InterRailing on a Budget
Advice and information on how to save money while InterRailing
InterRailing isn't lazing on a beach in Thailand or travelling up the east coast of Australia. No. It's so much more than that... travelling from city to city, country to country, is a truly amazing experience, and InterRailing is one of the best methods of seeing mainland Europe.
You can have the ideal low budget holiday with an InterRail pass. Picking the right place at the right time can make the difference between an expensive holiday and a cheap holiday. An InterRail pass gives you tons of discounts with accommodation, eating, sightseeing, shopping and transport, and a little research beforehand is going to save you a lot of money, so that's why we thought we give you an article on InterRailing on a budget.
Avoid train reservations and supplements - Although most high-speed trains require reservations and / or supplements, it's often possible to avoid paying these supplements when you research alternative routes. This means that you'll use domestic trains, which are slower, but it normally means also that your travel is free from those extra costs. A bonus though, if you take a night train, you do have to pay a supplement (boo), but you save on accommodation cost (yah!)
Local transport - Big cities often have various train stations, so you can use your InterRail Pass to go from one part of the city to another by train. In bigger German cities, your InterRail Pass is also valid on the S-Bahn (but not on the U-Bahn).
Local transport is a cheap method to get round a city. If you're really InterRailing on a budget then look into hiring a bike or walking around the city. It's much cheaper and it keeps you fit too!
Research - Choose your holiday spots wisely. Lazing on a beach in Spain is going to be a lot more expensive than lazing on a beach in Croatia. A lot of places are 'up and coming', and are therefore cheaper, like Lichtenstein and Poland. In general northern Europe is the most expensive and eastern Europe the cheapest.
Try to avoid the 'busy season'. In Europe this is July and August, with one month either side also being popular. A trip in late September or October is much cheaper, and you still catch some of that summer sun. Many hotels and campgrounds reduce their prices up to as much as 80% after the summer holidays.
Travel days - If you have limited travel days then sometimes it's cheaper to buy a train ticket to go a short distance than to have to use a travel day. It's best to only use travel days for longer distances or for multiple journeys. That way you're getting the best value for your money and makes InterRailing on a budget possible.
Camping - It does mean lugging a tent around but camping is exceedingly cheap, and in a lot of places free. You have to be a certain type of traveller to camp through Europe...
Couch Surfing - Again, you have to be a certain type of traveller, but it doesn't get much cheaper than free! Couch Surfing is a relatively new phenomenon - it's a social network for travellers who want to promote international understanding and cultural exchange for a bed. People from around the world are willing to share their homes with fellow travellers for free. Some of the most popular networks are CouchSurfing International, Global Freeloaders and SERVAS.
Hotels and hostels - Hostels are cheaper than hotels, especially when you don't insist on having a private room. Dorm rooms are by far the cheapest option and not only does it mean you can InterRail on a budget but you'll make life-long friends too! Failing that, try to book mid-week. You can usually snaffle up a bargain.
Advance online booking through gapyear.com to Hostel Bookers gives you a further 10% discount, so use that!
Museums - In some cities you can visit (national) museums for free, like in London. In other places museums offer free admission once a week, like in Copenhagen. Museums are always a good sightseeing activity as they represent their country, and are therefore usually cheap.
Student and youth cards - Always carry a student card on you, even if it's an old college card. They come in hand from time to time and you will kick yourself if you don't have one on you. There are several student or youth cards with interesting discounts on museums, zoos and other sights. The best known student cards are ISE and ISIC. Non-students under 26 can apply for the Euro<26 card or the International Youth Travel Card (IYTC).
Tourist cards - Most cities have special tourist cards with discounts on museums, restaurants and public transportation. For instance, the Krakow Tourist Card grants tourist free museum access, and bus usage. These cards can be found at local tourist information centres and help when InterRailing on a budget.
Walking - If money is super tight then walking around a city can be just as much fun as paying for it. You get to see the different types of architecture, and if you have a guide book on you, then you will learn all about the local history too. Many guide books now have 'walking tours' for you to follow.
Eating and Shopping
You can save a lot of money by not eating out for every meal. A lot of hostels will give you breakfast of egg and toast, which gives you lunch and dinner to sort out. A packed lunch from local supermarkets is a cheap option. Local parks are a good place to have a picnic because they are beautiful and a good spot to meet locals. For example, there is a park opposite 'Lake Bled' in Slovenia which is a lovely little spot for a picnic.
Tourist areas are full of restaurants calling out for more customers but by walking just a few extra streets further, you can find nice quiet restaurants with lower prices. You can also consider having your main meal during lunchtime, when menus are usually cheaper.
College or university towns have to cater for the local students, and they always have lower prices. Ask around and see if there are any student deals.
You can take your first trip with InterRail anytime after 00.00 hours on the first day that your Pass is valid. You must finish your last trip by midnight (24.00 hours) on the last day of validity.
Making seat reservations - Not included in your pass are reservations fees. Reservations are usually required for high-speed, international and night trains. Seats on such trains can be in high demand, especially to popular destinations such as Italy, France and Spain, and during the July and August high seasons.
Be very careful filling in the date. If you make a mistake you cannot correct it, as this could be interpreted as fraud. If you make a mistake you will have to enter the correct date in the next travel day box and consequently lose a travel day.
The 7 pm rule - A travel day normally lasts from midnight to midnight. If your train departs before 19.00h, you need to use two travel days (fill in the day of departure in one set of boxes and the day of arrival in the next).
However, there's a cheeky trick called the '7pm rule'. If your train departs after 19:00 then it's considered the next day's travel. This means you can get a train after 19:00, arrive early in the morning at your destination, have the whole morning and afternoon there, catch your next train to another city, arrive in the evening, and it's all classed as just one day's travel! Boom! Now that's savings...
So that's how you go InterRailing on a budget. Not only is a possible to InterRail on a budget but it's really fun too, so buy your ticket, take these hints and tips and go and experience it.
About the Author: Macca Sherifi
Macca is gapyear.com's travel editor and writes on a myriad of topics, giving the best travel advice in an easy-to-read style that he would describe as 'cutesy'. His two passions are travelling and writing, which is lucky, because he's a travel writer. Macca travelled for 20 months non-stop, never settling in one place for more than a week or two, living to travel and travelling to live. In his spare time, he reads about travelling, thinks about travelling, and then travels. If that fails he still harbours hopes of being a professional rugby player...
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