Hi, I’m Molly and I work as a research assistant for See Change International Ltd. In September, my boyfriend and I embarked on a 10-day trip around Europe. Covering 1575 miles, 19.5 hours travel time using 5 different trains and a plane (1 hour 43 minutes and 649 miles on a plane) we travelled to Amsterdam, Berlin and Prague. This blog tells my experiences of the trip, my highlights, and some travel tips along the way.

First let’s begin by explaining the practicalities. We bought our tickets from the Interrail website. As we are both under 27, we were able to get a ticket covering 4 travel days for €194 each. A travel day allows you unlimited travel up to 23:59CET on the selected day. Mandatory reservations (between €10-€20) are required on some services or not required but recommended on others (on average slightly cheaper than mandatory ones).

Tip 1: The interrail pass also includes most of the national services for the country you are travelling through so make use of this when using local trains either to get to your accommodation or on your outbound and inbound journeys in the UK. You don’t need to buy extra tickets on your travel day.

Tip 2: Download the interrail app and use theirRail Planner feature to plan your route. It is really simple to use and clearly states what services require additional charges alongside your interrail ticket.

Days 1-3: Peterborough, London and Amsterdam

We departed Peterborough Station on a Thameslink Service arriving at St Pancras International. This was our first of 4 allocated travel days on the Interrail ticket, so our ticket covered the fare for the Peterborough to London service. Check in was quick and simple and we were soon in the departure lounge. It is important to note that Eurostar reservations are mandatory and it costs us €37 each.

Shortly after, we departed St Pancras for the 4-hour journey to Amsterdam. The trains were air conditioned, and the seats were comfortable. I found the extendable table useful for eating my lunch and allowing me extra room afterwards.

Welkom In Amsterdam (Welcome to Amsterdam)

Upon arriving at Amsterdam Centraal Station, we took their local Sprinter train service to our hostel (called ‘The Outside Inn’) which was located near Duivendrecht Station. As this was still on our first travel day our trains in and out of the city centre for the rest of the day were covered by the interrail pass.

I would recommend our hostel to anyone looking for a cheap but unique stay. Located in a warehouse, the hostel features a selection of indoor beach huts and caravans. There were shared kitchen facilities, and the showers were clean.

Our next few days were spent exploring the city. Our highlights included: The ICE bar, traditional Dutch cycling around the city, Gassan Diamond factory and enjoying lots of Heineken.

Tip 3: Take a trip to the Gassan Diamond factory for a free tour to learn about how diamonds are made. You get to try on rings, necklaces and watches made with diamonds – they are a girl’s best friend after all!

In terms of transport, I had always heard about high cycling use in the city, but it wasn’t until I got here did I truly understand how many people cycle. It was clearly one of the most used modes of transport. I was amazed how many variations of cycling there were too- single cycles, tandems, even whole families riding on the same bike. From a transport planning perspective, I was impressed by the level of cycle infrastructure. Cycle lanes were as wide as the pavements and there was lots of parking available.

I was impressed with their stations and public transport system, they were clean and easy to get around. We bought a 2 day ‘Amsterdam Travel Ticket’ for €18 each. This gave us unlimited travel on all modes (train, tram, bus, ferry and metro). One feature I was impressed with was the local sprinter services; alongside an underground style map to show the route, the stops were lit up to show what stops are to come (photo below). It was helpful as particularly in the evening the trains were busy, so I struggled to hear the announcements.

Days 4-7: Amsterdam to Berlin

We woke bright and early to get the first Sprinter service from Duivendrecht to Amsterdam Centraal Station for the 07.00 train direct to Berlin again using our 2nd travel day to cover this fare. The Amsterdam to Berlin journey doesn’t have mandatory seat reservations however the platform was very busy so I would recommend getting a reservation as this journey was over 6 hours.

We managed to find a seat in the compartment section of the train which was very exciting as I had never experienced them, having only travelled in the UK. I found the seats wide and comfortable which was needed for the long journey ahead. Compared to the rest of the train there was lots of room for storage.

Although it is worth noting that this is the family section of the train so is more likely to be pre booked and you might have to move although there are small display screens outside the compartment to indicate this. We didn’t get anyone come in our compartment so the journey to Germany was peaceful.

Willkommen in Berlin (Welcome to Berlin)

We arrived at Berlin Hauptbahnhof and used the tram to our hotel. We stayed in the Easyhotel close to Rosenthaler Platz U- Bahn and tram stop. Overall, I would recommend this hotel as it was cheap, and it has everything you need (including private bathroom).

To travel around Berlin, we each got 2 x 24-hour single day tickets for the AB zone. This covers all the major sites in the centre and unlimited travel on all modes (bus, S-Bahn, U,-Bahn and tram) so if you are looking to stay close to the centre this is the one you would need. Each ticket costs €8.80.

We did use all forms of public transport at one point but we also made use of the E-scooters. These were a fun way to get around and there were plenty of segregated cycle lanes you could use so I felt safe from traffic.

Tip 4: Use the E-Scooters for short journeys as the cost can increase rapidly for long journeys.

We found the public transport easy to use and was well signposted. Although it wasn’t as well signposted as in Amsterdam, there were English translations which helped.

Our highlights of Germany include: Eating bratwurst, lots of local German lagers (Berliner was our favourite) and the historical Berlin Wall.

For any plane spotters, I would recommend a visit to Tempelhof (a disused airport turned park) at sunset. As an avid spotter myself, I loved being able to sit and have a picnic sat on the runway that planes would have driven on many years ago (photo below).

Tip 5: Have a sunset picnic on the Tempelhof runway

Days 7-10: Berlin to Prague

Our final leg of the journey. Using our 3rd travel day, we got the tram back to Berlin Hauptbahnhof ahead of our 08:55 train to Prague. This service didn’t have mandatory reservations but for this one I would recommend buying a reservation (only €8) as this service was the busiest we had experienced so far.  We didn’t pay for a reservation, so we spent the first 2 hours of the journey (Berlin to Dresden) standing up as it was so busy. This was clearly a morning commuter service within Germany as the train almost emptied after Dresden.

We were then able to find a seat, this time in a traditional table configuration we were familiar with. The Wi-Fi was free although it was very patchy going through Germany. However, this wasn’t needed as this was the most picturesque journey yet. The first few hours the German countryside looked similar to the UK but upon leaving the scenery changed. The photo below was taken about 3 hours into the journey close to the German/Czech border, where we went from flat countryside to steep valleys following the curves of the Elbe River.

I would recommend visiting the restaurant cart while travelling through this beautiful section of the journey. This included full table service, neatly laid out tables and a cooked meal. I found the food reasonably priced with lots of variety. There was the usual sandwich selection, but I would recommend taking advantage of the cooked meals they had on offer. I had paprika chicken, dumplings and a Staropramen (photo below) for £11.12. A totally unique experience which really added to the journey.

Tip 6: Enjoy the dramatic scenery while eating a cooked meal and a cold beer in the restaurant cart. You won’t be disappointed.

Vítejte v Praze (welcome to Prague)

Once we had arrived in Prague, I was surprised to see how different the station was compared to the other stations I had visited so far. I didn‘t find the signage as easy to follow despite having english translations and the architecture was very traditional. We left the station and walked to our apartments that were located close to Viktoria Žižkov tram stop. The most distinct difference was the style of the trams. Whilst they did have modern style trams, some of the fleet included traditional style trams (photo below) which was an pleasant change.

During the next few days we used the tram network to explore this beautiful city. We found it considerably cheaper for food and drink compared to Amsterdam and Berlin and the architecture was very different as many buildings were still in a traditional style.

We bought a 72-hour public transport ticket which allowed you on the bus, metro and trams for CZK 330 (£11.73/€13.48). I found it harder to get the tickets compared to Amsterdam and Berlin as many of the smaller tram stops didn’t have terminals to buy them. You could buy on the tram however but as these were often busy, we had to push through some crowds to buy our ticket.

We explored all the main tourist sites including the Prague Castle, Wenceslas Square and Old Town to name a few on a hop on hop off bus which I would recommend. 

Our highlight of our time in Prague must be the Vytopna Railway Restaurant. For all the transport lovers out there, this is a must visit. Put simply: A steakhouse on rails’. Yep, all your food and drinks are delivered to you on miniature trains. The restaurant is built on an extensive miniature rail network which consists of “14 digitally controlled machines, 900 meters of tracks and 5 drawbridges” (www.vytopna.cz, n.d.). A truly unique experience, even my partner who doesn’t have a passion for transport loved it. The video shows our drinks being delivered. To top off the experience, the steaks and ice-cold Staropramen were delightful too. 

Another food recommendation, if you would like to try some traditional Czech cuisine we found a lovely little restaurant called ‘Restaurace U Tří Prasátek’. The traditional Goulash was amazing

Tip 7: Visit the Vytopna Railway Restaurant and try local cuisine at Restaurace U Tří Prasátek

Day 11: Home time

After the most amazing 10 days of drinking lots of beer and experiencing a variety of European food and travel cultures, it was time to head home. Due to work constraints, we were not able to get the train back to London, so we flew home from Prague.

After arriving at London Luton, we got the East Midlands service from Luton Parkway Airport and changed at St Pancras for the Thameslink service back to Peterborough. We used our final travel day on the interrail ticket which covered these fares.

General comments

Overall, the trip was thoroughly enjoyable, and I loved experiencing all the different cultures each country had to offer. It was interesting to experience the different transport networks in each country and see how they are compared to the UK.

One of the biggest differences to the UK was the ticketing system. We found the use of the integrated ticket system helpful and certainly made it much more enjoyable as the stress of having to buy different tickets for different modes was taken away. Yes, we did visit capital cities and we do have a travelcard in London however having conducted some extra research integrated ticketing is used in other cities within each country eg. Rotterdam and Munich. So this was definitely a positive of European travel.

In terms of the interrail pass, they are excellent value. Within a travel day you can pass through several countries and upon arrival into your chosen destination, you can use their local transport networks for the rest of the day all on the same ticket. Only a select few services need reservations, so you really can just hop on and off wherever. For €194 I think you would struggle to find better value.

My final comment is another UK vs European difference which regards validation of the Interrail pass. In European countries,  the pass scans through the ticket barriers the same as an ordinary ticket, however in the UK our ticket barriers don’t recognise them. So, for example we couldn’t get through the barriers at Peterborough Station. DON’T PANIC, they are valid, you just need to show a member of train staff and they’ll let you through.

I have put links to all my accommodations, some of the restaurant recommendations below and a summary if you are interested below.

If you choose to go on a similar journey – enjoy the ride and I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Accommodation Links: 

Outside Inn (Amsterdam):  https://outsideinn.nl/en/

EasyHotel (Berlin): https://www.easyhotel.com/hotels/germany/berlin/berlin-hackescher-markt

Sklep Rest (Prague): https://www.apartman-praha.com/en/

Food Recommendations:

Vytopna Railway Restaurant (Prague): https://www.vytopna.cz/en/branch/prague-wenceslas-square/about-branch

Restaurace U Tří Prasátek (Prague): https://www.triprasatka.cz/en/jidelni-listek/

Travel Costs and Journey Durations:

TicketCost (per person)
Interrail 4 day pass€194
Eurostar Reservation€37
Amsterdam Local Transport€18
Berlin Local Transport€8.80
Prague Local Transport€13.48
Total travel cost (excluding flights)€271.28
JourneyDuration
London to Amsterdam4hr 32 mins
Amsterdam to Berlin6hr 25 mins
Berlin to Prague4hr 24 mins

References:

www.vytopna.cz. (n.d.). About the branch | Prague – Wenceslas Square. [online] Available at: https://www.vytopna.cz/en/branch/prague-wenceslas-square/about-branch [Accessed 6 Nov. 2023].