Your tickets are booked, your passport is packed, you’ve made certain you’ll be done with exams and have the time off work. Going interrailing during or after university is a great experience anyone can enjoy and benefit from, but there’s a right way to do it. Before you go rushing off down the first set of train tracks you see, be sure to check out our 8 rules for a great trip, and make sure to follow them, or risk your good times running off the rails.
Rule 1: Bring plenty of disposable income
Money never lasts, especially when you’re abroad with mates. Be sure to have planned the trip well enough in advance so you have time to fill your coffers with spending money. It’s no fun being out and having to worry about your bank balance when you’re trying to live your best holiday life.
Rule 2: What you eat is how you feel
Sure, a takeaway or cheap quick food sounds appealing, but you pay for it later with how your body and mind feel. Be sure to space out the unhealthy grub with something easy on your body. No fried food every night, maybe instead get a soup or salad. And be careful if you eat meat not to rely on it too much, as well as overly familiar brands. Sure, check out the McDonalds in Barcelona (they do whole chicken wings, crazy!), but also get some local cuisine. You’ll never find better!
Rule 3: Try and get some culture in between the partying
Unless it’s Ibiza, don’t tell me the local culture isn’t worth checking out. Wherever you end up, take some time to explore your surroundings and see at least one thing of local significance. It can be an art gallery, a monument, a market, even just a walk by a famous river. You’ll be kicking yourself on the ride home that you didn’t do it, so why miss out?
Rule 4: Always be sexually safe
Follow all the same rules you would when out in England. It doesn’t matter if it can be awkward or uncertain abroad, always make sure to use protection, look after your drinks and stay with at least one other person if you feel in any way unsafe. Remember, your safety and comfort is so much more important than a night out or a potentially fun memory.
Rule 5: Set aside some nights just for sleep
Call me a buzzkill, but sometimes you need to recharge in order to actually enjoy your evenings out. Set aside occasional nights that aren’t spent staying up until early next morning, where instead you can get a proper nights sleep. Trust me, your body will want it after 48 hours of straight partying, and it’ll put you in a better mood to enjoy it all over again. Tiredness leads to arguments, and arguments are the killer of all good moods and holidays.
Rule 6: Give yourself plenty of time to make connecting trains
If you think you can make a connecting train in 5 minutes, I’m telling you now, you can’t. Train delays, crowded stations and faulty machines will all conspire to slow you down for those crucial minutes, so allow yourself a lot of time to get to and from wherever it is you’re going. You can’t underestimate how stressful running through a Budapest train station with 2 minutes to go before the last train of the day leaves is, especially when you’re hungover and your friends are chasing after you still in their loud, clumsy heels from the night before.
Rule 7: If you fight with your friends, cool off and carry on
Sometimes you just need to say sorry, even if you think you shouldn’t. If it means ruining the whole trip and being awkward with the people you love, I’ll sacrifice stubbornness every time. It’s no fun walking up the Spanish Steps or punting Amsterdam’s canals if you’re all in a strop with each other. The best bet always is to split apart, take a break for a bit, and then get right back on it. If there’s deeper issues they can wait until you’re back home.
Rule 8: Check up on medical practice and laws between different countries
With Brexit going on, it’s important to check how the UK’s changing circumstances affects you depending on where you travel. If you have certain medical conditions or know you may need some specific treatment, be sure to check out whether the city you’ll be in can provide it. Perhaps more importantly, be sure to check out the laws of various countries, and don’t do what my friend did, which was accidentally take a bunch of (completely legally-bought) pot brownies from Amsterdam to Berlin. There can be some awkward questions from the police, and it’s best to think ahead to avoid those.
Interrailing isn’t for everyone, but if you get it right and enjoy it, you’ll be hard pressed to have a better summer (or winter, if you like). It’s a wide world, and you can’t see all of it but you’d best try whilst you’re young and free enough of responsibility. Run, go see it, and tell us how the view is.