7 Tips to Get the Most Out of Interrailing in Europe

Inter-railing is an opportunity that I would encourage everyone to take. Being able to visit so many different countries in a relatively short space of time makes it a totally different experience to a typical holiday. However, if there’s one thing I wish I had known before setting out it is this: Inter-railing is hard.

The pictures on Instagram and the stories people bring back with them are all one part of inter-railing, but they don’t necessarily reveal how stressful and new that kind of travelling can be. This is not meant to scare people off; you will make countless amazing memories, and the experience is still massively enjoyable and rewarding. This type of travelling is not the easiest, despite how many people have done it before you, but getting advice before you go is the best way to have a comfortable and incredible experience.

 

1. Be prepared to feel a range of emotions

You only ever see the happy parts of others’ travels, so you may come to expect non-stop joy from your journey, but this isn’t the case. Just like at home, every day is different, and you feel many different emotions throughout your trip. There will probably be moments when you feel stressed, homesick or sad, and this is completely normal; it doesn’t mean you aren’t enjoying yourself properly or ‘doing it right’. Thinking that you aren’t allowed to feel this way can just produce more anxiety. You’re having new experiences and ticking things off your bucket list, and that’s not made any less amazing by having a bad day (or a few).

2. Don’t be put off by your first glimpse of a city

My first look at Paris didn’t live up to my expectations. Subconsciously, I had imagined the entirety of Paris to look like the Louvre. What I was actually faced with, as I exited the station, was a busy city not dissimilar to London. It threw me off, I felt like I was walking through Brixton, except with a backpack as big as me and not being able to understand any signs or conversations. After a while in a city, you realise that, of course, the whole place is not a picturesque tourist spot, but those places are there. And as with everywhere, there are great places within the busy, noisy areas. Don’t let a bad first impression stop you from finding them.

3. Have lunch!

This sounds a bit ridiculous but when you’re physically exhausted and focusing on other things, it is easy to not feel the hunger or to convince yourself that skipping lunch will save your limited budget for other, more fun things. You need to eat. Even if you don’t feel it: you do. You’ll find yourself having a lot less fun on your trip if you’re constantly low on energy.

4. Don’t rush your visits

The impulse to fit as much as possible into your short time in a country is understandable but try to make sure you get a decent amount of time at each tourist spot. Rushing to and from Notre Dame meant I barely remember seeing it, and I wish I’d taken more time to enjoy what I was seeing. You get much more out of visiting a landmark, park or museum if you’re able to see it and then settle down nearby to relax, embracing your environment. Taking everything a bit slower will help the whole experience to feel like less of a blur.

5. Think about what you want to get out of it

Whether you want to be more independent, more informed, learn more about yourself or just have a fun experience, it’s good to have your goal in mind. It can help in moments when you’re homesick or stressed to remember there is a reason to this, it’s a challenge you’ve set yourself and you are going to gain something from it.

6. Understand each train journey before you take it

Read the details of the trains your route includes, especially the ones that aren’t reserved so that you aren’t surprised. This will avoid having to pay for a ticket you didn’t know you needed and avoid stress about how you will get connecting trains. The travel between countries is the most stressful part of the trip so understanding it as best you can help your whole time abroad run smoother.

7. Do walking tours

This may seem counter-intuitive, but a tour is miles better than seeing landmarks for yourself. They allow you to understand the history, geography and cultural significance of what you’re looking at more, making it even more memorable. Quite often you can track down free walking tours, or tours which ask for you to decide how much to pay, in major cities, so they’re not going to break your budget either.