I see so many travel tips along the lines of ‘why you must travel alone’ and ‘all young people should travel alone at least once’ and so on, so let me start of with, you do you. If you want to travel with people, great, with no one, that’s great too, with some people but then ditch them for the day, great again. Here are just some tips from when I’ve found myself travelling alone that I hope will help you.
I au paired for a summer, a good, cheap way to travel. On weekends I was allowed to explore by myself, so this is the main origin for my lone travels guide.
Aside from the obvious safety measures of a well-charged phone (and possibly extra external battery – they sell them everywhere now), cash, map, decent shoes, main areas of use located (train / bus station, tourist info, etc.), I’d recommend that of course you enjoy it. Guys, you’re alone. You can decide which train to get and when, which stop to get off at, which side streets to wander, what to eat, what to do and when. I’m not going to pretend there wasn’t the odd moment of exploring when I thought that a companion in crime would be fun, but a lot of the time I revelled in the freedom.
One thing I did find was that my single day trips tended to be shorter. No group humming and haring over decisions tends to lead this way, as well as being able to grab the single place left on a tower of Pisa tour starting in ten minutes. The trains were peaceful, scenic and music-filled thanks to the ipod in my pocket. There was a high sense of achievement in navigating a – fairly uncomplicated – city for one as geographically challenged as myself.
On some occasions, I will admit, I got a tad bored. This was not the case in Siena, when I ended up missing my train home. Siena was a beautiful city which I was sorry to leave, and therefore apparently didn’t. This was in part due to most of my day being taken up by drawing, which would be – despite this – another recommendation. If you’re on your own then a few hobbies brought along can be fun, especially if they involve where you are (like drawing). When I did find myself missing the last train home, the people at the train station were very helpful despite my limited Italian. They wrote down a hostel for me and I took a taxi there, a taxi driver who was incredibly friendly and I had to insist on paying. Here I was very lucky, but in general if you find yourself in a similar situation then don’t panic, ask (or Google with your fancy phone) another way home and, if there is none, a nearby hostel that is likely to have room.
There’s a lot to enjoy in travelling alone, as there is in having company. I think my favourite times have been when I could share the sights of the city with people. Maybe. So I’m not sure if I’m the best lone traveller, but I’ve definitely enjoyed it. I will be of more use, I suspect, in a list of what not to do. So… don’t get sun stroke (that wasn’t quite alone, but still a good rule), don’t try and fit all your sight seeing in the last half an hour of the day (unless you’re super good at it), don’t almost get lost on your evening walk to find a toothbrush (which are all somehow ridiculously expensive – mouthwash or toothpaste?) and don’t be dependent on the local’s English skills to find your destination.
Do enjoy the quiet morning outside the gorgeous Duomo in Siena before the more organised tourists arrive and stalls have been set up. It is stunning.