Ask Joan

Europe by train, bringing the dog and finding secure rentals in Lisbon

Live like a local in Lisbon in a self-catering apartment

Our daughter came back from an Interrail holiday and has fired us up to do a similar journey in September over 14 days. Have you any advice on how to go about it at a reasonable cost? We definitely want to take in Berlin, Krakow and two other destinations, with a few days near the sea. We would like to be
independent of tour operators. Should we book accommodation and transport as we travel? – BC, Galway

There is no reason why you can't be Interrailers, they have fares for grown-ups too. A pass that would allow for five days travelling out of 10 days would cost from €276 each. This should give you time to travel between places as no one journey should be more than a day. Its website is very useful for planning your trip, see

Flexible air routes from Ireland mean that you can fly in to one airport and out from another with Ryanair or Aer Lingus. Looking at the map of Europe and taking into account the time of year and weather, your days by the sea should probably be on the Italian or Croatian coast in or around Pula, Trieste or Venice.

There are routes from Shannon to Wroclaw in Poland and Knock to Milan in Italy – fares are under €50 with Ryanair. If you use these flights there may be a little backtracking to take in your chosen destinations. Other cities worth visiting are Prague, Budapest, Vienna and Salzburg.


Book accommodation for your first and last night, particularly if you are arriving late or flying out early. Accommodation should be easy to find during September.

We are travelling to Lisbon in October and there are a plethora of websites offering self-catering apartment rental. We are keen to rent an apartment for the week but they all want payment up front. While this is not an issue in itself, we are worried about security and handing over all that money. Can you advise us or recommend any particular website that you know is safe, secure and reputable? – JD, Dublin

Renting an apartment is an ideal way to enjoy a holiday and get a feel for a place. There are many websites and ways of renting and you should always be careful. Here are a few ideas for
renting securely: If you want to rent directly from an owner, use a reputable site such as or They work hard to ensure that the advertisements are genuine. Most owners are happy to take a deposit and the balance on arrival or closer to the travel date. Never send money by money transfer services.

Apartments can also be rented on and are usually part of a holiday complex or aparthotel. Generally they will allow for payment on arrival, though the price may be a bit higher than paying in advance.

Or use – a site where the deposit is 20 per cent and the payment is taken by credit card, which ensures some protection in event of problems.

We have two children, a newborn and three-year-old, and are hoping to have a break in Ireland in September, ideally at a hotel with self-catering houses or apartments. We'd like a pool and to be situated on or near the beach. My parents are considering coming but would like to bring their dog. – GS, Kildare

In east Cork, the Quality Hotel and Resort on Redbarn beach has self-catering apartments and houses. Stays will cost about €650 for five nights including use of all facilities. There is a €50 charge for dogs. See; tel: 024-93050. One of the loveliest beaches in west Cork is at Inchydoney, where you can walk for kilometres on the flat sands. Inchydoney Island Lodge has a spa and there is a surf school on the beach. A five-night stay in the Island apartments will cost €595 and dogs are welcome. See Inchydoneyisland. com; tel: 023-8833143. In Dungarvan, Co Waterford, the Park Hotel has self-catering houses, close to the Blue Flag beaches of the Copper Coast. Four nights will cost from €397 in September. See; tel: 058-42899.
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