22 Aug 2017

Solo travel in Spain: Tips on how I did it, and why you should do it. (Barcelona, Madrid, Seville, Granada & Malaga)

While on exchange I did many crazy things, and one of them was to travel all by myself~ to Spain for two weeks. When I mean travelling alone, I mean not travelling to a place to meet your friend/live with your friend, then venturing out in the day on your own. But literally flying to a foreign land, living, eating, sightseeing – ALL ALONE. It is something that I thought of doing before I embarked on exchange, but did not think I would dare to do. But after travelling with different people throughout my whole exchange, and getting a bit sick of having to accommodate others all the time (haha sorry I mean at least I'm being honest), I was highly tempted to try travelling alone where I had full control of what I want to see, eat, or even what time I wanted to wake up.

And yeah my parents still do not know about me travelling solo till today hehe. (PLEASE DON'T TELL THEM THOUGH)

 W H Y  S P A I N ? 

Most of my friends flipped when they heard about my choice of destination and said things like
"But babe it isn't safe" 
"Dude its dangerous!" 
"I heard there are lots of pickpockets!" 
"The streets are not safe at night. There are lots of homeless people." 
"It is chaotic. Lots of refugees there!"
But in my mind I'm like... "I want to tick Spain off my travel bucketlist..." because Sagrada Familia! because Moorish architecture in the South! because Alhambra! because Montserrat! because I haven't been to Spain!

So yeah I just screwed their fears and went ahead with my plans. However, with power comes great responsibility. The thought about travelling alone just sounds so relaxing and chill, but the thought about dealing with gypsies and pickpockets alone sounds very daunting.... and thus the responsibility of keeping myself safe hit me even harder.

 H O W  D I D  Y O U  D O  I T ? 

I travelled from 16/12 to 30/12, with about 5 days in the middle spent in Morocco with my close friend. I have SO MANY MISHAPS to tell you guys about that happened in Morocco but I'll save that for another post. Initially I had plans to visit Portugal too, but felt that it would be a little rushed and I had the impression that Portugal had nothing nice compared to Spain?? Boy was I proven SO WRONG when I saw photos on this IG account.... so I'm returning to the peninsular this December to see Lisbon, Porto and Fatima!

I spent 3D3N in Barcelona, 2D2N in Madrid, 1D1N in Seville, 3D2N in Granada (a bit too much time for the city, but if you wanna have an excursion to the Sierra Nevada, I would recommend 3D3N/4D3N), and 1D1N in Malaga. I travelled from city to city by buses, and slept over at Barcelona Airport alone before my flight to Marrakech (which proven itself to be the worst decision I have ever made)


Here comes the Overnight at Airport story: 

That overnighter at the airport proven to me that I am not made to sleep over at rabak places alone. It was bad... like my flight was at the older terminal that was not 24 hours. I reached slightly before midnight and there was almost no one arounda the departure hall. I bicycle-locked my backpack to the chair before hugging my daypack to sleep. Kept waking up because I was so afraid I got robbed or pickpocketed or I'll oversleep and miss my plane. This went on till I boarded my plane, and I was so tired I knocked out immediately with my passport and phone in my hand.

After I disembarked at Marrakech, I confidently walked to the immigrations only to find my passport MISSING. God I ran all the way back to the plane with tears in my eyes and by God's grace they found my passport back in the plane. The air steward told me off saying "Idk how you're gonna get back to Singapore if you lose your passport, there is no embassy anywhere near"

And so, that's the story of how I lost my passport and found it back again the moment I landed in Africa.


 W H E R E  D I D  Y O U  S T A Y ? 

Besides sleeping at the airport, I slept in backpacker hostels and overnight buses. "omg mingrui you SIAO AH?"

When I am travelling alone or with another female companion, I would always book a female dorm room as I feel safer. A female dorm with an ensuite bathroom would be the most ideal. The other things that I would look at would be:
- Where the charging points are in the room (as I wouldn't want to leave my phone at an open space to charge it unattended)
- Activities the hostel organizes in the evening
- Free breakfast? Free lunch? Free dinner? (I stayed in two hostels in Italy that had that, it was awesome.)

Though a female dorm room would normally cost a few euros more, I would rather pay more to not encounter any strange men peering at me when I sleep at night hahaha.

I liked all the hostels I stayed at in Spain, but my favourite would be the one I stayed in Madrid as I made some friends from USA, Egypt and Italy over my stay and we went clubbing after having a Christmas dinner in the hostel. The Egyptian dude in the group who works in Madrid as a translator but is putting up at our hostel for the time being because of some rental issues. He brought us around to his favourite places in Madrid and I'm pretty sure my Madrid experience was less boring than all my other friends' because of him. He brought us to this Egyptian restaurant to have wraps and hummus, and we cycled the afternoon away along the river beside Ateletico Madrid's stadium with the rest. Had so much fun and forgot to get a photo with them, but I'll definitely look up this Egyptian friend of mine when I'm back in December. (Shoutout to Mido if you see this!!)

Ah yes and if you were wondering, the hostel I stayed at in Madrid is called "Ok Hostel", and I think this hostel is more than ok :) The hostel is relatively near to the metro station and its around €10 taxi ride to the bus station. And on the first night as my dorm room door was faulty, they upgraded me to a private room. Mmmmm yiiiissss...

I stayed at "Black Swan Hostel" in Barcelona, and it was good too as they had a paella cooking class every Friday evening (if I'm not wrong) for €5. The cooking process is similar to making a risotto but with more patience and many more ingredients haha.


The hostel I stayed at in Seville was pretty far off from the city centre as it was across the river in the hippy district of Triana, though it provided free breakfast, and I had the whole room to myself when I was there. Hehe yassss.


And here comes the story of the midnight bus from Madrid to Seville and how I got to my hostel in the dark:

So a sad girl named MR took a bus alone from Madrid to Seville on a cold Christmas Day night. It was bloody scary as I sat next to this mafia-looking big sized Spanish bloke who had no concept of personal space. Tried my best to sleep while waking up like almost every hour to make sure nothing of mine is stolen. (My portable charger got stolen in Madrid)

I reached Seville in the morning at around 5.30am? Or was it 4.45 am? I am not too sure, but it was really early and there was no one on the streets. I contemplated between taking a cab or walking from the bus station IN THE DARK to my hostel. And of course being the poor student I am, I chose the latter option. I wouldn't say it is the worst decision I ever made, but it was scarier than taking a roller coaster, as there was no one on the streets except for me, apart from some occasional young punks and one or two people heading to work. The walk to my hostel was 20 minutes and it was tiring because of 1. Heavy 12kg backpack 2. Lack of sleep

With the grace of God (again, I swear God gave me so much grace and protection throughout this trip), I managed to reach my hostel safely. And the extent of pathetic went all the way to me hogging the toilet for an hour to charge my phone as there was a power point there for shavers, I could not check in yet at 5.30 am, and I was so tired, so I slept on the toilet bowl while waiting.


 H O W  D I D  Y O U  G E T  A R O U N D ? 

Intercity buses (ALSA, Flixbus, Socibus)
It was an adventure to even book my bus tickets at some of the bus companys' websites as they were all in Spanish! However, Google Translate will be your best friend, as it was for me. If you require a guide, please do let me know by dropping in a comment on my Sarahah account!

The cheapest way to travel from city to city is via bus. The Renfe trains can cost up to €40 per trip, while I can get my bus tickets for max €20 (furthest I travelled was from Madrid to Seville). A good place to view bus timings and buy bus tickets would be on Go Euro! I book everything related to bus journeys from there while on exchange, and I am still continuing to use it for my upcoming Europe trip!

I got around by mostly trains and bus with their famous T-10 ticket which entitles me to 10 rides (not valid for rides to and from El Prat airport). This T-10 can be shared amongst friends or family, and it was enough for me when I was there for 3 days as I strategically planned my train and bus rides around it.

Their metro system is pretty well connected, I must say. But there were two separate unpleasant incidents where two different elderly men bumped into me on purpose while I was about to board the train and blabbered something angrily at me.... What on earth?! So yes, just be careful and call for help if need be.

I travelled to Montserrat via metro and the regional train, which was pretty convenient and fast! A to and fro journey only took me about 3 hours?


I do not remember getting any multiple ride tickets when I was there as I was not there for very long, and my hostel was near to Plaza Mayor and the shopping district, so I practically walked everywhere! However a single ride on the metro costs about €1.50 to €2.00.

There are no metros in Seville, only buses and trams. A ride on both is around €1.50 to €2.00 per trip, and you pay on board, or purchase the tickets from a machine at the tram station. I used Bus 11 (my legs) that is God-given so I did not use the bus much. A taxi ride to the bus station from Triana was around €5 – €10. Obviously I did not want to do that shady walk again to the bus station the next morning to catch my bus to Granada.

I travelled around by bus around Granada, however, the entire city centre is walkable. I walked from Mirador San Nicolas to my hostel at the shopping district and it took me around 20 minutes? Which kinda means that I could have walked to the Alhambra from my hostel? Hmm... But a bus journey is €1.70 per trip, I remembered I got that price on concession as I showed my student pass.

I kinda walked everywhere in Malaga also ... (I walked a lot LOL) However, I took a regional train to the airport which costed around €2 – €3? It was pretty fast like, 20 minutes.

 S I G H T S E E I N G  R E C O M M E N D A T I O N S 

As some of the places are just so gorgeous, I shall let the photos do the talking.

#8: Mirador San Nicolas, Granada (San Nicolas Lookout Point)

It was about a 10 minute walk from the entrance/exit of the Alhambra and you could get a good view of the Alhambra and the faraway snowcapped mountains on a good day. I went there in the evening so the sunset was a bonus!!!!! Definitely a place worth your energy to climb up.

#7: Barcelona Waterfront

So many things to do here, and you can even take a cable car from Monjuich Hill to the island across (lol Idk where it leads to actually). I am going back to discover more of this place when I'm back in December!!

#7: Seville Old Town

^I got so distracted by this free flamenco performance in the park I deviated from my free walking tour for awhile LOL

#6: Plaza de Espanya, Seville

And the best part, it is free admission!

#5: Park Guell, Barcelona

One tip and only tip for all attractions: PRE-BOOK YOUR TICKETS!!!!!!!!!!!

#4: Alcazar, Seville

Went into the Alcazar via a guided tour that I booked literally AN HOUR before going for the tour. Paid a whopping €28 for the tour but I would pay any price to get in and skip the freaking long queues because I literally came to Seville for the Alcazar. (same for Granada and the Alhambra)

^ I mean, just look at this mess outside the Alcazar

#3: Alhambra, Granada

Went into the Alhambra on a guided tour which takes around 3 hours, with included transport that shuttles you from the city centre to the palace entrance! I booked the tickets online at the last minute. But please book it like a week in advance or as early as you can as it is a hot favourite and tickets can sell out, and last minute tickets are really expensive!!!!! I got my tickets for €35 sigh.

#2: Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

It is officially the most beautiful church/cathedral that I have ever seen after the Milan and Florence Duomo, and the Vatican in Rome. I literally spent 10 minutes standing outside of the Sagrada Familia admiring the exterior facade of the cathedral and being so in awe. (Usually I just spend a minute, then head inside)

Definitely a place one MUST visit multiple times whenever they are in Barcelona as you can never get sick of the beauty of it.

Please prebook online for your tickets before going!!!


#1: Montserrat, via Barcelona

If mountains and hiking are your thing, I highly recommend taking a day off in Barcelona to visit Montserrat. It is relatively near (slightly less than 3 hours for a round trip). A train from Pl. Espanya station in Barcelona goes there every hour! It is my favourite place out of everywhere I have been on this trip as it is so serene there and I had like my precious OTOT to just slowly look around hehe. (not a fan of tour groups sorry)

 * B O N U S *  –  F O O D ! 

I bumped into this SMU exchange student on my first night in Barcelona who asked me if I wanted to "go for supper". I SWEAR I HAVENT HEARD THAT FOR AGES since I started my exchange so hell yeah I was thrilled.

So he brought me to this nice little place off La Rambla called Elisabets Restaurant for cheap and good tapas and BOY THE IBERIAN HAM TAPAS PLATTER WAS SO GOOD I am going back this december once more to have it. 

So yes, if you are a student but still want to try tapas, this place is for you!


With that, I hope I made travelling alone sound less scary (though I had my own fair share of scary incidents AHEM). But still, I believe everyone should at least try travelling alone once in their lifetime and just learn how to be comfortable hanging out with themselves, and doing things alone.

Travelling alone is unnerving, yet empowering and enlightening. Unnerving when you realized you have lost your way, or for me, lost my passport the moment I landed in Africa (LOL). After encountering all these problems, you seriously lose a lot of faith in yourself, like "How am I even gonna get out of here alive? Am I gonna die?" But empowering, when you have completed your solo trip and look back on the experiences and wisdom you gained living alone, and also on all the friendships you have made with so many people of different nationalities, to turn those experiences into fuel to travel alone again in the future and share your wisdom for travelling with others who are thinking of travelling alone too.

Alright it's time to drumroll... till the next post~

Stay Outruigeous,