it much more polite, it makes things move along a lot more smoothly for you. Even with the simple remarks "Hello", "Do you speak English?", "thanks", "bye!" in the country's language will make the people much more willing to help you. No one likes an arrogant traveller!
3- Research Hostels as much as possible before booking!- Don't just look on one website, look on other hostel websites for reviews of the place beforehand, it can reduce the chance of encountering a nasty surprise!
4- Before leaving the city's train station, get a map and timetables if possible- You'll be surprised how hard it is to find them sometimes!
5- Don't trust the cheapest tour guide bus!- We thought we'd do something different and take a sightseeing tour of Hamburg. We really wish we didn't...all we saw was a building site and a porn street.
6- Always research vital numbers for that country- Police, Fire Service, Ambulance British Embassy etc... Ok we did that one, but thought I'd include it anyway :)
7-Take a Nationwide Flex account card with you- Since they don't employ me anymore, I won't bother promoting it that much, but it does give free usage of cards abroad- although this has changed slightly, check their site for T&C's- and Visa is widely accepted throughout Europe. (We also did this one.)
8- Don't Over pack!- There are just some things that aren't meant to go with you on a long InterRail trip, so do your back a favour and don't take them.
9- Use your ticket for discounted fares- Go to the ferry booking office and mention the InterRail card for a hefty discount, details again can be found on the InterRail website.
10- Enjoy it!- Let the stress pass over your shoulders and really try to take it in because it will be over in a flash!
> > > > > Would I recommend it and who to? < < < < <
Yes, of course I would. For the majority of people. It's not for those who aren't willing to learn and think they know it all. It's not for those who have no interest in European Culture. It's not for those who want a relaxing holiday. It's for those who want a completely different experience. It's for those who accept there will be great challenges but will appreciate them and live for the moment. Personally, I did this as part of my gap year before I go to Uni, in an attempt to gain more confidence in life and get some unforgettable experiences. And that's what I achieved by doing this trip.
I went for two weeks last summer. Was along with some of the best experiences of my life. I travelled with two friends (both girls) but we did meet up with other friends and people we knew for a few days in different cities. We went to Amsterdam, Berlin, Paris, Prague and Budapest. We stuck to the main cities just because we only had two weeks though I would definetely venture further if I had the chance.
Book your hostels or choose your hostels in advance. We did and it made a huge difference cause we went to fun, cheap, clean hostels which had bars which were great for meeting people before you go out! The train journeys are fine. I tended to sleep a lot on them cause sight-seeing and night-life will take its toll but it's definetely worth it! We usually just bought rolls or something cheap for lunch and went to a cheap restaurant for dinner. You'll find nice, cheaper restaurants off the main tourist streets in the cities and they have a nicer, local atmosphere. The night-life in all the cities is unique and brilliant. I'd advise you to go on an organised pub crawl on your first night if you want to get to grips with the place at night before heading out on your own! There are loads of organised sight-seeing tours too. We went on a few but found it was usually better if you just had a map and a guidebook and used the tram/bus/underground (they are pretty easy to work out how to use from the maps in the stations). You can move at your own pace when you're not with a tour too, though tours were good for huge cities like Berlin. Make sure you validate your tickets on public transport or they can catch you out and charge you 20-40 quid. They're very strict on it in Prague!! Anyway, brilliant experience. I met amazing (and some not so amazing!) people form every country I can think of, learned all about different countries, had brilliant craic and have contacts all over the world now. Try and learn few words of hte language in the countries you are in...people will appreciate it.
I have just returned from a month of train travel with Interrail and I am bronzed, toned, still in one piece and ready to put you in the picture! Before I went I read every internet article I could get my hands on, they mostly covered the experience and many did it justice. I hope I can convey the fantastic time I had, with a route that defied all logic and convention and involved endless laughter, confusion and foreign officials. However, before you buy Interrail tickets, you need to know what youre getting for your money
If you have the misfortune to travel on trains in the UK on a regular basis, Interrailing is a stark contrast; even in the darkest corner of Eastern Europe, clean, efficient, well staffed trains run on time. There is always the odd exception, but I think public transport in Britain has a lot to learn! Interrail gives you the freedom to travel at a reduced rate, its a massive saving compared to the cost of paying for the individual journeys and it means that you can go somewhere just because you like the sound of it. Every experience will be different and Ive tried to include both the pitfalls (in the hope that you can avoid them) and the highlights. The section entitled Train Practicalities is worth reading if your trip is imminent. Other than that, please feel free to skip it and just enjoy the section on my expereience.
*****Invaluable Equipment *****
The Thomas Cook Rail Map for all the times that you cant get a direct train.
The Thomas Cook Rail Timetable for when there is no train information
Rough Guide / Lonely Planet or Similar
Baby Wipes instant friend maker on the night train!
***** Accommodation *****
Most of the Hostels are full in high season and they prefer to separate males and females. We stayed in some that were lovely and some that were unfit for human occupation. Where there were problems with hostels, we found that it was often easier and cheaper between the two of us to get a room on hotels.com. There are some great bargains to be found with a bit of patience and reasonable internet access.
We also stayed with the families that wait at the station and offer you rooms. This is often much cheaper than the hostels and the famillies are prepared to help you with timetables and translations. It makes you feel at home and offers the chance to see how real people live rather than just the inside of another chain hostel. In Transylvania we were really lucky and found a woman who couldnt do enough for us she even did all our washing. Her concern when we drunkenly wanted to use the gas cooker at 1am was more for our safety than that of her house.
In Split we were less fortunate. I think the key is to only agree to view rooms within walking distance and ask to see pictures before you even go that far. If someone drives you to their inconveniently located house an hour down the motorway, you end up taking it just because you cant get back.
***** Train Practicalities *****
I went with the Boyfriend (much persuasion and nagging on my part) and after looking at all the options, we decided on a Global pass. This covers all the zones of Europe and cost £285.00 for me (under 26) and £405.00 for him (over 26). With a total cost of £710.00 including the fee charged by STA travel, this is not a decision to undertake lightly! From what I can work out, the cost varies depending on whether its high or low season. You should also be aware that these tickets are not covered on most travel insurance, so have a look around before you buy that too.
You can buy one zone or two zone passes as well, but these zones have been decided by Interrail and you cant pick and choose the countries you want to visit. Its not, for example, possible to visit France, Italy and Spain unless you buy the global pass, but with the one zone pass you can visit France, Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg. As the assistant in STA put it to us, Interrail want to get as much money out of you as they can theres no point in them selling passes with your choice of countries. With the one and two zone passes, if you accidentally cross a border into a country that isnt covered by your pass you have to pay for the train. Also, if you have to cross another zone to get to your chosen one, youll have to pay (at a discounted rate) for that travel.
We made the rather dangerous assumption that once we had our Interrail tickets, there would be a few negligible charges for seat reservations on the really long distance trains other than that, we thought we had it covered. Not quite! We found that reservations are almost always compulsory and cost anywhere between 3 Euros and 30 Euros. We ended up spending at least £150 on seat reservations each. Nothing fancy, just the standard second class seats that the Interrail ticket covers. I wouldnt try and get away without paying these either there are endless ticket inspections and some trains where they wont even let you on without checking your tickets and passports.
The cost of Couchettes and Sleepers is astronomical normally about 67 Euro on the Trenhotels for a couchette. If youre travelling as a couple, couchettes (at least in the Catholic countries) mean you will be in separate carriages altogether as they dont allow mixed sleeping accomodation. The prohibitive cost and the gender divide meant that we just booked seats when we slept on trains. 2 out of 3 times we ended up sharing with other couples who were backpacking and we were able to arrange the seats in the compartments so that everyone was comfortable. If you make an effort to get on, people dont mind waking up with your foot in their face so much. We met some really cool people and the best advice youll get is from other backpackers.
The majority of countries have no problem with Interrail tickets, but in Spain they dont cover first class travel and there is no second class option. After queuing up at the ticket office a few times to be told that we had to pay the full price of the ticket, we found an information office where we discovered that we could simply pay for an upgrade at a cost of about 15 euro each.
In Romania, Interrail marks you out as foreign and we met a few unscrupulous ticket inspectors. On the train out of Bucharest, one such inspector chased us along the train to levy his imaginary fine of around £50 (it varied as he tried to bargain the bribe, but it had to be cash). He told us if we wouldnt pay the fine (and we wouldnt we had legitimate tickets and no money) than we would have to get off the train at a remote station at 3am. We ended up sleeping on the toilet floor amongst bubblegum and cigarette ends to hide from him and luckily we both saw the funny side. As soon as we made it over the border, the Hungarian ticket inspector had no problem with our tickets.
Sometimes there are trains and sometimes there arent. From Split there are three trains a day at best, the station is rarely open and mostly full of people who have arrived and have nowhere to sleep.
Despite the size of Milan station, there arent that many trains and its difficult to leave. There are no night trains to speak of and the information will communicate solo italiano and happily walk off while you are trying to show them maps or names to illustrate a point. Dont let this deter you, we managed to develop a brand of sarcasm where the more unhelpful they were, the more we thanked them.
Very often in high season (June / July / August), you will find that all the trains out are booked up for days in advance. This meant either losing the spontaneity and booking a week in advance or staying in one place a few more days than planned. We opted for the latter and found that we were quite relieved by the break from hardcore sightseeing. If you go outside of high season however, bear in mind that some train services will be unavailable and some attractions will be shut. Whatever happens, leave in the direction of home a good couple of days before your tickets run out.
It probably pays to know about the discounts available on Interrail, the only one we used was the discount on the P&O ferry from Dover to Calais. We looked at the Eurostar discount, but that was still out of our budget. I havent found a comprehensive list anywhere, but some were listed in the ticket book itself.
Lastly, I hope you have a loving family to come back to you can't use Interrail in your home country and the only time we were genuinely stranded was when no one would pick us up from the ferry port at Dover.
*****Our Experience *****
Going interrailing meant leaving the job Id been in for the last 4 years. I didnt have enough holiday to go otherwise and I was starting to think it had to be now or never. (So thanks for the 3p) On top of that, 26 was fast approaching and this would have meant that waiting another year was an expensive decision. If anyone out there is thinking that this might be the right time to go, dont hesitate; next year you might be in a worse place financially, you might have more commitments; carpe diem. I have no regrets about going, even if things dont always go perfectly well, thats a story to tell when you get back. Even faced with the mountain of washing and unopened letters I am writing this with a smile on my face.
Going for a month seemed a daunting prospect, unlike previous periods spent away from home this was all in different places. You end up feeling like some kind of rail pikey, but the advantage is that if you dont like somewhere, you dont have to stay. I loved the feeling of waking up each morning in a whole new country.
We had no planned route and when western europe started to diminish our rather small savings, we headed east. Eastern europe is one of those places that cause backpackers to cling together for safety. On arriving home, I asked my brother if he could kick open my bedroom door every hour and search my bags to give me a sense of normality. The searches, passport checks and hourly questioning are a very bonding experience and we made some great friends. One piece of advice I would give on this is never, ever, tell them that youve just come from Amsterdam.
One night, just on the border of the Czech Republic, seven young men burst into our carriage. The were dressed in hoodies and rucksacks and were demanding our passports. They turned out to be German customs, but naturally we all thought we were being robbed by Asbos and if you kick off, they empty your bag. Another time, on the train from Budapest, we were evicted from our seats by the police and had to stand for 17 hours. These events sound a little worse than they were, in every case we and our fellow travellers kept up a reasonable party atmosphere.
There were touching times too, when we felt homesick. When someone else arrived home there were mixed feelings of happiness for them and then a while in silence where we missed our own famillies. A Romanian guy, arriving at his home stop after months away, gave a goodbye speech in the aisle which almost moved me to tears.
Seeing the sunset in Madrid and exploring Roman ruins under palm trees in Croatia were fantastic experiences which I hope to have more of. The night trains and ferries were a breeding ground for people who tell you how awful things are in their country and are overawed by the fact that you live in the UK. Ive never felt so lucky to have been born British. There are few experiences as humbling as sleeping on floors and being afraid to speak English and I feel enriched for all of it. The advice we were given and the help we received in so many places have given me faith in human nature.
*****Top 5 Sightseeing Highlights*****
A Roman Party in Trier, Germany
The Alhambra, Granada, Spain
Bran Castle (Draculas), Bran, Transylvania
The Buda Labyrinth, Budapest, Hungary
Diocletians Palace, Split, Croatia
Please note, I retain copyright over this review. Malibu Jenny 2006.
Trains which don't exist, trains which leave from different platforms depending on the day of the week, trains which stop in a random siding for twenty minutes for, well, no reason at all really. Just some of the issues to contend with on an interrailing holiday. My best mate and I spent a month travelling round Europe with our Interrail passes this summer, and despite some of the problems we encountered such as those mentioned above, it was the best four weeks of my life. I could talk for hours on the different train journeys we took. The main thing we noticed on our travels was the incredible difference in train travel between different countries. We stuck mainly to the well-trodden Spain-France-Italy-Switzerland whirlwind tour, but even within these areas we realised there are immense differences. Spanish trains are always, always, always on time and are generally very comfortable - but beware the ticket inspectors. NEVER forget to make a seat reservation before you get on any of the mainline trains as they will not hesitate to fine you/chuck you off. Italian trains are smellier, noisier and more crowded - and invariably there is the obligatory sleaze-merchant present and ready to stroke your leg and mutter 'belissima' every forty seconds. Some ticket-sellers are more patient than others with faltering utterances in their language, and many speak no English at all outside the main cities, so learn the essentials - days of the week, and numbers particularly. Sleeper trains are in a class of their own; the most notable was the Madrid -> Barcelona for sheer odour value (six bunks in a room the size of your average lift) and perhaps also the anti-thesis, Bologna -> Bern overnight; when the guard woke us up in the morning with a cup of coffee, croissants and orange juice. We paid the same for each of these journeys, yet they could not have been more different. Interrailing is unrivalled in its opportunities to cover a massive
geographical area with a relatively low outlay. The views on some journeys are incomparable (and I come from the West Coast of Scotland!), particularly Barcelona -> Marseille and Lucerne -> Interlaken. If you're considering Interrailing as a holiday option next year - do it. Do it. Do it. Even if you can never look a train timetable in the metaphorical eye again, it'll be worthwhile. Passes range in price - we bought 4week all-zone tickets for £220 but smaller areas and shorter time spans bring the price down. Just try to remember where you put your pass in your bag - although by the third time your knickers have been unpacked onto a minging train platform, you'll probably remember for yourself...
I finished my first - but hopefully not my last - interrail trip last month, covering France, the Netherlands, Spain and Italy. Despite experiencing anger, frustration and despair like never before (have you ever tried to buy a French railway ticket?), I have to say it was the best trip of my life. So far. I want the next to be even better. Firstly, some basics. The interrail pass allows unlimited travel for 30 days by rail through the countries that you have chosen. European countries (and Morroco and Turkey) are divided into zones - you choose which zones you want and the ticket price changes accordingly. The prices changes slightly each year, but at the time of writing a 3-zone pass (the most popular) costs £199. That might seem like a lot, but if you tried to travel without it your rail tickets would cost about 4 times as much, so it's really a bargain! The pass doesn't cover travel in your home zone (i.e Britain and Ireland) but look out for special discounts. You get 50% off the Calais-Dover ferry crossing, for example, and 50% off rail travel in countries you have to pass through to reach the zones you paid for. Watch out for supplements - night trains cost extra (about £8), fast trains (e.g TGVs) cost extra (but not much) and in Italy, all trains except the slowest cost extra. Your best weapon against the confusing station staff is to use the official websites to plan your route. All national rail lines should have a website with a timetable, and most have a translation button. Don't plan too far ahead; the websites aren't infallible. As soon as you know when you want to leave a place and where you want to go, trek down to the station and pick up a timetable. There is nothing more annoying than packing all your stuff, checking out of your hotel and then discovering that the next train to Barcelona is full and you'll have to wait til tomorrow for the next one. Websites by hardened interrailers are also
extremely useful - they'll tell you where to go, where not to go, what to take and how to save money. Check out www.interrailers.com or just search for 'interrail'. Hostel sites are also very very useful. You can book places online and read people's recommendations. Good ones are www.hostelseurope.com , www.hostels.com/hostels/ and www.eurotrip.com . All in all, you need at least £800 per person to make a decent trip. Yes, it's a lot. But it is for a month. The £800 should cover your ticket, accomodation at about £9-£10 a night, food (at about £5 per day) and sightseeing. You should also have enough for some partying. Of couse, you can save money by sleeping rough and not eating, but I don't recommend it! The best way to keep expenses low is to look around you - don't go for the first hotel, check the next street. Make sure you can convert the currency accurately. Don't buy from street vendors who want to rip off the tourists. Invest in a student card. Find some friends, buy some alcohol from an off-licence and go sit on a beach instead of a bar. Skip the metro tolls. Actually maybe not! (Although it is surprisingly easy in places like Rome.) The essential backpack should be supportive and must, absolutely must, have a waist tie. Chances are you'll only be wearing it to walk to and from the station and hotel, so it's not really necessary to spend loads on it - mine came from Tesco, cost £25 and was absolutely fine. People will give you different advice on what to bring, but here's my list (in no logical order!): 1. Guidebooks - not too many (too heavy) but if you're in a group then spread them out between yourselves. You'll need them to get the most out of a place. 2. Plastic cutlery - so you can cut your bread, spread your marmite and eat your youghurt. 3. Marmite - if you're low on cash and can only afford bread, this turns it into a meal. 4. Photocopies of passport and insu
rance documents - very very necessary!! 5. Money belt - to avoid your credit card and passport being taken. 6. Travel wash - to wash clothes in the sink at your hostel. 7. Pack of cards - instant friend-maker! 8. Travel hairdryer - I find this necessary. 9. Plastic bags - in case stuff leaks and for putting your wet towel in. 10. Credit card - don't take travellers' cheques. Too much hassle and you'll get ripped off if you're in a hurry. Take a card and you can get money anywhere at good rates. 11. As many clothes as you can stuff in - so you don't need to wash too often. Backpackers are also big party animals so take an adequate supply of evening clothes and a pair of heels, too. 12. Language knowledge - not strictly an item. It helps soo much if you can speak a little bit of the language, so if you can't remember your GCSE French then take a phrasebook! Now for the personal. Interrailing with a backpack is great because everyone else with a backpack on immediately relates. Even if you take the plunge and go alone don't expect to be in that state for long! If you're staying in youth hostels or pensiones, then chances are you'll meet people every night - one of the best perks of interrail. And you can swap experiences and learn some useful tips. So be friendly and make the most of it! I hope I've inspired you a little. It took me several months of full-time work in a job I dislike to raise the money, and yes I did despair at moments, but I also saw, did and ate amazing things (Sistine chapel, Barcelona from the top of the Sagrada Familia, Venice in a gondola, Tunisian pizza, flashing at a station guard in Irun, the sweet smell of dope at 9am in Amsterdam, the Louvre, Madrileno prostitutes... the list could go on for ever). And everyone I know who's done the same has had experiences just as varied. I'll never take a package holiday again... next year, Eastern Europe!
Oh how I wish I were young and fancy free again when I think of my time travelling around Europe. I am sure things have changed a lot since I went on interrail holidays but those holidays have remained in my memory as if I went last year. Travelling by train in other countries is an excellent experience as you are close to the people who live and work in these countries. Trains can be a great place to strike up conversations and learn about the country you are travelling through. If you can speak a little of the language of the countries you are passing through it is even better. People are only too keen to tell you about their country and their lives. I could regale you with my experiences of trains, places and people I encountered during my trips but it is much better if you go yourself and experience these things yourself. Here is an old timers advice:- 1) In one month you cannot cover the whole of Europe so before you go choose where you want to go. Maybe you can go again next year! 2) Do some homework on the countries you want to visit what there is to see, where you can sleep, when and where do the trains go. 3) Choose your travelling companion/s well. You do not want to be in the middle of nowhere with someone that you have begun to despise! 4) When you arrive at an unknown place make sure you check the time of the trains out it may be simply awful. 5) Take in the culture you never know if you will go there again and you do not want to miss out on something to be able to talk about. 6) Do not overdo things. Trains are good to sleep on occasionally but you will miss large areas of the countries when you are asleep and you will probably not have a good nights sleep to many of them is bad for you. 7) Go while you can, if you are young and free enough to take a month to travel you could do a lot worse. 8) A light tent can come in useful but camps
ites can be a long way from towns so be willing to try other accommodation. There are hostels, pensions and a whole host of cheap types of accomodation available if you ask in the right places Believe it or not not all train services are as good as ours so be prepared for some shocks! I have been delayed more than 12 hours on one train. There are books available to help you on the way. Pick one up that gives handy hints for a variety of places.
Two years ago, I embarked on my first InterRail-dependent European trip. The three of us opted for the 30-day two-zone option, which currently stands at £209 (according to today’s prices on the official website). We had planned our trip well, and two zones were definitely sufficient for our purposes – Paris, Lyon, Avignon, Marseille, Rome, Salerno, Venice, Florence, and Brussels were all visited before returning to Amsterdam. Clearly, part of the thrill of choosing InterRail is the complete freedom it gives you to travel wherever and whenever you want within your zones (as long as it is by train, of course). It is my opinion that even the most precise of people, who would plan ahead such a journey to the exact day, are vulnerable to changes in schedule. For instance, unless one has been to every destination on the route – very inadvisable, since one of the main themes of InterRail entails seeing new places – there is the chance of wishing to stay in a new city shorter or longer than planned, depending on personal or circumstantial preference. One’s schedule could also be influenced by useful opinions of fellow travelers, who might recommend or warn against certain destinations. Taking such counsel into consideration is not dissimilar to reading relevant consumer opinions on this website, before buying a certain product. Finally, of course, there is the chance of something going wrong, thus necessitating a change in plan. An example of a freakish combination of the last two possibilities arose on our way to Naples. Having disastrously mistaken a full-fledged Eurostar train for the Neapolitan metro, we found ourselves on our way to Salerno. We ended up staying four days in Salerno (since it was close enough to Pompeii anyway), eventually deciding not to bother with Naples as we had recently heard numerous horror stories about the place. On the whole, we quite enjoyed our stay in Salerno, a city two of
us had never heard of before and had obviously never thought of visiting. The InterRail pass, restricted to European citizens, provides free travel on most regular trains in most countries. With my one-month trip mainly confined to France and Italy, I could already see a significant variation in the applicability of the InterRail pass, which no doubt becomes more noticeable the further one wishes to travel. France was InterRail-friendly, with very acceptable supplements only necessary for high-speed TGV trains. Italy, unfortunately, was not, with even higher supplements than in France, charged on just about every major inter-city train (none of which even came close to TGV quality). Nevertheless, the InterRail pass should always get you where you want to go – just be ready for additional expense if you want to get around your zones reasonably quickly. The InterRail pass can also be used with a few other types of transport. I was not, and am not, aware, of the full list of these deals, but I know that within our zones, the ferry from Brindisi to Corfu was available to us with only a small supplement charged (though the long traveling time and additional hassle deterred us in the end). Though I thoroughly enjoyed the last trip (chronicled in my numerous European travel reviews), it was not in the end not a true European trip, since we only ended up visiting France, Italy, and Belgium. Optimism before my last trip as to how many places we would end up visiting proved rather misplaced. This is why I would advise anyone seriously considering the pass to realistically think out how far one is likely to get - allowing also for a few days’ possible delay – before deciding on the number of zones to be included in the pass. It is also, of course, crucial not to forget about budgetary concerns, since doing so could mean a premature trip home. The assurance of monetary reserves in the event of disaster is highly recommended
. One of my traveling companions, for example, rather carelessly managed to get pick-pocketed by gypsies at Lyon station. This forced him to return home two days early. Things could, of course, have been worse. This summer, I am going to use InterRail again, for a second European trip with an entirely different group of friends. This time, confident that we can make much better time than my group managed two years ago, we are taking the “global”, all-zones option, which will benefit us in a possible 31 countries spread out over 8 zones. The pricing structure of the InterRail pass means that this global option is only £50 more expensive than the two-zone option. I would definitely recommend this option to anyone entertaining even the remote possibility of visiting more than three zones. This global deal also has the added advantage of including the trip from one’s home country to the continent in the price, if the starting point does not happen to be within included zones. This was not a problem last time, with the Netherlands in the same zone as France, but when traveling from Great Britain to e.g. Paris, the trip to the continent would have to be paid for if the UK zone is not included on your pass. If touring around Europe for a month is your idea of a good holiday, InterRail is an ideal, inexpensive travel option. Unless one has a car, and is willing to use that as a means of transport, InterRail is virtually the only feasible option for independent 30-day European excursions, and is thus highly recommended for all European backpackers.
Interrailing is truly the activity of a lifetime. For me, it has certainly been the start of a life of independent travelling and adventure. If you are planning on taking a gap year, or on doing something fantastic during a long summer vacation, I recommend you think about travelling Europe with an Interrail pass. The ticket comes in a variety of categories, depending on your age, the length of your trip, and the areas you want to visit. Under 26s get a cheaper rate but anyone of any age can buy a pass, and it represents an enormous saving on buying individual tickets if you make a lot of journeys. Countries are divided into groups and you can buy a ticket for whichever group(s) you like (e.g. Britain and Ireland). A 'global' pass (covering all countries in Europe except for your own, and some of the baltic states, and also covering Morocco and all of Turkey) costs £219 for a month for the under 26 version. You can buy them from STA travel, Thomas Cook Railpasses, or several other outlets. There are many advantages to Interrail travel. You needn't decide your route exactly before you go; you have the flexibility to change according to whims, weather conditions, recommendations from people you meet en route, etc.; you don't have to worry too much about buying tickets in countries where you don't speak the language, and so on. There are some things you should bear in mind. The ticket does not guarantee you a place and often you need to book and possibly pay a (tiny) reservation fee before using a long distance train. On some trains this is compulsory, so you should always check or you may get chucked off in the middle of the Slovakian countryside- I've seen it happen! Also, the pass does not totally cover the luxury or high speed trains such as the TGV and Thalys. If you intend to make a journey on one of these, try and find out the price before you go as it is hard to do when you are away and may eat in
to your budget considerably. Those who go interrailing are usually backpackers on a tight budget, so youth hostels are the usual choice for accomodation. Don't let the traditional image put you off, most of them are great. There are loads of websites about hostels. Try 'Hostels of Europe' for independent ones, or the IYHF for official ones (see opinion by xueli in this category). Also, consider taking a small tent. Many of the books I read said this was a bad idea because of the bulk- but you really don't need a huge tent and masses of equipment- we didn't even take sleeping bages as we were in hot countries in July. The tent was invaluable in Berlin and Venice, since there was not a sinlge youth hostel place available in these cities when we went there (which reminds me- if you go to Berlin in July, check the date of the Love Parade as the city gets extremely full and all accomodation is booked up early). Some other useful things are; 1) the Thomas Cook rail map of Europe (essential! we made many friends through owning this!); 2) a good fat guide book covering all of Europe, even places you don't intend to go to since you might change your mind. Try Let's Go, Lonely Planet or Rough Guide (see my review of the latter) 3) 'Backpacking Round Europe' by Mark Hempshell, 'How to Books', ISBN 1-85703-403-1 4) the Thomas Cook Rail Timetable. This comes out in an updates form every month and is soooooooooooooooooooooooooooo vital if you want to avoid disappointment with trains. It tells you times, numbers, features of the train (e.g. if a supplement is payable) and so on. But don't treat it as gospel, there are mistakes. I hope I've sold the idea of Interrailing to you. Save up a grand, or even less, and go for it. (It cost us considerably less- around 20 quid a day, plus the train pass, £22 insurance and a £25 return flight to Brussels with Virgin Express). Goo
There are several ways of seeing the world. One of the most common is to get a eurorail or amtrak unlimitred travel card and go and visit as many countries you can in your 8 week summer holidays. These type of travelling holidays are great for tasters about where you might want to return to. Or you could try doing it my way. This is purely a suggestion, but I've found that people who set out to visit as many countries as they can in a short space of time, don't leave with a real feeling of any country or it's people. It's like spending three days in London, then thinking you've see the UK. The way I like to travel is to save up money then take as much time as I can afford (usually one week - a month) and choose one country to visit. I'm always on a budget, so I stay in hostels and use a Let's Go book to get around. Talk to the locals - they'll tell you the best places to see, and don't inhibit yourself by staying in the city, although this is usually a good place to start. If you're alone and you want to go to a less touristy area, try and hook up with another traveller and do it together - it's often cheaper to rent a room between two or three in towns or villages where there are no hostels. Keep some emergency cash on you at all times. Keep it separate from your other money and documents. Don't ever offer to carry packages for anyone, however much money they offer you. Just don't do it. If you're short of cash, but don't have a work permit, try asking in hostels for cash in hand work - there's often dishwashing or bar work to be done. If you want to see the world, why not see it properly - don't be in a rush to visit as many places as you can all at once. Take your time and experience each country as fully as possible - happy travels!