It’s normal to feel a bit scared about the idea of going somewhere alone, but the following travelling solo tips might give you some boost to make you start planning your first one. If you are here, it’s because either you have been considering to try it you are decided to or you are just curious.
The very first time, I had a lot of not answered questions: is it safe?, will I meet someone to talk? can I have a good time alone? and if I don’t have internet data?. I was afraid, the fear of travelling alone is something common for most of the people. But, after getting some inspiration I bought the flight tickets to start my first adventure. After that, I haven’t stopped and I thought that this experience could be something valuable to share for all those that are considering or planning to travel alone for the first time.
In this post are listed a total of 30 tips, broken down in 7 general concerns about travelling alone. As a result, I hope that at the end, you get some ideas and inspiration to make it!. Are you ready? Let’s go!
“The man who goes alone can start today, but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready.” –
Henry David Thoreau.
Is it safe? – Concerns about your safety
Don’t let your inner voice scare you, it isn’t like it’s pictured in your mind. Get ready, take some precautions and go.
1) Pack light. Take the indispensable. The idea is to reduce volume and weight as much as possible. For that reason, it is recommended to travel with a backpack and carry just what is necessary. In this way, you can have your hands free to move with more agility (a suitcase, for example, makes you operate with one hand most of the time). Check the weather conditions, and depending on the length of the trip, you can carry a larger or smaller backpack depending on the belongings you need. Consequently, you can walk more comfortably and react faster in case of any unforeseen events.
2) Hide the important. When you move to your destination (i.e. with all your belongings), divide the important stuff 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 cards, tickets, and your smartphone, discreetly. On the other hand, when you are visiting a place, be practical and take just the necessary.
3) Bring enough money, but don’t much cash. You need cash but it’s not the best idea to bring all your money in cash. While from one side it isn’t very practical, from the other, you take the risk of losing it. Depending on where you go, cash is essential, but in other cases, it’s handier to pay by card. But usually, we think paying by card may be expensive. Fortunately, there are a few some debit cards options perfect for travellers. They allow you to transfer yourself money from your bank account and using them to pay abroad without commission (the service is free, but bear in mind that you may receive fees in local cashing machines). In addition, in case of theft or loss, you can cancel them directly from your smartphone. I use TransferWise, Revolut and Monzo. I will go more in detail about it in a new post.
4) Be a chameleon. Blend yourself with the context of the place you are visiting. When you travel solo, always you are a bit more vulnerable. For this reason, follow the local customs, dress modestly and hide all kind of expensive stuff you might be carrying with you. Following this advice, you will reduce the probability to attract to 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 been lucky so far in this topic, but I’ve heard some horror stories about it. So, if you thought you don’t need it, remember, you never know.
6) Write down emergency numbers. Get the numbers of health security, travel insurance and police if you needed it in case of emergencies. You never know if you might need them.
7) Trust in your instinct. Is someone weird 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, or taking public transport, take a taxi or Uber.
Don’t overthink much, see your pocket and follow your instinct.
8) Look for a place that fulfils your needs.
- To have privacy and comfortability, then go for a Hotel or similar, look for options in Booking, Airbnb o Trivago.
- If you want to meet new people, then look for hostels or similar with common areas in Hostel World and Booking.
- Want to be bolder, having a more local experience but also saving money? In that case Couchsurfing is your buddy.
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 cheap hotel, don’t expose your valuables, you never know, even cleaning staff could have bad habits.
10) Check references. “Not all that glitters is gold”, so make sure to check well where you go, to have a good experience. Cleaning, friendly staff, flexibility in the check-in are things to review. In the case of Couchsurfing, it’s key reading references of the hosts by other guests.
Don’t stress, set a strategy in advance seeing your options.
11) Pin your key locations. Using Google Maps, add first to your map your arrival point and your accommodation address, then you can have a better idea of the distances. Having a graphic picture of it is quite relieving, but also it’s the starting point to elaborate on your trip strategy.
12) Research your connections. Depending on the time I arrive, I check the public transport options. You can do the same if you want to save money. So, you can add to your map the closest bus stops to reach your accommodation. If you arrive a bit late by plane, still you might find transport scheduled for those arrivals. Otherwise, your 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 ask for the information you need.
Will I meet someone to talk? – Concerns of being alone and feeling lonely
Don’t limit yourself to travel because you think you will be alone. You might be missing the chance of getting to know yourself better and connecting with a lot of new people.
14) Smile. Travelling alone is one of the easiest ways to make friends if you show yourself open to it. That is to say, if you smile, it’s interpreted you are happy, friendly, attractive and approachable. A smile can open a lot of interactions and conversations, but also it empowers you with positiveness. Once you start feeling more confident, you will not even realize when you start to talk to people. Little interactions can make your day.
15) Be spontaneous and curious. If you are enjoying something in a context where there are more people doing it as well, share your feeling. For example, at the top of a building, you can say “such beautiful views!” to someone close to you. On the other hand, having the chance of discovering so many new things, it isn’t that difficult to be curious and asking someone around about it. Another good example is if you are looking for a place to eat “what place would you recommend me near here to eat traditional food?”. Suddenly you might be already meeting people.
16) Stay in places where is easy starting conversations. Look for hostels and B&B with common areas and shared rooms where it’s easy to meet people.
17) Connect with people before travelling. Want to have the chance of meeting people in advance? Then, there are a few options to meet travellers or locals.
- Couchsurfing: it’s my fav since you can look for other travellers, locals and events. People with the same vibes than you.
- Meetup: find events and activities. Dancing, culture, party, etc. Lot of options to have the chance of meeting new people.
- Facebook: find events or people to connect with, by searching in events or groups of the city/town to visit.
- Tinder: who hasn’t used it? If you are single and want a different kind of interaction, you can make connections forehand using the paid version (since you can change your location).
What can I do alone? – Concerns of not having a good time travelling solo
Not because you are travelling solo, it means you can’t have a good time.
18) Look for the spots you are interested in and walk! Add the spots you are thinking to visit on your map. This gives you orientation regard to your accommodation’s location. The next is walking connecting the spot’s locations exploring around without a specific plan. Definitely, there isn’t a better way to get to know a city, since walking you can learn about the culture, the nuances of the society idiosyncrasy, the architecture and how the city is structured. This is one of the best parts of travelling solo, go with the flow whatever the wind takes you.
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 be near to someone. The idea is that when you stop for a rest, but also you get a chance of interacting with locals.
20) Look for free walking tours. One of the best plans to do when you don’t have a plan. In most of the cities, there are free walking tours. Local people show you around telling you about the history and other anecdotes. At the end of the tour, you can give them a tip to support their work. The Freetour app is very handy to find options. And, if this wasn’t enough, you also have a good 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 a bit lonely at some point. Avoid it doing something to distract yourself. For instance, it was awkward for me going to eat alone in a restaurant at first, but I started to take a book with me and it made me enjoy more my time (and even ignoring the phone).
What about the Internet? – Concerns of not having an internet connection
No roaming, no problem, still there are other options. If not, there are plenty of resources to survive without it as well.
If you can’t live without internet, then:
22) Research roaming options. As I usually travel, I found a good deal with Three in the UK. I have access data in a lot of European and not European destinations without extra charge (if you live in the UK check it). Check your options with your current company, if not, check the competitors.
23) Look for a SIM card at your destination. It 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. But, don’t worry too much about it, nowadays it’s easy to find Wi-fi everywhere.
No data internet? then:
25) Get some apps to use offline. In some moments you are offline, a few apps 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 of not speaking the local language.
Don’t limit your wish of travelling because you don’t speak the local language, always there will be people that will not speak it either.
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 other 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 like sadness, anger, worry, etc. Consequently, if you can’t talk, use your hands and facial expressions to communicate.
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. Once I went to a supermarket in Riga because I needed to find eggs. Then, the staff didn’t speak English, so I had to imitate a hen and… she got the message. The keywords for this exercise was “chicken laying an egg” lol.
28) Have pictures prepared. “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 somewhere a few words of the local language and learn to pronounce them. As a result, it makes you connect better with locals and a simple “hello” and “thank you” in the local language can make the difference.
30) Use Google Translate (offline). As it’s been commented above, downloading the local language in Google Translate to use it when you don’t have internet could help you a lot. For example, you can write a short message in the app and show it translated to people to ask for something. They could do the same to answer.
I hope these tips can result useful to you and can give you some boost if you are considering to plan a future trip. Travelling solo can seem a bit frightening at first, but taking into account a few things, it’s the first step to make it happen. Then, the next is looking for travel destinations near to you to try the experience on a short trip, and later, get your tickets without thinking too much about it. Starting from there, it’s the moment to build your travel game and enjoying it.
Have I missed something? Did I forget to consider some other aspect? Let me know, share your thoughts or tell me about your experience. I’ll be happy to read your feedback and thoughts. See you in the next one!