Like many students, this summer you’re planning to go interrailing. Your friends and family are all telling you different things; what to bring, where to visit and where to avoid. You’ve all heard the great stories people have had during their travels as well as the horror stories. Here I give the advice I wish I’d known before I went last summer.
Set a reasonable budget. I know that it seems best to take the minimum amount possible to ensure you don’t spend too much, but the best thing to do is take a little more than you think you’ll need. Whatever budget you calculate at home will always be nothing compared to your actual expenditure in reality. You don’t want the stress of calling home to ask for more money before a night out in Berlin.
Book hostels in advance for every city you visit. Lots of people do the spontaneous thing where they travel with no bookings and hope to find a hostel with a vacancy somewhere in the city. That’s pretty risky, especially during summer time when hostels are in highest demand. You don’t want to end up sleeping on a bench out in the cold, so book them at least a few weeks before you travel. Strangely, some people I spoke to actually enjoyed sleeping on the benches when they couldn’t find a hostel, but they were certainly in the minority.
Try to avoid going out to the nightclubs that the hostels promote and avoid bar crawls. It may seem like they are giving you a good deal, but the ‘free shots’ and ‘discounted entry fee’ are advertised for a reason. It’s either going to be scam once you’re in there or a terrible atmosphere. We made the mistake of booking a bath party in Budapest promoted by the hostel we stayed in and it was one of the worst night of the trip. We got a discounted entry fee so decided it was a good deal, only to then find out there was a tab limit of £16 and the baths were filled with unidentified fluids and floating condoms.
Search online for the best clubs and ask around before you make plans. It’s also a good idea to see where other groups in the hostel are going too. The bar crawls are also a rip off, on average costing you £10 for what you could do yourselves for free.