Last Autumn I went on my first solo trips. I travelled to Vienna, Budapest, Munich and Bad Bayersoiern over the course of a few months.
My experience was extremely positive on the whole but there are, of course, lots of valid concerns when it comes to solo travel. I definitely had mine before I left and even whilst I was abroad. If you are undecided about solo travel, here are the 5 fears I overcame and tips to help you overcome them too.
1. Getting lost
Travelling around a brand new location on your own can be daunting, especially if you are unfamiliar with the language and culture. When I travel with others, the role of navigating is usually shared between us and so taking the full weight of this when solo travelling was a little bit unnerving.
If you don’t have the best sense of direction, make sure to plan your routes carefully before setting out. Know your bus numbers and your metro stops and give yourself plenty of margin if you have to be somewhere at a specific time. Google Maps is always a big help but if you don’t have reliable internet, download a Google Map of your location beforehand to be used offline.
If you do get lost, it’s also not the end of the world! Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Learning a few basic phrases in the language spoken can be helpful here too.
You definitely need to have your wits about you when travelling solo, especially as a female. There were a few moments when I felt a bit nervous but all the obvious rules apply: avoid being out alone when it’s dark, give your accommodation address and contact details to someone back at home and steer clear of isolated areas.
Try and book accommodation which is as close as possible to a transport link. This way, if you do end up out when it’s dark, the stretch of solo-walking back to your accommodation is minimal.
Walk confidently when on your own and trust your instincts; if you feel uncomfortable about something, remove yourself from the situation.
I was worried about feeling self-conscious when travelling solo. With no one else to hide behind, I thought I might feel exposed and as though everyone was watching me. I was particularly worried about eating out in restaurants and feeling really awkward at my table for one.
However, this wasn’t actually the case at all. I felt very comfortable in my own company and I found it liberating to explore my surroundings entirely at my own pace. It may take getting used to but once you get out of your own head, solo travel is emboldening. People aren’t really watching you nor do they care what you are doing. Even if they do, just carry on! One evening in Vienna I had a 2-course candle-lit dinner for one in a formal restaurant- it was lovely.
4. Getting lonely
I love travelling with friends and family and for those that do too, solo travel might not seem that appealing. Admittedly, there were moments abroad when I wished I had a friend with me. For instance, I’d planned to visit Szimpla Kert in Budapest- the city’s most popular Ruin Bar. Ruin Bars are old, abandoned buildings converted into artsy, quirky bars. They are major social hubs and I didn’t like the thought of going alone.
However, this is where free walking tours can be so helpful. I did a bit of research and found a free walking tour with the final checkpoint/hangout at Szimpla Kert. This meant I could go to the bar alongside a group of people I’d just spent a couple of hours walking around the city with.
Meetup is another good way to meet fellow solo travellers. This service helps you to find nearby events and activities based on your interests. I downloaded the service as an app during my stay in Munich and found a fun language class and a Paint and Sip session.
Staying in a hostel can also create friend-making opportunities. I tried this for my very first solo trip to Vienna and I shared a dorm with 5 other girls. There were plenty of communal spaces in the hostel and sharing a dorm made it easy to talk to new people. I personally prefer staying in hotels as I like having my own space but a hostel is definitely a good option if you are keen to socialise.
With all of that being said, you may surprise yourself and not feel lonely at all. You can learn a lot when travelling on your own and if you opt for a short trip, you may not even have time to feel lonely.
5. Managing costs
You’re obviously fully responsible for managing your money when travelling alone and with no one to split costs with, the trip may be a little more expensive. There’s no, ‘Can you get this bill and I’ll get the next one,’ or ‘I’m running low on change. Can I pay you back later?’
But travelling solo need not be any more expensive than a regular trip. Making the most of inexpensive activities, like free walking tours, can save money and packing light can help to avoid any luggage costs.
Sharing a dorm in a hostel is a great way to keep accommodation cheap as you pay for yourself rather than for the room. Choosing to walk wherever possible and buying breakfast snacks at a local supermarket rather than eating out for breakfast are also good ways to reduce spending.
I loved my experience of solo travel and whilst there is so much I enjoy about travelling with my friends and family, there is definitely something liberating and empowering in going alone. So with that said, if you get the opportunity to solo travel, absolutely give it a try!