At this point in the term, with readings piling up and assessment deadlines looming, the Ryanair page has become a frequently visited tab on many of our homepages. For those of us fortunate enough to have the time and savings to spend on a week in the sun, the opportunities are endless. Ireland’s close proximity to mainland Europe means that everything is within our reach. Do you fancy a week of lazing along the French Riviera or perhaps soaking up the sun on some of the Greek islands nestled in the crystal-blue Ionian Sea? What if I told you to close that Ryanair tab, as you could do these trips, on a budget, while simultaneously sparing the environment? In this article, I will introduce you to the world of interrailing as someone who spent one-month last summer living the European backpacker life.
Since March 1972, hundreds of thousands of Interrail tickets have been sold each year, adding up to more than 10 million in total. Due to its affordability and accessibility, interrailing has become more popular than ever. It is an extremely sustainable way of travelling too. According to European Data and Journalism.eu, the journey from Paris to London on a plane emits a staggering 122kg of carbon dioxide compared to only 13.6kg via train. The most popular kind of interrail pass purchased on the official interrail.eu website is the 7-day global pass — as of writing this article, the 7 days within 1 month is €237. This means you can have 7 separate travel days in any European country included as part of this pass. Therefore, you’re not only saving money by travelling via trains but you are also helping the environment. According to the 2020 Transport and Environment report published by the European Environment Agency, shifting to trains will contribute to decreasing greenhouse gas emissions by 90% by 2050, a goal set by The European Green Deal.
“This holiday isn’t your typical holiday so why stick to the typical destinations?”
By purchasing a global pass, you are able to travel to and within up to 30 European Countries in one trip. Interrailing gives you the opportunity to explore popular cities and tourist destinations with efficient rail links throughout the continent. It also gives you the opportunity to explore places off the beaten track. I highly encourage you to take this on board and travel to places that would otherwise be difficult to get to directly from Ireland. Slovenia is a firm favourite, consisting of backpacker-adored Lake Bled and the picturesque capital city of Ljubljana. Another option is to travel down the Adriatic coast to Kotor in Montenegro or further inland to Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina. This holiday isn’t your typical holiday so why stick to the typical destinations? On my own trip, I started in Naples and travelled up the Italian coast into Central and Eastern Europe, exploring Europe’s most vibrant cities from Berlin and Vienna to Prague and Budapest, before journeying down the adjacent coast to arrive in Split, Croatia. An important aspect that interrailing allows is the opportunity to mix it up. You can combine the city break holiday with the coastal sun holiday in one trip.
However, our means of travel is not the only factor here. How does one afford accommodation around Europe on a student-constrained budget? I have one word to answer that question: hostels. Hostels will be your new best friend. If you’re travelling with a small group or alone, this is your best option. Get yourself a bed in an 8-bed dorm, all you need is somewhere to put your head down at night after your long days of excursions and travelling. Hostels have become a safe and popular option for young people. One can opt for female-only dorms or if you prefer an extra bit of privacy, there are usually options for 4-bed dorms and private rooms. Hostel prices vary by month and the type of hostel you choose. For example, the Yellow Square Hostel in Florence consists of a rooftop pool (yes you did just read that right, a hostel that has a pool!), a nightclub and their own cooking classes. A bed in a dorm here starts from around €45 a night in August but if you opt for a more basic hostel, it will save you around €20 a night during this peak season of travel.
“Conversing with someone who is either your age or twenty years older, from a different culture and community but who you can still find common ground with is extremely refreshing.”
One of the most enjoyable aspects of the experience is meeting other people from different countries who are having the same experience as you. Conversing with someone who is either your age or twenty years older, from a different culture and community but who you can still find common ground with is extremely refreshing. Memories are made on trips out together but also from giving travel advice in the hostel bar about where to see and avoid, and sharing cooking tips in the hostel kitchen (when budgeting hits an all-time low). It shows that no matter the frontal barriers, we are all connected underneath it all. That makes interrailing an invaluable experience.
This form of travel becomes addictive. It might be a culture shock in the first few days but after that it will become second nature. Sleeping in dorms with 5 other strangers turned friends, hopping around European train stations, getting confused over which country you are in because you were in two different countries earlier that day; there is a new level of excitement and thrill that comes with interrailing that you don’t receive on an overpriced week in the sun in Kavos or Magaluf. I guarantee that you will return home with countless memories, having had truly enriching experiences. The only word of warning I will give you though is to proceed with caution, as you may not be able to ever shut up about the experience, just like me 7 months later writing this article.