You are in the middle of your Interrail journey, you are pretty confident in reading a free map from your hostel and you have become a professor of penny pinching. So, you are not going to get sucked into a tourist trap, are you? Exactly what I thought, I assumed I was pretty streetwise and that I wouldn’t be snared. But I was. Twice, maybe more. Here are my tips on how to not be tricked!
The two times I was tourist trapped that stick in my mind were in massively touristy areas; Lake Bled (Slovenia) and Venice (Italy). Keep your wits about you and make a reasonable effort to plan in advance.
Bad food at a high price
Venice, I am looking at you! My partner was complaining that he was hungry, we were both super hot and with desperately needed a drink. The restaurant in the piazza were extortionate, they all were. After walking around, we settled on a place in front of the Grand Canal that was busy. We ordered drinks and a pizza. After we ordered, we noticed the small print on the menu: items with an asterisk are made with frozen produce. Or something to that effect. I could not move for asterisks, I could not comprehend why, in Italy, frozen tomatoes and meats would be used. Ultimately, we stayed as we are awkward Brits and the bill came to 50 euros. More than our accommodation.
Bring snacks and drinks with you! Buying them from a supermarket is going to save you a heap of money. We brought drinks with us, but the heatwave made them lukewarm. If we had planned a bit further in advance, at least we would have only paid for drinks!
Below: some good, cheap food options!
A gondola ride is 80 euros. Scusi!?
Mama mia! Do we really need to pay 80 euros for a half hour trip on a gondola whilst we are trying to save money. Probably not. Definitely not. Do we desperately want to ride a gondola as part of a travel bucket list? 100%.
I wish so badly that we did this, but we are both so socially awkward we simply couldn’t do it! A lot of couples want to ride the gondola, but nobody wants to drop 80 euros for the pleasure. If you see another couple checking out the prices, approach them and ask if they would like to split a ride. That way it is only 20 euros each for an iconic jaunt around Venice. 20 euros is still a lot though, but we wish that we skipped the dreadful meal and got ripped off by a gondola instead.
Train fares in France
Some of the high speed trains in France come with a hefty price tag. My partner and I would have been faced with a huge outlay if we did not think on our feet here. He had a different Interrail Pass to me, which expired a day or two sooner than planned. We aimed to stay in Paris one more night and head to Dortmund in the morning, however due to his pass expiring we were faced with a cost of over 250 euros to get to Dortmund. Summary: we had to cancel our extra night in Paris and hop on a train and an overnight bus to avoid this cost.
Check the normal prices of tickets before you make the journey. This seems obvious to us now, but in the heat of the moment we just did not think about it. With an Interrail Pass you need only pay for your seat reservation, so weigh up the pros and cons of a pass before you embark.
When flying into Europe, if you do not live on the continent of course, can be cheap. If you book with a budget airline, you will not believe how cheap it is. However, a lot of the budget airlines come with a sting in their tail – checked baggage is massively expensive.
Endeavour to travel with hand luggage only. I understand that when you are backpacking this can be difficult, yet I did manage this. Six weeks of travel using only hand luggage. I recommend researching the cabin bag allowance of your potential airlines and buying a bag that fits that specification, just! I used the Cabin Max Riga in black, which adhered to the maximum dimensions of companies like Ryanair, Easyjet and Norwegian. The bag was extremely affordable and had enough room for all of my stuff. The allowances do change though, so please check before you buy a new bag.
OK, so, I am pretty much targeting the entirety of Lake Bled here. The castle and the lake itself were gorgeous and you cannot take that away from this magical location. However, I will not that I was shocked that almost the complete shoreline was flanked with hotels, cafes and those huge gondolas that take you across the lake to the castle. Which I paid for as I was too tired. The gondola ride was expensive, even for a tourist hotspot like Lake Bled and once you docked at the island you were only allowed approximately twenty minutes of exploration before you had to return to the boat.
I don’t know how much this would actually cost, so I apologise for that. I would simply hire a rowing boat, which were available, to row yourself across to the island. That way you can take as much time as you need to explore, take pictures, climb the tower or sit down for a picnic.
What are your own top tips to avoid being trapped in tourist hell?