Backpacking 15 European Cities Solo in 43 Days: Tips, Highlights and Lessons

Backpacking 15 European Cities Solo in 43 Days: Tips, Highlights and Lessons

A riveting story of a Singaporean girl who travelled solo around Europe for 43 days under €1000.

Contributed by Lyrenna Loh

They say, “No guts, No glory”. So here I am concluding my Europe backpacking tour, which spun over a period of 43 days with a mere €1000 ($1500) budget to divide between 15 places in Europe. And I still have change to spare.

I’m aware that it’s not the lowest budget for a trip around Europe, and I’m not here to compete. I’ve gained huge savings at the cost of many uncertainties; you see, there’s always a trade-off for everything (comfort/safety vs. cost).

I know more people who rained on my parade than people who actually encouraged me when I said that I was going solo. Truth be told, it was insane and terrifying but it was also a hell load of fun when I didn’t know where I was headed to each day or who I would be staying with. I didn’t have a game plan when I departed from the UK, figuring my route day by day, often making spontaneous decisions to partake in unexpected adventures (and then panicking and contemplating my life decisions).

Also read: 10 Awkward Struggles Every Solo Traveller Has To Deal With

I’ve done an unimaginable amount of travelling in the short span of time and limited money that I can afford. I came back to see the world with a fresh pair of lenses, learnt the value of social currency and the value of a dollar. Accommodation was solely covered by Couchsurfing, and that translates to €0 spent on overnight stays. Transportation from one destination to another was a combination of flights, ferries, buses and BlaBlacar. I did a fair amount of hitchhiking and carpooling to save on costs as well. If you want to be precise, my transportation cost amounts to 289.68.

Route: Paris – Brussels – Amsterdam – Berlin – Prague – Vienna – Hungary – Venezia – Rome – Athens – Agristri – Santorini – Fethiye (Oludeniz) – Cappadocia – Istanbul

How to survive travelling when you identify yourself as a poor and adventurous traveller?

1. Know the resources to get FREE things (rides, accommodation, food, transport, apps, etc.)

Be shameless and disciplined when it comes to saving money. Every dollar saved goes a long way, and as I’ve mentioned earlier, social currency is a valuable resource.


I was hosted a total of 22 times, and met a couple of people during events or through meetups. I started Couchsurfing with the intention of getting a free stay, but along the way, I became an advocate for the platform. It is definitely a great way to be directly integrated with the local culture and the local’s way of life since they include you in their routine. Even if I have the means to afford a hostel, I wouldn’t because the social connections I have gained from the platform are so diverse and you often have very unique experiences with your hosts or co-surfers. Personally speaking, staying with guys is always easier because of their easy-going nature and there is always an ample amount of food, beers or wine available in the fridge.

How I received offers fairly easily was mainly because of this blog. I started writing because I wanted to store my memories somewhere I can put my thoughts and the pictures that I took (also aspiring travel writer) but who knew that it would come in handy someday? I find posting a public trip on Couchsurfing good to secure a host because you know that you have a person willing to take you in and if you are lucky, you get a couple of offers to pick from. Always read the references. It is your responsibility and best bet to keep yourself safe. Period.

I always hear complains such as “No one wants to host me because I am a guy.” Not true. Here’s the thing: you can always head for CS events or gatherings to score a stay with the locals too. The face-to-face interactions always make it easier as long as you are friendly. There are no gender preferences here. Get a cardboard and write things such as “Willing to clean and cook in exchange for a couch.” I’ve heard success stories about it, and might contemplate giving it a try when in desperate times.

Read my references here!


When taxis aren’t an option and you need to get somewhere fast. Start with short trips to get a feel of it, then transit to longer rides. It wasn’t difficult to get a ride at all, maybe it seemed like my struggles were too obvious to ignore, but if it works, it’s all good. The auto-stop hand sign is universal and you won’t be waiting for long before a car stops by. It took me 10 mins tops to get a ride; you just have to make sure that you are heading in the right direction and preferably stand by the side on the main road. Hitchwiki is useful to find out good hitching spots.

Once, I was picked up a Turkish guy who couldn’t communicate well in English so we took turns using Google Translate to converse. It was pretty interesting and I learnt a couple of new words along the way.

Note: Bear in mind that stranger danger applies for both. Attempt at your own risk, just be a little street smart and always trust your intuition. Basically speaking, just trial and error and you will get a hang of things eventually.

Public transportation system

Rule of thumb: Never pay for public transportation unless you need to. Observe the loopholes, you’ll find ways around sneaking in and honestly speaking, it isn’t difficult. I have seen many locals doing the same. I’ve probably only paid in big cites such as Paris, Rome and Istanbul. Just be wary of the periodic checks (Argh, the €60 fine), or speak in a foreign language if you ever get caught. Perks of being Asian.)

Incognito mode on browser

For the lowest airfare/bus fare. Fares are usually regulated based on demand and supply. So basically, how this works out is that, by deleting your browsing history on the internet browser that you are using, the price stated for your airfare will be the lowest. This is one of the most useful tips on travelling cheap since transportation is the mother of all expenses.


The app store is a treasure trove of FREE resources for you to exploit. (download the map of the entire country/city) and wifimaps was extremely useful during my travels to get the passwords for wifi. Not to mention, locals are your best resource for finding out the best instagammable places or unique bars.


Ask and you shall receive. Head to restaurants/cafes after closing times and ask for leftovers that they will be throwing away. It’s not extravagant but at least you don’t run hungry. Sometimes, you get nice people who will sit beside you in the bar/pub and pay for your food and drinks when you strike a good conversation with them. Other times, you can have cooking sessions to bond with your hosts and whip up something each to share.


It’s an instant visual memory boost when you are travelling alone. Maps become secondary when you recognise streets by memory. I am constantly forced to re-learn new streets and be familiar with them in a short period of time. If anything, just be sure to know your way back to your accommodation, if not you are in real trouble. Always have a drop pin of the place that you are staying at on your Google map. If you need people to share the cost for a roadtrip, use Facebook groups e.g. Singapore Exchange Students in Europe/set an event on CouchSurfing, and chances are, you will be able to find interested parties. Or Blablacar.

Always have a drop pin of the place that you are staying at on your Google map. If you need people to share the cost for a road trip, use Facebook groups (e.g. Singapore Exchange Students in Europe) or set an event on Couchsurfing, and chances are, you will be able to find interested parties. Or Blablacar.

Also read: Yvonne’s Story: Backpacking 4 Months Around Europe

Highlights of my trip

Pinching pennies doesn’t mean that I deprive myself from having fun.

Free falling over a Blue Flags Beach in Oludeniz, Turkey

Music Festivals and conveniently getting a shoulder ride

Lowkey enjoying the ride, highkey scared that I’m going to fall.

Impromptu acoustic showcase by vocal powerhouses

Getting lost in the middle of the valley and meeting people who led us to ancient byzantine church and monastery

Skinny-dipping in the Mediterranean Sea

Camping out on a Greek island

Cycling for six hours through the parks and city of Prague, then rewarding ourselves with a pint of beer at every rest stop. 100% approved drink driving!

Living with a rescue dog who runs faster than I cycle

Visiting my host’s future cave house. Flintstones dreams turning into reality

Free climbing and free falling into the depths of Cappadocia’s pigeon valley

Swimming in one of clearest blue waters I have ever seen

Meeting cool co-surfers

Picking ingredients from the backyard

budget travel

Impromptu photoshoots

Meeting like-minded independent travellers at random places and figuring out new places together

Roadtrips and hikes

budget travel

Doing my assignment with such a picturesque sunset view, hoping that inspiration and determination will literally shine through

Of course, there are tons of perks to travel solo:

The autonomy to do whatever you want (seriously, who the f cares?)

For the first time in forever, I had total control of everything, my budget, my destinations, and my time. I had no plans whatsoever, riding along what comes in my way. It’s easier when you are alone and you have the advantage of making decisions that only affects yourself in contrast to a group. Don’t worry about sticking to schedules, it’s never going to work out quite right.

I usually book my tickets for my next destination the day before I leave because I enjoy the flexibility rather than having to follow a rigid excel sheet schedule. Of course, it’s stressful as well because the prices are usually higher but at least you are not cutting your time off in a city.  Slow down, you are supposed to appreciate the surroundings, comment on the architecture of buildings, or take the best instagrammable photo, not rush through them.

It’s liberating and refreshing when you meet new faces and the fact that you are anonymous in a sea of foreign faces makes it easier to start afresh each time. Throw away your fears and legal laws/norms in your own country because that ain’t gonna apply when you travel. Everyone back home always tells me “Don’t do this, or Don’t do that”. Well, when I’m travelling and if I choose to be liberal in my thoughts or actions, I will be liberal, my choice. Period.

Independent and wiser decision making (especially when Time=Money)

When you are alone, you know exactly how to survive. You have been through some tough shit and you deal with it. I have made some very bad decisions that had repercussions and those are lessons that you will never forget when you pay the price. When you are alone, you have ample time to think through everything, and be more clear-minded when it comes to making decisions, weighing the pros and cons of each option. And yes, you also become the best MasterChef/fixer/problem solver in a short span of time.

Self-confidence and freedom of speech

When fear turns into a leap of faith. Talking to strangers used to be a real struggle for me, as ironic as it sounds. You work on it, one person at a time. Be very comfortable with yourself, and engage in a lot of positive conversations. Sure, some topics are definitely more difficult to talk about than others but feel free to express your thoughts. I have realised that I can talk about anything and everything, controversial or not, to someone who barely knows me, but I just can’t do the same with the people who are close to me, which is an irony. Be it the issue of modern relationships, abortion laws and pro-choice/pro-life, euthanasia etc.  Proceed with caution and be tactful with your discussion. You don’t want to come off as being intrusive or offend anyone. Never be apologetic for being opinionated, unless you are being rude about it.

As I mentioned previously,  there are always people who judge you and are sceptical of your abilities to do something because of the limitations that they choose to see. Surround yourself with people who embrace your capabilities and make you the best you that you can ever be. The people that I have met during my travels are probably the most positive and encouraging people to be with and I am extremely grateful for all the good vibes.

Also Read: Singapore to Europe by Land: It Took Me 7 Weeks and S$3000

You learn things you never knew about the world

The world is a big place, and every country has their own issues to deal with. Staying with an unemployed man in Greece as well as talking to one of my host’s friend on a video chat was enlightening for me, realising how they are being affected by the economic crisis and the political corruption in their country. A lawyer who has not been receiving her paychecks for six months? An educated young man settling for a hostel job? We often pass through a country without realising the grime reality that locals are going through.

The media is a double-edged sword. Yes, it informs, but don’t forget that it also manipulates how you see the world. You learn about the right to bear arms, gun control laws and politics from a different perspective. Browsing the internet in different countries also brings about new discoveries, such as the privacy controls and censorship in each place. It’s a huge topic of discussion these days.

Catch flights, not feelings.

You meet TONS of people every single day. You’ll fall for places and occasionally the people that come with it. Just keep in mind the expiry dates. Catch flights, not feelings.

I’ve met many expressive and open-minded guys when I was travelling, which was nice for a change. When people like you, they tell you directly, which is pretty cool. There’s no messing around with your head, it’s served to you right there. It’s really sweet when guys make an effort to do something nice for you like putting a “Good Morning” post-it note on the bathroom mirror so that you will see it when you wash up in the morning. It might be due to culture, bonus points for that. To be honest, it’s a surprise to meet guys who are such gentlemen, they probably fulfilled all my romance-comedy fantasies. It’s been a dream come true, even though there was no happily ever after.


You’ll find out racism isn’t an explicit word or action, it’s usually hidden between the lines or the subtle tease. Sometimes ignorance is the best defence and it always happens when you are a minority in a foreign country. Look closer, its everywhere.

I’m from Asia, and yes I speak fluent English. Yes, I’m Asian, but that doesn’t mean that I come from a third-world country. Saying “Ni Hao or Konnichiwa” isn’t going to impress me if you are not going to hold a decent conversation and it’s extremely rude. Just don’t.

Misogynistic Stereotypes 

At times, you will be catcalled, you will face sexual advances, you will be objectified, you will be given the benefit of a doubt especially when you travel alone as a woman. I have been through those incidents over and over again. Challenge people’s view when they try to put you down just because you are anything unlike them. If someone offers you bribes to sleep with them or pushes you to sleep with them just because they offered you an accommodation, know your worth enough to stand up for yourself. You are not a commodity, you are a human, and you will not allow anyone to degrade you to a value. I can’t emphasise that enough.

Setbacks are there for you to learn from. Some days you get discouraged, but you never ever quit because you are a fighter. Limitations are there for you to overcome. I never knew myself as someone who was capable of completing a Europe backpacking tour alone, it still feels surreal that I completed the backpacking tour despite all the roadblocks.

Listen more than you speak

Be willing to listen, otherwise, how can you expect to understand anyone if all you hear is your own voice? When someone takes time out of their busy schedule to meet you or host you, appreciate it. Do your part to be a good guest as well as a good friend. It’s not hard to listen to their lives as much as they listen to your travel tales. Sure, it doesn’t seem as exciting as yours but you learn something out of the conversation, it could be an intriguing or an interesting insight into their lives that can be applied to yours.

You hear about their first love, their recent heartbreak, their family, their Tinder matches, their college life, their childhood trauma, their insecurities, their travels and beyond. In a short time, you break the ice of being strangers to become the best of friends, even if just for a night or two. It’s an intimate conversation, and it often takes courage to say things we don’t usually say to people. especially when you barely know them, and I am thankful that they let their guard down. Empathy is extremely important here, know the difference between empathy and sympathy. Get comfortable with silences, sometimes we just need to feel the presence of someone with us. Oh, not to forget, a pint/shot to bring out the truths and humour.

You accept the love you think you deserve


About Author

Lyrenna Loh
Lyrenna Loh

Lyrenna Loh is a part-time traveller and on-the-go content crafter for independentflight. She identifies herself as a professional when it comes to the art of stretching the value of a social currency and the value of a dollar. An aspiring wanderer that indulges in occasional coffee runs, especially for Monday morning lectures. She is also a half-mermaid, half-human, who runs perpetually between the sea and the land when she does aquathlon.


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