For many people traveling alone can be a terrifying idea but once thought out and researched it really can be a great experience. Admittedly it may not be for everybody but if you like to travel, at some point you are gonna have to either travel alone or miss out on a trip. I know which I would prefer!!
From my personnel experience there are benefits to both traveling with people and without, but traveling alone really does offer you the opportunity to get to know yourself and become stronger and more confident. In this article we are going to talk about an essential guide to traveling alone. The do and don’t’s, where to stay, what to do, how to meet people, safety, accommodation and a whole lot more.
SAFETY FIRST!! This is no joke. We have all heard a million horror stories about many places in the world, about happenings and scenarios nobody wants to be involved in. In my experience the majority of this is nonsense but that is not to say we should take any of it lightly. Your safety has to be a huge priority, maybe the number one priority when traveling alone. So here’s some tips.
Research is always a good idea, knowledge is power and all that. Really though a bit of research can help you know the dos and do nots of a place. Most places have their local scams and it’s great to be aware of what could possible be out there. Common sense is the biggest asset really. Most likely you are from a place that has all these kinds of scenarios so it’s good to apply your home mind set when traveling.
Cities can be especially difficult, everything looks the same and it’s easy to wonder in to the wrong area so make sure you know where you are going. It is always handy to have a local map and phone GPS can be a great asset when wandering around. This does bring us to another piece of advice; looking after your valuables and being mindful not to show valuable things off. Be aware of where your valuables are and try not to go out with too much stuff. Keep a close eye on your wallet especially, don’t have it in your back pocket; you are just asking for trouble. Keeping a spare credit card in another location is a good idea just in case. This rings true for your important documents too. Have a photo copy of important documents in a separate place in case the worst happens, it’s always handy. Ideally leave your passport at your accommodation. Most places have safes in the room or at reception and this is the best place to keep it. Losing a passport is just a major inconvenience believe me.
It is always a great idea to speak to hostel/hotel staff about local safety they really are a great asset to use. Their local knowledge will not only help you with your safety but they always know the best places to go to eat, drink, shop etc. If you are staying in a hostel most likely you will find some like-minded people to hang out with so having more people around definitely lowers the risks.
Travel insurance is a must. Organise this before you go and make sure it covers all your destinations. This really helps with peace of mind and not only covers you medically but your belongings, canceled flights, baggage etc. Things happen, we all get ill or lose something so if you can be out in front of that your travels will be much easier. Also, hospital bills can be very expensive so you are best to spend a little on insurance rather than a lot on bills.
Be smart, use your intuition, if it doesn’t feel right then walk away or don’t do it. Do not get pressured in to things, know when to be polite but also know when to be firm and strong in yourself. It is probably best not to go out and get wasted also, having a couple drinks to loosen up is fine but be mindful that this will bring down your inhibitions and could easily cause you to get yourself into a position you do not want to be in.
Finally, use your common sense. If you wouldn’t do it at home chances are you shouldn’t be doing it whilst traveling alone. The dangers are the same all over the world and especially in the majority of the places one is likely to be traveling. Be friendly, respectful, mindful, sensible and use your common sense and you will be just fine.
Hostels – By far my number one choice when traveling alone. Not only are they the cheapest option most of the time but they are designed for you, the solo traveler. I have had some of my most enjoyable experiences in hostels all over the world. They always have a great location and come in all shapes and sizes. You really do not know what to expect until you walk through the door. Saying that, you can guarantee that you will find a hostel that caters for your every need. They have kitchens for you to cook your own meals which is a great way to save money, male only rooms, female only rooms, mixed dorms, private rooms, they have great living areas for all to congregate, so if you didn’t meet anybody whilst making a cup of tea or eating your dinner your surely will in the living room. They often have great evening events where they take you to local bars, restaurants, hot spots etc. The staff are often travelers themselves and have a wealth of knowledge of the area. They will help you with anything and everything and can really be a joy to get to know and hear their stories. Mainly you are just gonna meet people, which is great. You will never be alone at a hostel and in my experience they are as safe as you get. By far the best option in my opinion for the solo traveler. They just cover all the bases.
Hotels – Hotels are great, especially the smaller boutique hotels that really do offer you a far more luxurious stay. The advantage of hotels is the amenities. Pools, hot tubs, breakfast, spas and many more are offered. These are all great but often come at a far higher price. If, money is no problem then this may really be the way you want to go. I will often book a nice hotel for the first and last accommodation of my trip. Or if it is an especially long trip, I will maybe drop in to a few nicer accommodations somewhere in the middle just for a bit of luxury after the constants of the hostel life. It is always nice to start and finish a trip with a beautiful view, huge king-size bed to yourself, massaging shower or what ever else your heart desires. Hotels are definitely not as social as a hostel but still offer plenty of areas you can meet people. Again their staff will be a great asset for information regarding all aspects of your visit.
Air B&B – Air B&B is fairly new but a great resource for accommodation. You can find almost anything from a full house or apartment to a spare room. It is also very reasonably priced in my experience. You kind of get the best of both the hostel and hotel with this option. You have to convenience of being able to cook at home, the cheaper price and the majority of the time the owner of the property is there to help you with anything you need which is great. Accompanied by a bit more luxury and many amenities found in hotels. Air B&B is pretty huge now so where ever you are going you will find options varieing in price. Another great perk of this accommodation is that you speak directly to the owner who has a wealth of knowledge on the area and after a few days often treat you like family.
Couchsurfing – This has been around for a while and is exactly as it says you sleep on peoples couches, floors, in spare rooms. Definitely a little daunting at first but on the whole can be super cool and you can meet some amazing people. You have to register to couch surf and then get put together with potential people via the internet. Its like a social media kind of community where there are reviews of guests and accommodations. The Best part is that it’s free and you will most likely meet cool people to hang out with for a few days. Downside I guess would be amenities and consistency. I would definitely advise giving it a shot once though. Although this is definitely not for everyone.
For the first time solo traveler it is easy to take too much or not enough. Here are some handy things to take along with you, some are pretty obvious but there are a few that you may not of thought of and are a great help.
- Local Help Number – it is good to have the local tourist police, ambulance, tourist office and emergency numbers for the place you are in. If you ever get into a pickle they can be of a great help
- Local Phrase Book – the use of the local language is always going to help you blend in and become more welcomed. Local people will always appreciate you trying to use their language. Nobody is expecting you to become fluent overnight but having the basic greetings, please, thank you, yes, no and farewells will be a great asset to you. Also, learning any local hand gestures and body language is also a great idea.
- Camera/Smart Phone – This one is pretty obvious but essential for reasons you may not have thought of. The camera is a no brainer. Documenting everything will give you great memories to look back on and is a great way to show friends and family where you are. If you get lonely this is a great way to connect with your loved ones and deal with that feeling. GPS is another great asset of the smart phone, never getting lost is a bonus and having a map to every destination is also great. Most bars, restos, cafes all have internet nowadays so having a smart phone means being able to stay in touch with those back home and people you might have met on your travels. It can be used to research places to go, your next accommodation, really it is a must have. Just don’t go flashing it around.
- Tablet/Laptop – This is gonna be similar to the previous section of having a smart phone. The reason I have added this also is that they are great to have for times you just want to relax. Often when traveling we have this feeling that we must be out all day and each night, doing this, that or the other. I like to travel like I normally live and I wouldn’t be out every night. Sometimes I like to just chill at home watch a movie or my favourite TV show. Skype the friends and family and just generally relax. Laptops and tablets always help with this.
- Routine – This relates back to how when I travel I like it to be similar to how I normally live, just in a new and exciting place. Meaning that I try to continue with my daily routine somewhat. If you do fitness daily, plan to keep doing it, go to bed and get up at your usual times, sleep as you normally would, eat breakfast lunch and dinner at the same times, small things like this really do help yourself to settle and feel comfortable.
- Budget – It’s easy to just go a bit bonkers when traveling especially if it is your first time. I have often done the first week of a trip and then checked the old bank balance and thought “Oh dear”. Budgeting will help with this. If you set yourself a daily or weekly budget and stick to it your money will go much further and you won’t have to make one of those phone calls back to the folks asking for a wee bail out. Having a loose idea of what your movements are going to be is always a good idea and helps with the budget. Maybe you won’t go exactly where you planned when you planned but something loose fitting is great.
Going Out, Meeting People
This can be quite daunting but you must get out there explore, see new things and learn. If you are staying at a hostel most likely you will have met like-minded people who want to do things so hang out with them. Great things happen with hostel friends. I like to try to make an early start. Most places you will stay have a free breakfast so getting up taking advantage of that and getting out early is great for you. It is far safer to be out in the day than at night. That’s not to say you shouldn’t head out at night. There are just different things to bare in mind. Take in local culture, parks, museums, tours and any other activities that tickle your fancy. This can be done solo but organised tours are a great way to meet people. Other solo travelers, friends, couples, small groups will often be part of these tours and whilst seeing great new things you will often meet some lovely new people. Check your hostel or hotel to see what things there are to do locally. If it interests you go do it.
Eating out alone can be strange at first but you soon learn to enjoy it. It is easy to grab food on the move at small markets and street stalls, this is amazing and some of the best food I have eaten abroad has been street food. Don’t be afraid to go enjoy local restaurants though. Sitting at the bar is always an easy option, you have the bartender to talk to and often there are people sat next to you and conversation just naturally starts off. You can also take a table for one if you so feel inclined. I have had many a great conversation with waiting staff and even headed out for drinks after they get off after striking up a friendship. This does bring up a good point of not giving too much info away about yourself, be mindful and sensible. Embrace new people and new experiences but be sure not to put yourself into a dodgy position with those you have just met.
Planning your transport is a good way to confirm your safety when heading out whether you are using public transport, local taxis, uber, tuk tuks or your feet it is good to know in advance where, what time and how long it should take. When heading out let the reception of your accommodation know where you are heading and what time you are expecting to be back. These little things just increase your safety and peace of mind.
Confidence is the greatest and easiest way to meet people, if you are lucky enough to be able to approach people go for it. Just be polite. Having a couple of drinks to loosen up is great to help break the ice with people just be mindful of the amount of alcohol you consume. Bigger groups of people can be very daunting to approach but most of the time they are built up of smaller groups and individuals who have met on their travels. Don’t be afraid to approach them and say hello and ask to join them. I have often in the past brought a bunch of shots and headed over to a group and used it to break the ice, I am not suggesting you do that but thinking outside the box is always good. Smile and laugh, exuding happiness brings happiness to you so enjoy yourself and the rest will fall into place.
I guess you can travel anywhere alone, I mean if it s safe to do with a mate I would say its fine to do alone. It all comes down to common sense. Below is a small list of some great places to go travel alone. Or with friends, family, your girl or boy.
- Thai Land
- Indonesia (Bali, Lombok and Gili Islands)
- Great Britain
- New Zealand
There are many more locations around the world that are great to travel these are just some of my favourites where I have felt especially welcomed, at home and safe traveling alone.
GET OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE
For me, the bottom line is this. You have to get out of your comfort zone to experience the great things in life. Fear is a good thing, it will keep you sharp and safe but you must not let it stop you from doing the things you really want to do. Plan accordingly, take every step possible to ensure and safe experience and go out there and do it. It is like anything the first time is always the hardest but it only gets easier. Traveling with friends is not all what is cracks up to be, living in each others pockets, having to do things you don’t want to do there are many pros and cons to both the solo and accompanied traveler.
My philosophy is this, I prefer neither but I am ready for either. If I want to take a trip and there is somebody I want to come with me great but if there is not somebody to come I am going solo. I am not going to miss out on an amazing new place, culture and the new experiences for fear of going alone. Just follow an essential guide to traveling alone, get out of your comfort zone and embrace the good and the not so good times. I guarantee once it is all said and done you will not regret it and once you are sat back home you will miss it!!!