When I'm on the road, I get a lot of questions about how I travel alone and if it freaks me out at all. My immediate answer is always "no" but I know that family & friends worry about young women out on the road all by themselves. These are a few of my personal tips for solo, female travel and how it can be not as scary as you may think.
1. Watch the news
This might seem like a really odd one to start off with - but if you are educating yourself on your surroundings, you won't be surprised to find out a few things while you are visiting them. If a bombing happened the week before, if there has been any major crimes happen recently, etc. I just like to keep up to date while I am in Europe on what's going on around me and how this may or may not affect me traveling.
A good example of this is the French Air Strike that happened back in March. I was on my way to the airport to fly to Paris when I got a text from EasyJet saying the flight had been cancelled due to this. Had I looked at the news before we left, I would have seen the announcement and probably not paid £30 for a one way ticket to this airport. Just stay aware!
2. Tell someone where you're going / Check In
I know that it's fun to be spontaneous and just book a last minute trip - but it is always a great idea to let someone know of your plans. If you are heading away from the weekend, text or email someone and say you will be in this city/country, on these days and here is how to get a hold of you! It's just a smart way to travel instead of going to a new country by yourself with no one else knowing you are there. Once there, be sure and check in with that person (or persons) and let them know you've arrived safe and sound. This way, your family will be less anxious about you being out and about traveling because they are well aware of your plans.
3. Buy a lock
This is a trivial one, however, still important. A lot of hostels in Europe offer a locker service or lockers within the rooms you are staying in. That way, you can go explore the city without having to lug around your backpack/valuables. Buy a lock and lock things up.
4. Plan transportation ahead of time
I'm all for winging trips and just seeing what happens when you get there, however; I wouldn't do that if it was a solo trip. There are a few reasons that I recommend planning your transportation ahead of time: 1. It eases your anxiety when you know how you are going to get from place to place, 2. It allows you to be smart with your time and not waste it figuring out that city/country's transportation system. Honestly, when you plan your transportation ahead of time, you will know how long you have to be at a train/bus station by yourself and possibly what is around the area (or how far of a walk it is) to a local coffee shop, etc. When I went to Ireland by myself last November, I mapped out how I was going to get from the airport to the town I was staying in. I had to sit in this small village before my next bus for about four hours. So I ventured out and found a coffee shop to hang out in. If I had done a little more research, I probably would have taken an earlier flight so that I could travel during the day to my location and not at night. So always, always plan transportation ahead of time!
5. Make friends with fellow travelers
One of the best things you can do while traveling solo is to make friends with fellow travelers. It eases the tension if you are sleeping in the same room as them but it also might get you a dinner date or a pub partner. No one REALLY likes to eat by themselves so it's always good to be friendly and make nice with the people around you. I did this while I was in Ireland and had an amazing dinner with a girl from Austria. It can't hurt to make friends and build relationships all over the world.
6. Don't walk alone late, late at night
Now, I have walked home when I lived in London at 3 and 4 AM by myself - but that's because I knew the area and I felt safe there. If I am in a new city/country AND I'm by myself - I don't walk home by myself past midnight - at the latest. It's not that I'm scared or I don't trust people, I just genuinely am creeped out by night time and the things that could happen during the night (I know, I'm a chicken). However, if you are like me then you will also do this as well and be sure and get home before it gets too late.
7. Do your research on the local culture
Depending on where you go, some things you wear may or may not be inappropriate. This isn't often the case in MOST European countries but I had a flatmate visit Morocco and it was very much so. Just do a little bit of research about the culture and environment of the place you are visiting and make sure you aren't offending the locals while there.
8. Watch your belongings like it's your job
This is one of the most important, especially for girls. We carry purses right? And what is in those purses? Phone, wallet, passport, makeup, etc. All kinds of stuff goes into our purses and what happens if we don't watch it and take care of it? Someone takes it. It's so easy for someone to grab your stuff while you aren't looking. So do yourself a favor while you are traveling and keep your personal belongings on you at all times.
9. Be prepared for anything
Anything can happen while you are out traveling around, so knowing the local emergency numbers or who to get into contact with can save you valuable time! I had an incident happen while I was in London and we had to call 999 in order to file a report. I also had another incident happen where we had to visit the police station and so knowing where that was located saved us so much time and energy. Be aware of where things are if you need them but also have their number handy just in case!
10. Have fun
I know this is scary and you are on your own (whether this is your first trip or your millionth) nerves can settle in and be a little overwhelming. However, always remember to have fun!! You are on the adventure of a lifetime and so many people would kill to be in your shoes. So enjoy it and have a blast because you only get one life and you better do it right!