Inter-railing, for those who aren't yet acquainted with this made-up-sounding word, is the process of travelling around Europe by using an Interrail or EURail pass, special tickets which allow almost-unlimited train travel in over twenty countries for various numbers of days. There are a number of extra benefits such as museum discounts and free ferry crossings, and the flexibility means that its simple to design a dream vacation, whether that involves party hostels in Amsterdam, luxury hotels in Venice, art galleries in Paris, rock concerts in Berlin, laying on the beach in Dubrovnik or climbing mountains in Boden.
Passes last up to an entire month, which might give some vegans cause for concern as to how they will find enough healthy or varied food along the way. However, eating a plant-based diet whilst living out of suitcase need not be difficult. Here are a few quick tips from an experienced traveller:
- Pay a visit to Happy Cow. This valuable site and its app not only offer information on vegan restaurants worldwide, but also list health food stores, complete with English descriptions and opening hours. Thanks to Happy Cow, its simple to try vegan versions of traditional local dishes, find a falafel stall at a train station, and pick up snack bars and even pre-made sandwiches to eat along the way. You can even help out your fellow vegan travellers by writing reviews and uploading pictures.
- Pre-book meals on trains. If you are a traveller who plans ahead, you can order vegan food from the buffet cars on some long-distance trains. The opportunities for this vary between companies though, and unfortunately this doesn't work if your travel style involves rolling a dice to find your next destination!
- Try to learn, or write down, a few words in the local language. It's becoming more and more common that allergens in lists of ingredients in Europe are printed in bold, so learning to recognise the words for milk and egg can save time in grocery stores. 'May contain traces of,' is also a useful phrase to be able to read, even if you can't pronounce it. Basic vocabulary also helps when reading menus, and if any communication problems arise with a waiter or shop assistant, even being able to point at the word for vegan in a notebook is a solution better than none!
- Pack a Swiss army knife, some plastic cutlery, and some Tupperware pots. Even on trains with buffet cars, bringing your own food on-board is permitted throughout Europe. On low-budget days, or for breakfast on night trains, making up a picnic on the train can save both time and money, and as single journeys in Scandinavia can last for twenty-three hours, it's a good move to pick up some bread, spread that does not need to be in the fridge, nuts and fruit before embarking on a long trip. Therefore, if the buffet does turn out to be meat-focused, too expensive, or too busy, you won't be left hungry.
- Self-catering accommodation is your friend. There is certainly nothing wrong with eating out every day in a different vegan restaurant, or switching to salads and sandwiches for a while, if that's what you prefer. However, if you enjoy cooking, want to keep costs down, or just fancy a bit of variety, a few nights here and there with kitchen facilities can help immensely. Hotel rooms with kettles make it possible to prepare basic cous cous or pasta dishes, to be eaten warm or popped into a pot for the train, whilst more elaborate dishes can be prepared in hostels with kitchens or in the ever-more popular apartment hotels which can be found in major cities.
Bon voyage and bon appétit!
Photograph: Author's Own