I’m not well travelled (at all) and am planning on taking off to Europe at the start of next year for 6-12 months on my own.
I’m a 25 year old Australian woman and just wondering if anyone could share their solo travel experience (especially young females) and perhaps provide some tips?
Someone suggested I start with a Contiki Tour to "settle in" to travelling.
I have some family in London which is where I will be based.
Thanks in advance
A Contiki Tour or something like that is fine, but certainly not necessary. All you need is common sense, street smarts and really basic research. Common sense is many times not common at all and some people never seem to develop street smarts, but honestly, that's all you need.
Also, keep in mind that you're going to Europe, not the Indian Subcontinent or parts of Asia, Africa, etc. where you're entering a whole different world. Europe is not an exotic destination, it has been backpacked for decades and it's covered very, very well by many, many guide books and countless Internet travel sources.
Thanks for the info. I'd like to think I was street smart but Im just not very well travelled so that scares me a little.
Definitely just go and don't be concerned about doing it on your own.
A tour group can take some of the 'hassle' out of planning but it also takes the fun out of the experience IMO. Travelling on your own means you can go where you want, for however long you want, rather than a flying 2 hour visit to the big cities.
Basing yourself in London is going to be very easy to find your way around, interact with locals, and get the feel for travelling with most of the comforts of home. I suggest you don't only go to familiar shops and food places, however, but explore neighbourhoods and get a feel for local life as much as possible.
When I visited London as a 24yo I got up early and explored the city by foot all day. The area I was staying in had heaps of pubs and not necessarily a great feel, so in the evening I just stayed in my hostel with a cheap meal, picked up from M&S or a little bakery, logging my travels and talking to other travellers! There was no need to put myself in a bad situation unnecessarily and the same tactic produced divine memories in Paris!
Thanks for the info, appreciate it
I’m getting the contiki suggestion just to start off my 6-12 month journey. So perhaps a 2 week contiki to settle me into traveling and what’s involved... although I assume its A LOT different doing it alone as opposed to doing it with a tour company.
I can’t wait to see Paris. As mentioned I’m not well travelled so my idea is to just arrive in London, base myself at my Aunt’s house, and plan from there. Is that realistic?
I’m also worried about my personality - a few forums have said females must be careful of being too friendly with males (Italy and Greece were mentioned, as well as others) as a simple convo with lots of smiling can be taken as an invitation for other things.
I am a smiling, loud, friendly blonde girl who tends to make friends with males easier than I do females (having grown up with 3 brothers).
Obviously I am aware of certain dress standards for woman in certain countries etc but do you think I would also have to tone down my friendly nature around the local males?
I am early 30's Greek female having traveled solo in various part of Europe since I was 18 y.o. and I work in tourism industry all my life mostly in various parts of Greece but on other countries too. So take my advice for what it worths....
Regarding attracting male attention in south Europe, no country is different than north.or anywhere on the world if you ask me. The difference is that meditteranean men tend to be more social and straighforward and will make a compliment, chat or chase after a beautiful woman while most northern men are more discreet/restrained on their manners, they may make a comment to their mate but do not make any move to approach you. This does not mean that Spanish, Greek or Italian men are going to rape you or look you as "raw meat", this means they like to meet new people and appreciate a nice presence. Most men approaching you, they will look forward to talk to you, here stories, maybe share a meal or drink, ok maybe having at back of their mind something may go firther, but they'll absolutely respect your comfort if you make clear your intensions. If you make clear you want to be left alone, you will be left alone.
Rule on those occasions and to be honest on all occasions while traveling, is to follow your gut feeling. If you find a person or situation alarming or you feel uncomfortable, simply avoid.
And as someone else pointed out already, just because you are on hoidays you should not leave your common sense at homme. Vast majority of bad inciddents to travelers would have been easily avoided if people used some common sense. So do not drink your face off, do not walk alone on dark alleys or seedy areas, do not accept rides by unknown men, be aware of your surroundings, do not flash cash and expensive stuff around and be alarmed on pick pocketing issues.
On the clothing issue, get dressed as you feel comfortable. Just use common sense again. Some monasteries or religious places have a stricked dress code eg knees and shoulders covered. Some discos/clubs require a more smart dressing. In most places a casual dress code applies. Do not do as some tourist do, appear dressed in beach attire while visiting a site or a city miles away from nearest beach. It is most likely a case of not been rediculous than attracting male attention. Be sure to have comfortable walking shoes, maybe the most important element when planning to visit a site or walk around a city or park. On summer do not forget sun cream, sun glasses and hat. It seems obvious but I 've seen some awful sun burns, feet rasshes and even sun strokes on people ignoring the obvious. Do remember we have a winter to, and often a severe one even on southern countries. So come prepared accordingly depending on when you plan to be where.
On the organised tour issue, please be aware that it might only help you built some confidence by seen that Europe is not such an alien place. But otherwise, I can not think on how it will settle you into traveling and what’s involved... Transportation between places and even inside places is arranged for you, so you learn nothing on how public transport works. Tickets on sites and meals in most cases is pre-arranged too, so nothing to learn there either. Free time is limited and often hotels are located on isolated/distant areas, so your views of local life, on local food, local shops away from where the tour takes you is rather non-existent-or maybe a tiny glimpse. I often find that people are so tired by the fast pace of tours, that they forget things they visited/heard a couple of hours ago. And it is really a pitty.
Of course the choise is yours, but I believe that Europe is a very easy place to organise your DIY trips, especially nowadays with so many guidebooks and on-line sources....
Thanks for all the great info! So basically it’s just the same as dealing with men here in Australia (or anywhere I assume).
I don’t know why I’m so scared, I guess it’s just because you hear all the bad stories on the news etc and plus my Mum is freaking out (even though she back packed around the world in the 70's!).
I do love to party but the more I read about Contiki the more it looks like you are literally just partying your butt off and dragging your hang over self out for one pic in front of a local attraction each day before partying again!!
Hopefully it’s easy to meet people!
What would be the best months to go? I can either go at the end of Dec/early Jan or at the end of Mar/early April.
March/April has my vote. There's nice aspects to winter in Europe, but it's mostly pretty dismal. The very short daylight hours will be something you're not at all accustomed to, the sky is grey 90% of the time, and though it's pretty for a day or two when it snows, after that it generally turns into brown mud for a week. If you do end up going in December/January, I'd strongly recommend heading toward Spain/Portugal for the first few months to sit out winter.
March/April will be the start of spring, and although that comes together with lots of rain, it's definitely the nicer time of the year, while still being far removed from the crowds of high season.
[ Edit: Edited on 24-Jun-2013, at 02:30 by Sander ]
Yes, although due to work restrictions I mostly travel on January/February till early March my self, I think April onwards makes more sense for all reasons mentioned by Sander, plus some sites on rural areas are completely closed or have very limited timetables on winter.
I see you have a great advantage to start of. You have a family member in Europe, and even better London which is a major transport hub. So your aunt her self could help you on trivial and travel logistics on London and other areas, so you start to build some confidence and street/travel-smarts ...and of course it's a great opportunity to built some social network too. Often you benefit greatly from other people's stories and tips... and you could even meet a trust-worthy person through your aunt that you like to hung around with and spend some time traveling together! So this will ease your mum's worries a bit too.
Do not let other people worries get into you, especially your mum's. Mums HAVE TO worry for their sons and daughters, that's part of their work description
The lady hasen't even learnt to walk as a backpacker, Yet alone to run as a fully fledged
traveller. Take your time get a backpack and do a few alternate weeks travel in oz first
to see if it is for you. All this talk about pickpockets and bad men horrible weather
is going to turn any potential traveler off.