I am starting a new series (FINALLY!) and I’m so, so excited for it! As some of you may know I went for a Eurotrip and it was AMAZING! I have updated my social media with tons and tons of pictures but I thought that the entire trip deserves a bit more than that. So, here’s a mini travel series where I talk about all the places I visited, all about my air bnb experience and of course, a quick guide on travelling solo!
Though majority of my trip was with my parents, I was alone for a few days in Italy after which I met Shirin in London! Travelling with your BFF is one of the BEST experiences that one can ask for but on the other hand travelling completely alone to a place unknown has it’s own learning curve. I was always the person who wanted to go for a film alone (STILL haven’t done that), and I love going out for meals or even shopping all by myself. So even though I was in #RomeAlone, I knew I was going to love it every bit!
This post is a little guide, the first post in my #MMTravelDiaries series to gear you up or inspire you to travel alone!
Money, Money, Money
1. Change or Change Machines: Lets say you need to pee. You may need change. Just like India, where to use public toilettes you have to give in some change, similarly you may to do the same thing abroad too. Now, when it comes to me. I HATE CHANGE. It adds weight, it falls off from my wallet and to be very honest, I am math challenged so I just can’t figure out how it works. However, I did realise that change is very handy and thats where keeping a little zip lock comes into use. If you’re a solo traveller, you would obviously be paying for one & so sometimes, whatever you need to pay for may actually be bought using change itself. Your aim should be to just keep the change zip lock with you at all times and just start using it up. What happens if you don’t have change and you can only pay via coins? Unlike India, you will be able to find Change Machines (Machines where you feed in notes and it returns you the same amount in coins) really easily! Keep an eye out for those or simply ask around.
2. Currency Exchange: Let’s say you have some dollars on you and need to convert them into euros, DO NOT go to currency conversion cambio in a touristic place. Yes, they’re the easiest to spot but will also give you the worst conversion rates possible. In fact, even your hotel will charge a commission so always stick to banks for currency exchange or find a currency exchanger where “locals would go”. It’s important to do your homework online as to what’s the best conversion ratio that you can get. You would be surprised to see that bargaining will work! I had my research in place and knew what I should be expecting. I went to a currency exchange cambio in Rome and actually managed to haggle my way through. ATMS of your banks may also be your best friend where you can withdraw currency in Euros. If you have an American Express card, you will also be able to find Amex ATMS where you can choose your language, and withdraw currency in Euros!
Maps. They’re definitely any traveller’s best friend. Though I absolutely love physical paper maps for circling out the locations that I want to go to for sure, when it comes to routing, I definitely prefer google maps or city mapper on my phone. Conventional tourist maps are fun and usally mark out all the must visit spots but they may not be as detailed with walking/bus/train routes. City Mapper (an app that I was recently told about by Shirin in London does wonders as you can type in literally anything you want and it will show you the fastest and best way to reach there! It’s definetly a more comprehensive app as compared to google maps but it’s not available in all countries/cities in the world and thats where the good ol’ google map helps! Yes, most of the times, it will take you through the lamest route possible but if nothing else, you at least have a way to reach!
Let it Rain
Bad weather can be a pain especially when you have your day planned. It’s of course common sense to check the weather of each location for the dates you’d be there in advance (while packing) but it’s also smart to have the weather app on your phone so that you can be in touch with how the day or next day will pan out. That way even though you have your rain coat in your suitcase, you’ll actually know when to take it out! On another note, always carry a little umbrella in your sling/backup even if it’s not supposed to rain that day!
The Smart Tourist
Everyone who travels have different expectations from their trips. Some vacations can be all about going hardcore with backpacking, hiking etc, some can be laid back and living on the beach or some can be about experiencing the city as a local – it’s history, food etc. If option there is what you’re looking for, and it’s daunting to you as to how one can do sightseeing or eat meals alone- trust me when I say it’s totally possible! A baby step would be to book a tour that suits your budget through viator.com
Some tours have upto 25 people and some may have only 8-9 people. Even though numerous people may join these day trips in groups or couples, you may be surprised and you may actually make lots of friends! I did and I’m still in touch with them. This options really helps if sightseeing absolutely alone is a little boring for you and you like the idea of meeting new people from all across the world. If the whole purpose of your trip is defeated by joining a group, then I suggest you check out the audio guide route. If you really want to learn about a place, an audio guide would be your best friend. reach the location you want to explore and at the entry point almost every single “sightseeing spot” will have audio guide counters which are basically these walkie talkie sort of things with headphones. Start walking and the automated guide will give you all the fun facts. Best part? You can mute it or switch it off when you’re bored or want to take a little snack break!
You’re travelling alone and chances are that you would want to be in touch with family and friends. Get a local sim! The matrix days are gone now and the deals are way to expensive. As soon as you land into your first destination in that country- check the airport for local sim companies. There are some airports that may not have such shops and so the best option is to ask a cab driver, hotel person or any local in the city. Venice, for example was my first in Italy and hence I wanted to get my Italian sim from that city itself. Sadly the airport didn’t have a stall so I asked the lady who managed the apartment I was living in and she guided me to the closest Vodafone store that had some pretty good voice and Internet packs for tourists.
Yummies in my tummy
Do as the Romans do. When you’re in any city, one of the best parts is experiencing its food. Yes, since you’re alone you may not get to try multiple things for one meal and may be able to order only one dish. That is why it’s important that you try different things each time you eat. Once I left home after having my yaks cuppa coffee, I stuck to have numerous small meals in the day rather than 3 big meals. Though cafes and bars in touristic places would be mostly full, one cant guarantee how the food will be! In fact, very often it would be just mediocre and over priced! Try the local cuisine of the place! If you’re in italy, eat Italian food! You’ll find tons of regional options. Tuscan Italian food is really different from Roman food or let’s say pizza available in Naples! However, if you’re in a city as cosmopolitan as London or New York, my suggestion would be to try out different cuisines from all over the world!
Just cause you’re alone doesn’t mean that you can’t capture memories right? Take lots of photos! Yes, enjoy a moment, soak it in BUT if taking photos make you happy then by all means flood your camera roll! Don’t be shy to ask people walking by (probably someone who doesn’t seem that they’re in a hurry) to click a photo of you! Oh, and BUY A SELFIE STICK. I know it looks absolutely ridiculous but trust me when I say that you can really experiment with your photography with this inexpensive gadget! It best part of the selfie stick is that you can take selfies on a wider angle making it look like you’re not clicking your own photograph since the ostrich arm isn’t visible.
Hope this helps all the solo travel aspirants! Even if you dont plan to travel solo, do keep these tips in mind 😀
Untill next time, lots of love x