While visiting London, I managed to learn a couple things about traveling on my own that may come in handy for those of you who haven’t had the experience of exploring a giant city all by yourself before.
- Bring a good backpack. While sightseeing, you’re going to want to carry a number of useful things with you, and you won’t want to risk setting that bag of souvenirs down and getting it stolen. Don’t buy a cheap backpack, either. It’s going to be bumped and banged around a lot and you don’t want it falling apart on you.
- Bring food and snacks with you in your backpack. Buying water and snacks from food carts can be very expensive, and you can never find them when you need them. Buy cheap water and snacks from a grocery store ahead of time.
- Keep important things like travel cards and your passport in a pocket all to themselves. That way you can find them more easily when you need to whip them out, and you won’t risk them falling out when you’re digging for that tour map.
- Wear comfortable walking shoes, even if you have to pay top-dollar. Nothing ruins a sightseeing trip like blistered feet.
- Leave a couple extra hours between connecting flights, especially when going through customs. Having an extra hour or two of “cushion” will save you from making a mad dash from one end of the airport to the other to catch a plane.
- Bring a map such as a Pocket Pilot along with you. They cost around $6 and are massively useful. The one I brought had a map of the heart of London with all the tourist locations mapped out, and it included a Tube Map that was crucial to find my way from one station to the next.
- Bring a compass. It’s very easy to get lost in a city where none of the streets have signs, and it’s even easier to lose track of which way is north.
- Don’t trust Google Maps. While they work some of the time, you need to learn where you’re going on your own without trusting a computer to tell you where to go. Google Maps told me the World’s End pub was just down the street from the Holborn tube station rather than in Camden, which wasted about half an hour of travel time.
- Make sure you can get home. The tubes and the trains in London close down shortly after midnight, so if you plan on staying out late, make sure you can find a night bus or a cab that will take you back. Otherwise, say goodnight to your friends with plenty of time to get the ride back home before you find yourself stranded in a bad part of town in the middle of the night.