I’ve been traveling alone here and there for the past six years. Two months ago I left my comfortable (boring) life and hit the road in Europe. These are some things I’ve learned and wanted to share with fellow travelers or inspiring ones. Add anything to this list in the comments!
1- When traveling alone you are more aware of your surroundings, people, path, map and everything else
2-Pickpocketing in Europe is real. When visiting a highly touristic area or city: Always keep your bags safely closed and in front of you. You can close your bags with locks. Avoid purses or bags with zippers, or close it with a safety pin. If you want you can buy a safety day bag online.
3-DO your research when searching for accommodation. It is highly important to read reviews of other travelers and the answer they got from the host or hotel. I use AIRBNB a lot since they reviews come directly from the guests after they checked out.
4-Stay close to the train station or the bus station. Avoid carrying your luggage long way from the departure port, it will be double the work to arrive and departure. Once you settle you can go sightseeing and enjoy the quiet area instead of the touristic center.
5- Have Skype account and the app on your smartphone. If you have any emergency, or you have to call your bank ASAP because your card is blocked or lost, you need this. International calls using roaming or local sim cards can be very expensive, but Skype offers low rates for international calls, you recharge it when needed. I add 10 dollars every 3 or 4 months, if so.
6-Arrive to a new place during the day. At night everything is more confusing, try to arrive during day time and find your way around the area where you are staying.
7- Always have some cash with you. I try to pay mostly with cash, it helps me control my expenses and I feel safer that way. Cards can be a problem if they get lost or your bank suspects fraud and blocks it right when you have to pay for your meal. Try to obtain cash from ATM machines inside banks if possible, if you have any issue call your bank right away.
8-Always know where you stuff are (money, cellphone, keys). Keep it safe at your hotel or AIRBNB place. Make sure this is a trustful place when you arrive, if you read good reviews and they hosted many people, you should be fine but always keep your stuff locked if possible.
9-Before arriving to an Airbnb/hostel/hotel make sure you know how to get there, take snapshots on your phone of the map and the location. WIFI may not be available and you may not speak the language to ask for directions. It is also a good idea to have the addresses written on paper in case your phone die.
10-Make sure to let people at home know where you are. Always keep in touch with your family, inform them where you are and where you are going as often as possible. It gives them peace of mind and keeps you safe.
11-Always charge your devices over night! It is a great idea to invest in a portable charger.
12-Always wear flip flops when having showers in hostels/shared bathrooms. In general is good to have them, your feet need a break from closed shoes. You can see my packing list on this post.
13-Always plan your meals in advance. Make yourself some sandwiches for the day if you are in a budget. You don’t want to be hangry on the streets and fall into a tourist trap.
14-If you don’t feel comfortable in any situation or with some people you must say no, or walk away, or change hostels, or let someone know. Please always think on your safety first.
15- The world is a beautiful place full of many many good people. But be aware of those few bad ones, because they are out there.
16-Lie. Sometimes you have to. As a solo female traveler I don’t always tell people I am alone. I sometimes say my friends are meeting me here, or my boyfriend (Norman Reedus :D) is waiting for me. To lie is not nice as a life rule, but at some situations you have to, just to keep your peace of mind and safety.
17-You are representing where you come from. I represent two/sometimes three nations. I was born in Argentina, my family is Italian and I live in the US. What I say about these places/ cultures is what people who may never hear or know about them, will remember. Do not brag, we have nothing to brag about. And do not badmouth your place. It is your home.
18-Food is a big part of traveling. Try all you can from local cuisine. You will always find good food, go for the local places. It is a huge part of the experience.
19- Travel with less. Much less. You don’t need all your packed, keep it simple and just enough. A lot of things will hold you back from moving around. Your back will hurt and it will be difficult to arrive or depart from places (specially getting on the train, and running to catch the next connection…)
20-Train travel is one of the best ways to see places. It is fantastic in Europe. It is safe, comfortable, fast and reliable. It is slightly more expensive than flights inside this continent, but its well worth it. (upcoming post in tips to train travel in Europe).
BE FLEXIBLE. Always keep a good attitude. Shit happens and if I am right at something IT WILL HAPPEN. And It will be fine! You will be OK. We learn so much when traveling. Go ahead, travel alone. Be safe and you will never regret it.