As some of you might know, last year I went on an exchange at Konstanz University and lived in Germany for 6 months, and before and after my semester I travelled as much of Europe as I possibly could. You can read here all about my Solo Travel | My Experience & Thoughts.
Travelling solo opens up a whole new world of experiences as you learn to navigate situations on your own, make new friendships and basically do whatever you want!
Don’t waste any more time waiting for that perfect travel companion who may never come! Your perfect travel companion- is you. I couldn’t recommend solo travel enough.
It is honestly empowering and life changing for the better.
“But I can’t” or “I’ll be lonely!“ is perhaps the most common cries from people who’ve never travelled alone. People who depend on other people and feel like they can’t do things on their own are often in hiding from themselves.
You really do learn a lot about yourself, and as cheesy as it sounds- it’s true that you get in touch with yourself as well.
You get to do exactly as you please, because it’s all about you. Trust me- you will really enjoy it and wonder how it took you so long to do this before!
Nothing says clueless more like standing on a street corner with a huge map and a terrified expression! The key to travelling solo is looking confident, even if you don’t always feel it.
Eventually you will learn the ropes and confidence will become natural.
Just know that everyone has to start somewhere, and the important thing is that you’re doing it alone, so gain confidence from that and trust your instincts. What you are doing is pretty dang awesome, so throw on some shades and walk around like you belong there.
Book in advance
Spontaneous trips are always fun- but if you book well in advance it is so much cheaper. Flights, buses, accommodation, everything is a much better price.
Book these as soon as you can to get the best deal and then there’s no going back!
Hash out the rest of the details later (like activities and things you want to do there).
Get there early!
I don’t get nervous travelling except for the getting to the airport, train or bus station on time part. That part stresses me out because I would absolutely hate to miss a flight or ride and be stranded especially if you are on a tight budget.
Pack everything up and have your bag ready the night before and get to the airport or station as early as possible. Take into account the traffic, hold ups, waiting in line, all these things can affect your time so go extra early so you don’t have to worry. I’ve had a few very close shaves before and I’ll tell you, it’s not good for the heart!
Plan ahead- especially if you are a woman, so you know what you should be wearing and to avoid arriving in a new place late at night. Read up on what is culturally acceptable and what is not. That way you avoid drawing attention to yourself for the wrong reasons.
It’s also handy to learn a bit about the country you’re going to, and if you have the time to learn the basics of the languages of the countries you will be travelling to.
Even if that is just ‘hello’, ‘goodbye’, ‘please’ and ‘thank you.’ It is seen as very polite and can get you a long way with the locals.
Always carry a copy of your passport and have all your documents and information organised.
If you go to quite foreign places like I have been- some tickets are not in English.
Even certain airlines that I used weren’t in English and didn’t have the option to change.
So before you leave, take the time to use google translate if you need to, and print all of your tickets out to double check and highlight all the important things like the time, place, address, how long you need to be there beforehand and so on.
While I was travelling I had a light clear plastic sleeve with my print outs that I carried in my backpack with my laptop. It was all in order for when I needed it, for example, bus ticket, directions and map to my accommodation, accommodation confirmation, and so on.
Walking & bus tours
A lot of cities these days have free walking tours and offer different activities such as food and drink tours, or a bicycle ride tour or castle tour etc.
It’s a great way to be introduced to the city and being by yourself it’s the perfect opportunity to meet and interact with new people. You are in a group for a couple of hours and the tour guides as well are always really friendly and stick around at the end to answer any questions.
Hop on Hop off bus tours are another great way to see the city. Usually there are options for 24, 48 or 72 hours and you can use it as you please. They go to all the main tourist attractions as well as cover a lot of the city and perimeters which you probably wouldn’t see otherwise. They usually also include organised walking tours as well as river cruises which is perfect. I did Hop on Hop off tours in Vienna and Budapest and I really enjoyed them.
Hostels are great to socialise and meet new people and if you don’t mind sharing a room with strangers then go for it, it’s your decision. But if you’re a female and alone then you do actually have the option in a lot of places now to stay in female only dorm rooms, so I would really recommend that.
Hostels usually always have activities and social events on every night of the week.
I’m not one to stay in hostels myself now, unless I’m with someone I know.
Just my preference. I’ve stayed in mixed rooms a few times in the past and they’ve all been really bad experiences. Some guys are so creepy and it’s just not fun and could potentially be very unsafe. So on my big Europe solo trip I did at first look into female only dorms, but then I discovered Airbnb.
Use Airbnb! You can browse online and filter for places in your price range, where exactly you want to stay, if you want your own room- even your own self-contained place.
Choose places that are verified and have good reviews and comments about them.
I used Airbnb for Vienna (I had my own student style full self contained unit), Budapest (this was so cheap- 10 Euros a night), Krakow (this was an amazing modern loft with great views and the girl went away for the weekend so I had the whole place to myself for 3 of the nights!), Prague (a huge town house located right in the town centre), and I also used it in Dublin and Rome with my friends- in both cases we booked a whole house/apartment out just for us and it was much cheaper than a hotel. Here’s the link here if you want to check it out: Airbnb website.
Don’t let being by yourself hold you back from doing the things you want to. For example dining alone- there is absolutely nothing wrong with eating alone at a restaurant or going to the pub by yourself for a couple of beers.
I did that all the time! Yeah, people do look at you and wonder, but let them.
You’re there to enjoy yourself and I especially am there to eat good food- it’s one of my greatest loves of travelling- to try the new foods and drink, so of course I’m going to walk into restaurants and cafes and say, “Table for one”.
Sometimes I read a book on my phone while I’m eating or catch up on the news if there’s free wifi.
|Dining alone in Hungary|
If I’m at a pub sometimes I will sit at the bar if there’s a space, and quite often the bar tenders will have a chat to you and I’ve had people sitting next to me start conversations with me, which leads to my next point:
Talk to strangers
(But only if you’re comfortable- don’t talk to anyone that makes you nervous.
You can usually tell straight away if the person is friendly or just plain weird).
I ordinarily am a pretty shy person and don’t normally go out of my way to talk to strangers- except for when I travel, I do love to meet new people from different places and cultures.
It leads to opportunities and even new friendships.
One evening I had alone in Athens I was sitting at a table in an outdoor restaurant looking at a menu, when two guys around my age that were sitting next to me invited me to join them- which was so nice. Potentially awkward, but they looked cool and friendly so I said yes, which is my next tip:
Say yes to opportunities and situations that might be outside of your comfort zone.
If people invite you to hang out with them or do something fun and you feel safe about it, then why turn that down?
It turned out these two guys were German- from Berlin, so we had a lot to chat about and we even went out for a few beers after dinner. They showed me a really unique street and took me to a cool rooftop bar overlooking the Acropolis which I went back to again another time- it was a magical spot.
I won’t bore you with this tip, as I’m sure you’ve heard it all before! But be conscious that you have to carry everything on your back or lug it around in a suitcase all by yourself- through stations, up stairs- everywhere! So really do leave behind things you won’t need and only pack essentials.
I have the biggest bad habit of packing too many clothes, as I usually end up always wearing the same things all the time!
No need for a selfie stick…
I know it’s totally your choice if you want a selfie stick (I really don’t like them- but that’s just my opinion!). It may seem handy for capturing those winning selfies, but- seriously you don’t need one. People have been taking their own photos for many years- by way of asking others to take it for them.
Go ‘old-school’ and browse a friendly looking and trustworthy couple for example who are probably taking photos themselves. You can exchange and take one of them and then they take one of you. It’s extremely common and more often than not others will probably approach you first so jump on board!
Ask for help
Definitely do not be afraid to ask for help if you need it. The kindness of strangers has even overwhelmed me and helped me out of a few tight spots many times.
I’ve had a restaurant owner give me their wifi password to help me as I was lost, I’ve asked a random guy in an airport to use his phone because mine didn’t work and I had no way of contacting my friend I was supposed to meet an hour before, and even just little things like directions, and which train to catch because you don’t know where you are and its not in English…the majority of people have no problem with helping those in need.
Don’t let the little things get you down. Not everything is going to be perfect and not everything goes to plan. But if you go in with a carefree and easy-going attitude, then those little hiccups that are bound to happen are just going to bounce right off of you.
Stay in contact
When you can, always let someone know where you are (city/country-wise).
I relied solely on free wifi so whenever I had the chance to use it somewhere I would message my fiance to tell him where I was etc.
I had also typed up an itinerary for my accommodation and travel information and sent that to him and also my mum, in case they didn’t hear from me, they would at least know where I was at all times.
My most important tip is to enjoy yourself!
that will truly enrich your life.
I really encourage solo travel, you really get in touch with yourself and it’s wonderful and freeing being able to do exactly what you want and when you want.
It’s also a great opportunity to get out of your comfort zone and push boundaries you wouldn’t normally push, and meet interesting new people from all over the world.
I hope these extra tips will help towards successfully preparing you if you are looking at a solo adventure for the first time.
To sum up- get excited, plan exactly whatever you want to do, be brave and prepare well, and you will have the absolute time of your life! The world has so much to offer- you just have to go out there and find it. Solo travel is an incredible experience, and one that you will look back on and be really proud to have done.
Thanks for reading, let me know in the comments if you’re preparing for your first solo trip, or feel free to ask any questions if you have any.
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*This post contains images that are not my own