Travelling among people my age seems to have increased in popularity. So many people I know are currently, have been or plan to travel at some point. Travel is the new black, apparently.
So when I found myself with time off work, and no one to go away with, I decided to venture on my first trip alone. I’ll be honest when I say up to days before I left, I still didn’t think I’d actually go through with it. So when I finally plucked up the courage and booked my flights, I was more than a little bit terrified.
I decided, as I’d be plodding along on my own, to do as much research as I could on solo travel. What to expect, what to avoid, best tips. They really helped, but I found along the way that there are many more tips I could give, that I didn’t find online.
So I’ve decided to pass on my experience, just in case you decide to go it alone.
1 – Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance
Preparation seems like a really obvious one, but it helps to point it out anyway. I chose somewhere I’d been before, and stayed at the central point (Las Ramblas) so if I ever got lost, if I found my way back there I knew I’d be fine. And it isn’t hard to do that, considering it’s one of the most popular places in Barcelona.
So if you’re travelling somewhere new, do your checking. Don’t find yourself in a situation where you’re stuck. Phone’s die, maps get lost, so you need to be able to tune into your wits when you need them.
It also helps to prepare at the airport. I’ve flown by myself a lot but still require a separate folder for all my travelling info, just in case. I keep my boarding passes, any print outs, my passport and my euros all in the same place in a separate part of my bag. This way, I know exactly where to go if I suddenly need to check that I’m at the right airport.
2 – Blend in!
There were several times on my trip when I felt like I stuck out like a sore thumb. A very clearly British girl (I’m as pale as pale can be) wandering around Barcelona on my own felt like a beacon amongst the groups of friends and families.
So I found what helped me was tagging along. Las Ramblas is always busy, so I’d find myself tagging behind a family or a group of friends and looked like I was with them. I found when I did this that I wasn’t approached or looked at, I was just considered part of that crowd. It made me feel much more secure. Albeit, probably seemed a bit weird to the people I was clinging to!
3 – Be blunt if you have to
I had barely been in Barcelona a few hours when a man, alone in a lift with me, asked if I was travelling alone and what room number I was in. I panicked, and my polite side felt like telling him just to avoid the awkward confrontation, but the possibility of this person knowing my room number made me extremely nervous.
I politely told him I’d rather not say and that my family were staying in the same hotel. He chuckled and said he understood and didn’t bother me again.
Whether he was just filling an awkward silence, or was being a weirdo, I don’t know – but I felt better knowing the only person who knew where I was was me!
4 – Look confident, even when you’re not
It’s easy to look like you’re lost when you are lost. I got lost a few times, but made sure I looked as confident as possible. Keep your head up, walk with a purpose, pop into a cafe if you need to check a map without looking conspicuous.
Act as if you’ve lived there for years. Santa Anna Road? Sure, I know this road! This is exactly where I need to be!
You’re less likely to be approached, or noticed, if you look absolutely sure of your surroundings.
5 – Ask someone in Uniform
If you’re nervous or unsure, ask someone in uniform for directions. There were a number of Police walking around Las Ramblas, so it was easy to approach them if I needed to. Even if it’s a Starbucks or McDonalds uniform, it’s much safer to ask them than the man selling the “Gucci” bags on the road.
6 – Have a back story, just in case
“My parents are back at the hotel, they’re not fans of sight seeing!”
Was mine. A few people asked if I was travelling alone, especially if I got a table for one at a cafe/restaurant, so that excuse always came in handy. It immediately dismissed any other questions that would inevitably follow.
This helped when I was in shops and I found men who worked there would confidently approach me and start asking me questions. What was my name, where was I from, was I travelling alone? Be confident with your back story and they’ll leave you be.
7 – Check in at home
I made an agreement with my parents to call at 5pm every day. If my phone battery was going to die, I’d call them beforehand to tell them that, so they knew. Don’t leave people in the dark, wondering where you are.
It’s reassuring for them and it’s safer for you.
8 – Make sure someone has your hotel/flight details
The moment I booked my hotel, I forwarded the details to my parents. That way, they could call the hotel 24/7 in case they couldn’t get in touch with me. This is such an easy thing to do, and there are a lot of hotels with similar names in the area so don’t just rely on giving someone a name and hoping for the best.
Their reception times, address, telephone number and email is the minimum you should give to someone you rely on.
9 – Don’t get stuck without contact
As tempting as it is to Instagram every meal you eat, to update a status every few minutes and to text everyone you know to fill the silence, your phone could be the difference between you being secure or not.
I got lost on the long walk back from the beach and had minimal battery. I used my Googlemaps (which is an absolute life saver, see number 10!) and it got me home, but my battery almost died because I’d been taking hundreds of pictures of my day.
If you simply cannot live without Social Media, buy a battery pack for on the move. They’re not expensive and you can recharge your phone if it starts getting low!
10 – Google Maps!
3 times on my holiday, Google Maps got me back to my hotel. I had very cockily not planned a route from my Airport Bus to the hotel and had assumed I’d know the exact way. I didn’t. I was lost. I had a suitcase, hand luggage and I was sweating in an unfashionable manner.
I got the address of my hotel, popped it into Google Maps and was directed there within minutes. This App really is a life saver. If it wasn’t for Google, I’d probably still be wandering around on a beach somewhere, hungry and thirsty (but fabulously tanned).
These really are the basics. To sum it up, be smart, be safe, be prepared. Prepare for the worst case, but focus on the best case. Don’t be afraid to explore, just make sure you’re secure whilst you’re doing it.
Have you traveled alone? Are you planning on it? Let me know in the comments!