I’m no veteran or master of traveling alone, but after traveling solo for the first time in September last year (and working in a hospital!), I realise it’s definitely something you should do once and I thought it would be nice to jot down a few tips and tricks I learnt along the way :)
1. Be organised
Research your destination, even if it’s a quick glimpse at the city website to get your bearings or understand why the place is so special. If I hadn’t researched I wouldn’t have known that Salzburg had the largest ice caves in the world! Print out/purchase a map and mark down places you want to see/eat/visit, it makes things run more smoother especially if you’re only spending a day there. It is also an opportunity to book tours early as some sell out quickly!
Book a hostel at least a day in advance during low season but at least a week during high season. I used hostelbookers.com during my Austria/Germany trip and it was extremely useful!
2. Bring passport and student ID for student discounts!
There are great discounts for students, so having evidence is extremely useful. Furthermore if you’re intending to stay in an area for a longer period of time and you’re a student, you can stay at a student dorm which is much cheaper than hostels and hotels.
3. Bring a lock
Some hostels provide you with lockers but no lock, so it’s handy to carry a padlock around just in case.
4. Pack light and avoid buying too much
It’s difficult but if you’re intending to jump from city to city, it is much more convenient to pack the essentials. I wandered around Austria and South Germany with a backpack and my handbag. On my last day in Vienna I bought 2 jackets and regretted buying them because it was another bag to worry about (but I don’t regret it now! :p). Remember every time you buy something you’ll have to lug that around everywhere too!
5. Be open and introduce yourself to everyone
You’re never really alone and you’ll be surprised how many lone travelers like you are out there. During my trip, I met 19, 30 and 50 year olds traveling alone and Salzburg was full of Australian tourists!
When you travel by yourself, you’re more inclined to make friends. Don’t be shy! You really do meet the most amazing people and you can get a lot of advice from travelers and locals about the best places to eat and see. I befriended and got drunk with 2 Japanese guys in Munich, had dinner with a lovely Singaporean couple and received a mini lecture from an American teacher about King Ludwig II in Salzburg.
6. Bring a mobile phone which accepts different SIM cards
I unfortunately did not do this which made things very difficult when I had to meet up with people. So please make sure your mobile phone is ready before you jet off!
7. Cash and travel money card
It’s always good to have cash on you because things do go wrong with card machines. Travel money cards are useful for large purchases and since they are like debit cards, they limit your spending. You get charged every time you withdraw money though, so withdraw large amounts when you do.
8. Research the customs!
This is a polite thing to do. Ask your fellow travelers if you need!
9. Keep your eyes open and your camera charged!
Look up once in a while and don’t be afraid to wander. Europe is really a great place to do this with its lane ways and small streets and I stumbled across amazing things when I got lost. Also you’ll become a pro at taking photos of yourself! :p
10. Enjoy yourself!
Traveling alone can be daunting. I was terrified when my plane landed in Vienna, however it got easier as I realized that most things do go to plan. You can do whatever you want at your own pace and change plans abruptly without consulting people. You learn a lot about yourself and gain a lot of confidence. It’s something everyone should do once. :)