First time travelling - going solo at 18 years old

Travel Forums Europe First time travelling - going solo at 18 years old

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1. Posted by ryanjp (Budding Member 3 posts) 6y Star this if you like it!

Hi,

I am an 18 year old guy from the UK who is really interested in going travelling and with so much free time over the upcoming summer, due to holidays from uni, I am considering a month travel around Europe. I have never done any type of proper travelling before, and am concerned about whether going solo for a month is too much too soon, given that I'm only 18. Does anyone have any advice or past experience of doing this kind of travel at this age? My main concerns are staying safe on my own and trying to meet other travellers when I'm out there. I'd be grateful for any replies, thanks for reading!

2. Posted by berner256 (Moderator 1627 posts) 6y 1 Star this if you like it!

Have no fear, you'll be in good company. There will be many like you traveling throughout Europe during summer. I'm sure you'll make many new friends; and perhaps even get invited to a home or two. Just be friendly and reach out.

Many travelers like to stay in hostels. It's a great way to meet people and perhaps travel together. I did so and made some lasting friends.

The best way to stay safe is to be alert and aware of your surroundings. That's particularly so when taking public transportation or visiting popular tourist spots. That also applies to hostels where you share a dorm. On my first trip overseas, my passport was stolen in a Paris hostel while I was sleeping (it was in a bag next to the bed). I learned a lesson then: That a passport is a traveler's most valuable possession. So protect it the best you can.

Most travelers I know -- even experienced ones -- have trepidations before a trip. But once on the road those begin to melt away. You'll have a great time!

3. Posted by leics2 (Travel Guru 6371 posts) 6y 1 Star this if you like it!

Nobody can tell you whether a month is 'too long' for you, so make sure you plan for a potential early return if it does turns out that you've had enough. My daughter spent a month travelling Europe at (just) 18 but chose to return a week earlier than she'd actually intended. No major issues: she was just tired of the travelling and had simply had enough.

Staying safe when travelling really is the same as staying safe at home: a matter of using exactly the same common sense. Take good care of your valuables, be alert when using ATMs, stay aware of pickpockets and petty thieves (especially in crowds and in touristy places), avoid unlit & deserted places after dark, don't get so drunk you lose control of yourself or the situation, think before you act etc etc.

Get an under-clothing wallet to keep passport, cash and cards safe when travelling. Use a safe in your accomm if one is provided but, if not, keep them on your body during the daytime too. Make photocopies of your passport & tickets and keep them separate.

Never put lots of cash, cards, passport or phone in pockets with external openings (and that includes front trouser pocket). Pickpockets are just as skilful as table magicians.

Make sure your card provider/s know that you will be out of the country and keep a separate note of the number to call is you lose your card/s.

Make sure you have a back-up fund available for emergencies.

Get an EHIC card, of course (use the official site otherwise you'll get ripped off), but also get travel health insurance which includes repatriation costs. The EHIC doesn't cover that and being repatriated to the UK if you are injured or ill (either of which can happen, anywhere) can cost thousands of pounds. Check travel insurance offered by e.g the Post Office, supermarkets like the Co-op & Tesco and use Moneysupermarket to compare.

As it's your first time, plan and book tickets and at least your first accommodation well in advance.

The excellent German railway website in English gives times and details for almost all European trains:

https://www.bahn.com/en/view/index.shtml

Each EU country has its own official railway website with English pages. Just google.

I could go on......but I won't. Enjoy your planning! :-)

[ Edit: Edited on 09-Apr-2018, at 02:50 by leics2 ]

4. Posted by berner256 (Moderator 1627 posts) 6y 1 Star this if you like it!

Suggest choosing a few destinations to visit instead of wandering aimlessly around. It can get tiresome traveling to a new place day after day, not knowing what to see and do and spending a lot of time hunting for accommodations.

5. Posted by AndyF (Moderator 2959 posts) 6y 1 Star this if you like it!

All the above is good advice. All I'd add is that eastern Europe is a lot cheaper than western Europe. So figure on doing Poland, Czech, Hungary, Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia for maybe one third of the prices in Germany, France, Italy, Austria, Switzerland.

6. Posted by ryanjp (Budding Member 3 posts) 6y Star this if you like it!

Wow, thank you all so much for the reponses. I will definitely be staying in hostels to keep the costs down, so hopefully I'll meet fellow travellers there. I also plan on booking all hostels etc before I go, just so I know exactly what I'm doing and to remove any stress whilst on the road. I've been to a few European cities before, just on holiday, so I wouldn't say I'm entirely new to all the aspects of travelling like being careful in tourist hotspots and using pulic transport systems abroad. The main part of my trip involves using an interrail pass for my travel, which should also make things a little easier I hope.

With regards hostels: this may sound stupid, but if you go out for the day taking your valuables and essentials with you in a day bag, do people tend to just leave their backpacks in the dorm? What if it doesn't fit in a locker, would it be safe to just leave it padlocked to your bed?

The next hurdle is to try and convince parents, which is easier said than done...

7. Posted by AndyF (Moderator 2959 posts) 6y 1 Star this if you like it!

Hostels almost universally provide lockers, so just take your own padlock. I wouldn't leave things to trust in the dorm, beyond some clothing to indicate that the bunk is taken.

Lockers are usually fairly large and backpacks usually squish, but this makes it sound like you're taking an enormous pack - which I think would be a mistake...

Travel light then you're not spending your entire time hefting or guarding your stuff. You only need a change of clothes, a waterproof coat, a toiletries bag and a smartphone. Taking a large pack that's too heavy on travel days will make you miserable. I usually travel with a 35 litre pack; being generous if your pack is above a maximum of 50 litres I suggest you test pack it with the stuff you plan on taking and spend a day going into town on the bus to see how comfortable it is.

8. Posted by leics2 (Travel Guru 6371 posts) 6y 1 Star this if you like it!

> I also plan on booking all hostels etc before I go

Very sensible indeed imo, especially if you book refundable hostel places so you can change your mind if you want.

>using an interrail pass for my travel

Be aware that France has limits to the number of Interrail/Eurail passengers who can travel on any one high-speed train (Thalys & TGV)....and that you'll need to make (and sometimes pay for) seat reservations (required on high-speed trains) either in-country or via the Interrail website. There are no issues using the regional 'ordinary' trains in any EU country.

> What if it doesn't fit in a locker, would it be safe to just leave it padlocked to your bed?

If people are going to steal, they will steal. Leaving it locked to the bed might ease your mind a bit but it's no guarantee. That's why travel insurance is, imo, essential (and also v useful for somewhat easing parental worries).

>The next hurdle is to try and convince parents, which is easier said than done...

Speaking as a parent, finding a mate to go with you....or at least to start off with you....is probably the best idea to ease parental worries (a little). :-)

9. Posted by berner256 (Moderator 1627 posts) 6y 1 Star this if you like it!

I don't think it's necessary to book all your hostels. You'll want some flexibility in your itinerary. For example, you might make new friends in a hostel and join them to a destination that wasn't in your original plans. But it's always wise to think one or two steps ahead of where you are going. For example, if you're currently in Madrid and thinking of going to Barcelona in a couple of days, begin to consider how you'll get there (what trains or buses to catch) and where you'll be staying. Thinking ahead can help forestall problems.

If you have a smartphone, put several apps that can assist you in your travels, including those to help book hostels and other accommodations. For example, in summer, some schools open student housing to travelers.

If you want a travel mate, choose wisely. I've traveled with many people; and some are better than others. For me, a good travel companion is a person who is kind and generous, is adventurous (willing to try new things) and usually on time. The worst, in my opinion, are those who think only of themselves, complain a lot, gossip, etc. You'll meet lots of people on your way; and after a while you'll find some you want to travel with.

One way to help ease your parents' concern is to tell them where you're likely to be; and how you'll keep in touch (I use WhatsApp and other tools).

10. Posted by woinparis (Inactive 145 posts) 6y 1 Star this if you like it!

Same advice as basically Leics. I travelled one month when 20 in the US.
I kept my passport at all time ON me. In a pouch around my neck. At all times.
I slept in hostels too and did meet friendly chaps.
I never had more than say 100 Euros of now and would go to ATM. I gad an AMEx Card more for safety. Mbeing aling your student card it can give rebates in lots of places.
I use hotels.cim for my bookings.
Tap water is free in some countries.
I visited something like 15 cities in one month back then and whilst I enjoyed and don't regret it meant a little t of time in transport (was mostly nights) and if all for blurred after...
have fun.