You may have read my post earlier this week on suggested books to read before backpacking Europe. But maybe your backpacking somewhere else, or your considering solo backpacking (read this post on how to decide if you want to travel with a group to see if this is for you).
Here are the top tips to keep in mind to ensure you have a safe and memorable experience when solo backpacking:
Before you go:
- Learn a few basic words in the native language. My go-to words of choice are: “one,” “please,” “thank you,” and “bathroom.” You will be surprised by how far those few words can take you.
- Email yourself (and someone at home) copies of all your important travel documents, like your passport, so that you can access that information at any time.
Things to bring:
- Always keep a bit of toilet paper in your day bag. (Also, steal a few of those toilet seat covers.) This could really save you in a pinch!
- Bring along a refillable water bottle to keep yourself hydrated, and also it’s a great way to save money.
- Carry a basic ICE (in case of emergency) card in your wallet—just in case.
- Don’t just bring a guidebook, but also bring a real book. There’s something magical about reading The Sun Also Rises in Paris and Pamplona, where the book takes place. Or may I humbly suggest Girls Who Travel. Full disclosure: I wrote this book. But I wrote it because it’s the kind of book that I always wanted to read on my travels!
While You’re There:
- Take advantage of hostel common areas: Instead of reading in your bunk, post up somewhere public to meet other travelers. Don’t know what to say? Just go over and introduce yourself!
- For a cheap and amazing meal, skip the restaurants and instead hit up local markets. If you’re going to be doing this often, it’s a good idea to keep a plastic fork and knife in your day bag—not to mention a corkscrew. Most countries will let you drink alcohol in public places. In Spain, there is even a term for getting together and drinking in public: Botellón.
- For solo female travelers: Keep an eye on the people around you. Are there any other females present? If not, I usually use that as reason to leave that area.
- This isn’t really a tip, but it’s something fun I do: For big trips, I would treat myself to a new perfume as a souvenir, and then wear it for the rest of the trip. Then, later on, whenever I smell that scent, it takes me right back to those life-changing trips.
- Most people go into solo backpacking with a plan, but don’t be afraid to ditch your plan. On one backpacking jaunt, I randomly decided to skip Milan to go instead to Salzburg just because I happen to have watched the Sound of Music Best decision ever.
Remember that it’s okay to be homesick or lonely, but also remember that they’re just growing pains and more often than not, those feelings are transitory. Keep putting yourself out there. Travelling alone isn’t always easy, but it is always rewarding!
Maybe your backpacking adventure is still a dream? Read up on where you should go, how to backpack on a college budget, book your flights and hotels, and then learn what to pack. We’ve got you covered through every step of the process.