In the summer of 2017 Angel (my boyfriend) and I travelled through Europe with nothing but a backpack, some money of course and an Interrail pass. Before we left we had done most of the planning such as the route and where we were going to stay. However, there are somethings you just cant plan for. Im going to share some of my top tips that I learnt from this trip to help anyone thinking about it doing something similar.
We planned to visit 6 main cities in Europe in just under 30 days. The route would take us through Paris, Barcelona, Venice, Budapest, Bielefeld and Amsterdam. However, our actual route looked more like this:
Paris – Barcelona – Dijon – Paris – Venice – Budapest – Bielefeld – Amsterdam
Our main issue was missing the Othello sleeper train to Venice because of a delayed train to Dijon. This meant we had to spend an extra night in Dijon and in Paris in order to get another train to Venice. So here are my top tips if you want to have a marginally more successful trip than we did…
- Account for Delays
As I said before, we had a sleeper train booked from Dijon to Venice which meant we had to get to Dijon from Barcelona. This took two trains; one from Barcelona to Lyon and one from Lyon to Dijon. We got to Lyon with enough time to catch our train to Dijon which would get us to the sleeper train on time. However, when we arrived to Lyon our train to Dijon was delayed 30 minutes which was making it tight. We sat on the stairs (in everyones way of course) and that 30 minutes just went up… and up… and up… Of course my stress head was not coping well at with the fact that we were going to miss the sleeper train. In the end, the train to Lyon was delayed 2 hours and we needed up getting on a regional train which took hours rather than the high speed train we had originally planned to get. The cost of that one delayed train was an extra night in a hotel in both Dijon and Paris and another train ticket to Venice two days later than planned. Although we made it to Venice we only saw the inside of the McDonald’s and the hotel room before we had to leave for Budapest.
2. Book Accommodation Before you Leave
If it wasn’t for my parents describing the horrors of trying to book on the go, we would have left it later than we did. However last minute booking was not absent from our trip. We were waiting for the train to Barcelona from Paris and I thought it would be a good idea to double heck the hostel that I had booked. I open the email to find that it was booked for August. We went travelling in July. As I realised the ‘8’ in the date meant August not July I smiled. This was followed by a panic and when I told Angel he was not happy. The next hour was spent frantically trying to find a hotel, hostel or Air B&B to stay in. Fortunately we found something that was probably nicer than the hostel for the same price. However, I’m not sure it was completely worth the stress.
3. Scout out Local Transport
Both Angel and I knew we were going to be doing a lot of walking in order to save money. However we didn’t expect how much. In most of the places we stayed we were further out of the city so had to travel in. Most of the time it wasn’t too bad.The walk into Paris wasn’t too long and there was a train into Amsterdam. However Barcelona was horrendous. We decided one day that we wanted to go into the city centre so we did. We got up google maps and followed its route to the city centre.Until it wanted us to walk along the freeway at which point we wondered aimlessly in order to find a walk friendly route. We walked for around 2 hours just to get there and bearing in mind I was wearing sandals… I could have thought of better things to do. On the way back, Angel to us to the wrong address which meant we had another 40 minutes of walking to do. Although all of those factors knocked us down, it wasn’t what killed us. It was the demoralising fact that once we had waked there and back we realised there was a tram. A cheap tram. A tram that stopped right outside our hotel and took us all the way into the city…
4. Carry Food with you at all Times
Honestly. Whether the train journey is 2 hours or 6 hours, you’re going to want food. Even if you think you won’t. You will. Because as everyone knows food curbs boredom. Now, unfortunately i don’t have any entertaining anecdotes for this. There were just numerous times when we got on a train without food and we both sat there regretting every decision we had made that morning that led to us not brining food. It usually also resulted us spending ten euros on two chocolate bars. Which leads me onto my last tip…
5. Shop for Food in Local Supermarkets
This is mainly to save money. Overtime we went to a new place our first stop would be the local supermarket to stock up on supplies. A lot of the time, the Air B&B’s we stayed in would have some foods such as pasta and potatoes which was helpful. However having food to take out with us was very helpful. When we were in Paris we made sandwiches and sat at the fountain by the Eiffel tower and had a picnic. It’s not as glamorous as all the cute cafes through Europe but when you’re on a budget it works well. My favourite day, honestly was when we decided to go back to the apartment early in Paris and get McDonalds instead of going for a cute dinner.
So, although we had a fair few set backs, it was honestly the trip of a lifetime and i would 100% recommend to anyone thinking of doing it. I’d love to do it again but even bigger and maybe visit more of Italy and Greece too the next time. But we shall see. I hope anyone who is thinking about interrailing found this somewhat helpful and if not at least found our struggles amusing! Until next time!
If you want see more of our adventures through Europe check out our youtube video