Though some people like to strictly follow a set timetable, it is more interesting to allow room for nice tips by other fellow travellers. Sometimes you may want to visit places that you simply didn't think of or spend more time at some interesting sites. It is therefore recommended that you set yourself a final destination to reach whenever you feel like it and then start your journey back. Or else you may define several goals to be sure to visit the places you absolutely want see.
A realistic journey budget would be min. €20 per day (including food and accomodation). This budget is quite generous in East European countries but very tight in West Europe. And savings are of course always welcome.
The major part of the budget is spent for accomodation. Hence night trains are a solution worth considering. E.g. should you want to stay several days in Paris, which is a very expensive city in terms of accomodation, you can take a night train somewhere and come back again in the morning. This option is not much good for sleeping but it is an interesting experience. Accomodation in neighbouring smaller towns away from city centers is regularly less expensive.
Age of traveller
Age should hardly ever be an obstacle to Inter Rail travel. Many 16 and 17 years old travellers set out for their first IR journey. Ny the way, they often benefit from various discounts and special prices, for example in museums and public transport vehicles.
"Obscure" East Europe
In some parts of East Europe, the quality standard of the trains and the accomodation facilities is rather varying. For a person used to the Nordic conditions, the old and noisy train coaches may at first be quite a shock; but more recent rolling stock is continuously being introduced into service. Anyway just be patient and you'll get there.
As for safety, e.g. Rumania and Bulgaria are not more dangerous countries than the other Inter Rail countries; everywhere it is important to watch the luggage and use your mind.
Popular cities among Inter Rail travellers
Already over a period of time Paris, London, Venice, Prague and Amsterdam have ranged among the most popular and trendiest cities. You should however keep in mind that particularly in summer, big cities are full of tourists and Europe abounds in interesting and lively small towns.
To remember beforehand and during journey
1. Before departure
You should send important addresses, phone numbers, a scanned passport photo and other data to your own e-mail address. Hence the information is always accessible (in any Internet café), in case you lose all your belongings.
Literature: James A. Michener: Meeting Point Torremolinos (The pessimist sees the dark side of the clouds, and sulks. The philosopher sees both sides, and shrugs his shoulders. The optimist sees no clouds at all; he walks on them.)
Should the temperature exceed +35, even the most energetic travellers get weary and discouraged. In the south, early summer is much cooler.
Contact all your friends and friends of your friends in Europe!
2. During the journey
As a nice souvenir, in addition to a beautiful tan and some photos, a diary is a good idea for recording of interesting places and experiences. Otherwise you just don't remember everything worth memorizing. A diary is sure to bring joy to yourself and your friends who probably also consider setting out for a corresponding journey.
When leaving a city, always check its railway stations so as to avoid being at a wrong station.
It is worth while learning some basic courtesy phrases in the language of the country you are heading for (how do you do, thank you, etc.) so as to ensure a friendly reception. And of course each country has its customs and conventions that you should respect.
If you go to meet an arriving night train well in advance, you may be lucky and get a real good seat. Sometimes the trains arrive as early as an hour beforehand.
Hostel dorms are the perfect places for meeting your soul brothers and sisters. It is nice to cook together and share a meal with others and exchange thoughts and experiences. You always get good travel tips.
Every now and then you should call your folks at home. But as the calls are often rather expensive, you could make a collect call home and tell the operator that "Pekka is calling", and then your parents would know that everything is fine and refuse to answer the call. If you use your own name your parents would know that something is wrong and they would take the call. Naturally you have to agree on this system beforehand so that your parents won't be quite lost when some "Pekka is calling from Amsterdam"!
To improve your language skills and to get to meet "genuine local people", it is always the smallest localities and villages that you should visit. There people are normally very open-hearted and really interested in you and in Finland, which is not always the case in the bars and night clubs of big cities. I know from experience that, e.g. the little lady at the bakery around the corner in a small village has plenty of time to chat with a Finnish traveller, and the cosy restaurants and bars provide excellent service and some village people may even invite you to their home.
During the journeys, you are sure to meet Frederica, Maria, Pablo, Fabio, Benjamin and many other wonderful people; however keep in mind that your dearest friends are from Finland.