The Solo Project #13 - Travelling by train

solo train travel
edinburgh waverley station

This might seem like a bit of a weird one to write about, but more and more, I’ve found that a lot of people just aren’t comfortable with travelling by rail by themselves. Whether it’s the unfamiliarity as it’s not something they do often, worry about getting on the wrong train (like the time my dad sent my granddad to Newcastle rather than Bristol...), concerns about other passengers, or simply not wanting to be bored on a long journey, there are a lot of reasons why people might not be keen.

I’m the type of person who will jump on a train to anywhere at any time of day quite happily, but I haven’t always been this way. I used to have such an intense fear of unknown situations and new places that it meant as a teenager I missed out on one hell of a lot as I made up every excuse under the sun to not go on day trips with my friends or nights out in new cities. Going to university definitely helped me as it pushed me out of my comfort zone and gave me the confidence that I can cope in situations that aren’t familiar to me, and I became all too familiar with the Transpennine Express train route very quickly as I travelled between Huddersfield and York. It’s weird to think that 10 years ago I was too scared to get on a train to Leeds from York with my friends and now, whilst I still have very little chill about a lot of things, I’ve conquered rail travel at least.

Having gone from fearing travelling alone to nailing it, I wanted to share my tips for those who might not be too keen.

Check your train’s status in advance
I use the National Rail app to check whether my train is on time and what platform I’ll be going from and arriving into. This is also a good opportunity to check your train’s final calling point, which is what will appear on the boards more often than not in the station, and means you’ll know what platform you’re looking for as you go in.

Book ahead
This might sound like a given, but booking a specific train and a seat where you can means that whilst you’re travelling, you have your own space and you don’t end up stood wedged into someone’s armpit during the journey. As your train is pulling in, look for your carriage and there are usually seat numbers by the door so you can see where is easiest to get on, so you’ll find your seat a little easier.

Go first class if you can
This might sound like a very frivolous thing to do, but there’s something comforting from knowing that you can use the Wifi, charge your phone and have drinks and snacks brought to your seat during your journey. Though this probably isn’t necessary for a shorter journey, if you’re heading anywhere more than a couple of hours away, it’s worth looking into.

Check what’s going on
Busy trains aren’t all bad, especially if you’ve got your seat booked, but being mindful of big events that might be going on along your train route is good if you’re nervous of packed trains. Personally, the later the train is, I prefer it to be busier as it feels safer (this tends to be the case when travelling home after concerts as you’ll be with a load of other fans), but during the daytime when there’s a sports match on or it’s a race weekend? That’s less fun. I mean, nobody wants to be on a train feeling extremely sober and underdressed because everyone but you is heading somewhere for the day so timing your train for when it will be a little quieter will leave you feeling a little less claustrophobic.

Take refreshments on board with you
Unless you’re in first class and getting them included, never rely on there being a trolley service. Aside from it being incredibly overpriced, it’s often hit and miss as to whether they accept card payments and sometimes there isn’t a trolley at all. And let’s be honest, what could be worse than being stuck on a train for two hours without so much as a bottle of water?

So, that’s my tips for conquering solo train travel. What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments!

1 comment

  1. Last year I started doing solo-weekend breaks and traveling out of the country for them. It was really panic and anxiety inducing at first (and still is sometimes) but I've found that the more planning before you leave, the less terrifying it is.

    My main tip in that would be to plan how you're getting from the airport/train station etc ahead of time - especially if your relying on public transit, instead of trying to figure it out once you get there. x