What not to do when interrailing this summer
If you don’t have anything stolen from you, you’re not doing it right
Interrail 2k15: the trip of a lifetime, a few weeks backpacking around Europe with your pals on a budget. However, what you might not know is that you stick out like a sore thumb as an inexperienced backpacker. Follow these pointers to make sure you return with your belongings and dignity intact.
Don’t wear the Interrail wristband
Yes they’re cool, and yes you want everyone to know how adventurous and exciting you are but in all honesty they’re basically a sign to all thieves that you’re carrying all your worldy goods on you.
We did it and thought we were the bomb. We were wrong. No one else in any of the hostels wore them, mainly because they were cooler than us and didn’t need a wristband to prove it like we did.
Don’t use hostel bedding
Just bring a sleeping bag. For one reason they charge you and you want to cut all costs, but more important than that is the very real risk of bed bugs. The chances are you’ll be roughing it a bit in hostels and you really don’t want to risk the chances of getting bitten and itching for days afterwards.
Don’t go near the canals
We made the huge mistake of having a few glasses of wine and wandering a little too close to the edge, resulting in two of us falling the the canal in Venice. Yep, those are the canals used for sewage. Luckily for me, I had taken my bumbag (I’m cool) off already. Unluckily for Adam, his iPhone was in his back pocket. Unluckily for all of us, he also had the hostel key in his pocket and this fell out in the canal. While it’s funny now, at the time I feared we’d all suffer a canal-related death. Don’t drink and dive.
Don’t trust the safes
It’s a nightmare deciding how to deal with cash: either carry it with you and risk being pick-pocketed or leave it at the hostel and place a lot of faith in their security.
In Valencia we each left €200 in the “safes” under our beds when we went to the beach, and returned to find the money stolen. It was the second day.
The best policy is to ask at the front desk to see if they have regulated safety deposit boxes to put your essentials in – if they don’t, carry your cash as close to you as possible (duct tape it to yourself if necessary). If you’re not comfortable with that, split your cash up into bundles and hide them in different places. Failing that, withdraw smaller amounts as you go, but don’t underestimate the extortionate charges.
Don’t leave your backpack unattended EVER
It sounds obvious, but some hostels don’t provide places to store your backpack (some don’t even have ladders on the bunkbeds). Ani and I chose the option of spooning our backpacks. Adam put his under his bed – and woke up to find the backpack missing. It contained his passport, camera, toiletries and clothes. Poor Adam.
Don’t take passport photos after everything gets stolen
If you lose your passport, you’re probably going to need to take photos for a new one, so be prepared for your passport to constantly remind you of the worst day of your life. Every time you go on a holiday for the next decade, you’ll look at the picture and remember the time you traipsed around Milan in yesterday’s clothes, making plans to stay the night in Turin because the embassy in Venice was closed.
Don’t be disorganised
Use the websites to work out with trains you’re permitted to travel on with your interrail pass. If you don’t you’ll end up looking very stupid in Barcelona when it turns out the train you can catch is the following day and you have nowhere to stay that night.
FYI – Barcelona Sants train station is not open 24 hours, you can’t sleep on the floor. We tried.
Don’t forget to have fun
It’s important to stay cautious but don’t worry yourself too much – we had so many disasters we couldn’t have anticipated and still made it home in one piece.
There is one moral of our experience though: get travel insurance.