10 Tips for solo travel with Eurail
Going it alone is the primary way I choose to travel. Solo travel with a Eurail pass is liberating, it’s exciting, and it has taught me more about myself and the world than anything else I’ve ever done.
On my latest foray, I made my way from Stockholm to Sarajevo with a Eurail Global Pass - 15 days in 2 months and a mission to visit as many countries as possible in the Eurail network that I hadn’t been to before. While covering some 4,461 miles in 40 days and making stops in 14 different countries, I ended up spending a lot of time both on and off trains hanging with just me, myself and I.
Here are my 10 useful tips for anyone planning to venture out on a solo Eurail trip of their own.
Appoint a “virtual wingman” before you leave
One of the best safety precautions you can take before leaving on a solo trip is to appoint someone you can check in with at certain points throughout your journey. It doesn’t matter if you only check in with them once a week, or every night when you get in, but making sure someone is keeping tabs on where you are supposed to be and that you made it there is always a smart idea.
One of the biggest advantages of traveling solo is that you are free to do whatever you want, whenever you want – take full advantage of that and be spontaneous. This is how I unexpectedly ended up seeing Bern for the first time. I had never been to the capital of Switzerland, and it looked nice as the train pulled into the station on the way from Interlaken so…I just got off. Might not have happened had I needed to run that impulse by a travel companion first.
Meet up with friends in different cities
Think about strategically planning your trip around cities where people you know are living or visiting, or consider connecting with locals via Couchsurfing. Relying on meeting people with similar interests at hostels or by chance is never a sure thing. The comfort of seeing a familiar face after a couple of weeks traveling alone though? Always a sure thing.
Bring your friends and family along via social media
If loneliness and boredom still worry you, don’t forget about the power of social media to keep you connected with friends and family back home. Thanks to the overabundance of applications and social networks such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest you can practically bring them with you everywhere you go – or at least anywhere that has WiFi – through status updates and photo and video uploads.
Know before you arrive how to reach your accommodation
The areas around train stations are generally not the safest in the city, but they are known for offering plenty of cheap accommodation options. Whether you end up staying there or elsewhere, it’s good to know exactly where you are going once you get off the train. I always write down directions from the hostel/hotel website. I also download a map to my phone to look over and, if necessary, refer to discreetly once there.
Always keep your most important valuables on you
You should always be sure to keep your most important valuables, such as your passport, money and credit cards, on you at all times. This is an essential safety measure anywhere, but especially while on a train. The same goes for laptops and phones – don’t risk having them stolen by leaving them out and walking away or by falling asleep, and don’t let your guard down just because there are other passengers present.
Keep your luggage in sight whenever possible
In a train, you should store your luggage directly above or below your seat whenever possible. However, if there is no room for your bag, you can usually head to storage spots located at either end of the train car. Just make sure that wherever you store your luggage, you can keep a good eye on it from where you are sitting, and remember to only use the restroom while the train is in motion.
Use down time for reflection and creativity
A lot of people worry about getting bored or lonely on a solo trip, but the truth is that loneliness can creep up on you just about anywhere in the world. The key is to channel that energy into something creative. Sitting for hours at a time by myself on trains and buses is how I discovered my love for iPhone photography, and to this day, this is still the time when I do most of my best work.
Talk to strangers
Assuming you use good judgement, talking to strangers is one of the best things you can do while traveling alone. Some of the best travel recommendations I’ve received and some of the greatest conversations I’ve ever had were with strangers, a few of which even turned into good friends.
Embrace “being alone”
One frequently mentioned solo-travel cliché is the idea that “you are never alone”. Of course there are times when you are alone, lots of them. That’s not a bad thing at all – embrace it and own it. Having confidence in what you’re doing will take you far in life, and you should be proud of your choice to travel alone. It does take courage and I guarantee you will be commended far more than criticized along the way.
Have you got any handy tips for the lone traveler?