If there’s one thing solo travel has taught me, it’s how to be fearless. The world is a big place and yes, it is pretty scary out there all by your lonesome with no one to have your back and no one to catch you when you fall. But does that mean you should hide away forever? Just waiting until someone else is travel ready so you can go exploring? Heck no. Rather than wait for the right travel companion to come along, empower yourself and plan a solo adventure in the big wide unknown. Sure, you’re going to be beyond scared at first and the possibilities of what could go wrong will endlessly run through your head. But if planned properly, it can be some of the best soul searching experiences of your life. If you’re thinking of going on a solo adventure into the big wide unknown and are unsure of how to do it, then here are some of my best solo travel tips to help you plan your first adventure alone.
Carry multiple copies of important documents
Unforeseen things happen all the time while on vacation. You never know when your luggage will be delayed or you may slip and drop your wallet into the ocean. While it’s easy to laugh these unexpected scenarios off when friends and family are around to help you get back on your feet, it can be pretty frustrating when you’re on your own. Before leaving home give copies of your passport, tickets and hotel contact details to trusted friends and family members. Carry multiple copies of these documents with you as well and pack them in different areas of your luggage. I usually like to keep a copy in my travel wallet, laptop case and hand luggage. I also like to save electronic copies online. This way you will always have copies of your important documents and will be able to access them with ease should anything happen.
Be mindful of the language barrier
Experiencing new cultures is certainly a mind opening experience but traveling to cities where English is not the first language can be daunting too, more so if you’re a female. In fact, at times, it could even be dangerous if you can’t read the signals of the people around you. Take precautions and always download easy to use translation apps. There are so many out there that allow you to type, speak or upload pictures with translation in seconds. Write down a few essential phrases in a small notebook as well. This should help you get by even if your phone battery dies.
Always tell someone where you are
While traveling solo can be a pretty liberating and empowering experience as you become independent, you’ve still got to take measures to be safe should anything happen. Always ensure that you give a copy of your itinerary to someone back home and tell someone where you are going and what time you will be back. I usually send messages to my sister or parents saying when they can expect to hear from me. This way, should anything happen, someone will always know what your most recent moves are.
Dress like the locals
Be mindful of the dress code of the countries you will be visiting and try to dress as close to the locals as you can. Not only will you blend in with the crowd, but you will be less of a target for pickpockets who usually target tourists in bigger cities. Be mindful of religious countries and if you can wear pants or shorts as well.
Carry a map with you
Getting lost in a new city is one of the best experiences there is. Wandering down cobblestone streets and taking the road less traveled can sound pretty magical but it can also be dangerous too. Always keep a map with you and mark out the important landmarks and safety points before you go wandering.
Don’t be afraid to get a table for one
As a solo traveler, a table for one is going to be your reality for many meals. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed. This is your vacation and your time to just do as you please and in the end, remember that you’re in a new city where nobody knows you anyway. You’re most likely never going to see them again anyway. Walk in confidently, smile at the waitress and ask for that table for one. Sit down and order what you like. I usually like to get a corner table or one positioned next to the window where I can sit and take in the surrounding views while reading a local newspaper or updating my blog.
Read the guide: A Table For One
Make friends with the locals. It’s the best way to learn about everyday life, local culture and what to do in the city you’re visiting. If you’re not the most out-going person then start small with people at the tour desk or hotel reception. Then move on to the vendors at markets and waiters and waitresses at restaurants. Smile at other travelers and more often than not, you’ll find that they are pretty friendly and love sharing travel stories with other travelers too.
Carry major currencies
Before leaving convert your money to major currencies, like US dollars or Euro’s. These are accepted almost everywhere in the world and you can change some into the local currency at the airport when you arrive. While the airport rates may be higher, changing a small amount of money at the airport will allow you to get to your hotel and carry on until you find a local bank or currency exchanger with better rates. Be wary of foreigner restrictions as some banks may only allow foreigners to change a certain amount of dollars or euros a day. Also do your research and find out if you will be able to use your credit or debit cards for basic payments in the cities you’re visiting.
Keep a secret stash
You never know when something will go wrong, so having a secret stash of cash kept away in an old lip balm container or pair of socks can be a lifesaver. Should your wallet get stolen, then you will always have an emergency fund with you to get the basics done and contact home.
Embrace the solitude
More often than not, the fast paced monotony of everyday life makes it difficult to just reflect on life decisions or even just relax. Having this time alone on solo vacations mean that you’ll have no option but to embrace the solitude and just be alone with your thoughts. Find a quiet place like a beach or go for a hike and take some time to think. You’ll find that more often than not, being in a new place helps to put things into perspective and gives you a new outlook on what the important things in life are.