– tips for meeting new people, transportation in a foreign country and more
Hey EFPSA fellows, my name is Hanna, I am quite used to travelling and being abroad. Since I know that it can be hard sometimes, especially when it is your first time being abroad, here are some tips that I developed in the past years.
Before that, let me introduce myself a little more so you can understand my background. I started travelling with my parents when I was very little and continued travelling solo from the age of 16. Since then, I have visited countries all over the world such as the United States and Russia and some others in South East Asia, South America, Europe, and Africa. For most of them, I went backpacking solo. In Peru, I stayed for three months volunteering in an orphanage, and in Kenya I volunteered in a primary school. I also did an Erasmus semester in Spain and a research semester in Serbia. So, not backpacking, but still travelling…
Travelling alone does not mean being lonely
When I started backing solo, my friends and family were worried about me being on my own for some time. I want to let you know that you are never alone. Here are my recommendations for meeting new people.
1. Staying in a hostel
Obviously, you have to stay somewhere when you are abroad. From my experience, staying in a hotel or an Airbnb makes it harder to meet people. While it can also be difficult in some hostels, you have more chances to make new friends in a hostel that also has a bar or a community kitchen where people hang out. Furthermore, a lot of hostels organise daily events such as free walking tours, trips to special places, beer pong tournaments, and bar evenings. I recommend at least checking them out. You will probably find other travellers to hang out with.
2. Facebook groups
I know, Facebook is kind of out and nobody really uses it anymore. However,it really helped me connect with other travellers. There are different Facebook groups that you can join. For example, when I was in Myanmar, I became a member of the Facebook group called “solo females travelling in South East Asia” and met with some girls that were also travelling solo. We continued travelling together for a few days, and I am still in contact with one of them even after 5 years.
When I was in Serbia, during my research exchange, I joined a Facebook group called “blabla language exchange” that organised weekly meetings with other foreigners and also locals in a bar. There can also be other events such as a trip to the mountains or the beach.
My advice would be to search the name of the country and language exchange on Facebook, and you will most likely find at least 2 Facebook groups.
When you are doing Erasmus abroad, there are Facebook groups especially for Erasmus students to connect. Check it out!
This might sound obvious, but, especially when you are studying abroad and will be in a specific place for a longer period of time, continuing your hobbies in a foreign country is essential. It does not matter if it is some sports such as volleyball or basketball, or if it is music-related such as choir, orchestra or a band. You can join theatre groups, a reading club or a gym. Often, churches organise youth groups as well.
Don’t let yourself be fooled, just because you are not a local
1. Sim card
Getting a sim card can be very helpful when you are staying in a foreign country for a long period of time. Phone fees can be ridiculously high when you do not have a local sim card. I bought one in almost every country, even when I stayed only a week. I mostly used it for mobile data to check out sightseeing, opening hours, restaurant accommodations or booking my next hostel. It also almost saved my life when I could call a hostel to ask for a late check-in. Normally, it is just cheaper to have a local contract. It is good to know that when you are staying in the EU, there are normally no extra charges for using another EU sim card; however, it is always good to double-check for the specific country!
Transportation especially in Europe can be quite expensive, especially when you try to book spontaneously (like me because I keep changing my mind about the next destination of my trip). I was always low on budget…
So, let me introduce you to Blablacar. You can install the app and then get a ride. Just let me remind you: Check the reviews first before you book the ride. It can help you avoid strangers or weird drivers.
Other possibilities for transportation are Flixbus or trains. There are different websites to book, and it depends on which area in Europe you are in. If you do not know which website to use, you can always ask the staff in the hostel as they are more than happy to help you.
3. Student card
Always have your student ID with you! You can get a lot of discounts not only in museums but also for public transportation or hostels. Even if it does not show on price signs at museums, for example, try asking the staff to get a student discount.
4. Do not be fooled by tourist prices
There can be places that charge you more when you are a tourist. That is ridiculous and just unfair. Especially when you are on a low budget. Be aware of that because even only telling them that you know about the differences between tourist and local prices might help you. Sometimes it can help when you are in the company of locals.
5. Language barrier
To be prepared for everything, it is nice to have an offline translator on your phone. I used dicct. because I could download different languages and they were then available offline. The disadvantage was that it could only translate words, not sentences. However, it still helped understand menus in restaurants or signs on the street.
6. Booking in advance can be more expensive
I know that it is easier to book from home, but that is mostly more expensive because you pay the travel agency or the website that arranges the trip for you. In the country itself, there are many offers on-site, and for me, it was easier to book then. Often, the accommodation I stayed in helped me and gave me recommendations for cheap and good travel agencies.
I hope that you enjoyed reading this article. Remember that for every question you have, other people probably had it before you and got the answer already, so there will always be someone around that can lend a hand. There is always a solution to your problem! Do not despair! It can be a lot when you are away from home, but it can also give you wonderful new experiences. You will not regret it.
Sending you hugs,