I love to travel, it’s a huge passion of mine and if I had the money I would travel all around the world. I had the privilege of travelling around a few different cities across Europe with my best friend Emily back in 2015. This post may be a bit long, but it may also help you if you plan to go travelling anytime soon! I’m taking you on a journey to the places we visited and we’ll be having a look at how we managed our money and what we did!
Here is my guide to inter-railing on a budget (it’s a long post, I’m sorry)
This is a particularly important thing when travelling to set places. If you’re going backpacking around the world then this is less important, but because we had a schedule to stick to, planning was our best friend. Here is an idea of what to do:
- We bought a 15 day inter-rail Global pass from interrail.eu. This pass allows you train access between 30 different countries in Europe and the pass is activated when you travel on a train between a non-home country to the next. Therefore, we booked flights to our first location and from our final location so that we could extend our trip to around 21 days, by staying longer in the first and last destination (this is harder to explain than I thought it would be)
- **WARNING** some trains in different countries in Europe require seat reservations in order for you to get on. These are additional costs that are not included in the inter-rail pass cost. We weren’t aware of this and ended up with £200 worth of extra costs.
- The inter-rail package arrived all packed with a map, the pass and a form for you to fill in on every train you get on. Using the map, we planned out our journey.
- Make sure to note the times it takes to travel between countries because you don’t want to miss out on a day in a country because you forgot that it’s a 7hr train to the next. A lot of journeys offer overnight trains which are handy in order to make the most of your time in each place.
- Make sure to do some research into the countries you want to visit. Western-European countries tend to be more expensive than Eastern-European countries, however, prices will vary from place to place.
- numbeo.com allows you to enter a city of your choice and provides you with general costs in that city to give you an idea as to how much you’ll be spending. It gives you estimates on food and drink prices, transportation, accommodation and more.
- Once you figure out where you’d like to visit, try and make a budget for each country for you to stick to. This doesn’t have to be specific, but more of a rough estimate. I kept a notes page on my phone as we went to each different country and wrote down an estimate of what I spent so I could keep up with my budgeting.
- Look into which activities you really want to do that may cost you extra. I suggest you budget for things such as boat tours or museum visits into your plan. Again, I kept all this information on a notes page or a book so I knew what we planned on doing.
- When you know where you want to go, plan your order. By looking at the different times it takes to get from country to country, you can plan out the easiest route to take.
It’s important not to over pack when going inter-railing, because you have to lug your bag around with you on trains, and whilst getting to your accommodation in each country. I would highly recommend taking a backpack as its easier to shove into small spaces on a train as well as being easier to carry around. Do not pack unnecessary things and remember that you will have access to washing facilities so you can re-use your clothes (it’s also easy enough to hand wash some stuff such as underwear). Here’s what I packed:
- 10 pairs approx. of underwear (they can be folded and shoved into tiny spaces so lots of underwear isn’t a problem).
- A couple of tops
- Pair of flip-flops (they can be folded or easily fit in the side of the bag)
- Pair of flat shoes
- Pair of shoes for walking
- Minimal make-up (I hardly wore it on the trip so it probably wasn’t necessary)
- Travel toiletries
- Microtowel – fits into your pocket and dries about 10x faster than a normal towel
- Money, passport and important travel and accommodation documents
- Lock (almost all hostels provide lockers for you to put your bags in, you have to bring your own lock or pay for one at reception)
The best places to stay when travelling on a budget are hostels. We booked all of our hostels on http://www.hostelworld.com. You can also stay in other people’s homes using www.Airbnb.com. Both websites have apps that you can use on your travels so you can keep up with your bookings on the go. Hostels can be as cheap as £5/6 a night, but the average we paid was around £14 a night (still probably 3/4 of the price of a hotel). Look into reviews of different hostels in the places you’re visiting. Our main concern was safety, so we looked into places with the highest reviews for safety. Hostels are better than hotels in many ways, as they only tend to have 1 or 2 social areas it allows you to meet new people and interact so easily. Throw yourself in and learn about other people’s experiences.
Food and Drink:
It’s all great when you’re dining in a restaurant for breakfast, lunch and dinner on holiday, but this is unrealistic when travelling on a budget. Although some restaurants can be cheap, you’re better off budgeting yourself to having only a couple of restaurant meals. The great thing about hostels is that they have public kitchens for you to use. The majority of the food we had involved going to the supermarket and picking up ingredients and then cooking at the hostel. This is a great way to save money and get to know more people. Make sure to stay hydrated when travelling around the cities so be sure to carry a water bottle or two around with you. If you’re a drinker, look online to find out what the cheapest drinks are in that country (it tends to be beer or wine).
Stop 1: Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Accommodation – The Iron Horse Hotel. This is the only hotel we stayed in on our trip as we were late to booking accommodation and so many hostels were booked up. It was also a similar price to what the available hostels were charging. Great hotel with a good location (almost everywhere in Amsterdam is walking distance).
Activities – there is so much to do in Amsterdam and we tried to do as much of it as possible. We paid a visit to the sex museum, took a boat tour along the canals and went to visit the red light district. However, the best part for me was the parks. We hired bikes and picked up things for a picnic in the local supermarket. We then rode to Vondelpark and spent hours just riding round, exploring, eating and sunbathing (it was quite warm when we went). Another special moment was visiting the Anne Frank museum. If you haven’t seen it, you need to. It was such an eye-opening experience. One of those things you only do once but are so much better for it (be sure to get there at a good time because the queues are loooong). Go for a walk in the evening, when the city comes to life with lights. The canals are lit up and the neon lights shine through, a sight to see. I went back to Amsterdam recently with my oldest friend Sam and got to experience the amazing city all over again. 100% recommend.
*p.s – there is the best burger place ever in Amsterdam called Burgerlijk, I went back again when I went with Sam and I 100% recommend going there.
Stop 2: Berlin, Germany.
We weren’t the biggest fans of Berlin. I’m not sure if it was because it was raining 90% of the time or because we arrived there at 4am and had to wait outside for 3 hours before any buses ran.
Accommodation – The Cat’s Pyjama’s Hostel. Great hostel, breakfast was included and the staff were good.
Activities – My favourite part of the trip was doing a free walking tour around the city. We did a street art walking tour and it was incredible. The different artists making their marks on different parts of the city and even stories of how Banksy’s art was sawed out of a brick wall when it once appeared in the city. Apart from visiting the centre and the main tourist attractions of the city, we had a peaceful time here and spent our evenings in cute bars we found near our hostel.
Stop 3: Warsaw, Poland.
Poland is one of the most budget-friendly countries we’ve ever been to. Everything was so cheap and the city was beautiful.
Accommodation – Warsaw Downtown hostel. Again, a lovely hostel with great staff.
Activities – we went on a normal free city walking tour here and our favourite part was visiting the old town. The houses resemble those in Amsterdam and the town is flooded with locals selling their work/produce in markets. Warsaw was more of a stopover on the way to Krakow, but we had a great time regardless.
Stop 4: Krakow, Poland.
This was one of our favourite stops and we met the nicest people at our hostel.
Accommodation – Mundo Hostel. They made us pancakes on arrival (best welcome ever) and the people were lovely.
Activities – we had two main activities planned when coming here. Firstly, was the Wieliczka Salt Mines. We descended down 350 stairs and made our way through the mines where you could literally lick the walls as they were pure salt. There were some beautiful views and rooms. Secondly was visiting Auschwitz. It was important to the both of us that we went and I’m definitely glad we did. One of the saddest but most incredible days. It was such an eye-opener to see physical evidence of the traumatic events that went on and to be able to pay our respects to all those lost during those awful times.
Stop 5: Vienna, Austria.
Austria is not a very budget friendly country. We found ourselves paying more for everything here than anywhere else on our travels. However, the city is stunning and the views on the train alone travelling into the country are enough to sell it to you.
Accommodation – Wombats City Hostel. Great hostel, amazing location right next to a big market and you get a coupon for a free drink on arrival. Win win.
Activities – We didn’t do much in Vienna except wander round the city. We didn’t want to spend a lot of money here because we knew everything was more expensive. So we spent the majority of our time on walks taking in the views.
Stop 6: Salzburg, Austria.
The views in this city are incredible and be prepared to do a lot of walking because there’s a lot to do.
Accommodation: Summer Hostel. Another great hostel.
Activities: the main reason we went to Salzburg was to explore the grounds of the location in which the Sound of Music was filmed. Emily was fan girling so hard and so was everyone else. And so they should be. The location is beautiful and there are so many gardens to explore.
Stop 7: Bled, Slovenia.
Probably one of the best destinations I have ever been to. Perfect for a mini break during the summer.
Accommodation: Ace of Spades Hostel. Great accommodation, amazing location and the staff organise free trips to the gorges and view point for you!
Activities: Bled is a pretty small town so there’s not an awful lot to do, but that’s the point. At the centre is Lake Bled. It’s an incredible lake with a church right in the centre with mountain views in the background. We were lucky enough to visit when it was warm and we got to swim in the lake. Some parts are off limits but there are loads of areas which you are allowed to swim in. You can hire paddle boats and kayaks to use on the lake and to get to the centre (or you could swim, it’s not too far). The hostel organised trips to the viewpoint which we didn’t do because we wanted to swim, but we did go to the gorges which I recommend doing. This is definitely a place of relaxation.
Stop 8: Budapest, Hungary.
This was probably my favourite destination of the whole trip and was definitely the most fun.
Accommodation: Hive Party Hostel. Amazing hostel and great location.
Activities: one of the great things about the hostel is that it has a bar downstairs with seating areas and live bands play at night. This is the perfect way to start off your evening. Something I highly recommend doing is visiting the ruin bars that are dotted around. The streets are crawling with hidden bars and artwork and street food stalls. Also, cocktails come to about £2.50 each (this was a massive bonus for us). We also had the most amazing chicken with brie that we went back the next night to get again. So cheap and so much to do. I also highly recommend going to the baths, it’s a great way to spend your day, and if you stay there over a weekend there’s a party there every Saturday!
Stop 9: Zagreb, Croatia.
Croatia is one of the best places to go to relax and enjoy the sun, which is why we ended our trip here.
Accommodation: Hostel Chic
Activities: We weren’t in Zagreb for very long so we didn’t have much time to explore. However, the main reason we went was to visit Plitvice lakes. If you like walking, adventures and waterfalls then this is the perfect place for you. The views were incredible and it was a great addition to our trip.
Stop 10: Split, Croatia.
This was our final destination and our aim after lugging around huge backpacks for weeks was to wind down and relax and that’s exactly what we did.
Accommodation: Lavanda Apartment. This was a lady’s home which we rented out the room off. She was incredibly nice and offered us any help with getting around.
Activities: beaches, beaches, beaches. This is the perfect location to spend hours on the beach and in the sea. The prices weren’t the cheapest we had seen but they weren’t as expensive as Austria. However, we did manage to splash out one last excursion. We did the most amazing cave boat day out. We went on a boat in the morning and they took us to all the nearby blue caves and secret beaches. It would have been the best day of the entire trip if I hadn’t spent the majority of it throwing up (sea sickness) and if Emily hadn’t nearly drowned. Long story short we weren’t supposed to go into a cave because the water was too high for the boat to get in and you’re not technically allowed to go swimming in there BUT the leader said if we were strong swimmers (because the current was strong) we could go in. It was the most incredible view once inside but probably wasn’t worth the near death of a friend.
Places I would visit again from my trip: Poland, Slovenia, Budapest, Amsterdam and Croatia.
Don’t be afraid to get out there and explore. If Emily and I could survive 6 hours on a Poland station floor at 3 o clock in the morning, then you can too.