For those who haven’t experienced travelling alone yet, the idea might sound a bit crazy idea and not even be an alternative. However, after being in lockdown for COVID-19, we all are appreciating more life and travelling alone could start being an option when other friends can’t join.
Feeling afraid about the idea of travelling alone is normal, my first time I had a lot of questions: Is it safe? Will I meet someone to talk? Will I have a good time alone? And if I don’t have internet? The fear of travelling alone is something common for most of the people. Later, once I did, I never stopped going anywhere though, I got new skills.
In my first time, I had liked to find a few tips and advice in one place, so I decided to put in one place a total of 30 tips, broken down in 7 general concerns to encourage anyone to do it. With a few things covered, you should be fine. So, there we go!
Table of Contents
Is it safe? - Concerns about safety
First time backpacking solo was in Europe during 3 weeks with a big backpack.
1.- Pack light
Take the indispensable. The idea is reducing the volume and weight as much as possible. A backpack is a must over a suitcase for practicality and agility. You can have your hands free to do anything and react faster in case of any unforeseen events.
2.- Hide the important
Divide your important belongings in different places. Your passport and money can be put away in secret pockets, or discrete belt pouches. Leave at your fingertips everything you need to move around, a few coins, some debit card, tickets, and your smartphone, discretetly.
3.- Bring enough money, but avoid all in cash
There are a few convenient debit card options perfect for travellers that help to avoid having to deal with cash all time, check TransferWise, Revolut and/or Monzo. However, I understand that some people still prefer cash (or other cases there isn’t another option to pay), then it’s good dividing the money in different safe places and always having handy some cash ready to pay when you need.
4.- Be a chameleon
Blend yourself with the context of the place you are visiting. When you travel solo, you are always a bit more vulnerable. For this reason, follow the local customs, dress modestly and hide all kinds of expensive stuff you might be carrying with you. Following this advice, you will reduce the probability of attracting the wrong people.
5.- Get travel insurance
Never say never, always it’s good to be covered just in case. If you travel alone and you have an accident, someone will have to cover the costs of transport and service. I’ve heard some horror stories about it, so, always better to be covered.
6.- Write down emergency numbers
Get the numbers of health security, travel insurance and local police if you need iin case of emergency. You never know if you might need them.
7.- Trust in your instinct
Is someone suspicious around you? leave the place walking with attitude and decision. Pretend to know where you go and find a place that is crowded. If you are around during the night, and you don’t feel confident to walk, take a taxi or Uber.
Where to stay? - Concerns about accommodation
Couchsurfing: Graphic description. Although is not exactly this.
8.- Look for a place you can meet other travellers
in Hostel World and Booking I look for options to stay when I go on a trip and most of the times I’ve had the chance to meet other travellers. Couchsurfing is another option to live a more local experience, but requires to have a profile and build trust. If you prefer more privacy and comfortability go for a Hotel or similar, also in Booking, or Airbnb or Trivago.
9.- Keep your stuff safe
No matter where you stay, keep your things safe and locked to avoid surprises. In other words, if you are going to a hostel, use the lockers. Using Airbnb? then lock your backpack, or if you go to a hotel, never leave exposed your valuables.
10.- Check references
“Not all that glitters is gold”, so, make sure to check well reviews to ensure you have a good experience. Cleaning, friendly staff, flexibility in the check-in are my go-to. In the case of Couchsurfing, it’s key reading references left by other guests.
How to move around? - Concerns about transport
11.- Pin your key locations
Using Google Maps, add to your map your arrival location and your accommodation address, then you can have a better idea of the distances. Having a graphic picture helps to orient yourself (this is the starting point to elaborate your trip strategy).
12.- Research your connections
Check the public transport options and schedules. Add to your map the closest bus stops to reach your accommodation. If you arrive a bit late, still you might find public transport scheduled for late arrivals. Otherwise, the last option is taking a taxi or Uber.
13.- Ask for directions
If you are disoriented or trying to find a place, don’t overthink and ask. Look at the first person that inspires you trust. With a simple “excuse me“, you can get more accurate information than with Google.
Will I meet someone? - Concerns about to be alone
You start alone, but you might end up sharing travel experiences.
If you show yourself open, it will be easier to meet people. If you smile, it’s interpreted that you are happy, friendly, attractive and approachable. A smile can open a lot of interactions and conversations, but also it empowers you with positiveness. Little interactions can make your day, but also increasing your self-confidence.
15.- Be spontaneous and curious
When you are doing an activity where there are more people involved, share your thoughts, “such beautiful views!” someone might agree with you. But also, being curious and asking someone around you something you want to know more about “Excuse me, do you know a place near here to eat traditional food?”. Suddenly you might be making some interactions.
16.- Stay in places where it is easy starting conversations
In hostels or shared B&B with common areas, join to spend some time and get the opportunity to interact with other travellers. Go to check and charge your phone, to read a book or eat something. Always there are travellers open to interact “where are you from“?.
17.- Connect with people or activities before travelling
What I do alone? - Concerns of not having fun
18.- Add the spots you are interested to visit on your map
Here starts the travel game mindset, you know your spots, now it’s time to explore and connect them. This is one of the best parts of travelling solo, going with the flow whatever the wind takes you and feeling the local culture.
19.- Stop in a local coffee shop
Look for places with open common spaces, like communal tables, sitting in a bar layout along the window, or other spaces where you can have some social interaction. The vibes of a place sometimes are enough to recharge energies and feel motivated.
20.- Look for free walking tours
One of the best plans to do when you don’t have a plan. In most cities, there are free walking tours to learn more about the place visited. It’s only required to give a voluntary tip to support the guides in the end. The Freetour app is very handy to find options. This also offers the chance of meeting other travellers.
21.- Enjoy moments alone as you did in your daily life
Think about what you do in your free time alone. Do you read, draw, write or do something similar?. As in principle, you will be alone, you might feel a bit lonely at some point, to reduce this feeling the best is distractacting yourself. For instance, it was awkward for me to eat alone at first, but I started to take a book with me and it helped me keep my mind busy.
If I don't have connection? - Concerns about Internet
22.- Research roaming options
Check your options with your current mobile company, if not, check the competitors. For example, there are deals like with Three in the UK, “feel at home” you have access data in a lot of European and not European destinations without extra charge.
23.- Look for a SIM card at your destination
It is worth it if you are going to stay a long period of time. Look for local companies that have SIM cards with data to connect to the internet, and make sure that your phone is compatible.
24.- Look for places with WiFi
Search beforehand a few places to have a coffee or eating that have WiFi and add them to your map, although I wouldn’t worry too much about it, nowadays it’s easy to find Wi-fi almost everywhere.
25.- Get some apps to use offline
When you are offline, there are a few apps that could make your life easier:
- Google Maps: download an area of a city on your phone, so they can be consulted later offline.
- XE Currency: a very useful app to make currency conversions easily. Add currencies before you travel to see them later without connection.
- Google Translate: can be a real lifesaver. Download language packages to be used later offline.
- WiFi Map: the paid version allows you to search for WiFi hotspots and save them beforehand in a map, and they can be seen offline.
How will I communicate? - Concerns about local language
Tuk-tuker that drove me around Chiang Rai. There weren’t words in English or Spanish, I only could say “Kop khun khrap!” (Thank you!)
One of the main concerns of people in any situation of life, it’s not being able to express ideas or doubts in other languages. Fortunately, English is a universal language, and knowing it can make your life easier. Nevertheless, there are people that don’t speak, nor understand it.
26.- Use your body language
imagine that from one day to another you can’t speak. How would you communicate?. Words can be totally different, but the meaning of a smile in Europe is not different in Asia, and the same happens for other emotions. Consequently, if you can’t talk, you still can transmit an idea using expressions, grimaces and gestures.
27.- Go to the point thinking in the keywords
The challenge is not just the receiver understands your message, it’s actually you get the answer you need. In other words, you need to think about the keywords of what you want to ask. Don’t be ashamed of looking ridiculous if you need to act.
28.- Have pictures prepared on your phone
“A picture is worth more than a thousand words”. Then, if at some moment you struggle with being expressive, you can prepare in advance a set of pictures in your phone of things you might need to ask.
29.- Learn a few words in the local language
Before your trip, write down a few words of the local language and learn to pronounce them. As a result, it makes you connect better with locals. A simple “hello” and “thank you” can make the difference.
30.- Use Google Translate (offline)
As mentioned before, downloading the local language in Google Translate to use it offline could be a life saver. For example, you can write a short message in the app and show it translated to ask for something.
I hope these tips can result useful to you and give you a boost to plan a new trip.
Leave a comment sharing your thoughts! Take care and see you in the next one!