Monday, May 16, 2005

The Art of Interrailing...

....interrailing is indeed an art, and one which is best learnt through practical experience. However, we two seasoned interrailers (look, 2 weeks, 8 countries, about 40 train journeys, we can call ourselves seasoned, alright?) have taken it upon ourselves to share the wisdom (well, some might call it basic common sense, but it was new to us) we gathered on our trip...

So, let's start with the first thing


You're all capable of figuring out the basics, and frankly, everyone’s priorities are going to be different for this one (my slight obsessive compulsive tendencies meant, for example, that I had a complex system of plastic bags to keep CLEAN things from DIRTY things...most of the distinction being, I admit, in my head, but hey), so rather than an exhaustive list of basic things to pack which is certainly available elsewhere, here are the things I took which were particularly useful or otherwise : -

Most useful things:

  • travel wash, so you can get away with bringing only about 3 pairs of knickers and wash them in youth hostel bathroom sinks…yes, might be a little bit against the rules…but anyway.
  • book from the YHA with details of all youth hostelling international hostels (and even some private hostels) for may be heavy but it is DEFINITELY worth it. (Just don't leave it on the counter of the hostel in Annecy)...
  • a French dictionary. (didn't really compensate for my woeful lack of language skills, but helped a little).

Most useless things

  • out of date maps to cities that I found kicking about the house...since we hadn't really planned exactly what cities we went to I carried around a random sample of European city maps in leaflet form for the whole trip. A far better plan would be to take a map from the tourist office AS YOU LEAVE THE STATION upon arrival in a new city. Seriously. Unless it's Geneva station where you might get permanently lost, it's worth those few minutes finding the tourist office.
  • smart clothes. I brought one item of vaguely smart clothing with me. Don't know what I was thinking when I packed it. Completely unecessary.

What I wished we had

  • a really good, powerful, torch
  • the phone number for mountain rescue in France (you’ll see why…)
  • the sense to know how to use dialling codes properly to phone European numbers on a mobile
  • a tin opener (you might think that self catering kitchens in Youth Hostels would be bound to have one of these. You’d be wrong. But a Swiss army knife can still work wonders in a jagged, nearly-slice-your-thumb-off kind of a way).

The crucial factor is the size and weight of the rucksack. And you don't need me to tell you that smaller and lighter = better. Pare everything down to the absolute bare essentials, and ask yourself 'do I want to be carrying this on sunburnt shoulders?' That'll make you re think that bottle of shampoo...


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