Posted 7 years ago
I'm new to the rail.cc community. I graduate this year and I have but one thing to tick off my bucket list and that is to travel with a loved one my sister. Sounds a bit cheesy but true. I have 20 days, before graduating and the beginning of work and hoping to buy the 10 in 22 day ticket.
We're not the most organised people, and want to get the ball rolling. We've figured out we'd like to visit: Budapest, Ljubljana, split and Zagreb, Thessaloniki/Athens, Bulgaria and hoping to finish in Croatia for a couple of days 4/5? And maybe fit in Istanbul?
I would really appreciate some advice regarding routes (we will be travelling from Sheffield, England). We don't mind travelling during the night. Are we being a little too ambitious with the number of destinations? And is there anywhere anyone would really really recommend visiting? Also in terms of accomodation reading other posts I'm assuming it's okey to turn up and finding somewhere to sleep isn't hard?
Sorry to bombard with all these questions. Really appreciate any advice you could offer. Also if you're travelling around this summer too and wouldn't mind a friendly face to share some experiences with please comment. Thankyou again x
I think your idea for a 10 in 22 day ticket is quite workable. In 2013 I used a 10 days in a month Balkan FlexiPass, valid in Bulgaria, Bosnia, Greece, Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro, Romania and Turkey to visit most of the cities on your list.
I used night trains whenever possible and really enjoyed the experience of meeting people in the corridor of the sleepers. I chose sleeper compartments over reclining seats or couchettes because of my advancing years and a desire to be a bit comfortable. The Balkans night trains' rolling stock is a lot older than western European sleepers and not quite as comfortable. (You could follow up my other posts about my experiences, which may help your planning).
I was not able to visit Athens because there were no train connections to Greece that year, and I did not get to Istanbul because of a missed connection in Belgrade for the night train to Sophia. Also I didn't attempt to get to Split, as I was on a Capital cities binge.
But I did go (unexpectedly) to Plovdiv due to missing out on Istanbul and I can highly recommend that city, particularly if Roman history is of interest to you.
I found Ljubjana, Zagreb and Sarajevo to be real gems and all worth the visit (although there was no night train available to Sarajevo).
For the connection from England to the continent I used the Harwich to Hoek van Holland night ferry with a connection to Amsterdam. It was much cheaper than Eurostar and a very pleasant evening meal is available on board. (see the blog in this forum).
Hope this is of interest and help.
Thank you so much for replying. Nice to know we are not being too ambitious, as we are very keen to visit all the places in our list.
We are definitely up for night trains, I previously used them in Thailand. They're a good way to save time for seeing our destinations. I have just had a look at your posts and they are really helpful. Thank you.
Instead of starting in Paris, think we will take your advice and start out in Amsterdam. We could maybe spend a day then move onwards to Venice/Rome or perhaps we should go to Budalest?
Just a little confused about the best route. So far I've got two routes:
Amsterdam>>Ljubljana>>Budapest>>Istanbul>>Thessaloniki>>Venice/Rome then to Croatia
What do you think? Any advice regarding these?
The way I started to work out a route was with a map of Europe and a list of night trains.
Remembering that it would usually be difficult to work out a route which connects cities which are close together, using night trains because the journeys must be long enough to get a sleep, figure out which of the cities you want to visit are connected by night trains. In my case this resulted in quite a bit of zig-zagging across the continent, but travelling in the Balkans and to Greece and Istanbul would not need so much zig-zagging but will need back-tracking instead.
Consider the 19:00 rule to save a day's travel (only one of your travel days is used up on a night train if it leaves after 19:00 and arrives at its final destination after 04:00 even though it does travel on two days). See the posts on this subject, and the InterRail website.
Then work out how to get to the cities you want to visit which do not have night train connections, by using day trains from the arrival stations of the night train to the next city on the same day (eg Belgrade-Thessaloniki by night train then on to Athens on the same day). Note that there only seems to be one international night train into Greece and that is from Belgrade. Also keep your eyes open for any day trains which require payment of a large supplement - there are often alternatives that are cheaper or free!
At the moment the night train from Sofia to Istanbul may still have a bus replacement section due to major railway works in Turkey. Look out for current posts about this.
There will be quite a bit of trial and error but stick with it - the result will be worth it!
There is no night train (or even a direct day train) from Venice to Ljubljana, but you can [quote]Travel by regional train to Gorizia, then on foot/by bus/by taxi across the border to Nova Gorica and again by train to Ljubljana.[/quote] according to Flo. This will use up one of your travel days. So the route from Amsterdam to Budapest via Munich and on to Ljubljana on three night trains might be better and give you time in two cities along the way.
But there is no correct way to plan your journey. It is just what suits you.
I hope you enjoy the trip planning as much as I did. After figuring out your ideal route, bounce it off Flo or Pete for a response as they will be much more up to date than I am!
Best wishes and good planning
I'm suddenly feeling very overwhelmed!.This is our very first inter-rail adventure. Perhaps a weekend set aside specifically for planning purposes would be good. I'll take up your advice on planning (map and night train lists) and consult with Flo and Pete.
Thank you very much for getting back to me again. Away I go to rethink the route
Good luck on planning your trip! I'm sure you'll find a nice route :)
Because you will be going all the way from England to the Balkan area, which will take forever by train, you could consider taking a cheap flight to one of the cities. This will save you some time, so might just be worth it!
Try using [u]http://www.skyscanner.com[/u] to find the best fares. RyanAir and WizzAir are usually pretty cheap, can get a one way ticket for like 20 pounds there
If you would go by train that would mean you'd have to use one or (probably) two travel days for both the way there and the way back, which would leave you only 6 'real' travel days. Flying will not only save you time, you can also use those extra travel days to see more places.
You could of course change up the route a bit so you see less in the Balkan countries & more on the way there, but if you want to see these countries/cities I would try to find a way to get there faster!
That is a really good suggestion from Melona, as your plan seems to focus on the Balkans, Greece, Turkey and the former Yugoslavia, with travel in Western Europe being only an incidental means of getting there. I am a train devotee so the extra days/nights on trains in Netherlands, France, Germany Italy etc. would not faze me (particularly as I would spend 24-36 hours on a plane just to get to Europe and the same to get home).
I looked at the Balkan FlexiPass but it does not cover Croatia or Slovenia which are important parts of your plans. And you may not be able to use that pass within the country in which you bought it! :|
Your ability to buy InterRail really makes me envious as it covers more ground than Eurail (including Great Britain for non-Brits!)
Planning for rail trips is not really as overwhelming as I may have made it sound. It is really quite easy and a lot of fun. In fact I get as much enjoyment from the planning as from the journey. (Well almost.) :D
Unless you need to lock in sleeper compartment bookings as I wanted to, you will find a lot of flexibility and spontaneity even with night trains using seating or couchette accommodation. And a lot of good companionship on board.