For anyone looking for an alternative holiday this summer I would strongly advise on giving Inter-railing a go. Personally I didn’t have a clue what inter-railing was until my brother went five years ago with four of his mates. The photos and experiences he shared instantly made me want to give inter-railing a go.
Ever since then the idea of going inter-railing was regularly talked about within my friend groups but it wasn’t until this year that something materialised when me and two other friends from Omagh decided to set off on the 2 week long journey.
Choosing your ticket
When planning your trip there are a couple of different ticket options you can choose from, Deciding on your ticket really depends on your own personal preferences and circumstances, we however went for the cheapest ticket which allowed us to travel to 5 different countries in the space of 15 days which was perfect for us. With our ticket we were restricted to travelling on only 5 single days within the 15 day period, other tickets allow you to travel on 7 or 10 days with the most expensive ticket allowing you to travel continually for 1 whole month. Ticket prices can be found here.
Planning your itinerary
Personally one of the main spots I wanted to visit was Lake Bled, Slovenia ( which I for one can say is one of the most picturesque places I have ever visited, absolutely breath-taking scenes) while my mates wanted to visit Berlin and Krakow.
Prior to our departure we really did little to no planning or organising other than ordering our inter-rail ticket and booking our flights to our start location. I know some people prefer to be a little more organised than we were, but we were three laid back, easy going lads to say the least (we pretty much winged the whole thing tbh).
On the contrary we met people that had their whole 2-4 weeks planned out ahead of themselves with train reservations, hostels, nightclubs, pub crawls and tours booked two months in advance. This organised and planned approach didn’t really appeal to any of us so we just booked our hostel and any other reservations for the next location the day before we arrived.
Our starting location was Venice, Italy. The reason for this was simple, it was the cheapest flight we could get in and around central Europe.
Venice was a really nice spot, although very expensive we were lucky enough to get booked into a cheap hostel chain (Generator Hostels – which I would highly recommend) where we spent most our time sampling some of Italy’s famous Aperol Spritz’ for only €2.
On our first night out in Venice we met two brothers from Canada who coincidentally were staying in the same hostel as us and who we actually got to know pretty well (thanks to a bottle of vodka and a drinking game) but I will talk about these guys later.
After our two night stay in Venice, it was time to move on to location No.2 : Lake Bled. I’m sure most of you have seen or at least heard of Lake Bled and I am nearly certain that most if not all reports about this place were astonishing, and rightly so. Slovenia was one of the cheapest destinations on our trip with our hostel costing a mere €7 each.
From Lake Bled it was then off to Budapest, one of Europe’s most popular party hotspots. One of the best and worst part of Budapest was our hostel, which was located just above a bar which played live music up until 5am. A key highlight of the trip was when we visited the famous Budapest ‘Sparty’ (a must) which was a huge spa party in the Szechenyi thermal baths. This is where we bumped into our Canadian friends we had met in Venice. I always thought it was so weird that out of 192 countries in the world, 50,000 odd cities and 7.5 billion people, we met the same people twice, in two different countries… what are the chances?
After Budapest we travelled further east towards Krakow, Poland. Unfortunately, it rained for most of our stay there so we didn’t get out to see much. We did however get the chance to join the hostels pub crawl which is something I would highly recommend if you are travelling by yourself as it is a great way of meeting new and interesting people and also gives the chance to visit a variety of the city’s local ‘watering holes’.
Now it was time to make our way west in the direction of Berlin, this was our longest train journey of the whole trip which required a mammoth 10-hour commute. Some people are daunted by the long commuting hours involved with inter-railing but when you’re with your friends and in the right company the hours can really fly by.
Berlin is one of the most complete city’s you probably will ever visit in my opinion, the mixture between culture, nightlife and tourist attractions is magnificent and offers you plenty to do over your 2-3 days.
Berlin nightclubs are known for being the best in the world, So obviously we had to try them out. Before entering one of the clubs we were informed by the abnormally strict bouncers that cameras were prohibited inside and that we had to put a sticker over the cameras lens on our phone, this threw us a little and we really didn’t know what to expect when we got in but I can honestly say that it was one of the best nights out I have ever had, the best of it was the place didn’t close until 8am!
This meant that we could step out of the nightclub at 7am, grab our bags at the hostel and make our way to the train station for or final train journey to Amsterdam at 9am, fresh. as. a. daisy.
Upon arrival to Amsterdam Central station, this concluded our inter-railing journey. Following 2 weeks of hectic travelling and partying, our energy along with our funds were quite depleted so we used the remaining two days to just chill out and reminisce on our eventful inter-railing experience.
James McGirr is a final year BSc Public Relations & Communication Management student at Ulster University. He can be found on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/james-mcgirr-247328143/