Destinations Magazine

Interrail Europe Tips from a Female Solo Traveler

By Juanatravels
Interrail Europe tips from a female solo travelerAround this time last year, I was on the most exciting trip of my life!  Armed with everything  I've accumulated the past years or so which I had to fit into two humongous backpacks and a duffel bag, I was off to see more of Europe before flying back home!
I only had two weeks to roam around so I had a hard time deciding which countries and cities to include in my trip.    Aside from that, there had been times when I had cold feet, thinking about what-ifs and dangers of solo traveling and almost dropped the plan all together!   But I knew I had to do this!  I even practiced beforehand by going on weekend and long-weekend trips to other countries. (Will write about those interesting trips separately.)
So on one awesome summer, a Saturday morning, I went to the airport and flew out of Stavanger with everything I had and what little savings I managed to set aside, and embarked on a short trip around central Europe.  I don't want to cram my 2 weeks of fun in just a single post so this shall serve as a guide for those who are planning to do the same. :)
First off, my ITINERARY. It took a looong time to finally decide on where to go. I knew I wanted to go to Italy, but with my family, so Italy was definitely out. Besides, I feel like Italy's a country you'd want to see at a relaxed pace, so I thought I needed more than a month to see and enjoy the country.  Then there's Croatia.  Unfortunately, back in 2010, it wasn't included in the Shengen agreement so I'd have to apply for a separate visa for it.  Greece? Too far away.  Until I got to trim down my list and end up with this:
Interrail Europe tips from a female solo traveler
3D/2N - Krakow, Poland (plus a day trip to Auschwitz-Birkenau)
1N       - overnight train to Budapest
1D/1N - Budapest, Hungary
1D       - Bratislava, Slovakia
2D/2N - Vienna, Austria
2D/1N - Prague, Czech Republic
2D/1N - Berlin, Germany
1N       - overnight train to Munich
3D/2N - Munich, Germany (plus a day trip to Füssen to see Neuschwanstein castle)
It was a VERY short trip.  I felt like I was always on the go, but what do you do when you only had 2 weeks and you want to see as much as you can right?  There had also been times when I didn't feel safe... an instance when I thought I lost all my things, etc.  It was one crazy, but definitely fun and exciting trip!  If I could list down some travel TIPS I could share with anyone, especially to girls who would like to try solo budget traveling, they'd include, in no particular order:
Interrail Europe tips from a female solo traveler - pack light1. PACK LIGHT.  And I mean it!  I barely survived having to drag my 2years worth of stuff from one train to another train. I could barely walk! Plus stowing away my stuff in the overhead compartment was a major pain!  I did get to ship out some of my things (roughly a kilo or so) when I got to Poland which kind of helped but as much as possible, try to fit everything you need for your trip in a 40L backpack.  I met a guy who backpacked with just a 20L pack for over a month!  AND he even had a DSLR camera with him!  How cool is that!
2. PLAN AHEAD.  It'll be cheaper and easier when you're out there unless you're the very spontaneous time and you have a LOT of time in your hands.  I started working on my route roughly 3-4 months before the trip.  I borrowed quite a number of travel books from the public library which helped me a lot with my research on which places to see and how to get to them, planning my budget, etc.  The internet has lots of travel resources as well.  If you're interested to know, my favorite's wikitravel.org :)  I also bought my ticket to Krakow, two months before I left and I think I got it for under 1000 Kr. I also bought my Interrail ticket (275 Euros) a month before I left. It's cheaper than a Eurail ticket but I think it would have turned out cheaper if I just bought train tickets from the local train companies waaay ahead of time.  It just so happens that I don't have a credit card, hence no means for me to do so.
3. Deciding on your ROUTE.  If you've decided that you're taking mostly a train to get around Europe but can't figure out which route to take, the following online resources will be of great help.

4. SLEEP. The only time when looking for accommodation becomes an issue is when you're on a tight budget.  While on this trip, I stayed at hostels and crashed couches.  :)  In Germany, Wombats one of the nicest and hippest place I've found and stayed at.  I also surfed couches I found through couchsurfing.com. But it's not that simple to find hosts you know... I had been joining local activities in Stavanger and have accumulated a number of references before I even tried looking for hosts. Also, since I'm a female solo traveler, I also try to limit potential hosts to fellow females or families since that makes me feel a lot safer.  I also took night trains so I got to sleep while on the road.
5. STAYING SAFE.  I ALMOST changed my IT after reading through scary train stories on online forums especially on trains plying eastern European countries (Poland, Hungary, etc) at night.  Just be positive and extra careful and things will turn out fine.  Be mindful of your stuff especially when on night trains.  Since I didn't have any credit card, my only option was to carry all my spending money with me.  I divided what I had and kept them in separate bags.  I'm not so sure if this'll work for everyone but it worked for me.   Also, try not to look like you're lost when walking around new places.  I do ask directions from locals but I try to list down directions, bus routes, etc. before going out.  And be wary of pickpockets! They're everywhere, not just in Recto :P  You'd also find them in Europe, especially during tourist season/summer months.


additional TIPS:
1. Don't forget your train reservations! Night trains and some other train routes REQUIRE seat reservations.  So before even leaving the train station, try to check whether or not your next train ride requires one, and if it does, arrange your reservations right away.  Try to do this as early as you can especially in the summer when most trains are packed!
2. Lockers!  They saved my life!  :)  You'd find rows of lockers in major train stations but they require coins to operate so make sure you have enough coins with you (in the city's local currency of course) before you even try stowing your stuff away.
3. FREE walking tours!!!! Take advantage of free walking tours!  Almost every major city has one. :)  You get to see the city, meet new friends and only spend for your tour guide's tips!  Sandeman's New Europe's got the biggest coverage but there are other groups that operate free tours in major sights/cities.  Just look for the guys in red! :)
4. Always have your passport with you where ever you go. I cannot stress this enough.
5.  It's always cheaper to have your money exchanged in town than in train stations but if you can't wait, exchange only enough money you need (say for locker rentals, food, bus ride to town) for the time being.
6. Grocery shopping will save you on food.  More than having sausages or kebabs bought from street vendors, I still think buying your food from grocery stores is still the cheapest option there is.  Plus, they're healthier too!
7.  Get a metro pass in the city you're staying when available.  Most major cities has them.
8. If you have time and a little bit money to spare, ask a local for nice places to see and dine out. :)
9.  Always bring and wear comfy shoes!
10. Try to travel off-season.  This will ensure that you won't have to elbow your way through thick crowds and  you'd be able to save on discounts on accommodation and entrance fees as well although summer's still the best time to go for me because of the nice weather and the general happy atmosphere all around.
That's about it for now but I will, however, add more to the list if I remember something new.  I hope you find this post helpful!
Watch out for succeeding posts on the countries I went to. :)
Happy planning!COPYRIGHT © 2011 JuanaTravels.

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