Inter railing is a cheap and fun way to travel Europe. It lends itself well to spontaneous people, although to get the most out of it you should really plan your trips carefully. There’s nothing worse than being in a country you do not know and finding yourself in trouble – not in the criminal sense, but in the sense that you’re held back or find company in people that you do not get on with. It goes without saying, then, that planning your trips is worthwhile.
Having done a fair bit of inter railing in Europe myself, I thought it would be useful for anybody thinking of doing the same to hear my tips for doing so. You don’t have to follow my tips, but I do recommend considering them on your travels.
So without further ado, let’s begin:
Pack light and take your essentials only
If you take too much luggage with you while travelling, you’ll weigh yourself down. I went from having a medium-sized suitcase to a small suitcase, and finally to a decent-sized backpack that was able to take my clothes and toiletries and communication essentials. And when I was planning to explore, I would take a smaller backpack with everything I needed for two to three days. I found sachets of shower gel and shampoo excellent for packing light and instead of taking a bulky phone charger I would take a spare battery instead.
Always get a roof over your head
I can’t tell you how dangerous it is to sleep in public places such as within train stations when travelling Europe or indeed any area of the world. The fact is anybody could be walking around public areas and I’ve heard plenty of horror stories about backpackers having all their stuff stolen while asleep. If you’re on a budget, I recommend that you check in to a cheap and cheerful hostel or a motel or a bed and breakfast. All European towns and cities have them and you can’t put a price on safety and shelter.
Book your accommodation in advance
If you can, try to book your accommodation in advance. Booking in advance will usually save you money and most places will be happy to take cash at check-in. Access to the internet will help you to find affordable accommodation so take a 4G-connected device with you or use a public computer, such as those in libraries. Or even better, book your accommodation well before you start travelling. This will give you a clear plan for travelling and there’s quite a few hotels that allow you to cancel fee-free, should you change your plans.
Take a compass with you
When in a foreign city you need to know your north from your south, as many maps are written with directions as such. A compass can be purchased for less than a pound in travel shops or even in convenience stores so grab yourself one to know where you are going. For those of you who find yourselves lost and without a compass to direct you, you can use the stars to find north or the sun and a watch. Here’s a handy guide for that. I don’t recommend relying on a smartphone to help you out here, because it could well die on you.
Eat well and always keep liquids with you
Good nutrition is essential for travelling, as is keeping a ready supply of liquids on your person in case you are left stranded somewhere. A small bottle of water won’t weigh you down and keeping a cereal bar or two in your backpack is a cost-effective way to make sure that you have something to eat. For a quick shot of energy, you can keep wrapped sweets on you or you can have energy sweets, such as Lucozade sweets. However, you should try to eat whole foods when travelling to keep your body fuelled with nutritious foods.
Stay illness-free by washing your hands frequently
One of the inevitable by-products of travelling by train is that you will pick up germs from other people’s hands, and especially so on hand rails, seats and in toilets. I recommend that you keep a tube or squeeze bottle of hand sanitizer with you always. Hand sanitizer doesn’t cost much and it will kill 99 per cent or so of the bacteria on your hands. Washing your hands often is something I live by and I have never been struck down by an illness that has stopped me from travelling. For that, I thank hand sanitizer so get yourself some!
Choose your company wisely
If you are travelling with another person, it’s absolutely essential to your travels that you get on with that person really, really well. Becoming sick of the person you’re travelling with is an easy way to fall out of love with travelling itself. Ideally, you want to travel with somebody who knows you well so you don’t fall out. Of course, disagreeing with one another is natural – it’s when things get nasty that you’ll wish you selected your company a bit more carefully. If you do fall out, try to make it up to one another as quickly as possible so that your grievances do not affect the rest of your trip.
Be prepared for long journeys
Travelling by train takes time, even on bullet trains. Different countries have their own rail networks so some journeys will take longer than others. Travelling from France to Italy for example will take a very long time. You’ll spend probably four hours on most trains that you travel on so it’s important to take things with you to keep you occupied. The best possible thing is a smartphone to surf the web (laptops are too big really), but a book and magazines are also a good idea. Crossword puzzles and a pack of cards will also keep you entertained, but be careful when buying from souvenir shops because these things can be expensive.