Top Safety Tips for Solo Travelers in Europe
Solo adventuring is a draw for many travellers. To complete such a challenge entirely on your own is an extremely satisfying experience. But how do you ensure you’re adventuring within the realms of your own wellbeing? Here are my top tips for travelers heading to Europe and how to adventure safely (I promise that’s not a contradictory statement!):
1. Choose Where to Go
There are so many different destinations available it is important to have an idea of where you want to go and what you want to do. This will help you to put together an itinerary and get a list of places which you want to visit. You will also be able to check what places are good to visit and also make a list of places which possibly don't look safe/appealing. If multipe places appeal and you want to get guided to the best locations you might want to book a European tour.
2. Search ideas and programs before departing
Have a think about what do you want to do before you leave, are you just interested in sightseeing and general travel? Or would you like a more stuctured experience? There are so many different options when backpacking and a good way to meet other people is to do something structured, for example applying for a work and travel program in Europe. Other opportunities include going to volunteer in Europe which includes accommodation so you can keep costs down. You could also take a TEFL course and get paid to teach English in Europe - a great option to fund living abroad.
3. Pack light
Perhaps before you explore the alleys and back roads of the city you’ve arrived in, dump your big bag securely in your hostel or other accommodation. Pack a small amount of cash, a map, water, and if you bring your phone have it securely on your person. It's a good idea to have a small amount of cash or even a dummy phone in a difference place to dupe potential muggers.
4. Don’t be cocky
Seasoned hiker? Sure, try out Corscia’s GR 20. Never pitched a tent in your life? Perhaps walking round Lake Bled is more your scene. Adventure is doing something out of your ordinary, not necessarily putting yourself in the path of danger.
5. Trust your instincts
Talk to people and make friends, but if your gut isn’t feeling a particular place or person, listen to it. A small amount of money for a new hostel room or rejecting someone’s proposal for a midnight wander isn't the end of the world. Peace of mind is priceless.
6. Don’t listen to music, especially if you’re on a secluded path or road
For one, this will preserve the battery on your phone in the case of emergencies. It will also allow you to appreciate your surroundings. I felt much better about interrailing alone when I chose to disregard the upkeep of my Snapchat story, and focus on what was going on around me. But what’s more, listening to music makes you less aware of noises, such as potential pickpockets nearby. Pickpockets are naturally going to be more in abundance in big cities and near tourist attractions, but this doesn’t mean you should let your guard down in other locations. Here is a useful article about the most typical pickpocket hotspots in Europe.
7. Learn the local lingo
One of the easiest ways to get around and also not encounter any problems would be for you to learn the language of your potential destination. Popular options include:
- French language schools in France
- German language schools in Germany
- Russian language schools in Russia
- Spanish language schools in Spain
8. Don't let terrorism put you off
Reading safety converns and hazards before departing, including the ever real issue of terrorism which has claimed the lives of hundreds of lives in the past decade might make you never want to leave your home. But despite what you might have heard or read, Europe is still a safe continent to visit especially if you take precautions. Most of the people you encounter will be friendly and helpful even with the language barrier. And the chances of ever getting caught in a terrorist incident are very slim.
9. Enjoy the experience
Traveling is all about the experience, so try to make the most of it and do as much as possible. Be open to meeting new people and you might make friends for life!
10. Finally, keep in contact!
Let people know your movements. Perhaps have a general itinerary people back home can follow, with hostel phone numbers listed. Besides, what’s an adventure if you don’t write home to brag about it?!
For more advice and information, visit the Foreign Commonwealth Office’s Travel Aware page.
“Life's the adventure. You don't have to drop your bundle and go bush. It's about being brave within the context that you're in.” - Robyn Davidson
By Kirsten Robertson