I’ll always remember my first solo vacation. Exploring the city at my own pace was dreamy. One day I even walked for 20 miles! Back then, I wish that I’d done a little more research about backpacking solo – from what to pack to how to stay safe.
So, here are my five essential tips to help you have the best adventure, as a responsible traveler too…
Pack light (and sustainably)
Try to pack just the essentials. Packing three books might seem like a good idea, but is it really gonna be helpful when you’re walking to your hostel in Berlin carrying around 50 lbs on your back? Look for a backpack that’s secure and ask in store whether it comes with a guarantee. Don’t just go buy the pretty one.
Remember to bring a shopping tote bag so you can avoid using plastic ones. To save space, leave the soap and cosmetics at home if you can. Instead, buy them from local shops while traveling. That way, you’ll help the local economy and you’ll have little reminders of your journey.
The sad truth is that when traveling alone or backpacking solo as a woman, we need to be super aware of your surroundings. Most of the time you’ll have zero problems. When traveling, I’ve found that people are generally friendly and have offered help whenever I’ve needed it. However there are a few precautions you can take to stay safe.
Research the busiest, safest neighbourhoods before going, check in regularly in with home and keep your valuables close to you using a money belt. Personally, I also carry pepper spray – you can get ones that double as a key chain that are easier to handle. Whatever works best for you.
Be smart with your phone
Make sure to download all the helpful stuff before you go like offline maps, offline dictionaries or translation apps. Also invest in a good power bank – don’t buy a solar-powered one, trust me, they will never charge fast enough. When you miss your connecting flight or you’re late for a train you’ll thank me.
Stay in hostels
Hostels are amazing! They’re usually much much cheaper than a hotel and are located in good locations near bus stops or metro stations. At first, the weirdest part of hostels for me was the communal rooms. But once I got over that weird feeling of strangers in my room, it turned out to be the best part!
You’ll meet fellow travelers and backpackers just like you, and they can help to fill in all the gaps you might have in your itinerary. If you hit it off, you may even become good travel buddies. Also, you’ll never find more helpful staff than those in hostels. They’ll give you coupons, tips and warn you about tourist traps.
Don't scrimp on insurance
Backpacking solo into a new country is awesome, and there’s something amazing about just letting go and being spontaneous, but for heaven’s sake get insurance. You can pretty much take out an insurance policy in 15 minutes, and sometimes it can be a huge difference.
There are pros and cons to backpacking by yourself. There’s the freedom of doing things at your own pace but there are times when you may feel vulnerable. But don’t let that stop you. All you really need to do is a bit of research and forward-planning. Happy travels!