Backpacking 🎒 through Central Europe on Interrail 🚞


I started writing this article in April 2023, but a whole slew of events that came after delayed it's completion. I once again sit down to finish it ... hopefully, I will this time. 🤞

Stunning Amsterdam at night, my favourite photo from the montage

After 9 days of consecutive travel, boarding 30 trains, breezing through 6 countries, sleeping on trains, and staying in hostels of all shapes and forms, I sit down to document my solo adventure across Central Europe.

As an Erasmus student, I lived in Torino in northern Italy and departed on my trip from here as soon as my exams were over. While there were a lot of options to get from one destination to the next, none could beat the extensive and elegantly integrated rail system in Europe. In this regard, I bought the 5-travel-day Interrail pass and loaded it onto my phone.

With the combined power of my Malaysian passport and Italian residence card, my Interrail pass, a packed bag and a power bank, I left my room in Torino at 12.40 am (yes midnight) on Monday and boarded a Flixbus to Geneva, where I hoped to see the sunrise.

Trip Summary

I started in Italy and covered Switzerland, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany. Through connecting train routes, I also stepped foot in Austria. According to Interrail and Google Maps, I boarded a total of 30 trains, traveled 9000km by train, and walked a total of 51 miles (82km) by foot. I explored almost every city entirely on foot.

Geneva (Switzerland)

I reached Geneva at 6.30 am and was wet by intense wintry mixes and freezing cold weather. The whole point of transiting through Geneva was to see the sunrise, but it was completely dark. I waited in a coffee shop and started planning for my next journey to Paris.

I eventually saw the sunrise and roamed around Geneva up until my train to Paris. In hindsight, I chose to start in Geneva because I was under the impression that my Interrail pass could only be used outside Italy (my country of residence), unaware of the inbound/outbound rule. However, the clear-water view was incredible, just as Geneva transitioned from winter to spring.


Remarkable shots of the Eiffel Tower (taken on the S20 FE)

Paris was the first main destination, where I planned to spend at least 2 days. Getting to Paris was tricky, as the Interrail app had several potential travel routes. The high-speed train, which would have been shorter, more comfortable, and direct, required a €30 reservation fee, which I ardently wanted to avoid.

I chose the longer route, which required no additional reservations, but needed 2 transfers. From Geneva, I took a Swiss regional train to Aix Les Bains Le Revard, and consequently to Lyon Part Dieu. From Lyon, I boarded a 5-hour regional train that reached Paris by 6.24 pm.

Unaware of when I would reach Paris, I held off on booking a hostel bed until the final leg of the train journey. I grabbed a cheap one at St. Christopher's Inn in Paris from around €23 a night and reached just in time to check-in. As I hadn't eaten all day, I grabbed dinner and roamed the streets near the hostel before turning in for an early night.

My first day in Paris started at 7 am but was extensively chaotic because of transport strikes across Paris. Google Maps estimated that I walked 16km on that day alone to traverse Paris in its entirety by foot. I walked to the Pantheon, nearby churches, met my cousin for lunch (he lives in Paris), walked across Pont Alexandre, Champ de Mars, visited a free museum on cultural history, and finally the Eiffel tower, hoping to catch glimpses of it both in the day and at night.


After walking 16km in a day, I grabbed dinner (biryani) near the hostel and contemplated extending my stay in Paris. After learning of the jump in the hostel bed's price for the next night and the immense number of things I covered in a single day, I decided to leave Paris the next evening.  But before I left, I wanted to visit one more important thing, the actual Mona Lisa at the Louvre. However, the Louvre is always booked out. Because of the impromptu nature of the trip, I didn't make reservations beforehand.

The Bibliotheque Nationale de France

Much to my luck, I met Giovanni and Chiara who stayed in the same hostel room. They had tickets to the Louvre for the next morning but had to return to Italy a day early. In a turn of events, they transferred the ticket to me (we're all EU residents, so the cost of the ticket was free). Thanks to them, I was able to go see the Mona Lisa the next day.

The next day was perhaps the busiest of all, I was to:

  1. Visit the Montmarde Cathedral first thing in the morning
  2. Walk to the other end of Paris by 11 a.m. to visit the Louvre
  3. Visit the Arc de Triomphe
  4. Grab lunch and pick up my luggage from the hostel
  5. Leave for Brussels before 4 p.m.
The Louvre and the Mona Lisa

It was exahusting, but I managed to catch my train up north to Brussels. It wasn't direct, so I had to go through Lille, France and switch trains. In the train, I met Marine, a French student heading back home from Paris to the countryside.


Oh, beautiful, sultry Amsterdam. I arrived in a cold, rainy and occassionally snowy city that was a stark contrast to the brighter and more vibrant city of Paris.