20 indispensable tips for the solo traveller
Planning on hitting the road alone? Don’t miss our 20 tips for the solo traveller
Travelling by yourself is becoming increasingly popular. While the idea might remain scary to some, the number of solo travellers is on the up. Low-cost travel has of course played its part, and for every one that comes back from a solo adventure, at least one other is inspired to do the same.
If you’re a solo traveller – seasoned or novice – check out our 20 tips on how to travel alone. Some might seem obvious, some might seem scary, and some might just make your toes curl, but trust us: they’re all worth thinking about.
1. Get out of your comfort zone
Travelling solo gives you the opportunity to do what you want, when you want it. But make sure you don’t fall into the comfort trap. Know your strengths, go at your own pace – but challenge yourself! No matter if it’s talking to strangers or switching off that GPS for a day – do something that makes you think “Eeeek!”
2. Eat like a local
Food is such an integral part of travel. From tiny street stalls to market grub, get out and see what the locals are eating. If it’s not a good idea for foreigners to take a bite, there’s a good chance you’ll be told, but the likelihood is that you’re in for a treat. So when you’re out there, take the plunge and eat something you don’t recognise.
3. Couch surf
It’s not for everyone, but if you’re looking to meet locals or for a free place to stay, you can’t go wrong with couch surfing. The rise of sofa-loaning means that it’s far safer than it sounds. You don’t have to do it for the whole trip if you’re unsure about it. Give it a go. If it works do it again. If not, hey, you’ve already done number 1 on this list!
4. Learn a bit of the lingo
You don’t need to learn complicated sentences, but a few words can go far. Please, thank you, yes, no, the name of the country you’re from – they can all help, and if your accent isn’t up to scratch, then it’ll only make people smile.
5. Make the most out of local contacts
Meet up with friends of friends and milk them for all they’re worth. Local knowledge is like gold dust to the solo traveller. It’s very easy to go along with the crowds when you travel alone, but if you know someone who knows the back alleys and the side streets – you’ll come home with some special stories.
6. Listen to your gut
Trust your instincts! If you think that alley looks a bit off, don’t go down it. If that person seems a bit shifty, make your excuses. If that bridge looks a bit wobbly, don’t cross it. Travelling alone is no time to be a hero.
7. Lie a little
Not everyone needs to know you’re travelling solo. Tell people you’re meeting your friends/husband/wife if in doubt. In some countries, it can help to have a fake wedding ring you can slip on if you feel the need.
8. Eat alone and sit at the bar
Eating alone can be a great icebreaker. Sit at the bar – if there is one – and get chatting to the staff, or your neighbours. If you don’t make new friends, you can at the very least get some local insight.
9. Pack wisely
No matter if you’ll be staying in the same place for weeks, or if you’ll be moving around constantly – don’t over pack. It’s an obvious tip, but one that really matters when you’re alone. Last thing you need is to drag a huge suitcase around with you – even if it is just from car to motel and back again.
10. Go on organised tours
Once in a while organised tours are just the ticket. If you’re pressed for time or just want to see local sights with an expert, there’s no shame. They give you the chance to meet other travellers, get information you probably won’t have heard otherwise, and have some time off being the organiser.
11. Buy a local SIM card
If you’re travelling for a while, it’s wise to invest in a local SIM card. Pop it in, give your new number to the people that need it, and get going. If you’re hoping to keep social media updated while you’re away – they’re essential!
12. Download useful apps
13. Talk to people
At the market, at the hotel, in the restaurant, at the shops, in the taxi – just jump in. It might seem weird at first, but you never know what you might learn, or who you might meet.
14. Double your documents
Boring but important. Take a photo or a scan of all your documents; email them both to someone you can trust, and yourself. If something goes missing, you’ve got a backup.
15. Be safe
So important – if not for your safety, for the peace of mind of loved ones. Text someone back home every time you leave and arrive somewhere, and be sure that someone you trust has your complete itinerary. If you’re going out hiking, kayaking or doing something else by yourself while away, let someone – your hotel/motel/campsite – know.
16. Get insured
It doesn’t cost much for peace of mind. You never, ever know what might happen, from airline bankruptcies to accidents you didn’t see coming, you’ll kick yourself if you’re not insured.
17. Buy your own GPS
If you’re hiring a car, be sure to check out how much the GPS costs at the hire company – and then check out how much one costs to buy. If you’re planning on driving for more than a week, it could well be cheaper to buy your own and take it with you.
18. Something to read
You will have time to read. Whether it’s after a long day on the road, a hard day of chilling on the beach, or an active day out meeting new people, there’s nothing like kicking back with a good book. An e-reader is crucial if you’re going to be bringing more than one book. The space saved in packing alone makes them worth it.
19. Get off the beaten path
Don’t always follow the crowds. Sure, a guided tour or the fastest route every now and then is a must, but when you can, take the road less travelled.
20. Be respectful
No matter where you’re going in the world, make sure you’re down with the local customs and dos and don’ts. While some slips will be forgiven, there are some things that you just shouldn’t do. It won’t take long to find out the dos and don’ts, so make sure you’re clued up, and put on your polite hat.