My highly anticipated trip has unfortunately come to an end 😦 I can’t believe it’s over.. Two whole weeks of train hopping from city to city has me exhausted but it was 110% worth it. We met so many lovely people and seen tonnes of sights – I really can’t put into words how worth it inter-railing is.
Choosing our route was simple enough, literally all we did was get up Google Maps and pick out a bunch of places we fancied and that was that. Robert had already gone to most places in Europe when he went inter-railing two years ago so he didn’t wanna visit the same places twice, which was understandable. So we avoided the typical inter-railing route and just went to random places. Our route (in order) was Frankfurt, Munich, Zurich, Luxembourg, Cologne, Antwerp and finally Amsterdam. I had one exception with the choice of places, I had to see Amsterdam!
The first thing we did was choose where we were going to. Then we booked our flights, train ticket, and the hostels. We flew to Frankfurt first and flew home from Amsterdam, and the 5 cities in between them two. I’ve heard of people getting their whole trip organised through a travel agency like USIT and so on but we just did it ourselves (which turned out a bit better tbh).
Hostelworld.com and Interrail.eu are the two websites that we organised the trip on. Can’t recommend them enough! Hostelworld is basically the Booking.com of hostels, and the hostels are dirt cheap! A lot of people are mad sceptical about being in hostels and sharing a room with other people but trust me, central Europe has a huge backpacking reputation so 9/10 hostels are 100% safe and secure. We got our own lockers for our stuff in every hostel we went to which was great peace-of-mind.
How much did it cost?
For us it worked out in total about €850 each This was including flights, accommodation and our train ticket. Considering the amount of cities we went to this was very cheap!
Is two weeks enough?
If you’re eager to see most of Europe then no, two weeks wouldn’t be enough. Some people go for two weeks some people even go for 6 months! It all just depends on your schedule and what you want to see. I’m an absolute whimp when it comes to being away, I always look forward to going home even after a weekend away somewhere. I get extremely home sick but once I’m out and about I’m fine. For me, two weeks was a pleasant amount of time to go, especially if you get home sick like I do. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a complete moan on holidays (Robert would say otherwise), I do love every minute of it. But there’s always a little part of me that looks forward to coming home to Dublin.
What was my favourite city?
I had a couple favourites to be honest. I had a blast in Frankfurt! Munich was my least favourite if I’m honest. Despite seeing Coldplay and doing to see the Dachau Concentration Camp, I thought Munich was a bit boring as a city and it rained the whole time we were there so I think that might add to my reason. My top of the list favourite of course had to be Amsterdam, Zurich is beautiful, very pretty and VERY expensive! If you’re looking to do a cheap trip I’d avoid Switzerland at all costs. I paid €17 for a Big Mc meal which wasn’t even that nice lol
What’s it like sharing a room with strangers in hostels?
At first I was a bit iffy about sharing a room with people I literally have no idea about, but once you dive right in and just do it, it all seems normal. Everyone we met there were lovely and when you think of it, they’re all on the same boat as you! Everyone’s a bit scared of sharing rooms with strangers but as I said, there’s lockers and the rooms are spotless. All I think of it is it’s just a place to keep your stuff safe and go asleep at night. You’re up first thing in the morning to explore and back at the night time to sleep so honestly, even if you hate your room mates, you don’t have to be around them much lol.
A little tip about being around strangers – at any given chance you get, talk to them, get to know them, be open minded and have fun. We spoke to absolutely everyone we came across and met such lovely people from all over the world. To a point where we randomly got chatting to a girl on an elevator and ended up going out for drinks and having the best night! These are the things you’ll remember forever and what make travelling fun.
What’s the trains like?
In Europe, I think most people are aware that the public transport system is spectacular. You honestly couldn’t get lost without finding a train/metro station to bring you back to where you were. Train timetables are spot on too, if a train says it’s leaving at 11:44am, it leaves at 11:44am and there’s no exceptions. It even arrives at the destination BANG on the minute it says on the timetable, so catching connecting trains is never an issue. Most of the time, they have the connecting trains on the same platform so all you really need to do is run across and get on your second train to wherever you’re going.
For long haul trains (which we didn’t do much of to be honest) they can get a bit frustrating. The longest one we did was 7 ½ hours ☹ Trust me, it’s as bad as it sounds. So be sure to bring a deck of cards and plenty of snacks! Some trains have chargers and wifi so you’re sure to be kept happy on your phone – but remember, some won’t even have a charger. So be sure to bring your portable power banks with you. There’s also night trains that run throughout the night, we didn’t do any. From Roberts experience, I’d avoid them lol
Planning sightseeing tours
We didn’t pre-book any tours or excursions before we left, we just did it all when we were there. We booked Dachau Concentration Camp literally the day before whilst we waited for our train to Munich. Viator.com was great for all this, but I didn’t get into using TripAdvisor to be honest. They usually give you a meeting point (which is mostly in the easiest place to find, and quite central) and you meet your tour guide there and they bring you off. If you’re planning a trip to Munich or anywhere near Munich, you must see Dachau. It’s unbelievable. It’s one of the many concentration camps of the holocaust. Also, we did a little trip when we were in Zurich to the Rhien Falls, which is the largest waterfall in Europe. It was loads of fun and they let you do a boat trip right up to the falls.
Other than them two trips we did a couple of open top bus tours, which were grand! A bit boring at times but it’s better to say you did it than not do them at all. Instead of walking tours we just did our own exploring. I think this is better, because you get lost and find gorgeous little streets and places that you’re not expecting to see. Luckily we didn’t get lost much, Robert has the sense of direction of a bat, I haven’t a fucking clue! I’m pretty sure if it wasn’t for him I’d be still trying to find my way back to my hostel in Cologne.
How does the train ticket work?
We got our train ticket through Interrail.eu, but you’ll have to choose the right ticket for your journey. So, for example, if you’re going for a month and you spend 7 days in that month travelling, you’d just get a ‘’7 day within one month ticket’’, which basically makes the ticket valid for 7 non-consecutive days within that month. There’s plenty of options on the website. I’d highly recommend getting insurance on your ticket too just in case anything happens, I’m a huge one for peace-of-mind, especially on holidays.
When you do get your ticket, BE SURE to fill out the ‘travel diary’ part of the envelope. One, to keep track of your trains and where you’ve been. And two, the ticket inspectors need to see where you’ve been. They sometimes ask for passports to stamp your ticket, and without you filling out your ‘travel diary’, your ticket isn’t valid.
What handy things did I bring?
I brought a few handy bits that made my life a lot easier when I was travelling. For example, I brought a blow-up pillow that I bought in Dealz for €1.50! It came in so handy for the naps you take on the train/plane. It deflates and folds into a little ball you can literally put in your pocket. Another life saver was my invisible bum bag. Now I know people have mixed opinions on bum bags but trust me, they’re so handy! The one I got wasn’t a big jalopy thing, it was slim and fit under my shorts so nobody could even notice it was there lol. I always carried my passport too, just to be on the safe side.
The handiest of gadgets I brought with me was my fold up backpack. Oh my god! Life saver. Especially if you hate carrying a million and one things like me, I got this little fold away bag in Trespass on Stephens Green. It’s basically the exact same as those fold up train jackets that you get in Penneys but it’s a bag. I’d recommend one of those!
If your phone somehow has the ‘’Find My iPhone’’ feature turned off, or if you have your Location Services switched off too, you’re best to put both features on before you leave for your trip. If you have location services turned off you won’t be able to track your phone if it’s lost. I (luckily) didn’t lose my phone on any occasion but I did let it fall off my top bunk in the hostel in Amsterdam and the screen shattered ☹ Heartbroken. So wear about 4 cases on your phone lol.
Overall, I honestly had the time of my life! I didn’t want it to end, every day was a new adventure. I’ll never go on a 2 week holiday again and stay in the one place, I’d have to travel elsewhere. I’m still amazed how much you can fit into 2 weeks, it seems like a small amount of time but we got 7 cities done. After doing it and experiencing inter-railing for myself, I can’t stress enough for anyone that’s able to, to get up and do it! It’s not that expensive and you get to see the world, why the fuck not?
If there’s any questions or anything you can send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or just tweet me @ryancollinshair 😊