You have your flights and trains booked. Your Air BnBs and hostels are paid for. Your suitcase, crammed with shorts and t-shirts, is ready to go. What else do you need to know before you go interrailing? Here are some tips from someone who just got back from two weeks travelling across central and eastern Europe.
1. Splitting bills and table service: Most restaurants and bars in Europe are table service and do not split bills, so be prepared for one person to fork out for the cost of dinner and drinks, and for the rest to pay them back. If you all have online mobile banking, it is easy to transfer money between accounts as long as you have an IBAN. With a lot of banks, it takes less than a day for the money to come through. Table service is the norm in Europe, even in a lot of pubs and bars. This can make the service rather slow in comparison to Irish standards so be prepared to wait for that pint of Radler! A lot of countries also expect a 10-15% “service charge” as a sort of tip, which usually isn’t included in the price of food, so make note of this when calculating the total bill.
2. Weather: bring a raincoat with you. While this may seem counter-intuitive as European weather is usually quite hot in the summer, they can experience rain showers and even thunderstorms. Bring jeans as well in case of cooler temperatures, or in the likely event you’ve bad sunburn on your legs.
3. Paying for toilets: Toilets are not free to use in Europe, even in train stations. It is usually around €1 or equivalent to pass through the turnstile, and don’t try to squeeze through for free- the bathroom attendant I encountered in Krakow had no problem shouting very loudly at an elderly French lady trying to sneak in without paying. Have small change on you for occasions like these, or better yet, use the toilets on the train, although they are a bit horrifying.
4. Comfortable shoes and blister patches: You will more than likely be doing a lot of walking while interrailing, unless you have a lot of disposable income for taxis. Make sure to bring a pair of good, comfortable runners with you. Sandals will leave blisters on your feet- I learned the hard way. Also, buy a bucketload of Compeed blister patches. These work wonders on sore feet and will allow you to keep walking and enjoying the sights.
5. Free walking tours: Do not pay for a hop on hop off bus tour in any of the cities you visit, bar Budapest as the Citadella, Liberty Statue and Fisherman’s Bastion are up on a very high hill and you will need a bus to reach them. There are multiple tour guide companies who offer “free” walking tours of the main part and Jewish quarters of European cities. You tip the guide what you feel the tour was worth at the end. I have enjoyed all of the walking tours I was on and I also felt it was worth going on the paid tours, which you can sign up to with a discount if you ask your free guide. Bear in mind these tours are roughly three hours of walking so if you are tired/hungover, perhaps avoid until you are fully able to enjoy the sights and take in everything.
6. Washing machines/travel detergent: During the summer months, it’s generally very hot in Europe, and Irish people are not built for temperatures above 20 degrees. Bring plenty of shorts and t-shirts with you and wash them frequently. Most hostels and Air BnBs have washing machines, so buy some detergent in a supermarket at the start of your interrailing trip. You can also buy travel detergent from Boots before you head off. This comes in a tube and it is for handwashing garments in a sink while on the go, very convenient if you are staying somewhere with no washing machine.