Interailing in Europe

Is amazing! It’s one of the best traveling experiences I have had. And I would say that’s in no small part due to my wonderful traveling companion; my friend May. I’m not saying there weren’t stressful times and a few tears (normal for a long intense trip?), but she is an amazing person and great fun to travel with. So first and foremost, if you are thinking about going traveling for a month or more, think about who you are going with – do you know them well? Have you been in a stressful situation with them before? Because if you don’t know at the start, you will by the end.

I think maybe this photo is too foreboding for this subject, because all together, it was a brilliant experience, and I would recommend it to anyone, of any age. As long as you are prepared to stay in hostels, and meet lots of new people, you will have a great time.

There are however some really important safety tips I have about this, which I would have found useful on my trip. Firstly, carry a bag or backpack with strong straps. When I was in Barcelona, the second big city on our trip, I had my bag stolen. We were walking back to our apartment after a few vinos and I had a small shoulder bag across my shoulders. I suddenly noticed that I couldn’t feel the weight of the bag on my shoulder anymore, and I turned round to see a short man clutching it. As I turned round, he yanked the bag down hard which broke the flimsy strap, and ran off quicker than Usain Bolt! Two locals were walking behind us, and they ran off after him – I was in shock but I quickly followed. We chased after him until he ran down a small alley where there were many suspect men standing in the way, and I stopped – it wasn’t worth chasing any further. I was extremely lucky, because the bag only contained a few euros and some make up, and my bank card – my phone and other money / possessions were in my pocket, and my passport was in our apartment. It gave me some recompense to imagine how disappointed my mugger would be! After the whole event, I went and bought a bag with a really strong strap, and generally tried to be a bit more aware of my surroundings. If you re travelling alone though or have any concerns about keeping your stuff safe, buy a money belt you can wear under your clothes, and keep important stuff in that. Also bringing a lock for hostel lockers is a must.

Second, planning will make your trip. You don’t have to plan every day, and even if you do I doubt you’ll stick to the plan for the whole trip – you never know where you’re going to be having so much fun that you want to stay a couple more days. But having an idea of some places to stay in each place you plan to visit, and things you want to see, is really helpful. I went traveling around Europe before smart phones, so I guess this tip is slightly redundant now, but even getting some recommendations from friends is helpful – so is knowing if you need to prepare any visa documentation / vaccinations / paperwork before you go. One major planning mistake we made, was not knowing how we were going to get from the UK to France! We assumed our interrail pass could take us on the train to Dover or on the Eurostar. But no – we had to make our own way to France, which at late notice meant getting a ride down to Dover and jumping on a ferry, where our difficulties did not end.We had not arranged transport from Calais port to Calais town with a train station, and it’s quite a long way! It was night time, but we just had to hike –  we got to the town at about 1/2am I think and then hung out in a cafe for a while, and when it shut, waited in the cold outside the train station – not the best start to our adventure, but lessons learned and it was an experience I’ll never forget. I would recommend catching a flight to your intended starting location, it’s probably the cheapest, easiest way to get there (unless you want a wilder adventure with more night time hiking :))

These are the best tips I can think of for now really – everyone is different so the things you will want to go see will be different to me. Although some of the things that stood out for me were the Picasso museum in Barcelona, the Belvedere gallery in Vienna, and the party scene in Berlin (it’s crazy).

Are you planning a trip? Where are you going to go? Do you have any tips for travelling?

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