Our Interrail Trip in a Shoestring

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We are finally back in the Netherlands after 2 weeks of Interrailing! I have to say this trip was most rewarding, especially after an intense first semester of Grad School here in Leiden. During this trip we visited 5 main cities: Prague, Vienna, Salzburg, and Interlaken. We also had a few day trips to smaller towns besides those main cities (Halstatt, Iseltwald). I know, I know, a lot of people ask: 5 cities and only 12 days? Isn’t that a bit short for an interrail trip? Most people usually spend at least a month. Some people try to fit 20 cities within 2 weeks (I had a few friends who did that). Well we certainly do have our reasons for planning how we planned our trip, one of the main ones being me having a severe backpain that does not allow me to get too tired.

We all know that it takes quite some discipline and amples of time to plan a Europe trip. So, however short and unconventional our may be, I would still like to share the technical matters about our trip (and its planning) in hopes that it does shed some light to those planning on their own.

First a some several disclaimer:

  • Everyone has a different budget and idea of how their ideal Europe trip will look like. There is no right and wrong to this: what I think is expensive and cheap, or is a worthy or bad experience may be different to yours. Let’s respect that difference 😊
  • This blog will be specifically about Interrailing. I am aware that there might be some other options to travel Europe, such as by plane (low cost airlines such as Ryan Air or Transavia) or bus (Flixbus). I will not be covering those in this blog today because for my situation, Interrailing was the cheapest and best option and I am not as familiar with the other options.
  • Interrailing is not always the cheaper option, depending on where you are from (it is more expensive if you are not resident of the EU) and what destinations you want to go to.

Now that I have that settled, let us move on to our main topic. How I will do this is list some main questions and simply answer each one – a Q&A session.

What is Interrail Pass?

The Interrail Pass is a railway ticket that allows you to travel an unlimited rail travel in 30 European countries during a certain amount of time. It is only available for European residents while people from outside the EU can purchase a similar pass called the Eurrail.

There are several types of Interrail Pass which you can check on their website https://www.interrail.eu/en/interrail-passes to see which one fits you best. The one I used was the Interrail Global Pass – Travel 5 days within 15 days. This means that I have unlimited travel within those 5 days but the validity of the pass only lasts 15 days. The price for these passes are different depending on age, for those who are under 28, the “Interrail Global Pass – Travel 5 days within 15 days” costs 206 Euros a person, or about 40 Euros a day. This is a pretty good deal if you have to travel far (like I did from Amsterdam to Prague) or to expensive countries (like I did in Switzerland).

Are there no additional costs outside the price you paid for the Pass?

There are certain trains that requires you to reserve seats. Reservation can be done on the Interrail website where you pay about 7 Euros for each reservation. Each reservation can be for more than one person, so if you are travelling in a group of four, you can split the 7 Euros reservation cost four ways.

You can also choose trains that do NOT require reservations. You can check which trains that do not require reservations here https://www.interrail.eu/en/plan-your-trip/rail-planner-app. However there are some places and times where I do recommend you to just reserve seats even if it is not mandatory:

  • Travelling anywhere from or to Germany no matter what time of the season
  • Travelling anywhere in the peak summer times (June-August)

Although I had a reservation from Amsterdam to Berlin and Berlin to Prague, I did not make a reservation for my 4 hour train from Prague to Vienna. I ended up spending most of the trip sitting on the floor in front of the train doors (which means I had to get up and move every time the train stops and someone had to go in or out). Yes, it is annoying. Just spend that 7 euros.

Is it easy to use the Interrail in all 30 countries?

Fortunately this was the case for all the countries I visited and passed by (Germany, Czech Republic, Austria and Switzerland). But I have heard that this is not the case for all countries. According to Seat61, “The countries where InterRailing is easy:  Belgium, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Denmark, Great Britain & Ireland”.

More info on Interrail and how it works?

I know the Interrail website can be confusing. If you are interested in going Interrail or Eurrailing, I highly recommended his page on beginners guide to Interrailing here https://www.seat61.com/InterRail-pass-guide.htm! It helped me a lot during my planning.

Europe is so big! How did you determine where you wanted to go?

Well, I had a few dream cities that I have always wanted to visit. Such as Hallstatt and the Jungfrauch region. From there I looked at a map and planned my itinerary. For inspirations you might want to browse on Pinterest. You can also search Eurotrip Itinerary on Google. A lot of people have made blog posts on a recommended itinerary within a certain amount of travel days.

How far from your trip did you buy your Interrail Pass and book accomodations?

I bought my Interrail Pass online in April 2017 which was 3 months before the trip. The pass arrived at my doorstep (or well, my mailbox) a week later.

To some people, the beauty of Interrailing is actually the spontaneity and freedom where you can choose where you want to go the day you want to travel. These people usually search for accommodation upon arrival to the next city.  But because I am a freak for details, I planned the trip carefully and booked all accomodations in April also. I am now glad that I did because if I hadn’t, I would have probably paid 2-3x more than I did due to the peak seasons. Also, most places (especially small towns like Salzburg or Interlaken) are usually fully booked during these times. Hence my recommendation is, if you want to go Interrailing for spontaneity, do not go in peak seasons!

Where did you find your accomodations?

I actually booked from Hostelbookers and looked for places with a rating above 8.0. I try to find accommodation that is not quite at the center of town (that way it is not too crowded) but also not too far away. Turns out this was a good strategy, as in Prague and Vienna where we booked 2 beds in a 4 bed dorm, we were fortunate to find we had no roommates and had the room to ourselves! I am telling you, in the middle of summer in this peak season, this is really rare.

Side notes:

  • Aside from hostelbookers.com you can also book from hostelworld.com. However, they do charge you a few euros more. The good side is, if you suddenly need to change the date of your stay, a booking from these sites makes the changing easier to do
  • If you are sure of the dates and want to save a bit more, then you can search for hostels with good reviews on these sites but go to the hostels personal site to book.
  • If you want a more private but still budget accommodation, try Airbnb, but be sure to find accomodations that has been nicely reviewed by a lot of people!

How much did you spend on the trip?

This one is a bit of a sensitive topic and it actually differs person to person so I don’t really want to show it publicly here. If you are however interested, please email me on Zafira.shabrina@gmail.com and I will send you a copy of my excel file.

 

I think this is all for now. I will attempt to elaborate each city – both practical things and trivias – on a different post. If you are interested in anything please comment down below!

Thanks for reading ❤

Zafira

 

Unleashing Indonesia: Ready, Set, GO!

Yesterday morning (eeearly morning, as in 2AM), I was awaken by the constant buzz of my phone. Annoyed and simply couldn’t find any way to get back to sleep, I decided to wake up and check what the racket was about. Long story short, I found out that the buzzes were my friends who were informing that I was accepted as participant of Young Leaders for Indonesia McKinsey ! 

There is no way to describe just how grateful I am to be one out of the 60 chosen delegates. It’s amazing what reputation the program has and the impact its given towards our society. The thought of me finally getting to contribute directly towards a better Indonesia gets me really excited! 🙂 But that brings me to a  series of worries.

Firstly, you should probably know that the program runs for 6 months:

  • 3 forums held in Jakarta on late April, early July and late September 2013
  • Between the first and second forum, we are entitled to do an individual project that contributes to our own environment (~2 months)
  • Between the second and third forum, delegates are split into groups and are to do a bigger project with a bigger impact (~3 months)

The one great thing about the program is that delegates receive a big scholarship that covers all costs of the program, so financial needs are all settled. Secondly and most importantly, THE BOARDS AND SPEAKERS ARE AMAZING! From politicians and ambassadors, to company CEOs. Amongst them are Anies Baswedan, Sandiago Uno, HE Dinno Patti Djalal and Gita Wirjawan. In short, the program is awesome!!

But… back to my worries. So there are a couple of things that hovers on my mind:

  • I’m currently having that inferior syndrome. I know and I’m sure that my 59 new friends are aaawesome and dedicated, which makes me feel so nervous since we have to do speeches and discussions and stuff
  • I’m not sure what to do for my individual projeeect. I’ve got ideas but i feel nervouuusss
  • I have to give up not doing UGM’s academic obligation of doing community service, and postpone it til’ next semster 😐

But then again, creating changes for a better future is never easy. And nevertheless I am 100% sure that I will gain sooooo much experience and have great coaches to overcome all those obstacles 🙂

I am ready to contribute and unleash Indonesia!

Walking in Other People’s Shoes

It was a bright sunny day when we arrived at that Islamic boarding school: welcomed and given a warm yet formal ceremonial introduction. I remember ever so clearly. He had dark skin, barely any hair, and beautiful wide eyes filled with deep curiosity. What was his name? I can’t seem to recall. Let’s just call him Hassan for the time being.

Oh wait… I’m way ahead of myself. Let’s start from the very beginning: My visit to the Pesantren described above was part of a 30-day study on cultural and pluralistic issues. Together with a group of American students and 3 other Indonesian delegates, I gained hands-on experience on the theme: how complex it is, and how rich the world is of differences. Cool right?

So then, who is Hassan and what about him? Well I was just getting to that. During a sharing session with students and teachers of this school, Hassan bravely stood up, turned on the microphone, faced the unfamiliar visitors and  asked:

“why do Americans hate us (Indonesians)? Why do Americans hate Islam?”

A bold question indeed! I could hear the Americans starting to whisper, they were shocked. As for us confused Indonesians, we did nothing but share secretive looks at each other. We knew the question was coming. In fact it was only a matter of time before our own curiosity dawned on us. After what seemed like forever, an American delegate took the initiative to answer the crowd, it sounded something like this (and I rephrase):

“Americans do not hate Indonesians, nor do they hate Islam. As a matter of fact, little of them know where Indonesia is or what it is about. It is quite shocking for us to hear a question about something that never came across our minds.  We understand that after the 9/11 attack, misperceptions about Islam and Muslim Majority countries keep coming up. But that is the very reason we are here: to learn about Indonesia. Get to know the culture, the people, the policies…”

I felt like giving a standing applause (which was barely possible since I was playing the language interpreter). My dear friend took Hassan’s question and answered very nicely. You certainly do have to give credit for that! But really, Hassan’s sincerety of a child made me realize how big the effect of social assumptions are. Though sometimes when we assume, we assume way too much or even out of line. Many conflicts, both minute and major, are caused by miss communications and little understanding of the two parties involved. I am not saying that no one can be blamed in the so-called conflicts; even I take stand in the Israeli-Palestinian issue, the Syrian civil war or the election of DKI’s local governor. But in my humble opinion, the intensity of the problems escalate just because of public opinions and shout-outs. Whilst in reality, individuals of the society are just shouting, period. Many do not try to see from the perspectives of those they do not support. Thus hatred and prejudice becomes a problem.

Looking back at my experience back at the Pesantren made me realize how essential it is to get to know other cultures, religions and nations. This reminded me of an article I read on VOA Indonesia on August 7, 2012 entitled “Peserta Pertukaran Mahasiswa Pluralisme dan Keberagaman Budaya Bertolak ke AS” (Participants of Student Exchange on Pluralism and Multiculture Departs to the US – translation. Students of two very different countries came together and learned issues of democracy, pluralism and multiculturalism in Indonesia and United States. During the travel, the group was directly confronted by the reality of the two countries, good or bad. Meeting with some of Indonesia’s prominent figures, such as Professor Amien Rais and Alissa Wahid, visiting Yogya Hiphop Foundation and Inter-religious discussions — they certainly must have learnt a lot. Most importantly the delegates shall learn to see things from other people’s perspectives. Even when these “other people” are considered an arch enemy on TV. I guess what I’m trying to say is, these students are forced to come out of their comfort zone – their shell, their bubble – and walk in someone else’s shoes.

You certainly must be able to imagine how hard that is. But this attempt most certainly is life changing — and if it does help make the world a better place, why not? Maybe next time, we could do a similar program with… Ahmadiyah and Fanatic Islam? Or even Jokowi-Ahok and Foke! Let’s walk in other people’s shoes, people!

Definitely No Place Like Home

Over the past year I have immersed myself in an environment so different from my own. “Living outside my comfort zone”, as adviced by so many people. It has been a wonderful experience, meeting with incredible-famous-prominent people, befriend such caring and intelligent students, falling in love with a great and nice but very different man… ah, don’t know what else.

During the time I was “away”, my attitude to those in my original environment changed. I am truly ashamed to say that I became some sort of a stuck-up snob: fought with two of my best friends, became distant with the general society, became careless with academic matters, you name it. It wasn’t until a week ago that I realized how much was missed. My heart decided then was the perfect time to head home. The moment I silently declared myself back in Psychology, I was warmly embraced by my best friends, professors, seniors, juniors, even by work! I have forgotten how amazing home can be. I feel ever so grateful for everyone who received me the way they did even after the great mess. Thank you :’)

Now, I am fully recharged. Most importantly, I’ve learned a great lesson: there’s no place like home 😉  

The great lesson is learnt, and I am ready to climb-up again, this time without forgetting where I began, came from and belong

Yogyakarta, June 28 2012 [11:01]

EH!

Saat ini global warming tengah menjadi salah satu isu paling kompleks yang dihadapi para pimpinan negara dunia. Warning semakin gencar diteriakkan oleh para ahli seiring dengan membludaknya gas rumah kaca. Emisi Global CO2 telah mengalami lonjakan yang sangat ekstrim pada tahun 2010, menjadikannya rekor lonjakan paling besar sepanjang sejarah. Meski saat ini efek global warming belum terlalu terlihat, terutama di negara khatulistiwa seperti Indonesia, prevensi sudah harus dilakukan. Tanpa prevensi, bencana akan datang:Puncak pegunungan akan mencair, hutan-hutan akan menjadi padang pasir, terorisme meningkat, dan bahkan ribuan pulau Indonesia diduga akan tenggelam pada tahun 2030!

Upaya penanggulangan global warming telah dilakukan oleh PBB, melalui conference tahunan UNFCCC yang diikuti 194 negara. Juga oleh banyak Non-governmental Organization (NGO). Sebagai contoh, di Indonesia ada Tunas Hijau, yang mengadakan Ajang Putra-Putri Lingkungan Hidup serta kegiatan lain yang environmentally friendly. Namun demikian, kesadaran masyarakat secara umum (atau lebih dikenal dengan istilah grass root community) masih rendah. Padahal global warming sebenarnya merupakan efek piling dari kegiatan-kegiatan sederhana di rumah tangga. Maka sosialisasi alangkah baiknya dilakukan dengan media yang sedang booming atau paling banyak digunakan masyarakat. Sebagai contoh twitter dan facebook.

Earth Hour, sebuah kegiatan global yang diadakan World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), mengajak masyarakat dunia untuk melakukan aktivias positif yang menyelamatkan bumi. Salah satu agenda utamanya diadakan tiap sabtu pada minggu terakhir bulan maret, yang tahun ini jatuh pada tangal 31 Maret, pukul 20.30-21.30. Ide ini pertama dimulai di Sydney, Australia, pada tahun 2007 lalu diikui oleh negara-negara lain di tahun-tahun berikutnya. Earth Hour Indonesia sendiri tahun ini memberi nama: “Ini Aksiku, Mana Aksimu?”, dan menantang masyarakat untuk lebih konkret dalam berhemat energi. Tahun 2012, 18 kota di Indonesia akan berpartisipasi dalam gerakan ini. Menggandeng pula mitra, mulai dari pemerintahan (Kota Surabaya, Kota Yogya, Provinsi Jawa Tengah), media (metroTV, radio Gadjah Mada, Jawa Pos, Suara Merdeka) hingga perusahaan yang juga berjanji akan menonaktifkan kegiatan berlistrik selama jam tersebut. Kegiatan ini terus digencarkan melalui social media, seperti twitter (@EHIndonesia, @EHJogja) dan Facebook. SocNet selain menjadi alat penyuluhan pada masyarakat tentang aksi 31 Maret, menjadi ajang masyarakat untuk berlomba-lomba memamerkan usahanya untuk menyelamatkan bumi. Seseorang dapat menuliskan aksinya lalu me-mention pada akun @EHIndonesia, @Ehjogja, atau EH lainnya untuk di retweet dan disebarluaskan ke khalayak. Dengan demikian orang lain juga akan terpacu untuk melakukan aktivitas serupa. Sebagai contoh akun @axyzadas bercerita bahwa ia baru saja menggunakan transportasi umum ke kampus – sederhana tetapi bermakna.

SocNet juga digunakan EH untuk mempublikasikan program-programnya yang lain. Pada 28/02 EH jogja bercerita tentang audiensi di Kepatihan dengan Sri Sultan Hamengkubuwono X dan calon Adipati Paku Alam. Sultan dengan senang hati menyatakan bahwa listrik keraton akan dipastikan mati pada 31 Maret 2012, dan Ngarso Dalem siap menjadi Duta Earth Hour Jogja 2012. Disamping itu calon Adipati Paku Alam, Kanjeng Bimo, juga bercerita tentang concern-nya akan lingkungan hidup serta pengalamannya menjadi seorang anak Pecinta Alam semasa muda. Harapannya, posting EH di twitter akan aksi seperti ini akan memberikan gambaran bahwa kegiatan-kegiatan ini dilakukan bukan hanya oleh masyarakat kecil tetapi juga oleh para penguasa. Sehingga lebih banyak orang yang berkenan menyelamatkan bumi ini.

Essay singkat tugas untuk kelas Antropologi Dasar Dr. Setiadi, FIB UGM

Al-Quran (Kalam Allah)

1) WE ALWAYS ASK: Why was I TESTED?
AL-QURAN ANSWERS: “Do men think that they will be left alone saying,’We believe’, and that they will not be tested? We did test those before them, and Allah will certainly know those who are true from those who are false.” [29:2-3]

2) WE ALWAYS ASK: Why I never get what I wanted?
AL-QURAN ANSWERS: ” It is possible that you dislike a thing which is good for you, and that you love a thing, which is bad for you. But Allah knows, while you know not.” Surah Al-Baqarah [2:216]

3) WE ALWAYS ASK:Why was I burdened this way?
AL-QURAN ANSWERS: “Allah does not place a burden to a soul greater than it can bear. It gets every good that it earns, and it suffers every ill that it earns.” Surah Al-Baqarah [2:286]& ” So verily, with every difficulty there is relief: (repeated) Verily, with every difficulty there is relief.” Surah Al-Insyirah [94:5-6]

4) WE ALWAYS ASK: Why am I losing hope?
AL-QURAN ANSWERS: “So lose not heart, nor fall into despair: For you will be superior if you are true in Faith.” Surah Al-Imran [3:139]

5) WE ALWAYS ASK: How can I face it?
AL-QURAN ANSWERS: ” O you who believed! Persevere in patience and constancy; vie in such perseverance; strengthen each other; and fear Allah that you may prosper.” Surah Al-Imran[3:200] & “And seek(Allah’s) help with patient, perseverance and prayer: It is indeed hard, except to those who bring a humbly submissive (to Allah).” Surah Al-Baqarah [2:45]

6) WE ALWAYS ASK: What do I get from all these?
AL-QURAN ANSWERS: “Indeed, Allah has purchased from the believers their lives and properties (in exchange) for that they will have the garden (of Paradise)…” Surah At-Taubah [9:111]

7) WE ALWAYS ASK: To whom could I depend?
AL-QURAN ANSWERS: “(Allah) suffice me: there is no god but He: On Him is my trust- He the Lord of the Throne (of Glory) Supreme.” Surah At-Taaubah [9:129]

8) WE ALWAYS ASK: But I can’t take it anymore!
AL-QURAN ANSWERS: “…and never give up hope of Allah’s Soothing Mercy; truly No one despairs of Allah’s Soothing Mercy. except Those who have no faith.” Surah Yusuf [9:87]& “Despairs not of the Mercy of Allah: for Allah forgives All sins for He is Often- Forgiving, Most Merciful.” Surah Az-Zumar [39:53]

 

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