Last January, with the Christmas holiday coming to an end and our second semester at UWE upon us, myself and two friends spoke, shivering in coats and big scarves, of our desire to travel during the summer. With little knowledge of where we’d like to go, we came across ‘InterRail’, a ticket that we’d heard other people had enjoyed that allows you unlimited access on all train journeys around Europe. Exploring prices and the various time periods you can travel for, we learnt that students could have 22 days of unlimited train travel for £288 or one month for £360.
We eagerly bought the 30-day pass and booked a start point flight to Amsterdam and a return flight home from Croatia for 30 days later. The flights provide the book-ends for your trip and doing so in advance is also a great way to save a lot of money. Five months later, with our first year at UWE finished, we were off to Amsterdam with big rucksacks, the decision of where to journey through and the kind of nervous excitement that comes from being slightly underprepared.
All travel expenses paid, we set off to eat and drink our way through ten countries in 30 days, from Amsterdam on to Berlin and towards Eastern Europe with the traditional cuisine and prices of drinks varying throughout each. I think one of the most unique things about the InterRail pass is how spontaneous you can choose to make it. The trains around Europe are frequent and routes are easily accessible online, therefore you’re provided with a real sense of freedom. However, changes between journeys can sometimes prove difficult. UWE student, Katie Hughes, spoke of our difficulty, “It was about halfway through our trip and we found ourselves in the middle of Poland, sprinting for a hidden train with twenty other people; communication became problematic when we realized we all spoke a different language.” Nonetheless, we made the train and it is completely up to you to decide to organize a structured plan beforehand or simply see how you feel when you wake up; your travel is already paid for.
It’s ideal for students travelling on a budget and perfect if you’re interested in exploring a variety of places in a short amount of time. If you are also looking for more ways to save money on accommodation, hostels are cheaper than hotels. Hostels can be booked in advance or often even at very short notice, however, I feel the real highlight was how sociable they were. You can choose if you’d like to be in a private or a shared room of up to as many as thirty, and find that it’s 5am and you now have new friends from all over the world, sadly in Amsterdam some of these friends were mice.
I had never in my life been on the move as much as in those 30 days and arrived home with a newfound sense of wanderlust or the ‘Travel Bug’ as some call it. Essentially, you are buying a freedom ticket for a set amount of time and what you do with that time is up to you. The most important thing is to leave with the right attitude. Second year UWE English Literature student, Sean Finn, spoke of his InterRail experience saying that “if you are open to meeting new people and trying new things, you’ll find the experience incredibly fulfilling.” We are lucky enough to have the rest of Europe on our doorstep and with it being so culturally diverse, each country you visit will provide a new adventure.
By Grace Akbar