[b][i][u]InterRailing on a Budget[/b][/i][/u]
[b][i]By Macca Sherifi[/b][/i]
InterRailing isn’t lazing on a beach in Thailand or travelling up the east coast of Australia. No. It is 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 to seeing mainland Europe.
You can have the ideal low budget holiday with an InterRail Pass. Picking the right place, the right time and looking for Europe holiday packages can make the difference between an expensive holiday and a cheap holiday. An InterRail pass gives you tonnes of discounts with accommodation, eating, sightseeing, shopping and transport, and a little research beforehand is going to save you a lot of money.
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.
* 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!)
* Travel days:
If you have limited travel days then sometimes it is cheaper to buy a train ticket to go a short distance than to have to use a travel day. It is best to only use travel days for longer distances or for multiple journeys. That way you’re getting the best value for your money.
* 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 on a budget then look into hiring a bike or walking around the city. Much cheaper and keeps you fit too!
* 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. 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.
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 is 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.
* 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. Just take a look…
* Student & youth cards:
Always carry a student card on you, even if it is 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).
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.
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.
[b][i][u]Eating and shopping[/b][/i][/u]
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.
Here’s an example railpass:
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.
* 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 is 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 is all classed as just one day’s travel! Boom! Now that’s savings…
If you have any further budget tips on InterRailing or travelling then we would love to hear them!!! Let the debate begin…
My advice for interailing, DONT go from city to city, and DONT try to see 30 places in 30 days.
You must be logged in to reply to this topic.