Interrailing is an adventurer’s paradise. With an open rail ticket, you’ll have the option to explore up to 31 countries with little need for planning. Better yet, if you’re under 28 you’re counted as a ‘youth,’ so you’ll receive a discount on the pass.
Not a massive fan of cities? The Interrail pass gives you access to countries with beautiful national parks. If you want to get as far away from cities as possible, but still make the most of the pass, you could start your journey in Malta. Hop from Malta to Sicily, then interrail as far as you can home. This itinerary will end in Vienna. Make sure you make it there in time for your flight home! Here’s how.
Our posts will now include PDF documents so that you can download only the key information to plan your trip. The links are here.
Not fun enough? Consider racing your friends to the destination, taking in as many sights and – safely – dives as you can on route. Then get in touch!
Who is this for?
This itinerary is recommended for:
scuba diving, solo travel, group travel, hiking, city breaks, and epic train journeys.
It involves a combination of:
hostel and hotel accommodation. One night on an overnight train.
This is a jam-packed itinerary.
This itinerary can be customised (see SWAPS).
Due to the way the Interrail pass is sold, this itinerary is intended for readers buying their passes in Europe – but readers from other countries may wish to follow the route anyway (as it’s a fun route).
What are the disadvantages of interrailing?
- The Interrail Global Pass is great, but the pass is not cheap, and the more days you want to use it, the higher the price. Unlimited use over 5 days in one month costs £189 (prices checked November 2019) if you’re under 28, and £245 if you’re 28 or over.
- Due to the cost aspect, this itinerary will show you how to make the most of your pass.
- There are some trains in some countries that you’ll have to pay slightly more to reserve. You can book these easily via the Interrail app, but it obviously restricts your last-minute decisions.
- Look out for the B symbol in this post as a reminder of trains that might need reservations.
- Train routes don’t always travel in the direction that seems to make sense. Trains near the border of Italy/Austria seem to dart in and out of the two countries like they’re drawing zig-zags. I’d highly recommend using the Interrail app to check if you can get from A to B without going via C in order to make sure you have enough time to visit everywhere on your list.
- You may not be able to avoid some locations. In order to get to Pisa, you have to go through Rome. In order to get to Innsbruck without another overnight train that requires a paper (yes, paper) reservation sent to you in advance, you have to go through Venice.
Why start somewhere other than your own city?
As you’re restricted on the number of days you can use the pass, you might as well start somewhere else if you can afford to, rather than using the pass just to get to your favourite places. Doing so also enables you to go further than to the countries that immediately surround your own.
If you’re a diver, Malta is highly recommended. There are a wealth of diving sites to explore. If you’re not already a Padi Advanced Open Water diver (or equivalent), this is a really good place to learn. Many of the dive sites are deeper dives.
Malta is a popular tourist destination. If you’re using hostels, you’ll be sure to meet other people and have the chance to explore the islands with others. I’d really recommend prioritising the diving though. Some sites are just better when seen underwater.
Recommended hostel: Marco Polo. Book 4 nights.
Recommended dive centre: Dive Malta. Book on arrival or in advance.
Where can I go from Malta?
I’d recommend two options: Italy, or Greece. You might want to consider Greece if you have time as your Interrail pass might include the ferry there to/from Italy. However, there is so much to see in Greece that this is probably only worth it if you spend the majority of the rest of your trip there. On the other hand, you can see Italy step-by-step on the trains, while making use of your pass.
After taking the early morning ferry (B) from Malta to Sicily (arriving at Pozzallo), take a bus to Catania whenever you’re ready. Stay overnight.
To book the ferry, follow this link.
Google’s your friend here. Once you’re off the ferry, walk towards the city centre. Look up travel directions, and you’ll find your way to a petrol station in the city. You can buy your bus ticket from here.
In Catania, you’ll have the chance to see Mt Etna and try another dive. If you do opt for diving, be cautious that the dive instructors may not speak English. I’m not recommending a hotel or hostel for Catania as I didn’t manage to find one while I was there. However, you can follow this link for some decent suggestions. B.
You can now start using your pass
- Take a night train to Rome and spend the day there. B.
You can see most of the city on foot. If you want to go into the Colosseum (I didn’t as I have been there multiple times before), you might need extra time to queue. Coffee shops, bookshops and museums might be welcome breaks from the heat. Walking through the streets you’ll get a fair taste of history, but there are many tours to try.
2) Take an evening train to Pisa, spend the night there and the following day. B.
I’d recommend paying the few euros to walk on the old city wall. The views are stunning, and it’s cheaper and, in my opinion, offers more than queuing to go up the Tower of Pisa and back down again.
Recommended hostel: Hotel Pisa (now Safestay Pisa)
3) Take an evening train to Venice, spend the night there and the following day. B.
You can see:
- Murano island. A quaint island known for glass-making. Literally, almost every shop sells cute glass figurines. You can even go inside the factory to watch how it’s all done.
- Burano. Known for its array of colourful buildings lining the canals, it’s certainly picturesque – but make sure you have enough time to get there. Leave early and take the first ferry, as it’s a little further afield than the other islands.
- St Mark’s Square. I visited in 2018. Future restrictions on boat traffic and tourist numbers might change the scene. Probably the first stop on any ferry, this is the so-called heart of Venice. It’s great for history buffs, but it swarms with tourists like all the major cities. It’s worth checking this before you travel. Canals weave through the island, under its bridges and between its houses like alleyways, and you might spot small boats traveling through. Clothes shops, restaurants and cafes line the streets, modernity facing ancient history.
- Remember to look out for the islands that aren’t on the hop-on-off boat tours. There are many more islands than you might realise. You might hear about the less touristy locations of outlying islands. Some of these islands once housed mental health facilities and now offer eerie museums. I didn’t get the chance to find these islands so, if you’re interested, it’s worth looking up how to get there beforehand. Curious? You can read a little more about these islands here and – for a sensationalist twist – here.
- As mentioned above, be sure to check the restrictions on tourist numbers before you travel.
Recommended hostel: Anda Venice Hostel. B.
4) Take an evening train to Innsbruck (Austria), spend the night there and explore Innsbruck the following day. Book this train as part of the journey will take you out of Italy. B.
You don’t have to prebook trains in Austria, so when you’re ready to leave just head back to the station.
Recommended hotel: Binders Budget City-Mountain Hotel. B.
5) Next stop? You could do a pit-stop in Salzburg (don’t worry, there will be time to see more later).
6) Head to Hipping, and Lake Attersee. Stay 2 nights.
It’s a bit difficult to get around without a car once you’re there. You’re at the foot of the mountains, and it is beautiful. There is public transport – but it will take you longer than driving. Consider renting a car. You can dive at the lake, but it will be cold (dry suit recommended) and the visibility isn’t great. However, walking and swimming there are well worth it.
Recommended Hotel: Hotel Blumenhof. B.
If you’re diving, I’d recommend Under Pressure. Book on arrival or in advance.
7) The final stop on the list is Vienna, but on route why not spend as much of the day as you’d like in Salzburg?
If you haven’t already seen it on your pit-stop, Mozart’s house is a short walk from the train station. You can also enjoy walking through the city and if you’re keen, have a look at the Sound of Music sites.
You’ll find the convent is easy to walk to (albeit up a steep hill), as are the famous steps at Mirabell Palace (where Do Re Mi was sung). The fountain, hedges and gnomes are also here.
Contrary to what you might think, the building used for the Von Trapp family home does not exist exactly as it is in the movie. Palace Leopold was used for part of the filming, but this is now a fancy hotel with access-only gates. The outside of Frohnburg Palace was also used in the movie. This is why, if you attempt to follow Google’s directions to Sound of Music sites, you’ll walk endlessly outside of the city in an attempt to find the multiple pinned locations that each look similar – but not 100% – like the home shown in the film.
The famous pavilion is located at Hellbrunn Palace, a site which was not used in the film. This is a long walk outside of the city just to see a pavilion. It might be worth it to tick that box, but you might want to consider cycling or signing up to one of the many tours. If you do intend to walk, it can be done in a day (I did it) but make sure you have a raincoat, comfy shoes, and lots of water! This guide might also help. Alternatively, a popular way to see the sights and reminisce is by bicycle tour.
Outside of the city, beautiful clean canals weave along the streets. Many of these have been extended – and cleaned, and people appear to swim without concern. Countryside and quiet roads will quickly help you to forget about a busy but lovely city.
8) Finally, move on to Vienna. Stay one night and explore the next day.
Depending on the time of your flight home, you could have another evening here to slow down a little. I’d recommend visiting the National Library, the Sigmund Freud Museum, and the Spanish Riding School. In order to see the latter, you’ll need extra time and cash. You’re not allowed in without a ticket.
Recommended Hostel: Do Step Inn Central. B.
Now all you need to do is fly home (B). You could send your completed pass to Interrail for a souveneir. Let me know if it’s any good (I forgot).
So there it is. 14 days (an initial 4 in Malta, and a ferry to Pozzallo and bus to Catania), including 5 days of use with the pass = 9 locations, plus Malta, plus touring within each place. Not bad!
- If you’re under 28, the Interrail pass will cost you £189 (last checked November 2019)
- Accommodation: £312 approximately for a total of 11 nights in a mix of hostels and hotels, with the most expensive accommodation in Hipping.
- Ferry ticket from Malta to Pozzallo could cost you about £60
- The cheapest flight from London to Malta is £41
- The cheapest flight from Vienna to London is £50
- For diving, if you’re staying at the recommended hostel in Malta, you’re nearest dive centre is Dive Malta. 4 dives with them, with equipment hire, cost £148/172E. Expect to pay a little extra if you opt to do boat dives or night dives. If you’re doing you’re PADI Advanced Open Water here, that will set you back £223/259E – but prices will be fairly similar wherever you do the course.
- Any other dives you wish to do elsewhere, for example in Austria or Sicily, will cost approximately £43/50E per dive. Remember to leave enough time between your dives and flying.
£800 for everything in bold, plus food, sightseeing, and any additional dives you wish to have. More if you opt for a more expensive Interrail pass (or if you’re over 28 and have to buy the more pricey one).
If you want to make this trip your own, I’d recommend any of the following:
- Choosing a different starting or ending location
- Opting for Greece instead of Italy
- Stopping at popular locations, if you haven’t already seen them. On this itinerary, you have to go via Florence but I didn’t stop there as I’ve already been. If you haven’t, it would be a great place to jump off and explore.