It’s a hot topic in the office, and one to consider when you’re planning your interrailing trip: East or West? Let our travel experts guide you through the pros and cons of both. If you’ve got the time, why not sample both!
We know Europe is more complex than just West and East, but for the purposes of this article, we’re considering western Europe as the area West and North of Germany, Italy and Spain. So that includes Scandinavia, the UK, Italy, Austria and Switzerland among others.
Home of the traditionally touristy cities like Rome, Paris, Venice and Amsterdam, visiting Western Europe will certainly bump up your tick list. Sagrada Familia? Check. Brandenburg Gate? Check. Buckingham Palace? Check.
It’s also home to an incredibly diverse range of different cultures, from Scandi minimalism to rustic French charm, from skiing in the alps to sunbathing in the Algarve, there’s a massive range in a very small area. This means that within the West you’ll come across a huge number of different lifestyles and landscapes. The food is world famous, the wine is amazing and the weather is great (OK maybe not if you’re in Britain…). Add to this the incredibly quick and efficient network of trains which you can use while interrailing, and it’s easy to see why Western Europe is one of the most visited areas in the world.
Despite all it’s good points though, there are aspects of Western Europe which aren’t so ideal. Number one being price. With top tourist destinations come top prices, so if you’re looking to maximise your value, you might be better off trying a different part of Europe. Trains in the West generally require additional seat reservations on top of the cost of an interrail pass, meaning your travel is less flexible and more expensive. Hostels also tend to be bigger and offer slightly more basic facilities to cater for large numbers.
Another thing to consider is whether you want to explore something a bit different – we know and love Western Europe, but don’t rule out going further afield – it might just surprise you.
Starting from the Czech Republic and moving Eastwards – north towards Poland or South out to Serbia and Montenegro, Eastern Europe is full of undiscovered gems. Train travel in this region is improving all the time, though it can still be a little restrictive since the train network isn’t as extensive or as fast as its Western equivalent, however we can definitely get over this given the perks of Interrailing in the East. Once an inaccessible area of Europe, the fall of the Berlin wall means that Eastern Europe has gone from strength to strength. If you’re looking for amazing architecture, incredible nightlife, gorgeous weather and fascinating culture, then the East has loads to offer.
Here your interrail pass is generally all you need, giving more choice and flexibility in your train travel, as well as saving you money on the reservations you have to buy elsewhere. The value continues in tourist spots like Budapest and Krakow, which still remain pretty affordable with beers costing less than £2 and a night’s hostel stay less than £15. Roam outside of these well known cities and you could be looking at even better prices, as well as a more authentic experience of the variety of cultures to be found in the region. From Poland to Montenegro you’ll find diverse cultures strangely united by their shared turbulent history. It’s easy to forget that beautiful Mediterranean Croatia was at war as recently as the 90s.
But despite its difficulties, the Eastern and Baltic countries have risen up stronger than ever, with tourism growing steadily but responsibly in the area. You’ll find resorts which are catering for increasing numbers of visitors, without the tower blocks and over-development of some Western areas.
Another benefit to the East is it’s multitude of amazing summer festivals, including EXIT, Sea Dance, Outlook and more. Why not combine your interrailing route with one of these for the ultimate European experience? Not only are the tickets much cheaper than UK festivals, but you’ll find cheap food and drinks there too (no £10 burgers in sight) – not to mention guaranteed sunshine and beautiful surroundings. So if you’re on a budget and looking for something different, the East is your best friend.
So there you have it – there might not be an easy answer to this debate, but here are a few pointers to consider when planning your trip. Obviously the Euroventure team would recommend going to both and spending months travelling Europe but we know it’s not always possible… West and East both have loads to offer and we have routes to suit any requirements. Just check them out here!