Do you plan on travelling solo for the first time? Then I guess there are a lot of question marks appearing in your mind right now. To help you answer some of these questions I wrote down a list for you with 20 Tips that have been helpful to me during my world trip as a solo traveller.
Choosing a destination
This is in general one of the most important decisions when it comes to solo travelling. You will find whole lists which countries are easier to travel to solo for the first time. The crucial points to consider are safety, healthcare, infrastructure, climate, budgeting, activities, language barriers etc. Here is a list of countries which might inspire you to find the right choice.
Inform yourself well in advance about the country’s safety situation and recommendations to stay safe. You can use your governments travel site for country alerts and informations.
Trust your intuition. If your gut feeling is telling you something is not good about a situation don’t do it.
Never walk alone late night. And avoid little side streets, also during day time. Again here your research before travelling to a country will pay off as you can find a lot of recommendations which cities and places are nice and which are better being avoided.
A local SIM card is something that will give you plenty of advantages. It’s like the reliable travel buddy that is accompanying you when you lost orientation, find yourself in a strange situation, feeling alone, or need to know about the next bus connection. Believe me paying for a SIM card will make your travels so much easier and carefree. The fastest way to get one is of course straight at the airport, though it’s usually also more expensive than the telecom shop in the city.
Not being judgmental of your yourself and your environment in a foreign country can end pretty bad and can make you an easy target for the wrong people. This doesn’t mean no alcohol but always staying aware of yourself.
Check your health and travel insurance and make sure that the coverage is really worldwide in case you travel overseas. Also consider if you want to rent a car, then you might need an additional coverage. The same goes for missed or cancelled flights.
Some people make a health checkup before leaving for longterm travelling. While this is not necessarily needed it is important to check with your doctor if you need any vaccination or medications, for example when you go to malaria endemic areas. Don’t forget to pack medications and pain killers in your travel kit. Also good to know is which foods should be consumed with precaution: Foods which are uncooked like salads and fruits, also tap water and ice cubes are in many countries very likely to cause food poisoning.
Google Photos (cloud storage in case you lose your phone)
It’s best to plan your arrival of flights or buses during day time while still having daylight. Being at a new destination making your way alone in the dark is not the most convenient, safe nor easy situation as everything gets more difficult to find.
Solo does not mean alone
Don’t worry about the word SOLO. You will meet so many people, fellow travelers as well as locals, that you actually will be pretty much always in company of someone. There will be hundreds of new impressions and stories you get told. Sometimes you might even need to take time just for yourself to recharge your batteries. That’s the great thing about solo travels – The beauty of enjoying the company of others but sometimes also just the one of yourself. Both is a wonderful experience that makes you learn a lot about the world and yourself!
Organise or inform yourself how you want to get from the airport to your hotel / hostel. A good tool to help you is Google Maps. It will show you all public transportation options available. Another sometimes more convenient way is to get a Grab Taxi (Asia) or an Uber. It’s less pricey than a Taxi and you can always keep an eye on the driver’s route on the app.
Be a traveler not a tourist
Walk with confidence and try to immerse and adapt to the culture and living. Learn some basics of the local language. When you feel lost try to not show it too obviously. You can use Google Maps also with headphones so you don’t have to take your phone out all the time.
Find out what kind of clothes are appropriate to wear – for temples it’s always good to have a Sarong in your backpack. Don’t show off jewellery, or expensive looking clothes / belongings, it could cause unwanted attention – in general and especially when you go to a country less developed than yours.
Less is more
Take as less expensive things with you as possible. The same goes for money. Better leave some in the locker of your accommodation.
Always leave your passport at the locker in your hotel except you know you will use it. Otherwise just wear a copy of it with you. Make copies of all your cards or even better – have a digital version on your mail account or cloud storage.
Pack as light as possible. It will save you a lot of nerves, back pain and time. Travelling with a backpack under seven kilograms allows you to take it as a hand luggage and saves you a lot of money. I‘ve been travelling for more than seven months with a backpack like that and it’s not only a lot more convenient but minimizes the risk of loosing your belongings!
Money, Money, Money
Speaking about money, make sure to have two different credit cards. One Visa Card and a Master Card would do best. Therefore you should be able to get money even if one doesn’t work.
Always get your money at an ATM which is in a tourist area with a lot of passengers close by. The safest options are the ones who are connected to a bank or a shop, like a 7-Eleven convenience store.
Check if the machine is looking alright then and always stay alert of your surrounding.
Make yourself an overwiew about local prices. Otherwise it can be likely that you will pay three times more than the local buyers. When you travel the world for several months it’s also good to make a budget beforehand and write down your expenses for every month, so you don’t get a bad surprise later on.
A money belt is a really good invention. Normally I‘ve used mine just when changing locations, because it’s always good to split your money in two wallets and wear your expensive belongings close on your body. So even in case your backpack gets lost or stolen you still have some money for emergencies.
Plan Plenty of Time
As you can see, having a nice travel adventure depends quite a bit on advanced research. It will save you a lot of troubles and make you feel more confident when you encounter an unknown country or situation. So think of the time that it needs to prepare for your adventure of a lifetime!
My favorite site to check flights is Skyscanner as it offers a quick overview and when comparing always has the cheapest offers.
When you have a transit flight it’s good to have two hours time in between changing airplanes. If you’re not able to take one of the two flights of a transit flight, the second one will be automatically cancelled if you don’t inform the airline. Always check about visa requirements. Some boarders want you to show an onward, return flight ticket or you will not be allowed to check-in.
My favorite services to find a place to stay at are: Agoda, Booking.com and Airbnb. I would recommend you to sett up the filter with a high enough guest rating and read the reviews critically. That’s how you can assure to have a nice stay. I once landed in a very unpleasant part of Osaka because I haven’t read the reviews well enough. It was a very rundown quarter with lots of homeless and drunk people on the streets. Even at 9am in the morning I felt uncomfortable walking there.
Think of access and location too as it makes a big difference how enjoyable and convenient your city exploration gets. Check if a security lock gets offered or bring your own lock as sometimes you will be asked to buy one for the locker.
If you want to keep yourself save from pushy questions and approaches of men don’t tell that you’re travelling solo. In case you find yourself in a very awkward situation just say that your husband / boyfriend is waiting for you and walk away. By the way it’s always good to know that your deodorant can be used like a pepper spray in an emergency case.
Stay in touch
Let someone at home know where you are, at which place you’re staying and where you’re flying next to.
Sometimes there might be a very unforeseen situation that can stress you out quite a bit, like a cancelled flight connection, loosing valuable possessions, or finding yourself lost somewhere at the wrong place. Keep calm. There’s certainly a solution for your problem. Again having internet access is a big plus and usually there are plenty of friendly people who would love to help you out.
Enjoy every moment of your unique adventure, the places and people you meet, treasure the time given to you, breath in the beautiful moments, the freedom of just being and get to know the world and yourself from new angles and perspectives.