Originally published on my old blog ruby-rubes.blogspot.com
As may have gathered from my instagram I have spent the last few weeks in Berlin and Amsterdam. It was a first, travelling on my own, but I loved it. Solo travelling allows you to explore at your own pace whilst also meeting an array of new people, who whilst you might not stay best friends for life with, will shape your stay and might even make your day. Before I left it felt a little like jumping into the great unknown and so for all those embarking on a similar adventure I thought I’d compose my top tips to help it run as smoothly as mine did.
1. Separate out money
Although most cities are safe, they are large places after all and not everyone there is looking out for a tourist’s best interest. Thus it’s a great idea not to carry all your money on your person when you’re out and about; we learnt this the hard way when my friend’s bag got stolen on our night in Amsterdam.
I always carry enough for the day in my purse and store the rest in my bags at our hostel – smaller amounts hidden in separate pieces of luggage and purses. Another tip, from my safety conscious father, is to hide a minor amount (ideally enough to get a taxi and use a pay phone) somewhere on your body at all times – I call this my ‘bra money’ for obvious reasons!
2. Be approachable and friendly
Yes scowling and constantly attached to your phone, might, surprise surprise, not make you many friends. This may be rather obvious advice, as of course as a solo traveller once at your youth hostel it’s nice to meet and get to know others doing similar trips to you. However, I’m talking generally, not just for the youth hostel breakfast hall. Travelling via train from Berlin to Amsterdam it was amazing how many people came up and started speaking to me when I put my phone down and looked slightly less like a sullen thirteen year old at a family gathering. A lovely old woman shared her grandchildren’s photographs with me whilst piling me with cake. A Father Christmas come fisherman type figure proudly introduced his dog to me and we chatted away never really understanding the other’s language(!). A fellow, and impeccably dressed, solo traveller told me her anxieties about making the trip whilst sharing a few secrets. These are just of the colourful characters I met on the train alone, all who further advised me on places to visit whilst making my journey much more enjoyable.
Yes, they are incredibly helpful and a saint a giving you manageable directions, but the ‘hidden gem’ of a supposed local filled cafe will also have now been sought by your fellow readers and like me, you may end up having to queue almost two hours (I know, what was I thinking?!) to get into said cafe. What I’m saying is, take their advice on places to eat and shops with a pinch of salt, every city is bursting with a multitude of cafes and restaurants that you can easily discover on your own.
Another tip for solo travellers is don’t wave these tourist beacons around when you are exploring the city. Nothing says ‘I’m a gullible tourist with a passport, lots of money and massive camera ready’ than someone looking slightly lost furrowed deep in a brightly coloured guidebook.
4. Arrive with time to spare
It just makes the whole experience so much easier and less stressful if you don’t have to run, arms full of luggage, to get a train/plane/bus. It also allows you to get a much needed coffee.
Although of course everyone wants to visit all the ‘must sees’, my favourite moments were just walking around the streets in the early morning. Most tourists don’t particularly want to be up at 9am so you are mainly surrounded by locals, allowing you to get a real feel for the place and, the ultimate goal, be mistaken for local yourself!
My final advice about solo travelling is do it. Just bit the bullet and go.