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Jun 02 2015

When Independent Travel Doesn’t Go to Plan

When Independent Travel Doesn't Go to Plan

Things don’t always go to plan, especially when you don’t have a plan.  Err… that makes sense!  Well, I sort of had a plan, just not a concrete one.

Plan

I wanted to go to the desert near Krakow.  It has been on my list of things to do for a while.  So, when I finished work on Saturday, I decided to try to get as close as I could.  The nearest place is a small village called Klucze, which is about two and a half kilometres from the desert and 40-odd kilometres from Krakow.  Although it isn’t far from Krakow, getting there by public transport didn’t look so easy.  I had two choices: Get a direct bus from Krakow or go to Olkusz, a nearby town, and then get another bus from there.  I had no idea if I would find accommodation in the village, so I was a little concerned about getting stuck with nowhere to stay and no means of leaving.  In the end, I decided to do the next best thing which was to get a bus to the nearby town of Olkusz, stay there, and get a bus to Klucze.  At least there were regular buses to Krakow from Olkusz if it all went pear-shaped.

Go

St Andrew's Basilica, Olkusz

When I arrived in Olkusz, I found out that the buses to Klucze were as infrequent as the bus schedule on the website had indicated, especially at the weekend.  Bummer!  I arrived at about 4pm and was there in time to get the last of two buses to Klucze.  I decided to stick with my original plan of staying in Olkusz, and the attempt the journey to the desert the following day.

The thing is, there isn’t much accommodation in Olkusz.  The first hotel I went to was fully booked, and the other is located in a sports centre on a busy dual carriageway.  It might be cheap, but that isn’t my idea of a restful weekend, so I had to rethink my plans.  I got an ice cream and wandered around Olkusz taking pictures, thinking of what to do.  However nice and historic Olkusz might be, I didn’t have a lot of choice.  In the end, I decided to return to Krakow and go to the desert another day when I have a day off in the week rather than part of a day at the weekend.

Go… again

On the bus back to Krakow, my mobile device stopped working, so I wasn’t able to look anything up on the go.  When I arrived back in Krakow, I had two options: Return home and go for a day trip somewhere the following day, or get on another bus.  Where could I go?  It was 7pm by that point, and it was pouring outside.  I walked around the bus station, looking at the front of the buses to see where they were headed.  Some were going too far because I had to be back home the following evening.  I saw a bus going to Bielsko-Biala via Kalwaria and Wadowice.  That was it!  I hadn’t been to Bielsko-Biala, but it was on my list of places to visit.  This was my chance.  It was a bit risky going at that time because I knew it would be a two-hour journey, I didn’t know the city, it would be dark by the time I got there, I didn’t have any accommodation booked, and I didn’t even know where or even if I would find any accommodation.  It was one of those split-second decisions you have to make when you travel independently.  In the end, I got on the bus and trusted that it would all work out.  It had to.  I had no choice.

Arrive and stay, at last!

Cathedral of St. Nicholas, Bielsko-Biala

When I arrived at the bus station in Bielsko-Biala, it was about 9pm.  Thankfully, it had stopped raining, but it was dark.  The bus drove past what looked like the centre, so once I was off the bus, I walked back that way, and then followed the signs to the old market square.  I walked up a narrow, cobbled street where people were sitting outside, eating and drinking.  About 100 metres on, and I was in the old market square, which was full of life.  By that point, I had seen a couple of hotels which looked really expensive, but I could relax knowing that I would have somewhere to stay for the night.

As I continued on past the square, I came across an aparthotel.  I’d never stayed in one of those before.  I thought it would be too expensive, but I decided to find out.  There was only a triple room left, and it was a bit pricey for one person.  I didn’t say anything about the price, the receptionist did.  I just agreed with her that it was a bit pricey.  Anyway, she was lovely, and she really wanted to help me out because I was a solo female traveller, and it was late at night.  So, she gave me the triple room for the price of a single room.  She didn’t have to do that.  I hadn’t asked her, and she didn’t know I was a travel blogger because I didn’t mention it.  It was just one woman helping another.  I was so grateful to her because I didn’t have many options.  Thank you to the lovely Paulina at Aparthotel Ventus Rosa for helping out a solo, female traveller!

Room in an Aparthotel

Going to Bielsko-Biala turned out to be the right decision and worth the risk.  I had a wonderful room for the night, and Bielsko-Biala looked great.

Tips

I’m certainly not suggesting that solo, female travellers should travel at night, with no plans, and nowhere to stay.  This was one of those one-off situations.  Here are some tips to help you in situations like these:

  • Have a back-up/alternative plan just in case things don’t work out.
  • Have reliable mobile technology, a portable battery, and a mobile data plan, so you can plan on the move.
  • Know the country you are in.
  • Be prepared to pay more than you normally would for accommodation for that night’s stay because your choices will be limited.
  • Trust your intuition.

Location

This is the odd route I took, first going from Krakow to Olkusz, back to Krakow, and then on to Bielsko-Biala.

Have your say

Have you been in a similar situation?  If so, what did you do?  What other tips would you add?

About the author

Teresa Keane

Teresa has been to almost 60 countries. She started travelling independently at the age of 38 when she gave up her job, rented out her house, put her possessions in storage and spent a year travelling the world. It changed her life. She now creates, publishes, & promotes online travel content and is an experienced freelance trainer & EFL teacher.

Have your say...

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