8 Tips for Your First Solo Travel Adventure
by Lyle Daly | Sept. 5, 2019
Getting ready for a solo trip? Here’s how to make the most of it.
When you’re getting ready for your first solo travel experience, you’ll probably feel a range of emotions.
Traveling is always exciting, and a solo trip can be even more fun because you’re completely on your own. But the prospect of being alone in a foreign land can also make you feel more nervous.
If you follow some solo travel tips, odds are that you’ll have an amazing time on your trip.
1. Book accommodations that give you the opportunity to socialize
Instead of booking a hotel where you’re unlikely to meet anyone, book more social accommodations. Personally, I recommend using a vacation rental site that lets you rent a room in someone’s home (Airbnb is popular for this), as this is a great way to interact with a local.
Some hosts are more sociable than others, so as you browse room rentals, check the reviews to see if any past guests have mentioned that the host showed them around or hung out with them. If you don’t mind roughing it a bit, you could also try couch surfing.
Hostels are another type of accommodation where you can socialize, although you’ll usually meet fellow travelers instead of locals.
2. Learn a few phrases in the local language
The ideal scenario is that you speak the local language of the area where you’ll be traveling. When you can speak someone’s native tongue, it’s much easier to connect with them.
Even if you don’t speak the language, you can still learn some basic phrases. It will go down well with the locals and make things run more smoothly if you have a go.
3. Watch out for risky situations
While you should always be careful when traveling, there is more risk involved when you’re alone than when you’re in a group. You don’t have anyone else to watch your back, and many scams specifically target people who are alone.
Here are some safety guidelines to follow during solo travel:
- Read about common scams in the area you’re visiting before you go.
- Always watch your drinks and don’t consume too much alcohol.
- Keep your wallet in your front pocket or wear a money belt to protect your credit cards and cash.
- Be wary of strangers who offer to take you somewhere. There’s a popular scam where a seemingly friendly local takes a solo traveler to a bar or club, racks up a huge bill, and leaves. The bar/club pays the scam artist to bring in tourists, who then get stuck paying hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
- Don’t make yourself an easy target. Be aware of your surroundings, and avoid being too flashy.
4. Have a backup plan in case you lose your wallet
You don’t want to end up unable to buy anything or pay for your accommodations because your wallet gets lost or stolen. Here’s what you can do to prepare yourself in case this happens:
- Carry just one or two good travel credit cards and the cash you need for the day when you go out.
- Keep track of which credit cards you carry so you know which ones to replace if you lose your wallet.
- Put one or more backup payment methods, such as extra cash, another credit card or your debit card, and/or traveler’s cheques, in your luggage. You can use a luggage lock to ensure no one else can access your bag.
- Scan your passport and any other valuable documents, and then store them electronically. A quick, convenient way to do this is to download a scanning app, such as Scanbot, on your phone.
- Have an agreement with someone you trust to wire you money if you need it. You probably won’t, but it’s smart to have this option available as a last resort.
5. Don’t be afraid to go to restaurants on your own
Sometimes solo travelers have this irrational fear of going to restaurants as a party of one, and as a result, they miss out on the nicest dining opportunities.
Don’t think that you can only go to a nice restaurant if you’re with someone else, or that other diners will pity you for being alone. The waiters are there to do their job, and the other diners are there to enjoy a meal. No one will pay much attention if it’s just you at a table.
One way to make the solo dining experience more comfortable is to bring along something you can do. For example, you could take a book to read, your travel diary, or postcards to fill out. You’re less likely to feel self-conscious, and you won’t be bored as you wait for your food.
6. Try a walking tour
In many cities you can go on walking tours where a local guide takes you through different neighborhoods while telling you about the culture and history of the area.
These are a fun way to learn more about a city and socialize, as you’ll usually meet plenty of fellow travelers when you go. To make it even better, walking tours are easy on your budget, and sometimes they’re even free.
7. Leave your itinerary with someone you trust back home
Since you’ll be alone, it’s a good idea to leave your itinerary with a trusted family member or friend. That way, you’ll ensure that there’s someone who knows where you are and when you’re due to return home.
Make sure you keep in regular contact with them and let them know if you’ll be offline for a day or longer, as well. They’ll probably be happy to know how you’re trip is going, and you don’t want them to worry because they haven’t heard from you.
Savvy travelers often buy local SIM cards for their phones for better service and to get inexpensive mobile data. If you go that route, don’t forget to send the new phone number to your trusted family member/friend.
8. Make the most of your freedom
The great thing about a solo trip is that it’s entirely your own. You’re free to do whatever you want, and you don’t have to take anyone else into consideration. Here’s how to take full advantage:
- Don’t feel pressured to visit every “must-see” attraction just so you can say you’ve done it. Be selective and choose the ones that truly interest you.
- Remember that you don’t need to stuff your schedule with big attractions. Some days, you may just want to explore neighborhoods on foot or read at a café. It’s still fun, and you’ll save money.
- Go with the flow. Some of my favorite solo travel memories are the things I did on a whim without any planning.
Taking the leap into solo travel
Solo travel is very different from a group trip, but it can be just as exciting. By taking the right approach to your solo travels, you’ll ensure that you have a safe trip and that you make some incredible memories along the way.
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