We head back to Europe this week as I let you in on my top tips for travelling alone in Europe. It’s a great destination for both first time and frequent solo female travellers.
Sorry for the radio silence around here this month. With my 30th birthday and subsequent trip to New Zealand, life has been a good kind of hectic. But I’m back at my desk in Melbourne and ready to share this week’s post with you. I think Europe is a great place for solo travellers and I personally can’t wait to return. If you’re unsure about travelling alone in Europe, then you’ve come to the right place. Keep reading to discover my top 10 tips for safely visiting Europe alone.
TOP TIPS FOR TRAVELLING ALONE IN EUROPE
STICK TO DAY TRAVEL
To travel between destinations in Europe, I used a combination of buses, trains and planes. However, FlixBus was the main transport I used in mainland Europe. It was cheap travel that got me safely to my next destination in daylight. Being able to make my way to my accommodation during the day and via public transport made my life so much easier. A bonus is that public transport is always quieter during the day, so getting to your accommodation with your luggage is breezier than trying to get your suitcase onto a peak hour train. This makes me anxious just thinking about it!
I got one night flight from Ljubljana to Brussels and getting from the airport to my accommodation was a struggle. No solo traveller wants to be trying to figure out public transport and wheeling her suitcase through a nearly-empty station at 11pm at night.
LEARN LANGUAGE BASICS
For every city I visited, I tried to learn the basics: hello, goodbye, please and thank you. Sometimes in Eastern European cities this was difficult, but a danke in Austria and a merci in France can go a long way. As does a smile – it’s universal 😊.
SEE HOW SAFE YOU FEEL AT NIGHT
I avoid walking around some places in Melbourne alone at night and I’ve lived here for over two years now. So when I’m in a foreign city, I’ll usually assess the situation and whether I feel comfortable being out after dark. In Budapest, I wanted to take night photos and because I visited at the end of autumn, the sun set early so I could do this at 6pm. There were plenty of people walking around checking out the nearby Christmas Fair so I felt fine. But in Amsterdam I stayed at the Generator, which was located within Oosterpark and a 10-minute walk from public transport. I wouldn’t walk through a park alone at night back home, so I tended to head back to the hostel before dark. This is one of those situations where you should 100% trust your gut. For me, my comfortability changes from city to city.
TRAVEL WITH A CROSSBODY BAG
Before visiting Europe I’d heard and read too many pickpocket stories. So I decided to use a crossbody bag as my everyday bag. I felt better having all of my important possessions in front of me, instead of on my back in a backpack. In saying that though, I always kept my passport under lock and key at my hostel, along with a different debit card just in case.
USE PUBLIC TRANSPORT
This may just be a personal preference, but I never feel too comfortable using taxis/ridesharing services in new cities when I’m alone. I’ve also heard horror stories from friends, so I’ll always use public transport wherever possible. Public transport across Europe is incredibly efficient and cheap, and Google Maps makes it easy to figure out how to get from A to B. A quick Google search will tell you any public transport tips as well. But if you have any questions, ask hostel staff for tips and tricks. Which leads me to…
STAY IN HOSTELS WHEN TRAVELLING ALONE IN EUROPE
I may now be in my 30s (😱) but I will still stay in hostels on my next trip to Europe. Although I may try and book more single rooms when possible, I believe hostels are the best accommodation option when travelling alone in Europe. They’re cheap, usually located in central and convenient locations, and they’re a great way to meet people. If you think you’ll get lonely travelling around Europe solo, stay in hostels. I hung out with my hostel dorm mates in Edinburgh, Brussels, Amsterdam and more. I also stick to female-only dorm rooms as well.
GO TO THE SUPERMARKET
Another great thing about hostels is that most of them have kitchen facilities available to guests. Like I mentioned, I don’t really enjoy walking around cities alone at night. So I’d usually have a traditional/must-eat meal for lunch and then buy something from the supermarket to have for dinner back at the hostel. Supermarkets are filled with traditional food as well, you know. I totally had a bread and cheese feast one night back at my hostel in Paris. Then I’d usually try a local sweet, because when in Rome/Zagreb/Bratislava 😉
DON’T BE AFRAID OF DINING SOLO
Like I said, I’d usually eat one meal out a day to sample the local delicacies. Back home I regularly dine out alone and pass the time either reading a book or scrolling on my phone. I did the same thing in Europe, or I’d plot my afternoon activities. Tourism is such a big industry in Europe that you will find many hospitality staff speak a little bit of English. But all you need to do is point at a menu and ask for a bill. So step out of your comfort zone and get ready to eat some delicious dishes.
DON’T TRAVEL WITHOUT A SIM CARD
My friend actually bought me a global SIM card before I left Vancouver, which I just topped up with data when needed. Although I can’t remember the company (🤦♀️) Googling global/Europe SIM card will bring up a variety of options, depending on where you live. I usually wouldn’t leave my data on at all times, because it’s nice to not get notified of emails every 15 minutes when on holiday. But with one press of a button, I could easily look up a menu, opening hours or Google Maps (of course).
BECOME BEST FRIENDS WITH GOOGLE MAPS
Speaking of, I honestly don’t know how I survived without Google Maps. I use it nearly daily even in Melbourne to check tram times. Google Maps was my best friend when travelling alone in Europe, as I used it to check public transport information. I also used the ‘save’ feature to save different food and attraction recommendations. It’s a great way to plan your trip – I even did it for my recent holiday in New Zealand. It’s also beneficial to download an offline map for each city you visit.
DON’T BE AFRAID OF TRAVELLING ALONE IN EUROPE
I hope these tips help you in planning your own solo holiday in Europe. I was sceptical of travelling alone in Europe – mostly in regards to the language barrier. But as it turns out, I survived and had an absolutely unforgettable holiday. So much so I’m working on returning to Europe sooner rather than later.
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