It was a rookie error. I took advice from an American girl I had met on a ferry in Greece and travelled into the night to Vienna, to stay at a university that she had recommended. Trouble is, when she stayed there it was uni holidays and when I turned up it wasn't. No bed. No money, no plan B. I found myself on a tram where a lovely Viennese gent took pity on me, accompanied me to a lovely hotel and bid me farewell, turning up the next morning with breakfast because he wanted to practice his English. There is always an upside.
To travel solo, you do need to have faith occasionally, as all the best plans can go awry. Here are my tips for making the most of travelling solo.
Do your research
Don't arrive in a city near midnight on someone's say so. Select where you want to stay, preferably in a hotel with 24-hour reception, within your price bracket and in a good part of town so you can get around easily.
Play it safe
Leave your expensive jewellery at home as pickpockets are rife in some cities. Have a dummy wallet on you with a small amount of cash in it, some cards you don’t need or use (loyalty cards or the like), so if you get robbed you can hand over the dummy. Also don’t keep your cash and credit cards in the one place. Upload any images you have taken during the day to an external hard drive or something like Dropbox. That way, if you lose your phone or camera you will still have your shots.
Be aware and trust your instincts
Use common sense and be mindful and aware of your surroundings. Get your head out of your smartphone and avoid appearing like an easy target – walk tall with confidence and scan your surroundings. Always trust your instincts – if something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.
Have a Plan B
Always keep a copy of your passport, itinerary, visas, travel insurance and other important documents with you, in a Dropbox and with someone at home. Only take the credit cards and cash you need and leave the rest in your hotel room safe. Inform your bank of your travels. Make sure you have travel insurance that covers you for everything you are going to do. Register with smarttraveller.gov.au before you go. Make sure your phone company has good international WiFi capabilities and if it doesn’t, pick up a sim card through someone like TravelSim.
Have fun and keep an open mind
Travelling solo should be about having fun, broadening your horizons and learning about yourself. It’s a wonderful way to experience fascinating new countries and cultures and to meet interesting people from all walks of life. And if you want company, just sign up for a tour. Many companies offer tours for solo travellers these days, particularly for women, and it is safe to say you will have firm friends by the time your tour finishes.