New York to Montreal is the perfect trip for first time solo backpackers. In fact it was my first ever solo trip and each city I passed through holds a special place in my heart for that reason! Of course two weeks before I set off my phone decided to break. Apple still hadn’t finished tinkering with it when I set off for North America… BY MYSELF. Mother was not pleased. But I was surprisingly calm about the situation. I picked up a cheap Nokia to stay in contact with home and left not really knowing what to expect.
Transport – To make life easier for myself I decided to pre-book my transport between cities. That way I had a rough itinerary to follow which, for first time solo backpackers, will feel pretty reassuring. I compared bus and train prices and my route developed from there. I flew to New York with Norwegian and booked buses from NYC to Toronto and Toronto to Montreal with MegaBus. To get to Niagara Falls I booked a casino shuttle bus once I got to Toronto as according to my host, this was the cheapest option. I wasn’t obliged to enter the casinos which there are a lot of around Niagara!
Accommodation – I couchsurfed this entire trip. Potentially not ideal for first time solo backpackers but if you’re on a budget then it is ideal. As long as you stay with someone with plenty of good reviews you should be fine. I have amazing experienced linked to couchsurfing. From having people stay with me to staying with others, it is a great way to make friends and live like a local. However you could also check out the Hostel World options.
NEW YORK TO MONTREAL – 2 WEEK GUIDE FOR FIRST TIME SOLO BACKPACKERS!
NEW YORK – 5 DAYS
I found there were many factors that made this a great gateway route. The cities are well connected, the distance isn’t too far and there is endless amounts to see! Especially in New York. I made sure to do all the sightseeing I could. I walked over the Brooklyn Bridge, went to Times Square at night, spent a day at the MET and got the Staten Island ferry past the Statue of Liberty. It was all amazing and actually a bit overwhelming. I took my time, making sure to absorb as much as possible.
These were all free activities bar the MET where you make a donation to visit. I also spent a lot of time walking around interesting areas of the city such as Soho, the High Line and Brooklyn. Again free to do and great for getting a real feel of the city. I spent one of my mornings at Ground Zero. The two huge pits where the towers once stood have been made into beautiful memorials. It was very overwhelming and poignant. I also spent quite a lot of time in Central Park. NY is big, a little dirty and sweaty and sometimes a girl needs some fresh air! I relaxed in the sun and people watched and it became perfectly clear to me why New Yorkers love that park!
TORONTO/ NIAGARA FALLS – 4 DAYS
I didn’t see a huge amount of Toronto as I had such a lovely couchsurfing host and lovely fellow couchsurfers! I spent my time with them in the local park playing softball and flunkyball. Couchsurfing creates the opportunity to easily meet amazing people who you may never have met otherwise. Travelling alone pushes you out of your comfort zone a lot. You have to be social and approaching new people is difficult! Couchsurfing, for me, makes this a lot easier which is another reason I think everyone should try it. Of course it isn’t for everyone and you have to be sensible. Follow your instincts when arranging a place to stay. If it feels a bit weird then avoid!
I did make sure to visit Niagara Falls as it was on my bucket list. It wasn’t quite what I was expecting due to the nearby casinos, hotels and even a Starbucks. However, the waterfall itself was still really impressive. You can also pay to go behind the falls into the network of tunnels. While in New York someone recommended I visit the falls from the Canadian side. This is because the view to America is much prettier.
MONTREAL – 5 DAYS
Montreal was really beautiful especially the Old Port area. Lot’s of churches and a cathedral combined with French being the first language in the city gave it a noticeably European feel. I ate my weight in delicious crepes and spent time wandering up Mount Royal. I went once in the day and once in the night for the view of the city but also because the walk was lovely. There is a piano at the top and luckily for me lots of talented tourists to play it. I spent a whole evening listening to the music, it was very relaxing.
My couchsurfing hosts were lovely here too. It was a student house and we all cooked together. They also introduced me to slack lining which I am incredibly bad at but enjoyed regardless. Luckily the weather was stunning and all the time we spent relaxing in the park was well spent. I also happened to be in Montreal during their summer food festival which was amazing. I am quite easy to please when delicious food is involved! I spent one afternoon in the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. I didn’t compare to the MET was worth a visit.