Last summer I bummed around Europe for three weeks with two friends and it was just the best. And now I’m going to bore you with the reasons why…
Cheap as Chips!
First up, Europe doesn’t need to be expensive – you can do even the most cosmopolitan of cities relatively cheaply. Eastern Europe boasts independent currencies and advantageous exchange rates that make it even more desirable. Interrailing is such a cheap way to see a huge variety of countries and cultures (not to mention cuisines), and the travel itself is inexpensive and great value for money. An ‘Interrail Global Pass’ (travel within 30 countries) starts at £149; but there is a lot of different passes to choose from so you can tailor your trip to the kind of travel you need and don’t have to spend a penny more than you need to on your basic travel.
Next, once you’re out and about exploring the best Europe has to offer, you’ll find you can do this for relatively little expense as well. Avoiding tourist traps and eating like the locals saves you loads of money on food. Alternatively, you can save money on breakfast, lunch and dinner by buying from the local supermarkets and dining alfresco and you’ll be guaranteed to get the most authentic cuisine by shopping in the smaller places (although, the language barrier means you can expect some questionable branding and a valuable lesson in why cheap wine isn’t always the best kind!).
Also, even accommodation is cheap. Hostelworld.com and hostelbookers.com give you a definitive list of any hostel worth visiting and rank them handily in terms of cleanliness, value for money, location and security. If hostels aren’t for you or you fancy being fully immersed in city-dweller life then airbnb.com has thousands of properties that are rented out for great prices and you can pick and choose amenities to suit your trip.
Next up is the sheer flexibility of train travel. Unfortunately, night trains require reservations and as trying to sleep in a crowded train compartment, with a anonymous sleep-talking traveller is a sure fire route to a bad nights sleep! So, travelling in the day can be really savvy as you don’t incur any extra expense on top of your Interrail Pass and also you get to see the beautiful scenery of Europe.
Equally whilst hostels do fill up, there’s such a wealth of them that you’d never be truly stuck if you didn’t book anything in advance. However, for peace of mind it’s best to have at least a few nights planned.
So much to Do/See
Seriously, even the train journeys were fun! I never thought I could get as excited by scenery as I did by some of the scenic train routes that duck between mountains and swing around lakes.
But, once you’re off the train the fun really starts, as you and your friends try to navigate your way round an unknown city without any mobile internet (terrifying). Europe has huge amounts of touristy stuff on offer for everybody – every city has a rich cultural history demonstrating why Europe is shaped how it is today. On top of the cultural stuff there’s many alternative ways to enjoy a city, from thermal spas in Budapest to beer halls in Munich.
What’s more, the food really is great – from Tapas in Barcelona to Pasta in Milan to Bratwurst in Berlin. Europe really has such a varied cuisine that’s worth sinking your teeth into. Particular favourites of mine were the Mercato St. Josef in Barcelona which offered every type of food imaginable and Andrassy street in Budapest where you could get a three course meal and cocktails for the equivalent of under a tenner.
Finally, the night-life is again varied and brilliant. Berlin offers some huge, world famous (or infamous) clubs that operate a notoriously tough door policy. Whereas, clubs in Budapest are a lot more relaxed and with many of them set up in old Soviet blocks – its a nightclubbing experience you won’t forget!
The last couple of years have seen the rise of numerous European music festivals such as Outlook festival in Croatia, and Sziget in Hungary. I went to Benicasim festival in Spain during my interrailing experience, which whilst being vastly different from a festival in England (expect less mud, overbearing heat and all night music) was still amazing and had many acts that were also doing the UK circuit that year, so you got to see all the good bits whilst sitting in the sun with the beach just a stones throw away.
A Ton of Fun
Spending hours on end in a claustrophobic train compartment with the same two people can go one of two ways . . . Luckily, interrailing mostly encouraged a deep bond as you wish away the hours trying to shelve the boredom – often resorting to ever exhaustive methods such as trying to name all the countries in the world or running through every embarrassing memory.
But more than that, interrailing offers you a truly unique way of ticking off so much of your bucket list all in the company of good friends – so what are you waiting for?