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Ticket and Route Planning

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The Interrail ticket is a rail ticket designed for EU citizens (Eurail is the equivalent for non-EU citizens).  The ticket divides Europe up into eight zones:

Zone A  Great Britain, Ireland.

Zone B   Norway, Sweden, Finland.

Zone C   Germany, Denmark, Austria, Switzerland.

Zone D   Czech Republic, Hungary, Croatia, Poland, Slovakia.

Zone E   Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Belgian, France.

Zone F   Portugal, Spain, Morocco.

Zone G  Greece, Italy, Slovenia, Turkey

Zone H   Bulgaria, Macedonia, Romania, Yugoslavia.

You can choose which zones you visit and the overall duration of the journey. *However* you can choose only one zone for a 16 day trip, two zones for a 22 day trip and all zones for a 1 month trip; it is therefore  more restrictive than it first appears. 

The interrail ticket is open to everyone as there are three fares: under 12s, 12-26 year olds, and 26+.

Not every travel agent sells the interrail ticket, but I know for certain that STA Travel and Thomas Cook do.

Interrail Information

Eurail Information

Your route planning will obviously be dictated by the length of the journey and the zones you wish to cover but here are a few tips:
  • Some people advise only booking accommodation only one stop ahead.  I would say book a week ahead (so you don't have to compromise by spending only a few days somewhere you had your heart set on).  Also, if you have something really special in mind: book ahead.  (We booked accommodation in Carcassonne for Bastille Day a few months in advance) It will give you peace of mind and also something to aim your journey towards.
  • Write a list of places you would like to visit before you go, but be prepared to drop or cut short your plans as this list is usually far too ambitious!
  • Most major stops are not more than 4 or 5 hours away so we found night trains to be a nice idea but totally inpractical.  You will just have to accept the half-days of travelling!

Youth Hostels

  • If booking Youth Hostels, you must have a Youth Hostel Association card (available from http://www.hihostels.com/openCountries.sma). 
  • At http://www.hihostels.com/ you can check availability at all hostels and book some online.  Those that can't be booked online have contact details.  The hostels can be booked up to 6 months in advance or you can simply turn up on the door if you're feeling spontaneous (and prepared to be turned away if the hostel is full...)
  • Always check to see how far out the youth hostel is and make a note of any instructions of how to get there when you're booking.

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The Thomas Cook European Train Timetable (10.50 from Thomas Cook shopsor http://www.thomascookpublishing.com) was a real lifesaver for organising our journeys in advance and also for spur-of-the-moment plan changes. 

Documents to take:

  • Thomas Cook European Time Table (AKA the bible)
  • Passport
  • Interrail Ticket
  • YHA Membership Card
  • ISIC Card (worth getting - good for student discounts and using as ID when you don't want to leave your passport
  • Travel Insurance Documents
  • E111 Form
  • Traveller's Cheques and information about their serial numbers

KEEPING COPIES OF THE DOCUMENTS:

Photocopy, or record the details of each of these documents and put into an envelope.  On the front of the envelope write down any emergency telephone numbers and reference numbers (such as your passport number) for quick reference and to cut down on the bulk of items you need to take with you.  I kept this envelope in a seperate but secure part of my rucksack from the actual documents.  If you are travelling with someone else I suggest you  take a copy of each others' documents so if your backpack goes "missing" you have your details with someone else.  It is also a good idea to email yourself scanned copies of the above documents just in case EVERYTHING goes pear-shaped, you know your details are sat in an email account waiting for you to access.

Safety

It's easy to protect your belongings.  Keep your purse/wallet so it touches your body.  Keep your traveller's cheques/documents somewhere inaccessible in your backpack - somewhere that can only be accessed by physically touching you (e.g. the very bottom compartment of your backpack whose zip touches your back)
 
Keep your interrail ticket and passport in an inside pocket, but not one too awkward to get to seeing as you will need to get them out regularly.  I found the inside pocket of the head part of my rucksack the best.
 
Take a combination lock ckain with you.  Most youth hostels provide lockers but not all - you can push it through the handles of cupboard doors or lock your rucksack to the foot of the bed.  DOn't take a padlock with a key because they are very awkward.
 
Don't go down dark streets or do anything you wouldn't do at home.  Have your wits about you and try not to scream tourist (even with a big rucksack on your back, try to speak English quietly, don't brandish your map and ask for directions in shops instead of on the street)