Interrailing on a Budget: How to Save Money Travelling Europe
Let’s face the cold hard truth: Europe is expensive. For many people, interrailing is a far-flung dream, but it can be done on the cheap if you’re willing to sacrifice some luxuries. So whether you want to jet off on a three-month-long adventure or simply visit a few countries over a week’s period, this guide will share how much does interrailing cost, cheap interrailing routes and the best interrailing tips and tricks!
How much does interrailing cost?
So, how much does interrailing cost? Honestly? I’m going to give you an answer you do not want to hear: it varies from person to person. Your interrail budget can vary due to a number of different factors including the time of year, where you visit, how long you go for, where you stay, what you eat, and what you do… Phew, that’s a lot!
But since you are here, you are probably willing to go interrailing on a budget. You’d happily sacrifice meals out for home-cooked supermarket food if it means saving your pennies. So I’d give a rough ballpark estimate that you could spend around £1500 for a month interrailing, or less than £400 on a week away.
But this is if you are seriously willing to make sacrifices. Don’t get hung up on the interrail budget I have provided, as you could very easily spend a lot more! But if you do want to find out how to go interrailing on a budget, just read on…
Interrailing on a Budget: Planning
Cheap interrailing routes
It will surprise no one that a couple of nights in Barcelona is going to set you back a hell of a lot more than a couple of nights in Bratislava. Where you choose to visit on your interrailing adventure will pretty much make or break how much you spend. Luckily, there are so many different cheap interrailing routes to choose from!
A great way to keep your interrail budget down is to choose places which are less popular with tourists by heading to ‘up and coming’ destinations. One of the best cheap interrailing routes would see you travel to Poland, Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Fly to Krakow and fly back from Sarajevo. Or in the opposite order!
In general, eastern Europe is cheapest and northern Europe is the most expensive. Obviously, you can throw in a few pricier cities if you just can’t stay away from the likes of Paris, but spending the bulk of your time in cheaper countries will save you a lot of money.
When is the best time to go interrailing on a budget?
Avoiding peak season, aka June to August, will go a long way. During peak season, not only is everything more expensive but the cities are more crowded and all the locals are on holiday. This makes for a generally less than pleasant experience, especially if you are keen to visit big tourist attractions.
Although the weather is generally better during these months, opting to travel during the off-season will dramatically decrease your interrail budget. Plus, if you go interrailing in late September or October, you might still catch some sun!
Interrailing on a Budget: Transport
Book your interrail pass in advance
Booking your transport before you head off will not only save you a heck of a lot of money but it will also help you plan your interrail budget up-front. Side note: travellers aged 27 and younger get up to 25% off standard adult prices, so it’s wise to head on that big interrailing trip before your 27th birthday!
However, it’s always a good idea to check if buying an interrail pass will actually save you money. This will depend on how long you’re travelling for and where you plan on visiting. If you plan on doing a lot of travelling, especially long-distance, a pass will save you money and a lot of hassle along the way. However, if you don’t plan on travelling across many countries, a pass may actually work out to be more expensive.
Similarly, if you’re planning to stay a bit longer in each city you visit, buying individual tickets might also work out cheaper. In summary, it’s important to know what your plan is before you head out ’cause otherwise, you’re going to be spending a lot of unnecessary money!
Avoid train reservations and supplements
When you think of interrailing, you probably think of those lovely high-speed trains that whizz around Europe in a blink of an eye. However, these trains often require reservations and/or supplements, which means you’ll be paying extra on top of what you’ve already spent on your passes.
However, it is possible to avoid paying these supplements if you travel on domestic trains instead. They might be slower and drop you off at a station just outside of the city centre, but if you’re not in any rush, it’s a good opportunity to catch up on sleep or enjoy the scenery. Plus, you’ll save your pennies!
Take an overnight train
Okay, so I’m going to totally go back on my last point. But one of my favourite tips for interrailing on a budget is taking an overnight train. Travelling on a night train instead of during the day is a great idea because it means that you don’t have to pay for accommodation for a night and you’ll also maximise your time by travelling while you sleep.
Be careful though as you do have to pay an additional fee to travel overnight (the amount depends on the type of sleeping accommodation you choose) but this is still almost always cheaper than staying in a hostel or hotel.
Hop on a bike
Renting a bike to travel around a city is a great decision for so many reasons. It saves money where you might otherwise be spending money on public transport and taxis. It’s also great for your health and the environment, and it’s pretty freakin’ fun. Exploring a city on two wheels also lets you see a city from a unique, more local perspective and will help you discover different parts of a city that you might have missed if you were travelling on the metro, for example.
How much it costs to rent a bike in a European city will depend on where you hire a bike from. Donkey Republic is a cheap and convenient bike rental service that you can find in many cities across Europe. All you have to do is download the Donkey Republic app on your phone and then you can unlock your rental bike from various pick-up locations in the city you’re in. You don’t even need to make human contact, carry cash and ID cards, or bother with deposits! And their rental hours are 24/7. Could it be any easier? I don’t think so.
Get to know your city’s metro system
Whilst walking or cycling are obviously the cheapest options, your next best bet is getting to know the city’s metro system, which will always be cheaper than taxis. This will especially be useful in larger cities, such as Berlin, where walking everywhere is practically impossible. If you plan on using the metro a lot, European cities tend to offer 10-journey tickets or day passes at a discounted rate. Just decide how much you plan to use the metro and whether you’ll get your money’s worth!
Interrailing on a Budget: Accommodation
Accommodation can really eat into your budget, so like choosing your destinations wisely, you need to do the same with your accommodation. If you want a good deal on accommodation, you’ll have to be flexible. This may mean:
- Staying out of city centres to get better accommodation for less. Public transport tends to be great in European cities, and it’ll also force you to explore a lesser-known neighbourhood.
- Paying more for a place that you’ll be happy spending time in, as you’ll be far more likely to eat in. If you get a super cheap place without a kitchen, odds are you’ll be paying extortionate restaurant prices for all your food. I know I’ve stayed in some hostels where I’ll do anything to not be in them so instead I spend a ton of money out. Definitely not a good thing!
Here are a few different accommodation options you may want to consider…
The number one most popular option for travellers interrailing on a budget is, of course, hostels. If you want to save the pennies and you’re young enough (or at least have the mindset of a teenager/twenty-something) to bunk in a dorm room, do it! The best place to find amazing hostels to stay in is Hostelworld! There are so many perks to staying in a hostel including meeting like-minded backpackers, complimentary breakfast, and free tours and events.
If you don’t think the hostel life is for you, you can always stay in a private room in a hostel, for only a little bit more money. You’ll have the best of both worlds: the luxury and privacy of a hotel combined with the price and atmosphere of a hostel. This is normally what my boyfriend and I do whilst travelling so we can have a bit of privacy.
Camping is a very inexpensive and alternative way to experience Europe, amid some of the continent’s most spectacular scenery. However, I think you have to be a certain type of traveller to go down the camping route. Plus, it depends on what you’re looking for from your interrailing travels: hustling city breaks or beautiful nature.
The negatives of camping include lugging a tent and other camping equipment around, and the fact that most campsites are located far from public transport. However, if you are interrailling on a budget, there really is no better way to keep costs down. Campsites are exceedingly cheap and, in a lot of places, free!
I am the biggest advocate of Airbnb ever. If you investigate properly, you will find some right gems at stupidly cheap prices. Having your own little space to come back to at the end of a long day of sightseeing is the best feeling ever and it will force you to have much more of a local experience. Plus, if you’re travelling with friends, why not share an apartment with them? It’ll keep the costs down even further.
Side note: here is £25 off your first Airbnb booking!
I haven’t yet ventured into the world of Couchsurfing but if you’re really on a budget, this may be up your street. In short, Couchsurfing is a website that allows you to stay in a stranger’s home for free. Sometimes you get a room, sometimes a couch, sometimes an air mattress, but it’s always free.
Obviously, this all sounds a bit dodgy but if you do your research beforehand and always read reviews, you should hopefully be okay. Couchsurfing will not only save you a TON of money but it will also get you off the tourist track and into the local life. Win, win!
Interrail Tips and Tricks for Saving Money
Don’t buy bottled water
If you know me, you’ll know I love to take eco-friendly travel products with me wherever I go. So not only will you save yourself a fair bit of money if you don’t buy bottled water, but you’ll also be travelling sustainably too! Tap water in most European countries is suitable for drinking, but make sure you double-check with a local resident or your hostel/hotel first.
Go for a picnic or cook up a meal at “home”
If you’re lucky enough to be staying in an Airbnb or hostel with a kitchen, make the most of it! Buy food from a supermarket or local market and have a meal in. Or you can prepare a picnic to be enjoyed in the park. Ask your accommodation owner or receptionist where they shop, as they’ll know where the bargains are.
If you do decide to treat yourself to a meal out (and who can blame you?), be sure to eat away from the tourist areas as they are almost always more expensive and aren’t necessarily any better in quality either.
Carry a student card with you if you have one
One of my favourite student travel tips is to always carry your student card with you abroad. You never know when they’ll come in handy! Your student card will usually let you get into attractions at a discounted price. However, if your student days are far behind you (I feel you) but you are under 26, you can apply for the Euro<26 card or the International Youth Travel Card (IYTC) for under-31s. With these cards, you will get similar discounts!
Make the most of free stuff
- Museums/Attractions: In some cities, you can visit a selection of museums and attractions for free. London, for example, has an amazing selection of museums and attractions to visit, completely free of charge. In some cities, museums may only be free on a certain day of the week, so do your research beforehand to make the most of free entry!
- Tours: Be sure to only go on free city tours or DIY, instead of paying for them. Most European cities offer free walking tours – simply search for them online, or you’ll probably find your hostel or hotel offers one. These free walking tours are a great opportunity to meet other travellers as well.
- Entertainment: There is plenty of free entertainment to be found in Europe, from open-air concerts to pub bands. Go online when you get to a new city and check out any upcoming events: odds are you’ll find something free.
- WiFi: There is plenty of free WiFi in Europe, especially in restaurants/cafes, libraries, museums and your accommodation! There is no need to pay for something that you can get for free.
- Toilets: Do not underestimate the amount of change you will throw away just to use toilets in Europe. Whenever you’re at a hostel/restaurant/attraction that offers free use of toilets, make the most of it.
So have you got any other tips for interrailing on a budget? Let me know in the comments below!
This post was sponsored by Donkey Republic but as always all opinions are my own.
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