SOLO TRAVEL TIPS FOR NEWBIES
‘I could never travel overseas by myself!’ ‘Don’t you get lonely?’ ‘Omg, are you nervous?!’
Are all things I hear anytime I mention I’m going on a trip solo. What on earth should I possibly be worried about I think to myself? Oh boy am I kidding! That’s not what I think at all. However, it makes me sad hearing people say they would never be brave enough to travel alone. Trust me, YOU ARE, and these solo travel tips might just help.
I totally get the fear around solo travel. I’m not going to beat around the bush and say ‘everything will be peachy,’ and ‘that will never happen!’ Because realistically, not just solo travel but ANY kind of travel can be scary. It can get lonely as hell. It does feel intimidating at times. People at home may think you’re a weirdo for wanting to travel by yourself. Plans go tits up. You’ll come across shit you never wish you saw. Creepy old men will cat call you from across the street while attempting to sell you a wooden croaking frog (if you know, you know) I could go on and on.
Despite all of these, on the total upside I’ve never heard a single soul say they regret travelling solo. If we didn’t get ourselves into a pickle every now and again, how boring would we be? It’s all part of this little old adventure we call life. You’ll meet insanely interesting and kooky people from all around the world, immerse yourself in exotic cultures, find yourself at epic parties with the most random of people, learn crazy new things, and eat some of the most delish cuisine you’ll be drooling over for years to come. This is supposed to be one of the most exciting times of your whole damn life and hopefully some of these solo travel tips will make it that little bit easier!
This post isn’t too scare you off solo travel, it’s to be totally straight up and share with you the harsh realities and my best solo travel tips to overcome your fears to travel all by yourself. Especially as a female so many red flags are put on us saying we shouldn’t travel alone, which in my mind is ridiculous! Shouldn’t we all feel safe and empowered enough to travel alone if we want to? Travelling solo sure as hell can be intimidating, but with a sense of adventure and a bit of cautious common sense you can confidently experience the pure freedom of solo travel, nearly anywhere in the world. After a bit of experience myself I now don’t even give it a second thought!
I obviously had the first time solo traveller in mind when writing these solo travel tips, but every single one of them applies to any kind of traveller.
So, if you’re dabbling with the idea of travelling, keep reading.
Solo Travel Tips
STAY IN BACKPACKERS
Staying in backpackers and overcoming loneliness go hand in hand. Damn straight you’ll get lonely at one point or another during your travels, so finding a like minded travel buddy will make a world of difference! I’ve read so many blogs and had countless people tell me that ‘all of your worries will go away as soon as you step off that plane.’ Which yeah okay in some cases is true, but others, not so much. They don’t talk about the homesickness that hits you halfway through your trip or the feeling of sometimes just needing your mum, and that is totally normal! Personally I don’t usually get nerves heading out and about by myself anymore, but it’s not until the crippling feeling of loneliness hits that things start to get harder. Honestly, the main thing that always helps me overcome this is meeting people who are in the same boat. A backpackers is the perfect place to find these babes.
Don’t expect to book into a backpackers and instantly meet people, it doesn’t always quite work out like that. I’m naturally a shy person and can get very uncomfortable and anxious in social situations, so I fully understand it’s not as easy as it sounds to just go up to someone and fire up a convo. Trust me when I say giving yourself a little push out of your comfort zone and making yourself willing and open to talk and mingle with someone, will be so refreshing. You’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.
Backpackers are the most welcoming, free spirited and down to earth people in the world, so please don’t feel intimidated. 9 times out of 10 every other backpacker will be stoked to talk to you and hear all about your adventures so far. Even if you’re the shyest girl in the world, I promise you will make friends! You can blame me if you don’t.
I know your mum probably told you not to talk to strangers, but if you follow your gut and have a good sense of character then you’ll be chatting up a storm, downing a cheeky two for one bevvy over some hectic drinking game, and going for some cheap nasty street food with your new mates before you know it. And hey if you embarrass yourself you don’t ever have to see these people again, right? Haha. What in the world have you got to lose?
Backpackers always seem to have some sort of deal or activity on whether it’s happy hour, free walking tours, a group dinner deal, or some sort of wild, themed party!
THERE’S A DIFFERENCE IN BEING ‘ALONE’ AND BEING ‘LONELY’
Don’t forget there’s a huge difference in being ‘alone’ and being ‘lonely’. I’m the Queen of being all about having some chill time alone- it’s amazing from time to time! Just don’t fall into the trap of doing it too often that you end up being cooped up in your room 24/7. Get amongst it and go do some cool shit! Even just making it downstairs for the free breakfast bright and early- you’ll be chatting away having a jolly good time with the fellow backpacker sitting next to you and before you know it, you’ll have your whole day planned ahead within minutes!
Some of the best memories I’ve had when solo travelling involve people I’ve met from my backpackers. The only downside is when you form such a strong bond with someone only to part ways with them the next morning. Always the way!
Your safety should be your main priority when solo travelling. Sometimes you’ll feel like you’re constantly watching over your shoulder while trying to put yourself out there, a tricky thing to balance. Be cautious, trust your instincts and just do the best you can with the situation you’re in. If something feels off you don’t have to explain yourself, trust yourself.
DON’T ARRIVE LATE
Try avoid arriving late at your destination. Check the time your flight/train/bus gets in and choose the one that arrives while the sun’s still out, at least this way you can see where the taxi driver is taking you. Much safer than being in an unknown city, alone, at at ungodly hour of the night. I tend not to walk down dingy dark alley ways at 4am either and if you’re wandering about at night drinking- do it with someone! Don’t stop having fun, just listen to your gut and remember these solo travel tips.
BE WEARY OF THOSE DAMN PICKPOCKETS
Look out for those sneaky little devils that are known as pick pockets. In many of the countries I’ve been to the children are actually the ones instructed by their parents to do the act, so sad! Take note as literally any Tom, Dick, Harry or old mate could be doing the dirty without the slightest suspicion.
When I was in Rome my passport was taken while being packed like sardines on a train. It wasn’t until I got back to my campsite and began searching for my passport to head to the Vatican City the next day that I started shitting my pants and rummaged through my entire bag, chucking all my belongings around the joint in search for this bloody passport. I obviously had no luck and had to traipse across the city in the sweltering heat to hunt down the NZ Embassy in Italy, and went through the mission and struggle of trying to converse with the foreign police to get a stolen report. I know it’s impossible to avoid this happening, but if you ask me at least try and take all the precautions you can. A solo travel tip I wouldn’t take lightly.
KEEP YOUR BACKPACK CLOSE
Always wear your handbag across your body. Keep your backpack strapped on tight. Zip everything up and keep your hand on your bag, especially when in big crowds, and put your bag to the front so you can see what’s going on- making it less likely for sneaky hands to get into your bag when you’re not looking. You can also get small bags that you wear flat under your clothes to keep your valuables in- passports, visas, cash, etc. It’ll make you feel a lot more safe and stop you from thinking about it every second.
I’d also advise not letting others carry your bag. As nice as they may seem it’s safer to hold onto it yourself so you know where it is, always. A padlock wouldn’t go a miss too. Not only to put on your bag while roaming around, but attach to your locker back at your accommodation.
JOT DOWN LOCAL EMERGENCY NUMBERS
Having the local emergency numbers stored in your phone and insurance policy details on hand are worth thinking about- I highly recommend getting insurance. Fingers crossed you’ll never have to actually use these.
KEEP YOUR MONEY SEPERATE
As far as your moola goes split it up into smaller amounts and stash your money separately, some in your day bag and some in your backpack at your accommodation. That way if something does happen at least you won’t have zilch. There would be nothing worse than being stranded in a foreign country with nothing to your name! Try and break your larger notes into smaller amounts too, most smaller shops don’t have change for larger notes anyway.
The last thing you want to do is whip out a whole wad of cash and risk a pick pocket noticing you have all them dollar bills, immediately making you a target and much more vulnerable. It’ll become harder to haggle on a price for something too. If a sales person has just seen you with a lot more than what you’re offering, they won’t fall for the old ‘that’s all the money I have’ trick. And who doesn’t love a good bargain.
KEEP IN TOUCH
Always keep in contact with your loved ones and let someone know a rough outline of where you’re gallivanting too or what shenanigans you’re getting up to, incase things go pear shaped. My family always likes to have an idea where I’ll be on which dates. Think back to yonks ago when our grandparents would have sailed on ships across the oceans and went weeks on end without any contact. We are literally riddled with ways of keeping contact so we’d be silly not to use them!
Even just post a quick photo on social media. I know a lot of the time WIFI isn’t a luxury when travelling, especially in third world countries, but even if it’s just a quick ‘g’day mate’ as often as you can, will put their mind at ease.
BE ORGANISED AND PREPARED
Okay, I mean this to an extent. I personally think organising too far in advance isn’t always the best way, who knows which place you’ll like more than others?! Having a few odd things mapped out and learning the basics before setting off, is always a good starting point.
MAKE NOTES AND RESEARCH
Use a wee note book or even just the ‘notes’ app on your phone to jot down all the important things- booking reference numbers, times of flights, address of backpackers, etc. Download or screenshot public transport and street maps, the Citymapper app is great for this. Research the dodgy areas to avoid, learn how much taxis should cost to avoid paying three times the price, make scanned copies of your passport and visas, and bring extra passport photos incase you’re asked for them at a border to a different country. Remember you may not always have WIFI so having these scribbled down somewhere could potentially be a lifesaver, and will make you feel so much more organised.
Clue up on tipping rules, respectful dress codes (pack a lightweight scarf to cover your shoulders in certain countries) and even learn simple phrases like ‘hi,’ ‘yes,’ ‘no,’ and ‘thankyou,’ to make things a little easier for yourself.
I always check out reviews when hunting down which backpackers to stay at, which can get overwhelming at the best of times! Theres always a million that sound right up my alley. This one has beer pong olympics and open mic nights, this one sounds nice and chill, that one offers airport pickups, this one has free breakfast- how do I possibly choose!? Hop onto hostelworld.com and have a nosey at all the reviews from other backpackers that have recently stayed, look at star ratings, location and photos. Eventually you’ll whittle it down to the most appealing one. If a place has no reviews and next to no photos, scroll onto the next.
BOOK ONTO A TOUR, IF THAT TICKLES YOUR FANCY
If you’re still a little hesitant and worried about travelling solo on your first trip, organise a tour. Some people are so consumed by doing it completely ‘solo’, but in my eyes there is absolutely no shame in booking with a tour group. It’s an amazing way to kickstart your trip, grow some confidence and get used to the culture. You’ll have almost everything organised for you and pretty much have the friends situation in the bag already, win! The downside is that group tours are way more structured and don’t give you as much freedom that solo travel does, plus tours always tend to be more expensive than going at it alone. But if you’ve got the pennies to spend, why not!
You’ll go days without a proper shower. You’ll get a sore back from your rock hard bed. You will sleep through your alarm and miss your bus- oopsies. You’ll forget the last time you didn’t have to use a scody public toilet and share a room with the dude that snores like mad. Travelling isn’t always a walk in the park, but if you’re realistic and don’t set your expectations for everything to go absolutely fine and dandy, then you’ll be hooning around the world having a grand old time before you know it.
Be realistic with the time you have up your sleeve and how much you can fit into your plans. If you try and cram too much into your trip you’ll find yourself spending way more time napping on the floor of the airport, than exploring the actual city!
Being a first time solo traveler don’t feel like you have to go to the most outrageous, exotic countries, and do all the wild and spontaneous things all in one go. It’s impossible to tick off everything all in one trip, and don’t forget, you can always go back! You’ve got the rest of your life ahead of you. Start off small and be sensible with what you can handle, everyone is different. Go somewhere where the language barrier and culture shock isn’t too difficult. Even just go on a roadie by yourself in your own backyard, you’ve gotta start from somewhere!
TAKE NO SHIT
This solo travel tip is definitely easier said than done, especially when you’re actually in this situation. But if you act confident, no one will question you, right?! Right. Whether it’s a taxi driver or market seller, they have some crazy power to spot you from a blimmin’ mile away. As soon as they see your nerves creeping up they’ll pounce on you to sell you everything besides the kitchen sink.
This goes together with the previous solo travel tip of being prepared. If you already have an idea of how much something will cost you shouldn’t get ripped off when they try to take advantage of you and offer a higher price. Walk with confidence and put your foot down if you feel the need, otherwise you’ll dig yourself a deeper hole.
Wrapped up in a nut shell, don’t take shit from anyone.
Be confident in the way you meet new people. If they don’t like you, who cares! Grow some balls and ask people to take photos of you when travelling solo. Get all the photos, you’ll look back and wish you did otherwise.
Do. not. overpack. Plain and simple. The last thing you want is to be lugging around a humungous backpack, especially if you have no friends there to help you. It’ll save you a broken back and additional money checking in your luggage at the airport. I’m sure as hell you won’t need a million different tops, five lipsticks and your fanciest bling.
Leave your most personal possessions at home to be on the safe side. The essentials like your camera and phone that you have packed, be cautious and avoid showing them off.
The power of a smile and saying hi is one of the best powers you could use. You have no idea how much it could brighten someones day! Be someone you’d like to meet. In invaluable solo travel tip in my eyes.
Remember know matter where you go in this big old world, things are different. People are different, culture is different, language and slang is different. In England they call what us Kiwis know as ‘lunch,’ ‘dinner’ haha. Just because something or someone is different, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be nice.
I’ve seen so many tourists walking around being super rude to locals. I know some people can just be dicks, but there are so many beautiful, fascinating local people out there that would love to talk your ear off with all their knowledge and insight into the best spots in their land. Some you otherwise wouldn’t have even known existed.
All in all solo travel isn’t for everyone. But if it is for you I hope some of these solo travel tips help you feel a little more confident to do so. Don’t let anyone hold you back from travelling. If none of your friends want to go to the same place, don’t have the same interests as you, or are just a wee bit lazy, do it anyway! There’s no shame in going alone. I promise it’ll be one of the best things you ever do for yourself. Embrace the experience and the country you’re in, warts in all. Solo travelling gives you the freedom to call all of the shots, you don’t have to compromise and waste two hours of your day deciding as a group where to eat, you can go with flow, mate, even change your mind every hour if that’s what you want to do.
You go Glen Coco!
Thanks for reading my best solo travel tips,
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