O.K. so you’re finally getting around to planning your first trip, and nobody wants to join. So what do you do now? Why, go by yourself of course! You’ll have the trip of a lifetime with nobody else dictating when it’s time to use the toilet.
So, whether you’re traveling alone for the first time, are scared to travel alone, or are thinking ‘is it weird to travel alone?’ we’ve got you covered. Myself along with a handful of other experienced travelers and bloggers share our top tips for solo travelers and hopefully answer all your questions and put your mind at ease.
Remember, you’re almost never going to be the only solo traveler out there. The trail has been blazed, feel free to follow it, it’s a lovely one!
Have a Plan
This may seem super obvious, and is realistically the reason why you’re here reading this post, right? But embarking on a journey alone can be scary, it’s true, and having a step by step plan of what you’re going to do will help put your nerves at ease. We all know what they say about the best laid plans, but I can assure you that if you land in a foreign country and have absolutely no idea where you go once you step off the plane, you’ll freak, and that will set the tone for the rest of your trip. So, I’m not joking, step-by-step. Where is the bus stop at the airport, do you need to take a skytrain to get there? Or is your driver picking you up? What’s his name, what’s a contact number to reach him and will you be able to use your phone when you land, if you need to? If by day two you’re totally comfortable and feeling your groove, throw the plan out the window if you so choose, nobody says you have to stick to it. But making it in the first place is a really good idea.
Keep Your Money Safe
Always have a money belt on you. Stash all your cash and documents in the belt, and hide it under your shirt to keep it safe! This has been super useful since I travel alone and am often distracted by the sights!
-Daisy, Beyond My Border
I think this is such a great tip for solo travelers, especially those embarking on their first solo trip. There are few things that can ruin a trip faster than getting pickpocketed. And unfortunately it is an all too common occurrence. Tourists are targets and being by yourself, without anyone watching your back, makes the crosshairs on your back even more prominent. A money belt is a great and this one by Trekko has multiple pockets plus an RFID blocking feature. Alternatively, this one is for ladies: a pouch which hooks onto your bra and is worn underneath your shirt. Since it’s not the easiest to access this is best for travel days and not say, shopping days. This one from Pacsafe holds credit cards along with money. Some other gender neutral options include money socks, like these very basic black socks which will hold something as large as a passport. Or, a belt. A belt pocket is often smaller, simply being the nature of the beast. But this one, by Jasgood, is still a great option.
So you’re thinking, ‘I’m going on holiday, of course I’m going to eat out!’ But I promise you, you’re going to hesitate at the door. You’re going to think, people are going to stare, oh my god I’m by myself. I am here to tell and to promise you, no one cares. Like, at all. I have eaten out by myself more times than I can remember. And I have thus ended up in places that nobody else wanted to go and eaten so much less ramen than that guy next to me, convinced it was weird. Nah, what’s weird is sitting in the corner of your room with a sad bowl of ramen when you’re in Paris. Go eat out. Alone.
Go on a Tour
Consider taking a boutique tour because it’s all the fun of solo travel but none of the hassle.
–Ed and Jennifer, Coleman Concierge
While I almost never go on tours, this is a really interesting tip. And I think it’s an especially good idea if you’re headed off on your very first solo trip. If you do book a tour, make sure you take a deep dive into the itinerary, make sure you’re going to the places you want to see and also that you have free time. If the company is immediately transparent about group sizes, that’s a red flag and I’d advise steering clear, the last thing you want is to get stuck in a massive busload of people following a man with a flag around every city you get to. All that being said, there are still good, boutique tour companies out there, as Ed and Jennifer recommend. A few that I have heard have are quite good are G Adventures, a large agency which offers tours targeted at a myriad of travel styles to destinations all across the globe. While the tours can get up to 15 people, which feels edging on too big for me, they say the average size is 10, which feels comfortable. Also, Get Your Guide has lots of small tour companies, many of which are local. These tend to be shorter trips, maybe just a day tour, for example, but are still worth taking a look at.
Don’t Pay Extra
Avoid paying single supplements, at all costs, especially if you do plan to book a tour. Unfortunately, this nasty trick of charging solo travelers extra was introduced by tour operators many years ago and held steady as a market norm. Fortunately, times are changing. Solo travelers are now a huge piece of the proverbial pie and as such, tour operators are competing for their business. All that means single supplements are disappearing. Some tour companies simply don’t have them, while others will bunk you with another solo traveler to keep their own costs down. Exodus Travels is one that will put you with another person in your group, same sex only, unless there isn’t anyone to match you with in which case you’ll get your own accommodation, at no extra charge. Sounds like a good deal to me!
There’s a group of volunteers called Greeters established all over the world. They meet up with travelers to a city and show them their best of the city. So now I check my destinations to see if there is a Greeters group there to give me the inside scoop!
–Holly, Globe Blogging
When Holly sent me this tip, I wrote back to her immediately, how had I never heard of this before?! I think this is such a cool and genuine idea. It’s free to use, so do but respectful of your greeters time and show up for any booking you make. Basically, these people are locals who volunteer to meet tourists, show them around a bit and give them the inside scoop on the place they’re visiting. Greets are supposed to last about an hour but there’s no rules saying you can’t become best friends during your time there! Personally, I think meeting locals is so vital to any trip, and what a way to get a little toe in the door!
Couchsurfing is an awesome website that lists people who are offering their couches, for free, to travelers to their homes. You might be reading this tip thinking ‘hell no’ but wait, it’s honestly something you should consider. This piggy backs of off Holly’s tip of the importance of meeting locals. There are few better ways than to sleep on their couch (or floor, or blow up mattress, or spare bed). And there are so many good stories of couchsurfing out there to counter balance any horrors (probably fabricated) that you may have heard. I’ve couchsurfed all over the world, from Japan to Ireland and plenty of spots in between, and it’s given me an inside look at cultures and countries that I would never have otherwise gotten. Also, consider hosting where you live, then when you travel hit up your new connections for a floor to sleep on, or just recommendations for bars!
Free Walking Tours
Take advantage of free walking tours. Not only are they educational, but it’s a great way to meet fellow travelers.
–Michele, Pursuing Wanderlust
Yes to this! I have gone on so many walking tours in so many cities and I can’t recommend it enough. A quick Google search will show you what’s available in the city you’re visiting, or ask at your accommodation, hostels usually offer or point you in the direction of one. While there are some major corporations that offer tours all around the globe, it’s better to stick with something that is locally owned. That way not only are you getting your info from someone who really knows it, but you’re also putting your money in the hands of locals. Oh, right, it’s a free walking tour. Well, the guides work for tips, so while there’s no upfront cost tips are very highly recommended. Depending on your personal circumstances and how good your guide was I’d recommend between $5-10 per person, or equivalent.
Stay at Hostels
This is by far my favorite way to meet people. I could go on for days about the people I’ve met in hostels. Like the group I met at Smile Society in Bangkok who I then traveled around Northern Thailand with. Or the girl I met at Option Be in Cordoba who was from Portland and drove up to Seattle to go to a Taylor Swift concert with me, months later. Or all of the people who worked with me or who I met at Sleepzone in Lisdoovarna and the countless adventures and years I had with them. Hostelworld has complete listings of hostels around the world, and reading reviews there is the best way to get an idea of what each hostel is about. Some are more social than others and some are heavier into true partying. Also, if you’re not into the whole sharing a bedroom idea, plenty of hostels have private rooms which means you can have your own space but still take advantage of the common areas to meet new people.
Do Organized Activities
Take advantage of organized group activities such as tours and pub crawls to meet people!
–Sean, Living Out Lau
Yes! If you’re staying at a hostel, these are easy to identify as most hostels these days have nearly nightly activities. Otherwise, just do some simple Google searches of what’s going on in your area. Check Meetups, they are interest specific and will most likely be full with locals. Also, even if you’re not using Couchsurfing to Couchsurf, they often host events and meet ups in bigger cities. Facebook always maintains a listing of things going on everywhere (they literally know everything) and while these are often bigger events, they sometimes include meet up type activities. And finally, Airbnb experiences. Last year I took a cooking class in Cuba through Airbnb experiences and met a few others, two of whom were also solo. While we didn’t become besties, we did go for drinks after the class and chatted a bit.
Make yourself feel, everyday of your trip, as uncomfortable as scrolling past this photo just made you. Genuinely. If you’re headed out on your first solo trip, you’re already half way there. No go the full mile. Every. Single. Day. Do something that terrifies you. And that doesn’t have to be jumping out of an airplane, fuck jumping out of an airplane. Walk up to a stranger. Go to a bar by yourself. Put on the lipstick you never wear at home. Be uncomfortable.
Get Those Insta Shots
Take a flexible tripod with you so that you can take photos of yourself without anyone else’s help. And don’t be afraid to look silly. Life is meant to be silly.
–Jillian, Adventure Dragon
Talk about being uncomfortable. I still feel like an idiot taking photos of myself. But who the hell cares! If this is something you’ve saved up for, or if it isn’t, your memories need to include you in them. And I promise, you’re going to have to ask a million strangers before one of them gets that money shot. So just screw them and take it yourself! I have a Canon DSLR which is no joke so I travel with a pretty hefty Mefoto travel tripod which attaches to the bottom of my backpack that also holds my camera (and my laptop, it’s pretty dang versatile). If you’re just taking photos with your phone, and there’s nothing wrong with that, phone cameras are pretty badass these days, a flexible tripod which can be attached to anything is an excellent idea. This LinkCool tripod has lots of awesome features and can be wrapped around just about anything!
Excited yet? A little bit uncomfortable, gosh I hope so! This is going to be the trip of a lifetime. Drop those friends who never book the trips they say they will, get out there and do your solo traveling thing!
Got any other tips? Anything that really worked for you on your first solo trip abroad? Tell me about it in the comments!
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