Whether you haven’t met that special someone to travel with, you’re friends don’t have the same availability as you, or you are going on a business trip, traveling alone is an entirely different experience than going with another person. Whatever the reason is, don’t let that hold you back from seeing the world. In fact, sometimes the best travel companion you can have is yourself (sounds like a Dove chocolate wrapper, I know). If you’re planning on going abroad for the first time by yourself, you may feel terrified and hesitant right now. However, don’t worry, because I have a few tips that will help you turn that fear into excitement and hesitation into preparation.
I went out of the country for the first time without someone else in the Fall of last year. Instead of staying home because I didn’t have someone by my side, I did some research and found the confidence I needed to have an unforgettable experience. There is something to be said for being able to indulge yourself fully in a culture different from your own, and do so exactly the way you want. In this experience your mistakes are your own, and your triumphs are all the more exciting. There is no worrying about being on someone else’s schedule or compensating on what you want to do each day; you can do what you want when you want.
While I could sit here and list a million reason’s you should set off to have your experience, I’m sure you can make your own list of whether you will or not. What I’m here to do instead is help you feel prepared to make this happen.
TRAVEL SAFE AND SMART
Perhaps the biggest concern of solo traveling is safety. Yes, without someone to watch your back, you’re more vulnerable to scam artists, knowing where you are, and simple health concerns. However, the saying “safety in numbers” isn’t necessarily true if you travel smart. For instance, a solo traveler can blend in more easily than a group of tourists. Take a look at these tips below and see the best ways to make your solo experience happen, while being comfortable abroad.
1. Book a hotel or hostel with a 24-hour front desk:
If you’ll be arriving late, this will ensure that you have someone to show you where to go so you don’t end up getting locked out of your room. Also having a 24-hour desk, can make you feel better knowing someone is on the “lookout” outside at all times.
2. Trust your gut:
This is huge! If something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. It’s not worth it.
3. Stick to open places, especially at night:
This is pretty straightforward. Just be smart and avoid any unnecessary harm.
4. Start your day off early:
Starting your day off early, not only gives you more time in the day, but it gets in a full day of travel without having to be out at night by yourself.
5. Plan out your transportation before you head out:
Know where you’re going and how you’re getting there when you’re in your room instead of getting outside and looking lost. Standing around not knowing where to go puts a big flashing arrow above your head saying “tourist, tourist, tourist” to scam artists.
6. Leave a copy of your itinerary with family and friends at home
This is just a safety precaution, just incase anything were to happen. By leaving an itinerary with your friends and family at home, if for some reason you don’t get back at night to notify them, they can check in to see if everything is okay.
7. Download SafeTrek
SafeTrek is an app for personal safety for both Android and iOS. This app was made for women walking home at night and is perfect if you feel you’re in an uncomfortable position. Open the app if you’re walking in an unsafe area and hold down the button until safe. Once you’re safe, release the button and enter your 4 digit pin. If you do not enter your pin within 10 seconds the police will be notified of your location and emergency. If something happens, simply let go of the safe button and don’t enter your pin.
8. Keep an emergency number in your wallet
Having an emergency number in your wallet ensures that if something happens to you, someone has a number to contact.
9. Stay somewhere with free wifi
If you’re going to another country, staying at a place with wifi is crucial so that you can communicate with people at home to check-in at least in the morning and again at night. I would also advice that if your phone plan doesn’t allow data usage in other countries, if you’re staying long enough, to invest in a sim card there and a phone plan for the time being. This way, when you travel alone, you’ll be able to get on the internet and contact people whenever you need to.
10. Carry identification everywhere
It’s always a good idea to have identification with you wherever you go.
11. Walk with confidence: avoid looking like a tourist
Walking with confidence makes you look like you know where you’re going and are less susceptible to tourist scams. So ditch the tourist gear and don’t walk around with your guidebook in your face. Have your plan ahead of time and walk like you know where you’re going. And, if you need to ask for help, lie a little. Say, “I’m meeting some friends at this place, could you point me in that direction?”
12. Trust everyone and no one
One of the best reasons to travel is to be able to meet new people and go on little adventures with them if you want to. Meeting new people to travel with was one of my favorite parts about going to New Zealand alone. I now have friends that I can go visit from around the world! Although this is one of the best parts of traveling solo, it’s also scary at the start and makes you more vulnerable. When you first start hanging out with these new friends, go to open, safe places to test it out. Be open-minded, but also keep your guard up at first and test the waters.
1. Avoid single supplement:
Single supplement is something that tour operators, cruise lines, and hotels often use to tack onto your bill to compensate for them not making money off of a second occupant. This price can range from 25 to 100 percent of the trip cost, which means you can end up paying twice as much as someone traveling with a partner. There are ways to get around the single supplement, by booking with a tour operator that offers roommate matches.
2. Stay in a hostel or AirBnb:
It’s not for everyone but consider staying in a hostel, which charges per bed rather than per room. I would definitely recommend looking at the reviews first and only booking this option if it is a safe country. In New Zealand, everywhere I stayed was either a hostel or an AirBnb. AirBnb’s are also great options, but are usually a little pricier. Airbnb’s also allow renting out a room in a house, which gives you contact to the hosts and more information on where to go directly from people that live there.
3. Look for solo specific travel tours:
You can also look for tours that are specifically for solo travelers. Look up solo travel newsletters and sign up for those sites that are specifically made for people that are traveling alone. A great app that offers solo deals is “Travel Pirates” that is available for Android and iOS.
Eating alone isn’t so bad. Many solo travelers hate dining alone in fear that they appear like some friendless loser. Honestly, most people don’t even notice that you’re sitting alone, nor do they actually care. There’s actually a name for this anxiety of eating alone, its called “solomangarephobia” (Spoon University). But, just because you’re a solo traveller, does not mean you can’t enjoy the delicious cuisine of the country you’re visiting. Let me tell you a little secret, we as people are so self-absorbed and into our devices, that no one actually care’s if you’re sitting there by yourself. But just in case, that still doesn’t make you feel comfortable enough, here’s a few things that might make it feel a little less awkward.
1. Cafes and outdoor dining is easier to sit alone at:
Cafes and restaurants with outdoor dining areas are often easier for solo travelers to sit at simply because of the aesthetic. Sitting outside in the sun eating a nice lunch isn’t as unusual as sitting inside at a table for one, for some reason.
2. Bring a book or a journal:
If you start to feel uneasy about sitting along staring at your food and wondering if all eyes are on you, break open a book or magazine, or bring your journal to write about your day so far. Pro tip: the more confident and put together your dining alone routine is, the more people with either be completely unfazed by your single status or actually want to strike up a conversation with you.
3. Sit at a counter, bar seat, or a booth:
Choosing to sit at a counter or bar seat is definitely less awkward when siting alone if you really can’t stomach sitting at a table by yourself. And, if that’s not an option, choose a booth at a restaurant instead of an open table because at least that way, you’ll have more privacy.
5. Get take out or order room service:
If you really can’t endure another meal in public alone, you can always order take-out or use room service and eat in the privacy of your own room or house in your pjs.
But remember, just because you’re alone and traveling on the run, doesn’t mean that you can’t sit down and take time for some meals or enjoy a cup of coffee at the local cafe.
When Being alone is getting to you
The constant routine of getting up early to make the most out of your day and jam-packing all of your activities in by yourself, while being safe and smart and always on your toes, can definitely hit you at some point in your travels. When you start to feel this happen, pay attention to what your body needs. Don’t be afraid to back off your ambition itinerary and slow down the pace for one day. Give yourself the luxury of sleeping in, and taking a moment to recoup so you can be the best you and enjoy each day as a refreshed experience.
I hope these few pieces of advice can help motivate you to take that trip you’ve always wanted to do, even if you don’t have someone by your side. If you’ve travelled alone before, are there any other tips that you follow that can help other solo travelers? If so, I’d love to see them commented below.