Thursday, 28 August 2014

InterRail Adventures - an overview 2014

For our holiday Jon and I decided that we would like to visit several areas in Europe and decided to purchase an InterRail ticket.  This post is an overview of our InterRail experience to offer advance to any people who may read, I will post about the hostels and places individually another day, otherwise this will be too long!   

Due to Jon's work we could only have two weeks for travelling and so this limited the number of countries or cities we could go to and their distance from each other - in the end two weeks was the perfect time for us. 

Deciding the countries and cities was a little tricky to start with as we had loads of places we wanted to go including Poland, Germany, Italy, Switzerland and Hungary to name a few!  After looking on the InterRail website and establishing which countries were close to each other, and the time it would take to travel by train between cities, we were soon able to narrow down our selection.  We also thought that some cities and countries (Italy and Switzerland) could be visited on other holidays and might require more that 3-4 days when visiting.  We wanted a few days in each place to really get a feel for the areas, I wouldn't have felt like I had really visited a place if I only went for 1 day.  

Jon was really keen to visit Berlin, I had never been to Germany before and so was more than happy to go there for our first stop.  Jon was also keen on Prague and as it was just under a 5 hour train journey from Berlin we confirmed that as our next stop.  Vienna was somewhere I was keen to visit for a few days and so this was our third and finally Budapest (somewhere I had really wanted to visit) became our last stop and boy was it a good one!  These cities had great train connections and linked really well for our trip.  Something to note is also the train station you are arriving or departing from, as some of the cities have more than one and they can be a long way from your accommodation. 

Berlin
Berlin
Berlin
 
Now most InterRail/gap year travelling stories I have heard are pretty laid back and most people just book their train ticket and then travel between places whenever they feel like it, change their route if their fancy and arrive in a city looking for accommodation or maybe booking the night before.  Our holiday was certainly not like this!  Being the organised and worrisome person I am I was keen to book hostels in advance, plan our route and look up train times before.  I'm really pleased we did as it made me less stressed during the trip and things ran rather smoothly.  There was still a lot of freedom when we were in the countries themselves, I'm not that regimented! 

Prague
Prague
 
The InterRail website is super helpful and has a train timetable on the website which was very accurate.  Before our travels I looked up and printed off the train times which helped us a lot and allowed us to plan what we were going to do with our day.  It was also really helpful that Jon researched the countries before we went so we had some idea of the dos and don'ts and knew some attractions and restaurants we wanted to visit. 

Vienna
Budapest
Budapest
When travelling between the countries we chose to get early trains (around half 8 in the morning) as it meant we had a but more of a day in the next place.  We did arrive at the stations pretty early before the train was due, but each station was clean and had places for us to pick up some breakfast/lunch for the train.  Luckily we managed the find seats on the first three trains without a reservation and had room for our suitcases.  We managed to get unreserved seats that were near the doors.  This may have been because we were travelling so early that meant that we could get unreserved seats, it might not have been the same if we travelled later.  In fact travelling from Vienna to Budapest was trickier, the train that we aimed to get (10 something as this was one of the earliest) only allowed people with reservations on (something they announced about 15minutes before the train arrived!) as all the seats had been booked along the journey and they wouldn't allow standing.  This meant that we had to wait 2 hours for the next train at 12.  We decided it would be best to reserve this train and I'm glad we did as again it was packed.  The reservation was only 3.50 Euros each so wasn't a huge unexpected pay out.  I think if it was around mid morning I would probably book reservations next time, although it may have just been that Vienna to Budapest is a popular route.

Overall I would really recommend InterRailing if you are keen to travel to a few places and I would highly recommend the cities we went to if you like history, culture and a night life.  The website is clear and informative and when we were away it was super easy and smooth to travel to where we needed too.  Maybe next time we will try a sleeper train!

Have you been to these countries or InterRailing?

Jen xx
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