Why we chose not to get an interrail pass.
Since I was in college I’ve wanted to go interrailing around Europe. The Interrail pass can be a cheap and convenient way to explore most of Europe by train. I love travelling by train. It’s great for people watching and you see some really cool places that you’d miss on a plane and it’s more comfortable than the bus! Someday i hope to actually do it properly (and I’d better hurry cause the prices rise dramatically once you turn 26!) but our trip didn’t quite turn out as planned.
Trying to please 4 people is not easy but in the end we settled on 3 main destinations- Croatia, Lake Bled and Prague.
Here’s the problem with our “interrail” trip- Lake Bled to Prague alone is 608km and we really wanted to maximise our time without spending 2 days on a train. So this is Part 1- our first 10 days- how to do a great European trip without the trains!
If the Croatian islands are your main destination in Europe, don’t bother with an interrail pass. Most of your journeys will be by ferry.
We started with 2 days in Dubrovnik. Two very hot, tiring days! We had intended to walk the city walls (the one’s from King’s Landing in Game of Thrones!) but in the end the heat got the better of us so we took the cable car to the top of Srd Hill to view the spectacular Old Town from above.
After that we spent our time eating and drinking and trying to stay in the shade. If you’re staying in the Old Town (which you definitely should!) bear in mind that cars are not permitted within the city walls so you will have to carry your bags up and down lots of steps- this is common in Europe so pack light!
From Dubrovnik we planned to take the ferry to Hvar but because we didn’t book in advance we ended up racing to catch the next bus to Drvenik where we caught the last ferry to Hvar Island.
Once we arrived, we realised we had no way off getting across the island to Hvar Town where our AirBnb was booked. When I got off the ferry a taxi man approached me and asked where my 3 friends were, that he had a taxi waiting for us. We hopped in the taxi and waited a good hour into the journey (until it was too late to turn back!) before asking how he had known to wait for us and that we were a group of 3. Turns out the lady at the booking office in Drvenik had called ahead for us- things were looking up!
Hvar was 3 days of pure bliss and pretending we’re rich. Seriously, I have never seen so many rich, tanned, beautiful people in one place in my life! We tried our best to blend in but may have blown our cover once they realised we were staying in a measly apartment and not on a yacht 😉
We could’ve stayed longer in Hvar. I don’t think any of us wanted to leave but our bank accounts thanked us! I think I spent the same in 3 days in Hvar as I did in the rest of Croatia combined. I’m sure it’s possible to do it on a budget but it was the start of our trip and we felt rich with Kuna so it was only about a week later we realised we’d been spending €8 on smoothies!
Once the sun goes down Hvar comes alive. If you’re on a budget the easiest thing is to pop into a shop on the main square and have a drink on the harbour wall.
Next was Carpe Diem. It consists of a bar on the mainland and an outdoor club in a forest on its own island. Here we paid €20 entry, twice (damn you kuna!) Boats leave from the main bar every 20 minutes. Once you get there its big screens, lasers, lots of people checking themselves out and drinking Grey Goose…you get the idea 😉
A word of warning- the security here don’t mess around. I’m not going to get into it here but have a look on TripAdvisor for some insight into what can happen if things go wrong. No harm in knowing before you decide whether you want to go there or not!
Bol (on the island of Brac) was the perfect relaxing break after the madness of Hvar Town. It’s a short ride on a comfortable ferry. The ferry doesn’t go directly to Bol so we got the one to Milna. From there we hopped in a shared taxi (not pre booked) to our accomodation in Bol.
Bol is a pretty little town with harbourside bars and restaurants. It’s quieter than Hvar Town but is home to the famous Zlatni Rat beach. Zlatni Rat means golden cape so we were expecting fine golden sand. Don’t be fooled by pictures! Unlike other beaches in Europe, Croatian beaches are mostly stoney. I’d suggest bringing water shoes or buying them there as the stones continue into the water.
It’s a 25 minute walk along a tree lined promenade or take the tourist train that runs every 30 minutes from the bus station.
To get to Split we took the Jadrolinija ferry from Supetar. There is also a catamaran that goes from Bol. There was a bar in Supetar right beside the ferry port. We seemed to be the only ones early so it was a handy place to wait.
In Split we stayed in apartment on the Riva which is a promenade that runs the length of the harbour. It is a beautiful place to stroll and have a coffee among locals and tourists.
Walking through the narrow side streets, the Diocletian’s Palace is a huge contrast to the modern Riva. Entering through the Bronze Gate, we wandered through the labyrinthine basement of the palace. There’s not much to see down here but it’s well worth the small entrance fee to get a feel for the size of the palace.
Exiting up the stairs from the dark basement, we wandered until we found ourselves in the round vestibule where a quartet were singing. There are other, less preserved parts of the palace, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and there are many cafes, shops and restaurants situated here.
Two days in Split was enough for us and, while I’m glad I’ve seen it, I definitely would spend most of my time on the beautiful islands. I left Croatia with an even longer list of things to see next time I travel in Eastern Europe (Krka Waterfalls and Plitvice Lakes I’m looking at you!). 10 days is enough to scratch the surface but 2 weeks would have been perfect for this itinerary.
Getting there and around:
Jadrolinija (http://www.jadrolinija.hr/en/ferry-croatia) was the ferry we took most often. Make sure you book online in the summer months so you don’t end up stranded for a few days. When we tried to get to Hvar from Dubrovnik the ferries were booked up for the next 3 days!
We flew Dublin to Dubrovnik with Aer Lingus. They operate from many cities in Europe and also some in the U.S but as always, book as soon as you can as they prices creep up a lot in the summer.
Have I missed anywhere? Let me know where you would pick for a trip around Europe.