I am someone who likes to travel by themselves quite often and have been doing for a couple of years now. When I first started I found I was really nervous and now I don’t particularly get that anymore so I wanted to write advice for anyone else consider travelling solo.
I first stayed in a hotel by myself a couple of years ago when I wanted to go to a book signing in London that took place in the evening that would end too late for me to get the three-hour train journey back to Telford. When I was booking I was thinking more about price rather than location or safety and I ended up finding a basic hotel for £31 in Chiswick. It was quite out of the way from Central London so it required a tube journey and then about a seven minute walk down the road to the hotel at night. However I still book this hotel every time I go back to London.
If you’re going to London and have the money then I would recommend spending the extra and staying within Central London. However there are plenty of decent and safe hotels away from Central London, it’s just about finding the right one. Always check tripadvisor before you go to see what others are saying and if you arrive at the hotel and find you are completely uncomfortable with staying there then cancel the booking and look for a different hotel. If you go to a major city like London or somewhere similar then there should be plenty to choose from and you’ll be able to find somewhere.
For my twentieth birthday my Mom gave me a travel kit and it included a door stop. She’d read online that if you put it under the door then anyone who tries to unlock it won’t be able to come in. Generally if I’m by myself I use the door stop but then put something else in front of the door in case someone does manage to jam it open. At my regular hotel in London there’s a small chest of drawers I can put in front of the door so I’ll hear the bang and wake up if someone tries to come in. What’s also convenient about that hotel is that if someone were to come on, I could step out of the window onto the roof and there’s a sloping wall that will you take down to the street. Not that I’ve ever needed to, luckily!
It’s definitely about finding a hotel you’re comfortable with and sometimes you just have to take a chance and hope for the best. I’ve found most hotels I’ve stayed in by myself have been perfectly safe and I’ve never felt uncomfortable when travelling alone. I’ve had a few incidents when travelling with others but never alone.
Once a year I go to a convention called Asylum, which is a convention for Supernatural fans that until this year has taken place at the Hilton Hotel in Birmingham. Birmingham isn’t too far from me so realistically I could’ve got the train home everyday to save money and just commuted everyday but the atmosphere disappears when you get home and I’ve found staying at the hotel the convention takes place at is a lot more fun. However, I don’t earn an awful lot of money so I could never afford to stay there by myself. So for the past three years I’ve been doing hotel room shares.
I’ve done this three times and I had not met the people I shared with before I went to share with them. I met them all on a convention Facebook page and they were asking for roommates so I popped up and offered to share with them. It’s risky but I’ve been very lucky when I’ve done it and they all turned out to be genuine and extremely friendly.
What was good about this was that every year, through the people I was sharing with, I managed to get some kind of perk. For example, the first year my roommate said there had been a mess up with one of her previous bookings so now the two of us were allowed breakfast completely free for the rest of our stay. The next year my roommate said her friend wanted to come and asked if she could share the room so the cost split between the three of us turned out to be a lot cheaper. The third year they messed up the booking again so we got upgraded to a suite.
Obviously it’s risky as these people could’ve let me down at the last minute or turned out to be complete weirdo’s or stolen from me or could’ve done anything… But equally, you could do the same to them. Every time I booked via room share the other person handled the booking so it would’ve been worse for them if I had cancelled as they would’ve had to cover the entire booking themselves. At least if they cancelled on me I’d still have my money, just nowhere to stay.
General tip, always say you’ll give them the money in person and once you’ve got the key to the room you’ll be staying in. Luckily for me that’s never been a problem with the people I’ve shared with and they never expected me to pay them straightaway. Also, do your own research about the hotel beforehand. If it’s a hotel where you can pay upon arrival and the person you’re planning on sharing with is demanding money beforehand then that’s a little dodgy.
Don’t feel bad about changing your mind but equally give the other person plenty of time to make other arrangements. If you agree to something and they start to give off creepy or untrustworthy vibes then remember it’s always better to be safe than sorry. But if you are going to cancel don’t leave it until the week beforehand. That will leave them stressing to find new arrangements before the trip and no one wants to start their trip stressing.
This one is fairly new to me and I’ve only done it once. I wanted to go watch a show in London but I didn’t have enough money for a hotel room and the only option was a hostel. After doing some research I decided to take the chance and book it. And it wasn’t bad at all.
At the hostel I stayed at you chose between a female dorm and a male dorm so obviously I went for the female one. You’re then put into a room with six beds and you put a tag on your bed so that everyone else knows not to take that one and that’s that. There was a box under the bed that you could look your stuff in so long as you had your own padlock. I hadn’t thought to bring one with me so I put my pyjamas on the pillow and kept everything else on me. Some of the others had left their stuff out.
Obviously your experience at a hostel depends on who you’re sharing with and I feel like I got quite lucky with who I was sharing with. They were all friendly and considerate of everyone else and none of them made me feel unsafe. You take that chance with a hostel though. I would go back but I might have a completely different experience next time.
What you have to remember when staying in a dorm room is that you’re probably not perfect either. For example, two of the girls I was sharing with both decided they wanted to take a shower while the rest of us were sleeping. One girl got up at about five o’clock in the morning to pack her stuff and leave. I’m pretty sure one of the girls ended up talking in her sleep as well. Nothing major but enough to keep you awake/wake you up. I don’t imagine I was the perfect roommate either though. I was once told that I was a right fidget and it’s true, I can’t lie still I have to keep rolling over until I fall asleep. I don’t even notice it but if I’m rolling around on a creaky bed then I bet it annoyed at least one other person. We all have our own habits and ways of doing things, and if we’re not being deliberately disruptive then it’s a lot easier to just let it go.
Another thing that was good about this particular hostel was that the reception was 24 hours so if you did end up stuck with someone that was making you feel uncomfortable and or was being aggressive in anyway then all you had to do was pop to reception, let them know and they would’ve sorted it out.
When I was trying to decide whether or not to book a hostel, a piece of advice I read was ‘if you’re not planning to murder or steal from one of them then why would they?’ And it’s so true. Obviously be careful with your stuff because not everyone is trustworthy but if you have no intentions of doing it to them then why should they have any to do it to you? You’re all there for a cheap place to sleep; they probably don’t have a hidden agenda.
You can get lots of different dorms in hostels; you can get mixed dorms of up to any amount of beds. I think I would always stay in female only rooms but as with everything I’ve already mentioned, it’s best to stay within your comfort zone.
When travelling alone a lot of it is just common sense. If you feel uncomfortable in your accommodation then seek something different. As long as you do your research in advance though, you should be absolutely fine.