Are you scared to travel alone? That’s completely normal.

scared to travel alone first solo trip first time traveling alone

Here’s me in Rome — in 2014 my first solo trip as I left to study abroad there without knowing anyone. I went back in September 2017.

We typically think of vacations as social activities, so the idea of a solo holiday might seem weird or even a little scary. You might think about if you’ll get lonely, or maybe even bored since you won’t have friends to chat to. As women, we might wonder “is solo female travel safe?”

It totally is. But that doesn’t make the idea of flying somewhere new and exploring all day on your own any less stress inducing.

The key is to work up to it. If you’re used to spending time alone, then traveling alone for the first time will be a breeze.

Here’s how to practice for your first solo trip:

Scared to Travel alone? Go to a Movie

scared to travel alone first solo trip first time traveling alone

I took a “solo trip to Morocco” by linking up with a tour group. This was back in 2014.

This movies is an easy place to start if you’re scared to travel alone, as one of the biggest obstacles to get over is to stop waiting around for people to come with you and just go.

Is there a movie out that you want to see, but you can’t match your friends’ schedules? Perfect. Buy your ticket and your popcorn and go anyway.

Skills acquired:

  • Enjoying your own company.
  • Having memories of an event that belong completely to you.

Eat by yourself at Fast Food Place

scared to travel alone first solo trip first time traveling alone

All solo female travelers must be cat ladies, right? haha. Here I am at the Cat Sanctuary in Rome in 2014.

Having the courage to eat alone is surprisingly a big deal. I think we associate eating alone with being alone, like…completely. What kind of person can’t find someone to eat with them?

Breaking through this stigma is a big part of having the courage to take your first solo trip. You’re a human being. You need food for nourishment. Eat.

Starting at a fast food place makes things easier because there might be more people there on the go. You pay, you sit down, and scarf your food while looking at memes.

Easy enough.

Skills acquired:

  • Breaking through the stigma of eating alone.

How to Start Traveling Alone: Go to a Museum Solo

scared to travel alone first solo trip first time traveling alone

I recently joined a tour of all the “Sound of Music” filming locations in and around Salzburg, Austria

When you’re traveling on your own for the first time, one of the things you’ll likely do is visit a museum. Why not take a dry run at home?

You can get a feel for your pace and decision making process. For example, if you can choose any museum in your entire city, and no one else’s opinion matters…which one will you go to?

Once you get there, how much time will you spend? When you’re on your first solo trip, you won’t have to rush through an activity because your boyfriend is hungry or linger somewhere that bores you because your sister is having a good time.

The freedom to make selfish decisions is one of the best parts of traveling alone for the first time.

Going to concerts or events alone is also good practice. I went to a George Ezra concert alone for this step.

Skills acquired:

  • Learning about your actual interests.
  • Discovering your how to pace yourself.
  • Making choices without anyone else’s input.

Eat Alone at a Sit Down Restaurant

scared to travel alone first solo trip first time traveling alone

a littler Kam trying to take in the Cliffs of Dover by herself in 2015. One of the irritating parts of solo travel — people who cut you off at the ankles.

This one might be the hardest step. I still struggle with it, actually! I think it’s because the wait staff I’ve encountered on my solo travels thus far have just amplified the stigma of eating alone, rather than just treating me like a normal person who happens to be hungry and didn’t want to wait for someone to come eat with her.

While fast food places abroad (think: McDonald’s, Burger King, etc.) will have wifi, the kinds of places you actually want to eat while traveling alone will most likely not. So, if you’re like me and don’t have an international data plan, your biggest crutch, your phone, will be gone.

What’s a girl to do?

Practice!

You won’t be as scared to travel alone if you’ve done a dry run. So, if you’ve already eaten alone at a fancy place in your hometown, when you do it abroad, you’ll know what to expect. You’ll be aware of your stressors, how they make you feel, and how you prefer to pass the time.

You might want to:

  • Read a book.
  • Write in your travel journal.
  • Keep the menu at your table to practice your language skills.
  • People watch.
  • Read the ketchup bottle 50 times.

Skills acquired:

  • Being comfortable with silence
  • Feeling at peace with your own thoughts
  • Completely breaking through the stigma of eating alone

Scared to Travel Alone? Take a Solo Flight

scared to travel alone first solo trip first time traveling alone

My flight to my solo trip to Berlin was delayed, making me run as fast as my little legs would take me. Good thing I’d already flown alone many times so I knew what to do!

If you’ve ever said “I want to travel alone” then being comfortable flying by yourself is a big step towards successful solo travel.

Embarrassingly enough, I had no idea how airports worked until I was 16 and went to Florida with my friend. We paid extra for direct flights from Houston because I wasn’t comfortable taking a connecting flight…because I literally had no idea how I would even find it. Until then, I had always just followed my mom or youth leader and magically found my gate.

So before traveling alone for the first time, take a flight to visit family or meet up with friends alone. This way, you can get comfortable with the check in process, security screenings, and overall airport atmosphere knowing that someone friendly and familiar is waiting for you when you land.

Skills acquired:

  • Understanding airports
  • Navigating potential problems like delays, lost luggage, and running for connections alone

The Final Step towards Traveling Alone for the First Time: Take a Solo Day Trip

scared to travel alone first solo trip first time traveling alone

Magnolia Market in Waco, Texas is a great day trip from Houston or Austin.

So you’ve flown alone, eaten alone, and had a blast at the movies and a museum alone. Now what? Combine them by taking a solo day trip! Well, maybe not the flying part.

Get over your fear of traveling alone by taking a mini first solo trip.

I’m from Houston, so great day trip ideas might be to Austin or Galveston, Texas. I practiced this bit a lot when I was studying in Rome and visiting my sister when she lived in London. I’d just wander around all day and see things that *I* wanted to see.

You can try your hand at itinerary planning and pin point any other areas about solo travel that stress you out.

The best part?

At the end of the day, you’ll have basically traveled alone. You’re a pro.

Skills acquired:

  • Planning a personalized itinerary
  • Setting your own pace

Optional Step: Stay in a Hotel Alone

scared to travel alone first solo trip first time traveling alone

With Elvis’ microphone in sun studios.

This is the final hurdle that I overcame on my journey to no longer be scared to travel alone. I’d flown alone. I’d eaten alone. I’d gone all day exploring alone. But I’d always had someone to come chat to at the end of the day.

So when I took my very first solo trip to Memphis, Tennessee, the only part that was new and scary was not having a friend in the city.

For many, staying in a hotel alone is the opposite of lonely – it’s glorious. Sleeping in a huge, plushy bed and taking a ridiculously long shower without needing to worry about the water bill come to mind.

But the great thing about solo travel is that you don’t actually need to stay alone. Between hostels and homestays like AirBnb, if you want to come home for the day and be around other humans, it’s super easy.

If you’d still like to practice, consider booking a local homestay or hostel.

Hopefully these practice steps make you less scared to travel alone.

Good luck!

  • Pin it: 

scared to travel alone first solo trip first time traveling alone

Follow:

Is Flixbus Reliable?

That was my first question when my friend Smoky suggested we use it on our European adventure.

Flixbus is significantly cheaper than taking a train or a flight between cities, so I was inclined to give it a try, even though the idea of taking a bus made my travel anxiety flare up…like a lot.

Would I be able to find my stop? Would the bus leave early? If it’s delayed, does that mean it’s actually going to come? Will the bathroom be clean? What if we get stuck in traffic and I lose a whole day in my destination?

Is flixbus reliable

Amsterdam…one of the many cities Flixbus serves

This stems from the fact that I took buses in college a lot. Usually from my sleepy Western Massachusetts campus into Boston or down into NYC. I found them to be kind of icky and delayed like seven times out of ten. Bus stations also tend to stress me out simply because of the mere chaos of it all.

BUT

Flixbus is all about rebranding buses.

Its team promises clean, eco-friendly buses with free wifi. The stops seemed easy enough to find and the prices (starting at 5 Euro!) couldn’t be beat.

So I bought my tickets and hoped for the best.

Here’s my Flixbus review: 

Berlin —> Amsterdam

flixbus berlin is flixbus reliable

The Reichstag Building in Berlin

Finding the stop: Easy

Punctuality of the Flixbus: Left on time

I took an overnight Flixbus from Berlin to Amsterdam because I wanted to save money on accommodations. It took about eleven hours and I was dreading it, but as we pulled into Sloterdijk, I actually said to the girl next to me, “Wow, that actually wasn’t as bad as I thought.”

It wasn’t bad at all, actually.

Flixbus Berlin to Amsterdam normally leaves from the central Alexanderplatz stop (among others in the city — including the most-used stop: Berlin Central Bus Station), but because of the Berlin Marathon, the stop was relocated. I got multiple emails from Flixbus with the exact coordinates of the “pop up stop,” so it was very easy to find.

I even tweeted them to confirm (hello, travel anxiety) and the social media team responded within the hour to put me at ease.

Munich —> Prague

Flixbus Munich

Oktoberfest in Munich

Finding the stop: Easy

Punctuality of the Flixbus: Left on time

After a little too much fun at Oktoberfest, Smoky and I were headed to the fairy tale city of Prague. The Flixbus stops at Munich Central Bus station are very easy to find. You can take the SBAHN to Hackerbrücke and then it’s like a two-minute walk to the stops. Everything is labeled and there are plenty of places to eat or shop while waiting for your bus.

One thing to note: when Flixbus is on time, it’s ON TIME. We rolled out of the station at our exact departure time and not a second later.

Prague —> Vienna

Flixbus Prague

Old Town Square in Prague

Finding the stop: Hard

Punctuality of the Flixbus: Left early

The Flixbus stop at Prague Main Railway Station was difficult to find. I think this because we came in the “grand entrance” at the front of the station, so to find it, we had to walk allll the way to the back of the station, and up some stairs. The actual stop is on a strip in the middle of the road behind the station.

We had to ask for lots of help and ran around like beheaded chickens for a bit, but we did eventually find it. If you are departing from Prague ÚAN Florenc, I wouldn’t worry as it’s small and manageable, but if you’re leaving from the station, give yourself some extra time to find your stop.

This bus actually left about six minutes before it was “supposed” to. Smoky and I figured it was because we were the only two ticketed passengers due to board in Prague, as there were only like ten other people on the entire double decker bus, so there wasn’t a point to waiting around.

Is Flixbus reliable? Not if you don’t have a ticket! If the driver doesn’t even know you’re coming, he won’t wait for you, so make sure to buy your ticket at least an hour or so in advance.

Vienna —> Bratislava

Flixbus Vienna

The Royal Opera House in Vienna

Finding the stop: Moderate

Punctuality of the Flixbus: Over an hour late, so we bailed.

The Flixbus stops at Vienna Erdberg are relatively easy to find, since we were dropped off from Prague in the same general area, but I say “moderate” because we never actually found our bus stop. We were only doing a day trip to Bratislava, so we didn’t have too much time to spare and it was FREEZING outside (the terminal is basically a wind tunnel), so when we saw that our bus was going to be over an hour late, we knew we needed a plan B.

Thankfully, there was another Flixbus just sitting there that was also going to Bratislava, so Smoky and I decided to forfeit our orignial tickets and buy new ones. The 7 Euro for the new ticket was worth it to get out of the cold and get on our way.

Bratislava —> Budapest

Flixbus Bratislava

Beautiful Bratislava

Finding the stop: Easy

Punctuality of the Flixbus: Over an hour late

My travel anxiety flared up in a major way over this bus to Budapest, but it turns out it was for nothing. I wish I more like Smoky. Calm, cool, collected…confident that the bus would come. Because it did. It was reaaaaally late, but it came exactly when the app said it would.

The Most SNP Flixbus stop in Bratislava isn’t somewhere I’d like to be after dark, since it’s kind of just under a bridge, but as we were there during the daylight hours it was fine.

The Bratislava Central Bus Station, however, is really nice. Like really nice. Like free wifi, clean AF free bathrooms, and free luggage storage nice. I would almost consider it a tourist attraction on its own.

We did make the mistake of sitting across from the bathroom on the bus to Budapest. Don’t do this y’all. Every time we went over a bump, the door would fly open. It was almost reaaal embarrassing.

So, is Flixbus Reliable?

Flixbus Budapest

At the Széchenyi Thermal Baths in Budapest

  • Does the Flixbus Wifi Work?

Yes! It worked great on every single ride; however, to keep things moving quickly, Flixbus limits the amount of data you can use. Be sure to download your audiobooks and Netflix episodes beforehand, then put your phone on airplane mode and only use the wifi when you really need to. There are also power outlets on board.

  • Is Flixbus Dirty?

I didn’t think so. The buses I took were nicer than some of the trains I’ve been on. I even actually used the bathroom on the way from Berlin to Amsterdam. I remember being like “Wow, how suspicious. It’s really clean in here…too clean.” There was toilet paper provided, but you should always bring your own as well. On the way from Bratislava to Budapest, someone dropped the roll…wouldn’t want to use that one.

is flixbus reliable

The Blue Church in Bratislava

  • Should I use Flixbus? 

I would use it again! Yes, two of our buses were really delayed and we had some hiccups finding some of the stops, but Flixbus buses are just that…buses. They are subjected to things outside their control like weather and traffic. If the bus is going to be late, the Flixbus app lets you know and updates itself in real time. The drivers we met were kind and helpful. The buses were clean.

For me, that makes up for it. 

If you’re looking to save some money on your next trip to Europe, I would recommend looking into Flixbus. Just prepare to be flexible

  • Pin it:

Is flixbus reliable?

I didn’t partner with Flixbus for this review and received no compensation. All opinions, as always, are my own. 

Follow:

Looking for Camino de Santiago advice? You’re in the right place! My pal Reagan did the entire 780 kilometer (nearly 500 miles!) trek and lived to tell the tale. Here’s how she did it:

Why did you choose to do the Camino?

Camino Di Santiago Advice

I’d heard about the Camino when I was younger, from the movie called The Way that stars Martin Sheen. So I was always interested in walking it one day, but honestly thought that I would do it when I was retired in my 60s. But, as luck would have it, it was at that point in senior year where I was trying to get a job and was being rejected from every place I applied to.

One of my college friends Julia (who also went to Mount Holyoke) said she was going to walk the Camino and I asked to join because I literally thought “Why not?! What else am I going to do this summer since I’m unemployed.”

 But in all seriousness, I felt that I needed time to contemplate what I was going to do after college. I’d just spent 20 years of my life in school, so finally being able to do nothing but walk for 5 weeks seemed like a good way to come to terms with adulthood.

I wanted free time before jumping into a career. 

Why did you want to do walk the entire Camino, instead of just a portion?

Camino Di Santiago Advice

I honestly wish I had done portions of it instead after the injuries and bedbugs, but Julia and I had a plan that we wanted to stick to based on a guidebook by John Brierley and felt that completing it would be a real accomplishment for us both.

We also both thought that since it’s so expensive to fly to Europe, it’s a lot easier to take the five weeks and do it all in one go rather than in segments. In hindsight, I probably should have planned for more rest days and extra travel but the 32 days it took us was just enough time.

Quick Camino de Santiago advice: Make sure to budget rest days into your schedule!

Which town was your favorite to stop in?

Camino Di Santiago Advice

There were so many, it’s hard to choose. After a while, they all started to blur. But I’ll say this: 

  • Best party town: Leon and/or Pamplona
  • Best Cathedral: Burgos
  • Best “bum-f-middle-of-nowhere” town: Tardajos (because it had the best Albergue!)  
  • Best “Provincial Town” or Most Quaint: Villafranca del Bierzo
  • Best Town Story: Santo Domingo de la Calzada,

The story goes, “there was this family of German pilgrims walking the Camino in the middle ages, mother, father and son; they stopped at a bar and the bar owners daughter fell in love with the son but the son did not reciprocate so she got mad and put a silver chalice in his bag and then accused him of theft. So they hung the son.

The mother and father continued on to Santiago and on their way back to pay respects at their son’s grave, they found him still alive hanging. The son told them to get the bar owner to cut him down. So they went to the bar owner and told him that their son was alive.

Camino Di Santiago Advice

The bar man replied, “Your son’s as dead as these hens I’m eating” and then the hens came alive. So the church in Santo Domingo keeps live hens and roosters in the monastery and in the cathedral itself. They were approved to do so by the Pope.”

Moral of the story that I took away was not to mess with women. That Barmaid caused all of this cause a boy didn’t reciprocate. Her name should be up somewhere, not a chicken. 

 Your least favorite town?

Camino Di Santiago Advice

There were two I think, one was Najera where there wasn’t much to do and not the best albergues. The other was this albergue a little outside of Triacastela that sounded good on paper (vegan/vegetarian dinner, hammocks, all ecological) but honestly, it was the worst just because it was where I got really bad bedbugs. There wasn’t much in the town either. 

Quick Camino de Santiago advice: at the first sign of bedbugs LEAVE your accommodations and immediately begin the clean up process. 

What was a major obstacle on your journey? 

Camino Di Santiago Advice

The biggest obstacle was the physical side.

I’ve always been a physically healthy person. I’d participated in sports all my life and I’ve never broken a bone or had any major physical injuries thankfully.

But, unfortunately, I pulled a groin muscle only a few days into the journey, so I had to take buses for a while along the way. It taught me compassion, especially for my grandparents who have a hard time walking and for those who need accessibility.

I learned a lot of patience and how to pace myself. The hardest part was just remembering that just because I’m not necessarily a fast walker doesn’t mean I can’t get to the same place as someone who is faster. It just meant that it took me a little longer. It was an interesting metaphor for my life as a dyslexic, that I just need that extra time and not everything is a competition.

Quick Camino de Santiago advice: know your limits and rest if you need to. 

Did you ever feel like just quitting the Camino?

Camino Di Santiago Advice

Oh my god, yes! like at least 2x a day I thought about it. Especially when my feet were throbbing.

The first day was really the worst and there was a point where I thought about going to Finland with this Finnish couple I met, but once I got into the pace of it, it quickly becomes meditative. There was only one really bad day when I pushed myself too hard after only just recovering from my groin injury. I ended up in a field, lost and in a lot of pain in my leg.

To put it bluntly, I had a mental breakdown for a good 20 minutes before retracing my steps and finding Julia. But that was a moment when I was close to lying on the ground and calling it quits.

What made it bearable is seeing that I wasn’t alone. Later that day, I talked to fellow pilgrims and heard some worse stories about a guy who broke his leg or another had shin splints. There’s this great misery-love-company feel so you know that you’re not alone. My best Camino di Santiago advice is to remember that your pain is the same as the person right in front of you or behind you. You’re all in it together and everyone is there to support you. It’s what kept me going. 

Should you have prepared more?

Camino Di Santiago Advice

100% yes.

I definitely thought it was going to be easier than it was. I did do some research before hand, like reading a guidebook and watching a ton of youtube videos and movies, but in the end, I got lazy and went from “Couch to Camino.”

But from what everyone was telling me on the Camino, your first time is always the hardest cause everything is new. Next time, (some Camino di Santiago advice to heed) I’m packing a lot lighter and hitting the gym before I go. 

Quick Camino de Santiago advice: work up to all the walking you’ll be doing.

What kinds of people did you meet on the Camino?

Camino Di Santiago Advice All kinds of people.

It really was any and everyone you could think of. There were the more religious pilgrims, the retirees, the Americans, and a lot of Europeans: Swedes, Finns, Germans, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italians, Brits, Scots, Irish, Norwegians, etc. As well as Koreans, Japanese, and Columbians.

There really isn’t a stereotypical Pilgrim because everyone is doing it at different stages in their life or for different reasons. There were for sure the hikers and those that were more outdoorsy, but a lot of the people I met were ordinary people who just got up one day and decided to go.

What I did love about it was the number of solo female hikers. I met a lot of women and it is one of the few trails where solo female hikers feel the safest. I never felt like I was in an unsafe situation and I was by myself plenty of times.

Camino Di Santiago Advice

But what I loved most about meeting fellow pilgrims was how open everyone was. I think because people are so open the experience and the hardship of the Camino, they are more open to talking to random strangers or sleeping in less than ideal places with 30 other people in the room. Everyone acknowledges each other on the Camino by saying “Buen Camino” no matter what language you speak. It has an “adult camp”-like feel.

Everyone is there for different reasons, whether it’s personal, losing weight, or just wanting to travel. You meet some really interesting people and I was able to have my own Camino-family that I met up with at the Albergue at the end of the day. They all watched out for me.

The best part of the Camino is the people you meet and make friends with. Even though we came from different places and backgrounds, we ended up bonding. At the end in Santiago, our Camino-family met up again spontaneously after having walked different paths. It was like seeing friends at a college reunion. I still keep in touch with some of them.  

Quick Camino de Santiago advice: be open to making friends (no matter how tired you are!)

Was there ever a moment you felt completely at peace?

Camino Di Santiago Advice

It’s hard to say.

I felt more at peace at the very end when it was done, but there were some moments that I really cherish, like moments when I was walking along beautiful scenery at sunrise or bonding with fellow pilgrims in an Albergue.

But the moment I remember best was when Julia and I got up at 3AM am to beat the 90+ degree heat and walked through part of the Meseta (flat-grass land area in Spain). We were by ourselves completely in the dark walking through this field, and above us, we could see the milky-way and all the stars so clearly. We were talking about college and making jokes and it was just a lovely moment. I mean, when in someone’s life time can you say you reminisced with a college friend while under the milky way at four in the morning in Spain!? 

Can you recommend a packing list for the Camino?

First off, bring less than you think. I have a packing list on my blog (among other bits of Camino Di Santiago advice) that I wrote while walking, but here is a brief list:

Camino Di Santiago Advice

(Note: You can buy the Seashell that pilgrims wear on their backpacks, along the Camino. A lot of stores sell them)

  • Backpack (between 30-40 Liters) 
  • Hiking boots and Hiking Sandals 
  • Water bottle (like this one or this one)
  • Trekking pole 
  • Sleeping bag (something light weight)
  • 2 shirts, 2 pants/shorts 
  • 2 pairs of merino wool socks 
  • 2 pairs of underwear/bras etc. 
  • Fleece
  • Wind breaker / Rain jacket
  • Hat
  • Swiss Army knife
  • Big safety pins (for hang-drying laundry)
  • Guidebook with maps
  • Sleep mask and ear plugs (there are snorers) or alternatively Sleeping Pills
  • Small First Aid Kit (filled with band-aids + a sowing kit + medical tape + Blister kit) 
  • chargers for Phone (plus converter) 
  • Camera 
  • analog watch 
  • Towel
  • Dr. Bronner’s Soap 8 fl oz (for body wash and shampoo)
  • Spray deodorant (that also acts as a body spray because everyone smells foul at the end of the day)
  • Diva Cup

Most things you can get at the pharmacies in Spain like sunscreen, blister kits, etc. 

The things I wish I had bought and highly recommend is a can of bed bug spray, flip flops or something to wear at the end of the day with arch support, and a whole bottle of Aleve (those achy muscles will thank you!) 

Quick Camino de Santiago advice: follow this list and pack lightly!

What was it like to finally finish?

It felt like nothing I’ve ever experienced before, except maybe when I was a competitive swimmer in middle school (a story for another time).

On the last day, when we entered into Santiago de Compostela, it took another hour just to get to the city center where the cathedral is (“the finish line”).

Once I saw the spires of the cathedral, I felt a surge within me and my body just went into this no-pain-mode. I literally ran to the front of the cathedral and fell to the ground. It felt like all this weight was off my shoulders, some what literally.

There really is nothing like it, to feel this sense of personal accomplishment. When you asked earlier about “a moment I felt completely at peace”, it was really following this moment. The whole next day, we hung out in Santiago and I felt like I had woken up from a yoga class – feeling relaxed and slightly sleepy.

I walked around kind of glossy eyed, but also so proud of myself for finishing something that I thought I physically wouldn’t be able to do. I imagine it’s what Michael Phelps or Simone Biles must have felt like when winning an Olympic gold medal.I don’t have an Olympic Gold Medal, but I do have a nice certificate with the distance I walked, as well as my Pilgrims Passport that has stamps from every place I stayed. 

Camino Di Santiago Advice

Camino Di Santiago Advice

In the end, my takeaway from the experience was that finishing the Camino solidified my belief that all things happen for a reason and that life is a journey we take day-by-day, it isn’t a race, everyone does it in their own time. We may not get stamps along the way, but it’s the accumulated experiences and people that step into our lives that are the most important. 

Camino Di Santiago Advice

Reagan – a Peregrino (Pilgrim), native New Yorker, and photographer who has a love for travel. She is a recent graduate from Mount Holyoke College and currently is working, like a typical Millennial, at a non-profit that supports Photographers, called Aperture Foundation. She hopes to one day live in Italy and ride a Vespa. Fun fact: she’s almost fluent in Italian, can play piano, guitar, and viola; and favorite bands include Coldplay, Iron & Wine, 1975, Fleetwood Mac, Lord Huron, and Fleet Foxes. You can find her blog here and her Instagram here.

  • Pin it:

Camino de Santiago advice

 

I used Affiliate links in this post. This means that if you purchase any products recommended, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. It helps offset the cost of running She’s a Trip. Thanks! 

Follow:

Looking for the best walking tours in Prague? Look no farther!

Texans love their koláče*.

So much so that I get emails like this from Texas Humor on the regular. They really do know their audience.

best kolaches in texas Growing up, road trips weren’t complete (and still aren’t) without a visit to The Czech Stop or Hruška’s.

One of the most distressing parts about going to university in Massachusetts was when I asked for a koláč at a breakfast meeting (as they are p much synonymous with donuts in my breakfast vocabulary…you can’t have one without the other) and was met with a blank stare and a “wtf are you talking about what are those?”

Side note: no wonder you damn yankees are so cranky all the time. You don’t have koláče and y’all are just now getting Chick-fil-A.

Charles Bridge in Prague

when I thought I would still get some koláče

So, when I decided to visit Prague, literally the only thing on my “must do” list was to eat some ~*authentic*~ koláče in their motherland.

I didn’t know much about the Czech Republic before going (other than two wild and crazy guys are from there), so I figured my koláče goal would be easily accomplished. But, story of my life, I got so distracted by how much I liked Prague that I forgot to get some!

Guess I’ll have to go back.

best view in prague

The Best Walking Tours in Prague

Smoky and I had about 30 hours in Prague. Just enough time to be content, but not enough to be completely satisfied. Given our limited timeframe, we didn’t want to strike out on our own and miss anything important, so we decided to go on two adventures with Discover Prague Tours.

I’d highly recommend them if you have limited time in the city, or just want an entertaining afternoon with a knowledgeable AF guide.  They’ve got free walking tours (but you still gotta tip at the end...don’t be that guy), pub crawls, bike rides, and the two we took: the World War II and Communism Tour of Prague and the Prague Castle District Tour.

World War II and Communism Tour of Prague

communist history of prague

“Unimaginable suffering, unspeakable courage, crushed dreams, and glimmers of hope: Prague tossed and turned in the 20th century’s storms, whipped up by the great powers surrounding it. This tour sheds light on the dark times and their defeat.”

We had Tate as our guide. Easy enough to remember his name since he’s an Idaho native and (allegedly) his parents decided to name their son after the state’s claim to fame. I was honestly glad I met him, because I had never actually met anyone from Idaho before and was beginning to doubt that it really exsisted. I mean…think about it. Have YOU ever met anyone from Idaho?

best walking tours in Prague This is one of the best walking tours in Prague because it’s a crash course in Czech history. American education likes to pretend that WWII started on December 7, 1941, so going into this I had no idea how important Czechoslovakia was to the conflict (hello Sudetenland and Czech manufacturing) and just how overall wild things had been over there for the last 100 years or so.

One of the most intense moments was at the end of the tour when Tate reminded our group of all the regime changes the area has survived in recent history. And you learn about all of them.

walking tour dancing building prague

why does this building look like someone tickled its neck

Basically, the first half of the tour feels like Tate (or whoever your guide happens to be, but try to get Tate) is walking you through this Wikipedia article, except it’s a lot more exciting than sitting at home down a Wikipedia rabbit trail (which is the only other reason I can think of that you’d be reading about the German occupation of Czechoslovakia) because you’re actually walking where it happened.

prague facism

my two fave things to do tbh

riding the tram in Prague

me too

The second half covers things like the Prague Spring and Velvet Revolution. Again, feel free to read up about the events and walk around Prague on your own time, but it’s not going to be nearly as fun as going on this tour.

Prague Castle District Tour 

prague castle tour

“See the world’s largest medieval castle and Hradcany, Prague’s famous castle district. Enjoy the most spectacular Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque architecture the city has to offer.”

We had Givi as our guide. The man, the myth, the legend. One of the first things he did was take off the yellow vest the guides wear so you can find them easily because he didn’t want to lose his street cred. We knew we were in for a great time.

best walking tours in prague

I low-key wanted to take a photo with the statue…but no one else in my group did, so I had to act like I didn’t want to either.

Unlike the WWII and Communism tour, the Castle District Tour is more location-based. Instead of walking and learning general history, you learn the specific history of

  • Places to avoid in Prague (like the Charles Bridge…”Don’t go there guys. It’s the most annoying place in Prague.”).
  • Monasteries (like the Strahov Monastery, which idk about you guys, but looks like it’s realllly just asking to be burned down).
  • Why the Czechs have hella beef with the Swedes.
  • What a defenestration is and why Prague has so freaking many of them.

pretty buildings prague

Charles Bridge Prague Crowded

At Charles Bridge…whoops.

Bonus: I’m unsure if every tour has a “modern politics of Prague” sharing circle, but Givi took the time to fill our group in on the drunken antics of the current Czech president, how Czechs are reacting to the migrant crisis, and more. We all appreciated his honesty, got a great laugh from his sarcasm, and felt reassured that Americans aren’t the only ones constantly “wtf” ing at our elected leaders.

saint vitus cathedral prague

Saint Vitus Cathedral

This walking tour lasts about three hours, but feels like about 30 minutes because of how interesting it is. It seemed more like a elongated stand up set with some history thrown in. There’s never a lull where you’re kicking your shoe on the concrete wondering when this dang thing will be over so you can go get a koláč…which is probably why I forgot to go and get one after.

the best walking tours in prague

Still thought I was gonna get a koláč at this point. only reason I’m smiling.

We booked both of the tours about 10 minutes before they started. You can book online here if you’d like to, but don’t feel like you have to if your plans aren’t set in stone.

*Koláče is the artist formally known as kolache. You can file this under things that make me a pretentious traveler like saying Barthelona and Budapesht.

  • Pin it:

the best walking tours in Prague

Follow:

My recent girls’ trip to Costa Rica was a beautiful disaster.

It was my first time traveling to a non-European country as an adult and was the perfect storm of just enough under-planning, language barriers, physical weakness, and random accidents.

But I still had the time of my life.

Here’s everything that can go wrong in Costa Rica (but hopefully won’t for you):

San Jose Costa Rica Traffic

Waiting for our Airbnb host in the monsoon.

Your friend Smoky could have a family friend who doesn’t speak much English who graciously picks you up at the airport, but then you get stuck in traffic and roast in the car and when you finally break free from the gridlock and arrive at your Airbnb, your GPS actually can’t find it and leads you in circles around the block for nearly an hour.

Your AirBNB host might be super gracious and come out to meet you to lead you to the apartment, but as soon as she steps outside there is a surprise monsoon and she gets soaked and you get soaked and Smoky’s family friends get soaked and no one is really happy about it.

San Jose Rainy Season

Soaked, but at least glad to know where we were staying.

Your AirBNB host might let you check in early even though you made her essentially take an extra shower, but as she’s finishing up the preparations you hear her mutter “Hay agua en mis zapatos” and it takes a second to register, but you figure out she’s got water in her shoes and you later find out she recently received them as a birthday gift.

You might have some shoe troubles of your own and wear a new pair of Birkenstocks that were supposed to be comfortable walking shoes, but you didn’t break them in well enough, so you rub your feet raw on the arches and toes and tops on day one of a walking-intensive trip and have to soak them in a plastic container you found under the sink and hope for the best.

San Jose Art Musuem

Peep the shoes that would betray me

You might have to pee so badly on the drive to Arenal that you pull over at a little bodega that’s essentially in a cave, but it’s raining again, so you can’t tell if you’ve wet yourself or if it’s just the rain and then end up peeing into a toilet with no seat for legitimately 47 seconds while rain pours through gaps in the ceiling.

When you get to Arenal, Smoky’s phone might have no service and it’s getting dark and starting to rain and when you arrive at what looks like Costa Rica Sky Adventures there’s no hotel in sight, so you drive helplessly up and down a really steep hill for like 30 minutes and nearly back into a ditch and you’re almost in tears, but then you spot a security guard, but he doesn’t speak English and once again another kind Costa Rican is getting drenched by a sudden onset monsoon trying to help you find your Airbnb. Only to find out that the little house you’ve been driving past for this entire time is where you were supposed to be all along.

Arenal Airbnb Costa Rica Sky Adventures

Our Airbnb in Arenal! At Costa Rica Sky Adventures

Costa Rica Sky Adventures

The Jurassic Park View

When you collect yourself emotionally you might want to go get dinner, but the place your host recommended is closed, so as your pull into what you thought to be an abandoned driveway to turn around, your headlights illuminate a man peeing and you obviously startle him so he panics and starts trying to hide, but he can’t stop peeing so it’s just going everywhere and the stream is swinging back and forth as he looks for a hiding spot and you might urge your friend to drive faster and desperately call “Lo siento!” out the window at him as you speed away.

Costa Rica Weather

She wasn’t a fan of getting constantly soaked

When you get back to your room you might forget you put your phone charger in the front pocket of your bag and panic when you “can’t find it” so you send Smoky out to the car to search for it cause you’re not dressed, but she can’t find it either and makes multiple trips and then starts panicking herself because she can’t find HER other charger (even though she didn’t even bring it) all the while putting her life at risk because there’s some sort of animal out there and it legit sounds like the Chubacabra.

Costa Rica Zipline Costa Rica Sky Adventures

Soarrrrin Flyyyyin

(and the power might go out in the middle of the night because of the rain, so when the air conditioner reboots it might start beeping and flashing a bright white light for like EVER so it’s a good thing you don’t have epilepsy)

The next morning, you might sign up for zip lining, but you might do what Smoky did and only mentally prepare yourself for one 20MPH swing 500 feet above the Costa Rican rain forest with Costa Rican Sky Adventures, but when you suddenly have to do five more, you panic and feel like you’re gonna pass out midair.

Costa Rica Arenal Lake View

On the hike we took after ziplining. It was her jam. I was dying.

It might take you over 3 ½ hours to drive from Arenal to Monte Verde (even though they are only 13 miles apart) cause Costa Rican roads are low key insane and it could have been raining so you have to dodge hella landslides and eventually you’re basically off-roading on a rocky path in your little two wheel drive and you’re high up in the mountains and it’s so foggy it looks like the planet where Luke Skywalker finds Yoda and you might become so emotionally attached to the car in front of you for pointing out the potholes, that after driving behind it for a good 90 minutes you might shed a little tear when it turns off the path.

Costa Rican Roads

Views on the way to Monteverde

When you get to Monteverde, you might be excited about staying in your super cool and chic refurbished shipping container, only to find out that it’s like 1000000 degrees inside because you can’t open any windows because it’s like the planet of the moths outside and there are tons of bugs inside too and the wifi doesn’t really work because it’s literally a metal box.

Monteverde Sky Forest

Not as cloudy as I hoped

When you go on the local coffee tour, you might misunderstand the guide and think she said it starts “one kilometer from the parking lot” when in reality it’s more like one mile, so you’re walking down a dirt road into some freaky thick mist and cars of other tourists are driving past looking at you like you’re an idiot. Then after the tour, there might be another sudden onset monsoon and you’re trapped in the visitor center for like an hour after you wanted to leave because you need a ride to your car.

Don Juan Coffee Tour

Covfefe in the rainforest

When you get to Manuel Antonio, you might get upgraded to a room with a view and everything might seem to good to be true, but if you’re like Smoky it’s your actual worst nightmare because the hotel literally has an iguana infestation and they’re constantly scampering all over the place and one might even bite you because you tried to feed it a banana.

el faro beach hotel

My little Amigo

El faro beach hotel

Before the betrayal

You might forget to put on sunscreen the day you spend the whole day at the beach, but it doesn’t really LOOK like your getting burned because your skin is still its usual milky white, but then all of a sudden you can’t even bend your legs anymore because they are TOAST and your shoulders are practically burned shut and everything hurts. Even looking at photos of the ocean might make you feel sick.

El Faro Beach Hotel View

EL Faro Beach Hotel has a GREAT view of the Pacific

Playa Manuel Antonio

Posing on Playa Manuel Antonio

Costa Rica is really hilly, so you might keep forgetting to take the parking break off and wondering why the car shakes and shudders when you try to back it out and when you finally return it, you have to take an Uber to your Airbnb by the airport and since there are no addresses in Costa Rica you have no idea where you’re actually supposed to go, so you’re left to fend for yourself and end up walking in ankle deep mud alongside a railroad track with a girl who speaks no English looking for it.

And when you finally find it, you’re so freaking tired that you crack and eat at Denny’s.

BONUS: since Costa Rica is one of the only countries my dad has been to…

Costa Rica Fishing

Dad’s photos that actually turned out

You might be my dad and be down near the Nicaraguan border on a fishing trip in the 80s and you can see some super sketchy government activity going on, so you try to take photos of it every time your boat passes, but when you develop your film expecting to expose a conspiracy, it turns out you faced the camera the wrong way and you just have a bunch of photos of your armpit.

The dress I’m wearing is from Dress Barn. 

  • Pin it:

**This post contains affiliate links, which means if you purchase an item via these links (or in the same session) I get some cash money, at no extra cost to you. Thanks!

Follow: