I’m equally comfortable traveling solo or with others. What I like best about traveling alone is that I can follow my own path. I’ve done it for awhile now, so I’m pretty comfortable squatting almost anywhere. If you’re thinking about taking a trip alone and never tried before, there are some basic things you can do, regardless of your gender.
Before booking your trip, the main thing you should ask yourself is if you’re comfortable doing things on your own at home. If the answer is no, then you may not enjoy traveling solo. If you’re not sure, then you might want to try booking a trip alone but on a cruise or as part of a tour group for your first time. This way you can go alone, but you will have people that you can reach out to quickly if you find that you’re uncomfortable.
Here are nine tips for traveling on your own.
Before you go
I know I sound like a broken record starting my tips with this one, but especially when you’re traveling alone, you want to know a lot about where you’re going. You can check the official tourism websites for a destination you want to visit, but they are not objective. Their goal is to make everything look amazing to attract visitors. If you want the real deal, check sources like bloggers, Instagram, Twitter (look under the hashtag #TTOT) or forums like Traveltalkonline. These are some great spots to receive in-depth information from locals and visitors about safety and culture, as well as get answers to your questions.
Make sure to check ahead of time what areas to stay away from and double check the information when you arrive in your destination city. The people you stay with should be able to make sure you spend your time in the right spots.
Try Couchsurfing or Airbnb
Couchsurfing.com is an online community of travelers around the world who share their spare rooms or couches with strangers for free. They’re willing to host you and provide recommendations on where to go. Through airbnb.com, you can stay in a room in someone’s house. The ratings and reviews on the site can help you find places to stay with reputable hosts.
I’ve mentioned before that I prefer to pack light. When traveling solo, it’s a great habit to get into because you make sure all of your essentials are with you in a carry-on and personal item bag (like a backpack). It helps you move around easier and avoids lost luggage. Read Do you really need to take that with you for my tips on packing light. You want to dress for comfort. Additional tips: Split up your cash and credit cards into different spots so if you lose one set you still have another. Always have some emergency money hidden somewhere on you.
While you’re there
Look for warnings about destinations you are about to visit by checking with your country’s department that issues travel warnings. For example, in the US it’s found under Alerts & Warnings. When you’ve arrived at your destination location, make sure to keep up with things that are going on and connect with family and friends regularly about your itinerary. Find places with reliable hotspots close to where you will be staying to keep in touch. Beware of what sites you log into and your passwords when it’s free wifi, especially if it’s not password protected. I recommend buying a travel data plan.
Personal safety and protection of your valuables can be a big concern but needn’t be such a fear that you become paranoid. Try not to dress like an obvious tourist (fanny packs, cameras swinging, and home country flag patches). Travel gadgets can help hide keys and money if you have to leave them unattended, like when you’re swimming. Don’t flash money, expensive technology or wear expensive jewelry.
Know where to go and where not to go
Don’t let fear rule you. Of course, there are places that you want to stay away from depending on what is happening and also areas that you want to be careful of when you’ve reached your destination. Use common sense and be observant of your surroundings, and you should be ok. Stick to main roads sand well-lit areas when possible. If you come close to dangerous neighborhoods, you’ll usually find that someone will warn you before you get into it too far. But make sure you walk with confidence if you do end up in one.
It’s obviously ok not to let strangers know you are alone. You can always say you’re waiting to meet someone until you’re sure they are trustworthy.
Discover secret spots by getting to know people that work at stores, in hotels or security guards, taxi drivers, and bartenders. If I’m staying at a hotel, I always grab a drink at the hotel’s bar. Bartenders have the scoop on things to do, and if you feel nervous dining alone for the first time, you have someone to talk to while you grab a drink or snack.
Learn from those who live in the country you’re visiting. Make it a point to avoid other travelers occasionally and start conversations with people that live there. People across the world speak basic English, so it’s easier to communicate than you might think. Hand gestures and body language also help express messages.
If you feel uncomfortable talking to strangers or think people seem unfriendly, try making eye contact and smiling. If they smile back, say hello in their language and take it from there.
Make new friends. If you’re not comfortable couchsurfing, try citysocializer.com. Through this site, you can find people to meet up with for dinner, drinks or a show.
Choose your adventure
Try to do things that push you outside of your comfort zone. It doesn’t have to be something extreme like bungee jumping or cliff diving. It could be anything you wouldn’t consider doing at home like singing in front of strangers or taking lessons doing something you’ve never tried. You might be surprised to discover what you’re capable of when no one is watching.
Try volunteering or lending a hand
The smallest acts of kindness are always appreciated, no matter where you are in the world. It can be as small as opening a door, helping someone that is elderly to walk across the street or taking a picture. You can even volunteer some of your time while you’re there. It’s not only rewarding, but you’ll learn more about the country and its people. It can also help you make new friends.
Grassrootsvolunteering.org recommends volunteer opportunities around the world.
These are some of my tips for traveling alone. I will follow this up with a post about my favorite destinations to visit alone. What are some of your tips for vacationing solo?