Ok, now that we’re all done cringing at that title here we go:
A few days ago I finished my third Interrail trip so far. This is my favorite form of slow travel – you get to melodramatically look out a train window at the landscape rushing past while meeting locals and travelers from all over the world alike (all the while keeping your ecological footprint in check). After doing it three times it’s safe to say I’ve figured out some helpful tips and tricks to make your life easier when you next find yourself slowly backpacking through Europe.
First. You can be super spontaneous, but not in the way Interrail has you believe. I remember arriving to San Sebastián spontaneously without a room booking (this was also before Airbnb became popular) but with a lot of optimism – only to find the city in the middle of its annual celebration of itself and therefore fully booked so that we had to pay for a four-star hotel by the beach (great fun, but also horribly expensive). This year I didn’t take any chances with where my friends and I would sleep and booked all of the nights before. But from there we did spontaneous day trips – from Verona to Venice, from Nice to Monaco – and that is exactly the kind of spontaneity without homelessness an Interrail pass allows for, which is perfect for me.
Second. Bring a lock. I’ve needed a lock many times to keep my passport and credit card safe in a hostel. And it takes hours to find one at your destination, especially if you don’t speak the language.
Third. Before being dehydrated (if you can’t find water bottles) just get over your fear and drink the tap water. Barcelona is not Flint. It might not taste great but you’ll be just fine.
Fourth. If you want to got to prestigious museums or well-known landmarks, buy the tickets online (if you can’t get in for free with your student ID, which is the case in many European cities). They’re almost always cheaper, you don’t have to wait and you can always find an English version. Just put in the right year – I bought Verona opera tickets for 2019. Don’t make my mistakes.
Fifth. Expect to pay more money to get around than the price of your Interrail pass. Some routes don’t have regional trains and night trains and ships cost extra, too.
But most importantly, keep your tickets and your memories and your pictures – these are an insane few weeks and they’re over in a flash.