I remember the anxiety I felt when I went on my first solo trip which was to India for 6 weeks. I was SO excited and part of me knew it would be wonderful and magical, but my mind often wandered off and worried about the following things so I wanted to put your mind at rest with some solo travel tips!
I think the idea of being alone was something I was excited about however being alone for six weeks was daunting especially for a social creature like myself. Let me tell you that travelling alone makes you a people magnet. You are so much more approachable then groups and everybody wants to be your friend. I have learnt to love and embrace this but I remember that first trip wondering when I will get a day where I can just go for a walk, go sit amongst nature and write, go off and explore the area, go take some photos and soak in my surroundings. Sometimes I am left trying to make excuses to get out of group situations so I can be alone with my thoughts so actually you will be grateful for alone time!
I have learnt to love and embrace this magnetism towards solo travellers, in fact you will probably meet some life-long friends. You have no walls or barriers with strangers, you generally skip small talk and often find yourself discussing thoughts in the depths of your mind, conversations are more profound. There is no fear of judgement, if someone judges you or you don’t like them, you can just walk away without giving them a second thought…harsh but true.
Do not worry about feeling alone, it is highly unlikely if you embrace your surroundings. I always find the people who feel alone are the ones who have fear and focus on all the discomforts of their surroundings. Those discomforts are there to teach us and accepting them will bring you the biggest lessons and satisfaction of all. Strangers will become your friends and if you click with people you will probably plan onwards travels together, its just normal and really fun so embrace it.
Often I travel to some pretty remote places so my concerns are whether I will be able to iterate what I need without speaking the lingo. Somehow you manage, whether it be sign language or using a dictionary, those games of charades are pretty funny but often you can get into frustrating situations! One of the most important solo travel tips is that you should try to learn the basics as it will save you a lot of time and energy. I learnt this the hard way when I went to South America for a year without knowing a word of Spanish.
I got picked up by a driver who could not even understand where I was trying to get to because it was a school and I didn’t know that the word for a school is escuela. I was taken to my accommodation not even knowing if it was where I had booked as there were no signs and there were things all over my room and I did not understand why they were there despite the full explanation in Spanish. Luckily for me it was just a case of a late check-out however things like that can be dangerous. If you haven’t learnt the basics invest in internet data so you can use an online dictionary to translate instantly. I learnt the basics in 2-3 weeks so if I can do it, you can do it!! Duolingo all the way!
Being a Victim
I remember when I told everyone I was going to South America alone, nobody seemed happy for me. Every single person scared me into thinking that it was dangerous and something would happen to me. Also I didn’t know anyone who had travelled alone who could give me some solo travel tips so here goes! Firstly, dismiss the negativity, you just need to have faith that you are protected and are going to have a wonderful time. Secondly, learn to be in tune with your instincts, if you get a bad vibe, leave! If someone is making you uncomfortable, just get yourself home or get to somewhere familiar – a big hotel, a train station, a police station, however extreme you think it may be, listen to yourself. My instincts have always kept me out of trouble! Always be weary, use your common-sense and ALWAYS be aware of your surroundings.
Being a female solo-traveller you will probably get a lot of attention from men, I was overwhelmed by how often men would approach me. I am pretty invisible in my native country but abroad you become exotic! Often they would just say hello or wish me a good-day, nothing seedy but then there are some who will try. Don’t be over-friendly with anyone, even women, generally have a chit chat, be friendly, but you don’t need to give them your bio. Be weary of telling anyone where you stay, you would never do it at home unless you really trusted them.
Too Much Luggage
This is something I ALWAYS struggle with …even now! I am slowly learning how to pack appropriately but I just want to say that if you can travel light then you should because it will make your travels so much easier. Chivalry is dead (in most places although sometimes I have been pleasantly surprised) so if you are expecting men to help you carry your suitcase up the stairs then you need to step into 2017!
You are gonna struggle, and yes I have backpacked and hiked with 28 kilos on my back and let me tell you I stopped enjoying the hike very quickly. You will push yourself to the halfway mark and then there will be no going back and you will regret those extra shoes, cosmetics, clothes you brought in case of extreme weather and hair-dryer that you used once in 2 months. These solo travel tips are all from experience and my best trip in terms of luggage was to Sri-Lanka and that’s because I only went for 3 days and I still packed for 5 which was easy in comparison to my usual longer trips. Don’t be that girl…or guy!
Budgeting and carrying money?
Lonely Planet is amazing for planning your budget and getting more solo travel tips, they will give you options and break it down to a daily spend so you have a guideline of what to stick to daily. Don’t forget to factor in days where you may do tours or activities as they will be significantly more. I usually carry a couple of cards with me, a debit and credit and pre-paid travel cards are great as you don’t pay a withdrawal fee on some. Invest in a bum-bag or “fanny-pack” as Americans call it, the discreet kind not the 70’s neon ones. The idea is to hide your money not draw attention to it!
This is what concerns others most about when I travel because I usually stay in hostels. “how can you stay in a hostel?”, “isn’t it dirty?”, “where do you keep your stuff, don’t people steal your things?”. My mum went travelling alone when she was in her late teens and she is the one who introduced me to hostels.
Firstly they are a fraction of the price, secondly for solo travellers this is where you are likely to meet the most people and other solo travellers. When I stay in hotels nobody really approaches me and its kind of boring in comparison. Hostels have no social rules, it is ok to walk into the hostel and say hello to anyone and everyone, they all do it. I remember checking into my first hostel in Goa, people came and started talking to me and I ended up sat in the common room for ages with them chatting till the early hours of the morning. When I checked into my hostel in Miami, people came and asked me if I wanted to go clubbing as they were leaving soon and I went with them. People usually hang out in big groups and then you find the ones you have the most in common with and maybe you will break away into a small groups. Hostels plan activities and even have group events throughout the day to keep you entertained and its generally a younger crowd and no families.
In Goa I found a group of people at our hostel called Asterix and we all hired scooters and went on adventures to different beaches everyday, it was great! The hostel itself was amazing! Common areas, breakfast included, safe and clean! I had a private room…yes you can get private rooms, it was huge and was around $12 per night! I had my own rooftop terrace and one night our whole group slept up their, stargazing. ALWAYS check reviews of your hostels first, some are pretty shabby but in general mine have been clean and safe. There are lockers for your things. If you share dorms always use the lockers and don’t take any chances because you never know.
I hope you find these solo travel tips useful, feel free to add your own in the comments section.