The Ultimate Backpacking Guide to Travelling Solo: Tips and Advice

The ultimate guide for travelling alone in Europe and beyond...

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  • 30 March 2020
  • • 14 min read

Once life gets back to normal and the world is safe enough to travel again, I bet the first thing you want to do is catch the first flight outta here. Have you always wanted to take the leap and travel solo? Whether it’s an adventure around the world or a few solo weekend trips in Europe, use our complete backpacking guide to travelling solo and making your globe-trotting dreams come true. Full of tips and recommendations for backpackers going it alone, we’ve included helpful advice on where to stay, top tips on travelling alone, advice for solo female travellers - and last but not least, how to make friends on the road. Wherever you choose to go, we’ve got you covered with this ultimate solo travel guide to use once it’s safe enough to explore the world again…

Why not use your time in isolation to plan your perfect solo trip, so it’s ready to book as soon as life gets back to normal, whenever that may be?

Check out everything you need to know:

  • Why Travel Solo?

  • Where to go?

  • 10 Tips for Travelling Solo

  • Where to Stay?

  • Tips on Meeting New People

  • Solo Female Travel

@Hernameiseva


Why Travel Solo?

There’s hardly a backpacker in the world with regrets about taking the plunge into the world of solo travel. For those that have never done it before, travelling solo is a daunting prospect but the positives always outweigh the negatives. Check out Claire from Tales of a Backpacker’s piece on

These are just a few great reasons why you should try travelling solo… 

Because your friends can’t join you

Don’t let your friends dictate whether you can or can’t travel. If there’s somewhere you’ve been dreaming of your whole life that your usual travel buddy can’t visit with you, it’s no excuse to stay home. Grab that opportunity by the reins and venture off on your own! It’s the perfect reason to get out there and explore a destination exactly how you want and when you want. 

To step out of your comfort zone

Travelling solo is one of the most exciting experiences in the world, and one of the best ways you could possibly step out of your comfort zone. Whether you’ve travelled the world with friends or never travelled at all, the thought of going somewhere new all alone sounds scary, but we guarantee it’ll be the best thing you’ve ever done. Plus, for the majority of the time you won’t even be alone. There’s a huge community of solo travellers in every country, so meeting new like minded people along your journey will become second nature. 

@absolutelylucy

For the freedom to do whatever you want

The best thing about travelling solo? You can do whatever you want. This is the time for you to tick off those places you - and you alone - have always dreamed of, without having to consider how someone else might feel about it. Which sites to see, how to get there, where to go next, what to spend your money on… How you bide your time travelling (or how many times you change your mind) is completely down to you. Plus it eliminates all petty travel-related fall outs that every group or couple experiences. 

To meet people from all walks of life

One of the greatest reasons to travel solo is the people you’ll meet along the way. Whether it’s one evening of swapping stories over a beer before waving goodbye, or continuing your journey for weeks with a new found best friend, there’s simply nothing better. Staying in hostels doesn’t only mean great value accommodation for solo travellers, but it means you’re guaranteed the opportunity to get to know people from around the world. Now in the days of technology, there are apps designed exactly for those travelling solo to meet and make friends. 

Because sometimes your own company is the best

Don’t be afraid of your own company. While travelling alone makes getting to know new people that bit easier, it’s also the perfect time to take a breather and learn a little more about you. Head out for a quiet stroll along the beach, sit down for a coffee with a great view for people watching, or take the opportunity to visit a museum at your own pace. Don’t put pressure on yourself to be constantly making friends. This is the time for you to be at your happiest!

Check out travel blogger Ian Thornley’s article on his

@Johnnygolden__


Where to go?

Looking for the best solo travel destinations? When choosing which cities to visit for your solo trip, there are a few things to consider. First things first is your safety. You want to feel comfortable in the city or country you’re exploring, especially if you’re there by yourself. If there’s a destination that’s not considered too safe but it’s at the top of your bucket list, have a look into group tours you can book onto to ensure you feel safe and secure while making the very most of your trip.

Of course, some countries are a lot more ‘well travelled’ than others, in which case you can be rest assured that meeting fellow solo travellers will be easy. Backpacker routes such as Southeast Asia, the east coast of Australia and Western Europe are greatly suited to solo backpackers who want to plan their own route and meet people along the way. Looking for a European route to follow? Check out our travelling 6 countries in 4 weeks, staying with St Christopher's Inns hostels as you go. There are also some fantastic tours for example in the USA or through South America if you’d prefer to be led by a tour guide, such as Trek America.

@Mckenziejones 

Sophie Spencer from Adventures of Soph is always keen to meet new people while also having time to herself on her solo travel adventures. Check out her article on the best cities for solo female travel in Europe


10 Top Tips for Travelling Solo

  • Be confident

Walk with intention and hold your head high, even if it does require psyching yourself up to do it.

  • Learn a little of the local language

‘Hello’, ‘excuse me’, ‘please’, ‘thank you’, ‘yes’ and (perhaps most importantly) ‘no’. 

  • Keep your loved ones up-to-date

Share a document or note on your phone with a close family member and keep it updated on where you are as often as you possibly can.

  • Talk to locals

If you’re unsure about something, try asking a local rather than Googling it. 

  • Don’t be scared to say no

You’re much more vulnerable being a solo traveller. If you feel uncomfortable, don’t be polite and tell them “no” with confidence in the local language.

  • Download all the apps you might need 

Citymapper for getting from A to B, SoloTraveller for meeting like minded backpackers and TripWhistle Global for how to get in touch with local authorities.

  • Get good insurance

You never know what could go wrong. Splash out a little more than you normally would as it’s far better to be safe than sorry, especially when travelling solo.

  • Split up your valuables and carry a secret money belt

These are our top tips for keeping your valuables safe as possible. As well as a padlock for your bag.

  • Be ready to venture off your planned route

You may find a place isn’t quite what you expected, you might meet people you’d like to carry on your journey with or national restrictions may force you off your path. 

  • Seize every opportunity (within reason)

Make the most of every little bit of your once in a lifetime experience, just be sensible at the same time!


Where to Stay?

@mialvess

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. Hostels are the best accommodation choice for solo travellers who are looking to meet new people on the road. Hostels are appealing to backpackers because they’re obviously a lot cheaper than hotels. But that’s not the only reason young people are drawn to stay in hostels on their travels.

It’s the sociable, community atmosphere that makes the experience so amazing. Hostelling has changed so much over the years that it’s not just a cheap bed in a basic dorm anymore. Now, hostels have trendy interiors, quirky designs, massive parties and fun hostel events that bring together people from all over the world under one roof.  are some of Europe's best hostels found in popular backpacker cities such as Barcelona, Paris, Amsterdam, London, Bruges, Berlin, Edinburgh and more.

Check out the

A few benefits of staying in hostels for solo travellers...

Meeting people

One of the main fears that goes through every solo traveler's head is getting lonely on the road. Staying in hostels will completely eliminate that fear once you’ve stayed in your first one. Whether you’re the quietest person in the room or the loudest, you’re guaranteed to meet new people at the hostel bar or in your dorm room. Loads of people are in the same boat as you - sometimes it’s just a matter of plucking up the courage to start a conversation.

You can still get your privacy

The private 'vault' room at St Christopher's Inns Edinburgh, located in a former secret safe!

If you’re someone who values their own space but still wants to embrace the sociable hostel atmosphere, then many hostels offer affordable private rooms. This option will give you the best of both worlds; a room just to yourself with its own ensuite, but the buzz of the backpacker bar downstair when you’re ready to mingle. Private rooms are great for solo travellers who need access to a quiet space to concentrate on work.

The hostel parties

Some hostels throw epic parties for its guests which is a great plus for solo travellers because who wants to go to a nightclub in a new city on their own? Nope, not me. Atleast at the hostel party, you’ll be with other hostel guests and solo travellers who are also looking for an affordable night out. Some hostels also organise group nights out and bar crawls that you can book yourself onto, another way to meet new people.

Hostel events

One of the main benefits of hostels is the awesome events they organise for guests. Whether its a beer pong tournament, free city walking tours, paella nights, karaoke or a group meal in the evening, hostels go above and beyond to make sure that their guests can get involved in group activities. 

Surf lessons at the St Christopher's Inns Newquay hostel

Safety

When travelling alone, safety will always be at the forefront of your mind. Most hostels have on-site security, 24 hour receptions and secure key card access to rooms to ensure your security. Hostels are very safe. Just remember to be vigilant and don’t leave valuables out in the open for anyone to steal - put them away in your locker or just don’t pack anything expensive in the first place. Europe’s best hostels are located in central city locations so you don’t have to travel too far to reach main sights and attractions, which is always a plus so you don’t have to travel too far on your own. 

Best value for money for solo backpackers

Hostels are cheap! Being the best value for money option in big cities, you’ll only have to pay around €25 a night for a bed in a hostel (sometimes less, sometimes a bit more) that includes a free breakfast. That means you can save the rest of our budget to do cool activities, buy experiences and to eat out at restaurants. Nowadays, hostels have all sorts of amenities such as rooftop terraces, beer gardens, kitchens, on-site bars and clubs which you will also have access to for the price of your bed.

St Christopher's Inns Berlin Mitte

Want more?


Tips on meeting new people

You may be travelling solo, but we guarantee that for the majority of your trip you’ll forget you’re a solo backpacker. Meeting people as you journey across the world may sound daunting, but it is really so easy and one of the very best parts of solo travel. Staying in hostels means you will naturally get to know other backpackers, but if the idea of sparking up conversation with a total stranger still makes you nervous, here are travel blogger Ian Thornley’s

  • Spend some time in the hostel bar or chill out room

By hanging out here you’re way more likely to bump into fellow travellers. Plus, hostel bars often host regular events like solo traveller nights, beer pong tournaments or games evenings for people to mingle and make friends. 

  • Book onto tours

Sparking up conversation on tours is one of the easiest places to do so. You already have common ground by being interested in the same trip so that’s your first topic sorted for you. Plus you’re stuck with each other for the whole day so if you don’t talk then that’ll be one pretty awkward tour.

  • Stay in dorm rooms

Take every opportunity you can to meet new faces, including booking into a dorm room. Sharing a room means you can’t help but get talking, and who knows, that could be the start of a great new friendship. 

  • Be approachable

Put your headphones away, have a smile on your face and look like you’re up for a chat. People always appreciate a friendly face and it could mean meeting someone you get along well enough with to explore alongside for a day or two. 

  • Be brave and approach others!

Don’t wait around for someone to make the first move, just bite the bullet and ask how someone’s day is going. They’ll be so happy you made the effort. 

  • Use travel apps

Apps like SoloTraveller and Backpackr allow you to connect with other travellers nearby, while others like EatWith and MealSharing connect you to locals who have signed up to prepare home cooked dinners to nearby travellers. 


Solo Female Travel

Are you a female looking to do some solo travel?

We’ve created a whole section in this article for female travellers because it's a topic that we want to empower other ladies on. Many girls are advised not to go it alone by families and friends for many reasons. The world isn’t safe enough. You can’t trust everyone. What if a natural disaster happens? How will you get around on your own? What if you need help? There are so many different things that may go through your head (and your parents’), but if you listen to every reason, then what’s the point of travelling at all?

@amylouisewatton

It can be daunting to travel alone as a female, sure. But the pros outweigh the cons so if it’s something you’ve always wanted to do, please read on.

Solo female travel blogger Absolutely Lucy has written a piece for us on why every woman should try solo travel - and the same goes for men too. For her, solo travel transformed her life and made her into the person she is today. In her article, she explains that with solo travel…

@absolutelylucy

  • You’ll challenge yourself in new ways, facing your fears heads on.

  • You’ll meet incredible souls on the way who will have a positive impact on your life

  • Every day is an adventure and a chance for a new experience

  • You’ll learn more about yourself more than ever before from what you like and dislike to your biggest strengths and weaknesses. As a result, you’ll become a better version of yourself and know what you REALLY want out of life

  • It’s your time to be selfish. Solo travel is about self care and nurturing yourself 

  • You’ll always find nice people to help you. The world is full of friendly people 

  • You’ll experience the beauty of the world 

Read her full article here to see why

Our top tip for first-timers would be to start small, whether it’s a couple of solo city breaks in  Europe or one month interrailing around a ‘safe’ country like Germany or Italy. Wherever you travel, Absolutely Lucy says it’s all about confidence...

Her Confidence Checklist 

  • Be prepared and organised with a rough plan

  • Always smile

  • Just look like you know what you’re doing and where you’re going (even if you don’t).

  • Be patient. Flights may get delayed or you have to endure a long bus ride. All you can do is control your reaction and take it all in your stride.

  • Use eye contact 

  • Don’t show that you’re nervous, even if you are

Once you start doing all of the above, you’ll really start to believe it and your self-assurance and confidence will develop super fast!

There are some other awesome, independent female travellers out there inspiring others to do the same - check out this article on the by blogger Alice Teacake or get inspired on Instagram and for live updates of their adventures.

Need a hostel in Europe? Check out hostels.

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