On my first interrailing trip around Europe, I over-packed, it happens to us all. But over subsequent visits, I’ve perfected my interrail packing list and I’m going to share it with you to help on your first trip.
For the most part, you shouldn’t be worried if you forget an item. Almost everything you need is widely available in countries across Europe. From clothes to toiletries, you’ll have no problem sourcing the every day items. However, there are a few things that can be difficult or expensive to replace which I’ve highlighted at the beginning of my ‘Interrailing Essentials’ checklist.
My biggest packing tip is to PACK LIGHT. You’ll be surprised at how many things you’ll want to pack that you will end up not even needing.
Should I Take a Backpack or Suitcase?
I always use a backpack as my travel bag and would recommend you do too. Travelling with a suitcase is possible, but can be a bit more awkward if you are on crammed trains or wondering around cities and have to pull the suitcase with you.
How To Choose a Backpack for Interrailing
There are three things that I look for in a backpack; size, front loading and comfort.
- Size: There is no correct size backpack, it entirely depends upon your needs. Personally, I always try to pack light and take a backpack that will fit in hand luggage. But if you’re travelling through a few different climates, then you may need extra items so a bigger backpack will be needed.
- Front Loading: Backpacks can either load from the top or the front. Since switching to a front loading backpack (opens in a similar way to a suitcase), I’ve never looked back. This does usually come with additional cost and you’ll have to ensure the zips are strong.
- Comfort: When you’re carrying a backpack across the world, it’s important that it is comfortable and doesn’t put too much strain on your back. It’s always best if you can try a backpack on before purchasing, even if you then go online to make your final purchase.
Which Backpack is Best for Interrailing?
Whenever I’m asked which backpack is best, I immediately recommend my Osprey Farpoint 40. It’s front loading, the perfect size for carry on luggage for most airlines around the world and is super convenient with a laptop sleeve and strong zips.
The biggest downside to the Farpoint 40 is that it’s a very common backpack. So make sure you can clearly identify it by tying something recognisable to it.
Backpack’s are never one size fits all, so this guide from EverythingZany has a few other suggestions for the best travel backpacks.
Interrail Packing Essentials List
Perhaps the most essential item for any trip including interrailing across Europe. It’s always worth taking photocopies or at least storing a picture on your phone in case it gets lost or stolen.
Brush up on specific visa requirements that apply to you before your interrail trip and ensure you have a printed copy of any documents. Remember that only 21 of the 31 interrail are part of the Schengen zone meaning one visa will gain you entry in to all of these countries.
Interrail countries that are not part of the Schengen zone are; Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Ireland, Montenegro, Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, Turkey and the UK. These may have their own visa requirements.
Perhaps an obvious essential packing list item for an interrail trip, but speaking from experience, it’s easy to forget!
Not yet bought your interrail pass? Visit the Interrail website to find the best one
If you plan on driving during your trip then make sure you have a legal driving licence. If you have an EU driving licence, this will be valid in most of the interrail countries except for Bosnia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey.
Check the validity of your licence before you travel as you may also need an international driving permit.
Currency Card or International Debit/Credit Card
The best bank accounts are those that don’t charge fees for foreign card payments or cash withdrawals, personally I have a Santander Zero Credit Card which is free to use abroad.
Before I had this credit card, I used a currency card for free transactions abroad. If you’re travelling to countries that uses Euros or Swiss Franc then I can recommend the Travellex Money Card that can be easily topped up from an app.
Top Tip: Take a spare bank card and keep it in a separate place to your main card. This will be very handy if your main card gets lost, stolen or declined. I always keep a spare in my hostel locker.
Camera + Accessories
Some hostels will make you pay extra for towels and some of the cheaper ones may not even offer them at all so it’s best to take your own. I use this Micro fibre towel, it is fast drying and can roll up very small compared to a standard towel.
Waterproof Backpack Cover
If you’re travelling during Autumn/Winter or are in northern Europe which can experience more rainfall, it’s worth investing in a waterproof cover for your backpack. This will protect your items if you get caught out in the rain.
You will need to find one that fits your backpack size but here is one that will fit most backpacks. I also have one that fits my smaller day bag.
Most hostels have lockers but require you to take your own padlock – I’d highly recommend a combination lock – one less thing to lose. The lockers vary so ensure a large hoop on our lock – I use a 4 digit combination lock which has always worked fine.
In mainland Europe, these are generally type F with 2 pins. If you are visiting the UK, you will need a UK adaptor too.
I tend to carry this universal travel adaptor that can be adjusted and used worldwide but if you’re only visiting Europe it would save vital space in your backpack to get a specific Europe adaptor.
You won’t want to carry your large backpack around all the time, ensure you pack a smaller, lighter bag to take out and about during the day.
Be a more sustainable traveller by taking your own water bottle with you. Whilst the tap water is drinkable in most Western European countries, there are some countries in Eastern Europe where this is not the case. Save buying too many single use plastic water bottles by looking for refill points.
Hostels and launderettes will usually have washing powder available to buy, but keeping just a few washing tablets on you is a good idea.
Battery Pack or Battery Phone Case
I bought this Anker portable battery charger over 3 years ago. It’s still going strong and charges my phone to full around 4-5 times.
You could also opt for a charging case that fits directly on to your phone, I’ve had these before and they are very useful.
You can buy these in advance or pick some up on your way around – soap, shampoo, deodorant, tooth brush and paste, shaving equipment, perfume/aftershave, make up, hair products, etc. Nail clippers and tweezers are also helpful to keep in your toiletries bag.
Plasters (Band Aid)
Some travellers will opt for a mini first aid kit but personally, I tend to only carry plasters and paracetamol as these are the items I use most often. If you have any other incidents there will almost always be a first aid kit or pharmacy nearby.
Clothes (for men)
Remember that the weather varies across Europe, in the Scandinavian countries you’ll need to take a few more layers than in Southern Europe.
Here is a rough mens clothes packing list to keep your travel bag light:
- 1 x Jogging Bottoms
- 2 x Shorts [If travelling in Winter or to colder regions, you’ll want to swap one pair of shorts for a pair of jeans or chinos.]
- 1 x Swimming Shorts
- 5 x Casual tops (including t-shirts, vests, etc)
- 1 x Smarter Shirt
- 1 x Jumper/sweater
- 1 x Light waterproof jacket
- 1 x Sun hat [or wolly hat for winter or colder regions]
- 1 x Sun glasses
- Socks and underwear to last c. 10 days
- Casual Trainers
- Flip Flops
- [Optional] Light Hiking Boots – If you plan on doing a lot of hiking or are travelling to colder regions, you may want to consider taking a pair of light hiking boots.
Things You Shouldn’t Pack:
- Smart shoes – it’s unlikely you’ll need smart clothes
- Books or guide books – If you’re a big reader then I’d suggest a kindle. Alternatively you could carry 1 book as many hostels have book swap areas.
- Sleeping bag or duvet – all hostels provide sheets, blankets, pilliows, etc. If you are camping then you may wish to refer to a packing list more specific to this.
- Too much cash
Interrail Packing Tips
These packing tips apply wherever you are travelling, whether you’re packing for Europe or heading further afield:
Roll your clothes up. This is the best way to pack your clothes to save space in your travel bag and avoid too much creasing. This travel packing tip was a game changer for me.
Keep smaller items in pockets or a toiletries bag. Otherwise you could lose a lot of time searching for those sun glasses.
Try packing cubes. These help keep your luggage organised and easier to find the things you need.
Attach something identifiable to your bag – a ribbon or strap – this will prevent any mix ups.
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