In the Summer of 2022, I was fortunate enough to go Interrailing around Europe after winning a pass from Discover EU. Here are the 12 things I wish I had known about Interrailing before and what Interrailing taught me:
1. Have ‘Rest Days’
When planning your interrail trip, it can be easy to over-estimate the things you’re going to do in all the exciting destinations you’re going to visit; just remember to plan some rest days, too! Rest days are super important as when you’re travelling, it’s often non-stop, and you need some time to unwind and recharge.
I recommend taking some rest days in some “cheaper” places or in places with a more relaxing atmosphere. For instance, I took some rest days in Slovakia and Hungary. I was also planning to have a few rest days in Lake Bled, Slovenia. This is one of the major things I wish I had known about Interrailing before, as it’s very easy to think that just because you’re essentially ‘on holiday’, you won’t be tired.
2. Don’t Fit Too Many Destinations In
Planning your interrail trip can be so fun as there are so many fantastic places that you can finally get the chance to see for yourself…but don’t get too carried away. It’s likely that you will burn yourself out with all the places you’ll want to cram into such a small amount of time.
Therefore, it’s crucial to create an initial plan of all the places you want to visit and then try to slim the list down as much as possible – remember, you can almost always come back in the future. A good way to eliminate some destinations is by looking for cheap flights or other transport in the future there, or by eliminating by closest distance.
3. Know About All The Scams
If you’re going to be visiting some capital cities, then it’s important to know that you’re going to encounter some scam artists. So, if some random guy compliments your shoes – do NOT be nice or make eye contact; just keep walking – I know this can be hard, but this is how you get scammed and robbed sometimes.
Most cities have the same type of scams worldwide, but sometimes some countries have a more prominent scam than others. For instance, in New York City, I’d say that the most common scam you will encounter is the weird-looking costume people who photobomb photos and demand money, and in Italy, the most common scam would be the bracelet scam, as I noticed this scam in most of the cities like Milan and Rome there.
4. Ask Locals
Locals always know the best places to eat and visit because…well, they’re local! If you’ve ever watched Honest Guide on YouTube or visited friends that live somewhere else, then you’ll know what I mean. They know the best, most unique places to go and most of the time, these places won’t be tourist traps as they want to avoid busy touristic areas.
If you’re finding it hard to make friends with locals, there are lots of great Facebook groups, such as Host A Sister and Girl Gone International, as well as some places even doing ‘buddy-matching’ services that locals can sign up for.
5. Always Have A Backup
One of the best pieces of advice I can offer is to always, and I mean always, have a backup plan. When you’re travelling, something almost always won’t go to plan (trust me, I have so many stories), so that’s why it’s essential to have a plan B.
6. Print Out Night Train Tickets!
Even if on your phone, it says you can use it as a digital ticket – print it out! I learnt this the hard way after almost being denied onto a night train, even though the ticket said printing was an option.
It’s better to be safe than sorry and trust me, being stuck in the middle of nowhere at night with no other options because the ticket inspector won’t let you on isn’t a fun thing to do! It’s one of the top things I wish I had known about Interrailing before, and many others don’t know about it either, as I found out.
7. Always Have Your Passport On Hand
You should always have your passport or some other form of ID on hand with you whilst travelling – and don’t forget to make copies also. There have been lots of instances when I’ve seen the police ask someone for their ID, and they didn’t have it and had to be taken away to the police station to deal with it. To make sure this doesn’t happen to you, just take it with you and put it in a secure place.
Important– if someone random/ sketchy asks for your ID, then you’re fully entitled to see their police ID, as it may be a scam.
8. Get an ISIC Card
If you’re a student, then an ISIC Card can get you so many great discounts. It’s the only internationally recognised student ID, and I believe that they’re available in most countries. The prices vary for each country, but it’s around £10 in total and lasts for an entire year.
I’ve used mine in lots of countries, mainly in Europe, and the discounts have been very good – and I’ve definitely gotten my money’s worth. What’s great about the ISIC Card is that you can also have a digital card on your phone in case you forget your physical one.
9. Don’t Book Last Minute
Often I see on Facebook groups that some people have gone interrailing but haven’t booked any accommodation, and now it’s all sold out.
I understand that there’s fun in spontaneity, but sometimes in some areas, it’s smart to book a bit in advance, and if you want to be spontaneous, just make sure your booking has free cancellation in case of a change of plans – that you can make for definite.
10. Pack Light
Do you really need that extra t-shirt, for “just in case”? Really? Reallyyyy? You can always buy one if the worst happens, and it’s going to save you so much hassle dragging your heavy luggage or backpack around with you.
The general rule to follow is to pack something cosy, pack something smart for dinner, pack something modest, and pack something practical. I promise you’re not going to use everything you pack – and you can always wash your clothes or buy them if you need to.
Important– Don’t pack too many valuable items, especially if you’re travelling by plane, as they could go missing if put in the hold, and thieves are known to steal from trains and night trains.
11. Always Buy and Validate Tickets
It can be tempting not to buy a ticket for public transport sometimes, especially as it feels like every time you do, they never check. The one time you want to risk it, then they will check. I promise they will. I learnt the hard way when a 1-minute journey ended up costing me £30 in Czechia. This is actually one of the things I wish I had known about Interrailing before I went, but I know it will to apply to some people.
It’s not worth the risk, and oftentimes public transport is very affordable in European cities unless you’re in the UK, but that’s a rant for another day.
12. Don’t Stay Exclusively in Hostels
Hostels can be great, especially if you’re travelling on a budget or solo, but they can also get a bit tiring. Having people wake you up constantly, having to socialise all the time, getting adjusted to everything can be exhausting if you do it for a long time, and sometimes you might just want time to yourself. Therefore, that’s why you should also possibly book an extra night to yourself in a hotel or Airbnb if you want some quiet time.
Many hostels also offer private rooms, which are a great way to stay socialising with people and get all the great hostel discounts whilst still having private time to yourself.
12 Things to Know BEFORE Interrailing – Conclusion
After reading this post, hopefully, you’ve learnt all about the 12 things to know before Interrailing. Have you ever been interrailing? What are your ‘things I wish I had known about Interrailing before’? Feel free to contact me if you ever need any help or advice. If you liked this post, you might also like: