by Emily Vause
Interrailing for a month around Europe was one of the best decisions of my life but there was a lot I didn’t expect, don’t be caught off guard like I was!
1. The Language Barrier May Get Tougher
Yes, this one seems obvious but the surprising part is that you don’t actually have to do anything to earn this dislike. No, you probably didn’t accidentally offend them by walking into their shop or saying the wrong thing – they just don’t like you and that’s how it is. We were puzzled too but when you get to the third shop in which the cashier who could speak English five minutes ago now can’t when it gets to your turn. After talking to other travellers in our various hostels we discovered that this, in fact, happens to most, though especially the English speakers. The reason why is a mystery but don’t be caught off guard.
2. Avoid People With Clipboards
These people are clever so beware. They will amble over to you looking all lost and worried so when they ask if you speak English you will, of course, say yes ready to help a tourist who is just that bit more lost than you are. However, that is when they whip out the clipboard. Will you help the deaf/blind children? Will you sign against drugs? Perhaps you will sign to keep your favourite beer in production? It is a scam. You will find them all over France, Italy and Germany so please beware, they are the most persistent con artists we came across. Strategies for avoiding them include walking past, pretending you don’t speak English and speaking in other languages (this one was particularly fun for us). Don’t feel bad about ignoring them, the charities are not real.
3. Train Journeys are Unpredictable
They’re still better than British trains but European trains still have their faults. Most of the time they run fine but occasionally they will be late so beware when booking changes very close to the arrival times. A few of our ten-minute slots between trains turned out to be a bit risky after delays in other parts of the journeys so always be cautious. Also, always have your ticket ready to be checked on the train. Maybe it won’t be checked for many journeys but don’t be caught out by jumping on without a ticket, the fines for having no or the wrong ticket are hefty!
4. Make Friends!
The best place to make friends abroad is in the hostels if that’s where you’re staying. The thought of sharing a room with 4-10 strangers can be daunting but more often than not it turns out to be a good opportunity for meeting new people, fun conversations and learning what people from other countries think of your country. A tip – don’t mention the referendum if you have somewhere to be soon. Of course, you will have your share of infuriating roommates who will keep you up until five when you have to be up for six (true story) or those who refuse to let you shut the window despite constant sirens outside (also true) but don’t let that stop you. Hostels are cheap and often very fun places to be.
5. Eat Out!!
Perhaps one of the best parts of our trip was all the different foods we got to experience while away. I can confirm that European restaurants are much better than ours. Sometimes it might look like some of the foods are a bit too weird – fried cheese and rice for example in Budapest – but it is all delicious. Just eating sandwiches in your hostel is not half as fun as having Indian food in Berlin in a restaurant with belly dancers and fountains.
If travel is part of your grand life-plan make sure it’s not one you forget about – it’s so worth it.
(photo courtesy of Joshua Earle, at https://unsplash.com/@joshuaearle)