I am a huge advocate of solo traveling. Over the years, I have solo travelled and the more I have done it, the more I have fallen in love with it. Many of my fellow travellers who want to explore the world of solo traveling have had many questions and have been too scared to take that first step. In this post, I would like to answer all those questions and tips to help travellers especially female travellers take their step into solo traveling. Traveling solo for the first time can be intimidating. I am always nervous and excited whenever I head off for my solo travels.
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What is solo traveling?
Solo traveling is when a person travels alone irrespective of which phase they are in their life. The person is not forced but they want to travel alone because they want to.
I frequently get asked questions about solo travels and how one can start solo traveling. Solo travels are often considered as a brave act, especially for women. But I say it is not. Okay, let me explain! If one takes precautions and decides on the right place, it is quite easy to travel solo.
How do you decide a place for first solo travel?
As a starting point, just to get the flavour for solo travels, I would suggest two approaches.
- Start with a place that is closer to home. Research and read about the place before going ahead with bookings and planning. Read how safe the place is, how friendly it is for tourists and travelers. Talk to people (friends, family, and travel bloggers) who have traveled to those places and find out how easy it is to travel in the place.
I started my first official solo travel in Australia. I was living in Melbourne and I had no company for travel. So, I decided to take the step and travel to a place closer to Melbourne. The passion for travel overtook the wait to find company. I went to Port Fairy for the weekend and I had an amazing time exploring the place.
Remember if you don’t feel comfortable about a place, then don’t go. It is as simple as that. Do not force yourself. I have cancelled my travel at the last moment (about 2 days before my travel) as I was not comfortable traveling alone to that place. So, it’s okay. But make sure to always book refundable tickets. Even though they are a bit expensive, they are the best way to be secure when something goes wrong.
- Go to a place where you have friends, family or anyone you know. This way you can have a balance between solo travel and having a company in the new place. Explore the new place alone or do one day solo trips in the new place, just to try out if you like solo traveling or not.
At the end of the day, solo travel is also about exploring what you like and what you don’t. To feel comfortable and be happy with yourself without anyone else around. So experiment different ideas and see what works for you. There is nothing right or wrong.
What are the things that you do before heading off on your first solo travel?
Over the years, I have also learned to do a few things prior to my travels so I have mitigated some risks to a certain extent.
- Always ensure to call and confirm your bookings with the providers in spite of getting confirmation emails. If not all, at least for the first few activities, hotel/ hostel bookings. I have had instances where I have received confirmation emails and I have rocked up just to find the system has never sent an email to the providers.
- Even though you do not have to plan every single detail of your trip, it is still a good idea to have a draft itinerary showcasing what you are doing at a high level. I know this makes it hard for long travels but having a rough idea gives a lot of security.
- Draft your itinerary with the important numbers such as hostel contact details and send a copy of your itinerary to at least two friends or family members just in case of emergency.
- This is specifically for Australian residents: You can register your travel details on Smart Traveller website owned by the government.
- Store soft copies of all your documents including passport, itinerary, credit/ debit cards on your emails and phone so it is accessible just in case you lose them during your travels.
- After carrying 28 kilos during my Norway trip and 18 kilos during my New Zealand trip, I realised that heavy backpacks/ suitcases are not cool. So make an effort in traveling light. Try your best to pack exactly what is required and most times reuse your clothes.
- Do not carry too much cash and distribute your cash in multiple places.
What precautions do you take at the new place or a country?
- Always stay at hostels or reputed hotels as it is more safe than staying at places that are isolated or do not have good reviews. Also, always stay at places that are in the Central Business District (CBD) or the city as including the safety aspect, they are also very convenient.
- Do not venture out at nights alone. Try to be back at the hostel/hotel before its becomes dark and isolated. Some of the places abroad tend to get isolated very soon especially during winters. So, avoid venturing out.
- Do not take drinks or food from any strangers.
- Read reviews about the travel providers for the day trips. This gives a sense of whether they are authentic or not.
- Always ensure to let your friends/ family know about your whereabouts. Or at least check in on social medias every once in a while.
- Always carry a padlock when traveling just in case you want to lock your backpack or put things in a locker.
- Suggest traveling by either public transport or reputed taxi providers. Mostly take taxis from providers like Uber or Ola.
P.S. DO NOT CARRY things like pepper spray. You will be detained at the airports and in countries like Australia, it is illegal to carry them.
How do you travel on a budget?
Trust me! Traveling with good planning does not cost you much. A few years ago I did write about how I get money to travel and how I save money while traveling. Budgeted travels are easy and if planned well, travels can be doable with very little money.
How to take pictures during solo travels?
I believe in taking lots of pictures. I love capturing each and every moment. Honestly speaking, I do not post about 90% of the pictures I take, in spite of posting so many pictures. So you can imagine how many I take. Anyway this becomes an issue while solo traveling. I have tried and experimented a few ways and have found ways where I can take pictures when I am traveling alone. Read Taking pictures when traveling alone for more details.
Do you get lonely when you travel alone?
Another very common question that I get asked by the people who want to travel solo. To answer the question, most times I do not feel lonely. I love solo travels and I enjoy them a lot. But sometimes I do feel lonely, especially when I am on long solo travels, and I do miss my family and friends. There is no doubt about that. However, traveling solo does not mean that you have to do everything alone or can’t make friends while traveling.
Some of the things that I do when I am traveling to new places so I can meet like minded people.
- Generally take walking or day tours where you can meet fellow and other solo travelers too, who then become friends. And sometimes there are older couples on the tours who take care of you like their own kids. It’s pretty awesome.
- Stay at hostels where you can meet many people. Hang out with a few of them where you can explore the places together. (I am not sure how this will change in the new world though post COVID travel, only time will tell.) And many of these people you meet at the hostels will be your friends forever.
- Talk to the locals, at restaurants, bars or cafes. Strike conversations with a lot of people and you would be surprised how much information you get from locals.
- RSVP for local meetups (use meetup.com) and find events that interest you. Then go meet the people who have the same interests. I generally tend to go hiking or any activity based meetups.
- Catch up with acquaintances or friends or anyone living at that place. This gives a sense of familiarisation and you will feel safe.
- Meet a lot of people at different activities that you end up doing, like scuba diving. I am still in touch with a lot of people I met while diving.
- If none of these work and if you still miss your family or friends, then use the technology. Video call them. It is as simple as that.
Solo traveling is fun. I would say that at least try solo traveling once before you make up your mind of whether you like it or not. Regarding the questions, I have tried to answer all the questions and clarifications that I have been asked from past many years. If you have more questions, then let me know in the comments below and I will try to answer them.
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