In March 2016 my girlies and I embarked on a 10 day interrailing trip around Europe! We planned for a month before and over the 10 days we managed to visit:
France – Lille, Paris, Lyon
Switzerland – Interlaken
Italy – Rome, Florence, Pisa, Cinque Terre
So its safe to say we packed a lot in over 10 days – especially when you consider 2 days of that was getting from Bournemouth – London and over the channel to France. We were absolute non stop and fitted in everything we wanted to do. Can you believe over our trip we walked 75 miles!!
Why did we decide to Interrail?
At only £177 for a 10 day pass we couldn’t say no! The train operators and lines are fantastic in Europe and it felt like such a cost affective way of getting across Europe and seeing as much of it as possible along the way. The Interrail pass is available to EU citizens and there is a reduced cost for under 26’s (Brits, make the most of being able to go interrailling before the B-Word kicks in). I worked out that with the interrailing pass i saved 600 EUR compared to what the cost would have been.
What route did we take?
Day 1 – Travelled from Bournemouth – London – Lille – Paris
The day we’d been waiting for! We got up super early and caught the 6:15am National Express from Bournemouth to Victoria where we jumped onto our 10am Victoria – Lille Ouibus. The Ouibus is a double decker bus and for the price (£59rtn) it was great value for money, what we didn’t factor in was that is was good friday and the Euro Tunnel would be absolutely choca and we’d be delayed for 4 hours, making our 6hr journey into a 10hr journey. Yeah it was so long, but nothing good company, some snacks and a nap can’t help. When we finally arrived in Lille at 8pm, we had to run across the city to the regional train station and hope that we could grab seats on the next train to Paris, fortunately we were in luck and there was a booking office open and we got first class seats for 9EUR each, dream! When we arrived at Gare du Nord we opted to walk the 15mins to our hotel rather than getting a taxi to take it all in and not be looking through glass at the sights again. We got to our hotel – Hotel De La Cite Rougemont which was a really cute good value hotel in a good location. Absolutely starving we popped out to find a lovely parisan cafe where i had a creamy cheese potato and bacon dish, some cheeky rose and all served by a charming Joe Jonas lookalikey.
Day 2 – A day at Disneyland Paris!
One of the girls is an absolute Disney addict, but had never visited Disney before, so of course we had to include this in our trip! We jumped on the surburban at Auber – Marne La Valley Chasse which took 40 mins and we finally arrived at the place where the magic happens. We’d bought and printed our £55 tickets in advance so we could head straight in. Our day was absolutely magical in both Magic Kingdom and Walt Disney Studios and we went on so many rides, met the main man himself (Mickey Mouse obvs), saw the parades and a brilliant show with characters from Jungle Book, Tangled & Brave. The only heartbreaking moment was when we discovered that the Aerosmith RocknRollercoaster was closed, which was my first rollercoaster i’d ever been on when i was 7. It was an exhausting day but so worth it and we had a fab time and made dreams come true!
Day 3 – Paris Sightseeing – Interlaken Switzerland
We woke up super early to make sure we could see the sights of Paris before heading to Switzerland in the afternoon so we headed straight for the Louvre and had a wander around seeing the unreal paintings and sculptures. And of course, no trip to the Louvre is complete without visiting the girl herself, Mona Lisa. Be prepared to wait your turn to get a selfie with Mona, as it gets busy. The Louvre itself is HUGE! Like, there are a lot of floors and galleries. It’s worth noting that as an EU citizen under the age of 25 you can get free entry, otherwise its 15EUR, show your driving license or passport to get this awesome perk. We then took a walk along the Seine to the Eiffel Tower where we of course took 10,000 photos, we were so pushed for time that it was a quick stop and then an absolute rush to get the very confusing metro back to our hotel to pick up our backpacks to get to the station! Turns out, after absolutely legging it, we were late and couldn’t get on the train we’d planned to so we faffed about for a bit and had a panini whilst we waited for our 5 hour journey to begin. I’m pretty sure we slept from Paris – Bern as i can’t remember, we arrived in Interlaken super late and with the help of google maps and a torch we managed to find our apartment – Janis Holiday Apartment which was gorgeous and brilliant value for money with a great breakfast.
Day 4 – Exploring Interlaken by train and bike
We could not believe the view from our window when we woke up! In our dazed states and in the darkness we totally missed that there were absolutely massive mountains all around us. We headed straight outside and felt how fresh it was and knew we wanted to get out and explore asap, our massive apartment was linked to a hotel round the corner so we had a huge breakfast there to kickstart the day and then headed out exploring. We jumped on the train and planned to just sort of explore around using our interrailing passes, we got a bit lost, bit stressed and hungry but we ended up having a lunch at hooters and renting bikes and going on a cycle around the lake. Switzerland is crazy expensive and it kind of puts a dampner on things as you can’t do what you’d like. We struggled to find somewhere afforable to eat and ended up at Beppis which is basically a Swiss Keith Lemon run restaurant who makes you do crazy things. We had a fun night and had cheesy fondue and got to wave swiss flags to some fun songs. Interlaken is a beautiful place but be prepared of how expensive it is to do anything!
Day 5 – Interlaken – Rome
We were up at the crack of dawn to make the trip to Rome! It was a long old journey and Rome was one of the places we wanted to explore the most so we got there with an extra afternoon. We got to Rome and our b&b was right by the termini which was pretty handy, we stayed at the Sacra Domus Guesthouse which was the cheapest and nicest place that we stayed, the decor was beaut, shower was unreal and it cost £40pp for the whole stay! The lady who owned the b&b was lovely and gave us a map and told us our must dos. We wanted to go out to nice bars that evening as it was one of the girls birthdays so we got the tram to Trastevere where we had Italian tapas and prosecco in one bar, followed by more prosecco in a bar where the waiters were divine followed by chocolate shots… yep that’s right.. chocolate shots – so the cups were made of chocolate and filled with flavoured rum or chocolate liqueur and topped with sprinkles, it was innuendo central and you had to basically drop it in your mouth.
Day 6 – Seeing all the sights of Rome
Rome wasn’t built in a day but it can actually be seen in one if you plan it right like we did, we knew we wanted to see the main attractions so first things first we headed to the Colosseum with a parma ham baguette (lush!), it was soooo hot for March, i very cleverly wore a light jumper and jeans. The Colosseum is absolutely beautiful and you really have to see it to believe it, we opted not to go inside as we had a lot to see. We went to the Pantheon, the spanish steps, ate gelato at the trevi fountain, Roman forum, the Vatican all in a day, granted we actually made it late to the Vatican and couldn’t get in but we saw a lot. We ended the day watching the sunset at the Colosseum with Strawberry Daiquiris and tapas which couldn’t have been more perfect. Rome is now officially one of my favourite cities in the world.
Day 7 – Rome – Florence – Pisa – Cinque Terre
How many popular italian places can you visit in a day? 4 apparently. We decided that we were happy to do a fleeting stop in Florence and Pisa and I think that was the right decision, we first stopped in Florence in the morning, had another parma ham baguette and wandered around the city which was gorge, we saw the duomo, the cathedral and subtly tuned in to a tour guide by the statues of Medusa etc. Next stop Pisa, so Pisa, funny place and all there really is to do there is go to the Leaning Tower, but, its awesome and a must do on a tourist trip around Italy. We arrived in our town Riomaggiore in Cinque Terre in the afternoon and ventured through the underground tunnels to get to the main area then lugged our backpacks up the hill which was slightly hilarious. The vibe of Cinque Terre was a mixture between a fishing village in Devon and some of the italian cities, it was so cute and centered around the fishing and colourful buildings all piled on top of each other on the cliffside and hills.
Day 8 – Exploring the 5 villages of Cinque Terre
Cinque Terre stands for the five lands so surprisingly.. the area is made up of 5 little towns all with their own character in the same colourful Cinque Terre vibe. The 5 villages are:
Riomaggoire – where we stayed!
Monterosso – the biggest of the 5 and has a beach and lots of choices for seafood italian
Vernazza – A cute fishing village
Corniglia – Crazy steep to get to the top but awesome icecreams when you get there
Manarola – This is where the typical Cinque Terre photos are taken!
It was so much fun exploring all of the villages during the day, you can visit these by boat or train, the train was included in our interrail pass but if you are going without an interrail pass don’t try and hop on without a ticket, there are so many conductors and we met some americans on Spring break who had gotten a fine for not buying a ticket whoops. We rounded up the day with a fun evening in Riomaggiore with the best seafood linguine i have ever tasted right by the water, lots of wine and then some cocktails with other visitors from all over the world! Cinque Terre is a beautiful place and you have to visit if you get the chance, apparently it gets pretty busy in the summer with cruise trips stopping off, so much so that they want to impose a tourist limit!
Day 9 – Cinque Terre – Lyon & Day 10 – Lyon – Lille – London – Bournemouth
Our final 2 days were spent making the journey back to the UK and to be honest we were hungover and exhausted so we were ready to head home by this point on our whistlestop tour of Europe.
We had the most incredible time and I loved spending it with my girlies, they were fab travel buddies and we made so many memories, had some hilarious moments, scary moments and stressful ones too but we came out of it with some amazing experiences and memories will have forever.
How much did the trip cost me?
All in the trip cost me around £1,200, which for an all in 10 day trip to Europe i’d say that was not bad, there were definitely ways we could have been cheaper and stayed in hostels, cooked our own food and not gone to Disney, however we all worked hard to save and we have such crazy jobs that we wanted to treat ourselves!
Transport = £350
Interrailing Pass: £177, National Express: £19, OUIbus: £52, Additional Interrailing booking fees – £80, Other (Metro&Taxis) – £20
Accommodation: £258 – average £28.60 pppn
Spending money: 600 EUR, 80 Swiss Francs
Total Cost: £1,181
What are you waiting for?
If cost or time is your barrier to doing this bear in mind that i only had to take off 4 days from work because we utilized Easter bank holidays and i saved £250 a month for 4 months and used £200 from savings. We saw sooo much during our trip and I learnt alot about how to plan and trip and how to make the most of the time you’ve got all whilst on a budget!
Is Europe safe?
We actually went on our trip just a few days after the Brussels attacks, and while our parents were worried for our safety visiting the tourist hotspots in Europe we didn’t let it stop us. There were lots of military presence at the main attractions (Louvre, Eiffel Tower & Colleseuem) which was nothing to be scared of and made us feel reassured. You do have to be careful of people begging and trying to con you, avoid the women in Paris who ask you to sign your name on a petition as they will charge you 10EUR for doing so. When in doubt just say no and keep walking, put your sunglasses on and avoid eye contact or talk in a very fast made up language and they should leave you alone. Its always worth knowing the local emergency numbers and letting someone know your rough itinerary.
My Top Tips
- If you are going interrailing be aware that you do sometimes have to book your seats which does incur additional charges.
- You can use your interraill passes on lots of local trains but do check – in Italy when you book your seats on the interactive machines its classed as the global pass, make sure you have your ticket number ready to pop in – you don’t want to be stressing at the station in Pisa with minutes to spare (trust me!)
- The classic – pack light and take a padlock
- Work on your upper body strength before you go – you’ll thank me when you have to lift 3 x 15kg backpacks onto the head height racks on trains in a rush whilst the train is moving…
- Plan ahead! If you are travelling in a group be vocal and honest about the main places you’d like to go, that way everyone is getting the best experience and doing what they want to do.
- Hotels can be cheaper than hostels! – there was 3 of us and there were lots of options for triple rooms which worked out much cheaper than some of the hostels.
- Book your hotels in advance and print out or have somewhere handy the addresses – when you rock up in Switzerland in the middle of the night this is a godsend.
- If you are with a phone provider that means you can use your phone as normal overseas (3 Feel at home i’m looking at you, you babe) make the most of it! Its the absolute dream when you need maps, translate or quickest routes to attractions, or obviously if you want the real getting lost experience turn those phones off!
- If you are hungry, just eat. Hangry travellers are the worst and that’s when tiffs can happen or you can get lost and stressed and maybe even cry. If you know your prone to hangryness (me) take some supplies – crisps, cereal bars etc.
- Just bloody enjoy it, don’t get lost in seeing absolutely everything, workout what you absolutely want to do and then anything else is a bonus.
If you have any questions pop a comment below, i’d be happy to help 🙂