1) Have a Vague Plan and Try to Book as Much in Advance as Possible
A huge bonus of an interrailing ticket is the freedom it allows, however booking in advance as much as you can make it far cheaper and easier to budget. With the cheapest interrail ticket we had carefully planned out our journey in advanced, so we’re able to book all flights and accommodation beforehand. I found this incredibly useful as it meant we could stay in excellent hostels in superb locations for a very good price. We also avoided all the stress of trying to find somewhere to stay last minute.
I would at the very least, recommend booking the most expensive things like flights beforehand. When booking somewhere to stay, I tend to use booking.com as most places have free cancellation fees, which is great if you want to change up your plans but still know you’re going to have a bed at the end of the night. Before booking anywhere, I tend to double-check the reviews on trip adviser and hostel Booker to help narrow down the best place. It is also worth taking into account things like festivals and celebrations that could mean hostels are more expensive during this time and quickly booked up. Generally having an idea of a route will make it cheaper in the long run.
Before you go do the maths! Know how much you’re wanting your trip to cost you in total, do some research about how much the average living cost in each place is going, how much the average meal costs etc. Then try your best to stick to it. I know there are various methods of planning out a budget from spreadsheets to pen and paper choose whatever you prefer. It’s always worth keeping a bit of emergency cash somewhere as well just in case it all goes terribly wrong.
3) Go on Free Walking Tours
I can’t stress this one enough. I try to do this on the first day of every new place I arrive in. It’s a great way of not only learning the history and seeing some of the top sights but also getting to know your way around to save you from getting lost in the future. Tour guides also offer great recommendations for places to visit and eat.
4) Ask the Locals
The best and most authentic way to get to know a new place is to ask the locals. So ask around at hostels, restaurants and tours, people tend to be proud of where they live and want to show off the best bits. You can end up going a bit further off the usual beaten tourist track to find some real gems.
5) Try the Local Food
This ties into the one above but I try at least one delicacy from every place I visit even if it sounds weird and disgusting, it’s usually a traditional dish for a reason. Plus I’m such a foodie, and it’s all part of the experience.
6) Share Groceries / Toiletries
Sharing is caring after all. If you are travelling with people, it can be a huge budget saver to try and share out as much of the costs as possible. Especially with things like shampoo and conditioner than tend to come in bigger bottles that are heavier and you know you won’t use it all. Sharing food can be a massive bonus as it allows you to make larger portions to share between you for a lower cost and sometimes leftover for lunch the next day! Also, most hostels have a place for communal food, so don’t waste food by throwing it away when you are leaving, put it in the communal pile and help someone else out.
7) Always Carry Emergency Snacks
Emergency snacks might seem like a random unnecessary addition but don’t make my mistakes. There is nothing worse than travelling on long train journeys trapped for hours and starving. Or even worse if you get stranded in the middle of nowhere. Being hangry doesn’t help anyone!
8) Take a Pack of Cards
A pack of cards is not only something to keep you entertained on long journeys. They can be great for drinking games in hostels. Cards are one of the most sure-fire ways to make friends. Which for me is an essential part of the interrailing experience, getting to know people from other cultures and working through those language barriers with a fun game. You will end up with some hilarious memories.
9) Go with People who have Similar Interests to You
Travelling involves lots of compromises, from the little things to who gets to shower first, to the bigger ones of what cities you want to visit. You need to go with people who you know you can get along with and who have a genuine interest in the same things you do. It can be one thing spending time with a friend or group of friends and a whole other thing living and compromising with them 24/7. You need to be clear on your intentions from the start as even the best of friends might not make the best of travel companions. Go in with an open mind and a willingness to compromise, and you should be fine. I had a fantastic time because we had all lived together already, we even came up with a shower routine to keep everyone happy. We shared similar interests and found the perfect blend between history, culture and partying. Whatever you want to get out of your trip, make sure you’re on the same page and don’t be afraid to go your separate ways and meet up at the end of the day. Sometimes it’s nice to swap stories of your solo adventures and catch up over diner.
10) Try Something New / Out of Comfort Zone
Isn’t the whole point of travelling to embrace the new experience and learn about different cultures and broaden your horizons. So push yourself out of your comfort zone try something new and don’t be afraid to make a fool of yourself!
Over-packing is something we are all guilty of, but try your best to avoid it. Especially if you are taking a backpack, you will seriously regret it, and then it’s just not worth the backache (literally). Make sure to try on all your clothes beforehand and avoid taking those ‘just in case items’. The same with food while it’s a good plan to take a little bit you don’t need much! Just think economically and always leave room for holiday presents.
2) Don’t be Disrespectful of other Customs/Laws
This one is kind of obvious, but it’s worth remembering that other countries live by different rules, and you could end up in a lot of trouble by not sticking to them.
Some of the most obvious being etiquette regarding clothing, particularly when visiting religious sites such as the Vatican, temples or cathedrals. Some will require both men and women to cover their chest, shoulders, knees and sometimes even their heads.
Many cities also have noise restrictions in place on evenings, so being noisy could find you in trouble with the police. Every country has different rules around how much to tip, so make sure you double-check.
3) Spend all your Time Partying and Hungover
If your plan is to party and drink your way around Europe, fair enough each to there own. But don’t spend all of your time in places doing this that you could do anywhere in the world, the worst being in bed hungover. Don’t regret not seeing more of a place you may never go back to or miss out on trying new things. Even if this takes the form of a unique themed bar, make it an experience you couldn’t have anywhere else.
4) Forget to Exchange Money
Take it from me, it’s always worth having a little currency from every place you are visiting beforehand, in case something goes wrong. I don’t know what we would have done without it when we were stranded on the Austro-Hungarian border. However its always worth doing research as while its good to have a little bit of cash, for the rest of your money sometimes its a better exchange rate to change your money in the country. It’s a budget saver to do some research on and keep in mind.
5) Spend all your money on pointless things
Once again, this is something we are all guilty of and while it’s fine to have nice meals and buy a few presents for the family. There are definitely things that just aren’t worth spending your money on. This links into my budgeting tip, just remember to spend it on something that you couldn’t do or buy anywhere else.
6) Don’t get stressed out by the little things
Things will go wrong; it’s inevitable, you might miss a train, lose something important or end up in the wrong rooms in a hostel. It’s all about staying calm, letting the little things slide and finding a solution to the problem.
7) Don’t Just Get on any Train
It might seem tempting to be spontaneous, but your interrailing ticket doesn’t actually cover you for all train journeys. Many trips require a seat reservation to board, getting on one without means you could find yourself with a nasty and unexpected fine. So do your research before you hop on!
8) See it all Through your Phone
It’s easy to be glued to your phone. Why not try switching it off and live in the moment. It’s a tricky balance to achieve between taking photos and being present, but when you look back, you will thank yourself that you didn’t spend the entire time uploading to Snapchat/ Instagram.
9) Give yourself a break
Travelling can often feel like go, go, go and sometimes all you need is an early night to gather up your energy and start the next day feeling refreshed. So don’t feel guilty about taking some time out for a little TLC. Alongside this, don’t forget to drink water, it’s such a simple thing but its very easy to lose track and just forget. Hydration makes everything better and keeps you feeling healthy and refreshed.
10) Don’t Feel Like you have to Stick to your Plan
Allow your plans to change. Let yourself have that flexibility to go with the flow. The best adventures tend to be the most spontaneous ones, and you can end up in places you never imagined. Stay safe and have fun!