You may be new to solo travel, or perhaps you are just looking for tips on how to travel solo once you’re able to hit the road (and skies) again. Millions of people travel solo every year and for good reason. Traveling solo gives you insight and perspective to new areas that you may not otherwise have if you were with others. Solo travel frees up your day to fill with any activities you want to do (no need for compromise or group tours here) and it also helps you learn more about yourself by exposing you to new challenges and people. We have compiled a list of tips on how to travel solo so you can fully enjoy your adventures once the pandemic makes way for normal travel again.
Carefully plan your solo travel trip
Do your research on your travel destination before you arrive. One thing to keep in mind is a recommendation from other solo travelers. They’ve already done the trip, and can tell you the pros and cons before you decide to go on your own. TripAdvisor is a great resource for researching an area, plus they have some great solo travel forums filled with stories and advice.
Check out the best time to visit your destination. Different parts of the world have certain ideal tourist seasons, so make sure to check out what is best for the region you’re planning to visit. For example, if you’re looking to lay out on the beaches of Costa Rica and go hiking and ziplining, you’ll be wise to plan your trip during the dry season from mid-December to April. Otherwise, plan on spending several rainy days in your hostel or Airbnb. Similarly, if you’re into whale-watching or some other specific activity, you’ll want to make sure you are planning your trip for the best results.
Figure out your budget ahead of time. Start out by determining your mode of transportation. Will you fly? Take a train? Road trip? You can often save more money if you can be flexible with dates and destinations. Before booking anything, always compare the ticket costs with Google Flights, Skyscanner, Kayak or TripAdvisor. Also keep in mind that often companies will offer the best rates if you book direct, so don’t be afraid to contact them with a quote you’ve found to see what’s available at the best price.
Next, estimate your expenses for accommodation, meals and local transportation. A budget per day is a good way to plan ahead. Depending on your location, you may not have an accurate understanding of how much food will really cost, or perhaps you’ll find a swanky restaurant that you’d like to visit more than once. If you’ve allotted a budget per day, you’ll have room for adjustments when you need them.
Remember to keep room in your budget for vaccination, travel insurance and extras like sightseeing, gifts and souvenirs. It’s always best to keep some extra money for unforeseen expenses like a medical emergency or a natural disaster. You can start saving for your solo travel in advance by creating a separate travel fund.
Also check into cheap places to travel solo if you are on a budget. Living expenses in certain regions can be drastically less than your country of origin – meaning you’ll have more funds for activities (and you’ll likely be able to try some of the best street foods and local cuisines without dropping a lot of money). There are plenty of resources for solo travelers that roundup some of the year’s best cheap places to travel solo.
Decide on your travel style – do you want to go slow and explore like a local while taking in the culture at your own pace? Or do you want to tick off places on your bucket list and travel as much as you can? The best thing about choosing to travel solo is that you don’t have to stick to anyone’s itinerary – so really think about what is going to be the best travel style for you and do it however you want.
Book a solo friendly accommodation
Book a hostel, Airbnb or a small solo-friendly inn for a safe and convenient stay. Airbnb’s are often available in residential spaces (meaning you can live like a local) and you have a wide variety of options from budget to bougie. Smaller inns and bed-and-breakfast accommodations can offer a cozy stay (and possibly some insider-tips from your hosts). Hostels are a classic go-to for solo travelers wanting to meet new people and have communal experiences. Hostels are more than just someplace you stay, you can bond with like-minded travelers and benefit from their social spaces and common chilling areas.
Most hostels host group events like tours and movie or game nights, which is great after a day of exploring. Relaxation in the evenings allows you to feel a bit more comfortable and settled in your new environment. Most hostels also offer private rooms if you don’t prefer sharing one. Many hostel employees are travelers themselves – they can recommend you their local favorites like the best local restaurants which you won’t find in your tourist guides. As a bonus, hostels are comparatively less expensive, but consider booking one near the city center or main hub of your destination to increase your options for transportation and access to sites and activities.
Airbnb provides three categories of stay: an entire apartment or home (which means complete privacy), a private room (which means a private bedroom with shared spaces like kitchen, living or bathroom), and lastly a shared room (which means you’re sharing the entire place with someone else). Before booking your room be sure to check with your host to know who will be sharing the spaces with you. Always use common sense when traveling solo to make sure you are not putting yourself in dangerous situations.
One of the important things to keep in mind while traveling solo is how much luggage you’ll be carting around. Traveling solo means no one is usually there to help you, so you’ll have to deal with all your bags on your own. Packing light with only travel essentials and versatile, multiuse items will ease your load, allowing you to explore in between your destinations. Packing the right items will mean you are prepared properly for your destination.
While packing remember to carry good identification, your ticket copies, maps, books, itinerary and passport. Leave valuables at home. When you do leave important items behind in your accommodation, make use of a locked safe or hiding spot just in case. Stay low-key – try not to draw attention to yourself by wearing flashy jewelry or carrying expensive stuff. It’s also wise to have backup contact numbers written down somewhere in case you lose your phone.
Live as the locals do
One’s destination is never just a place, but their home for a while. G.K. Chesterton said, “The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.”
The best way to live like a local is to dress the way the locals do. By dressing like a local, you will not only experience that particular culture, but you also won’t draw unwanted attention to yourself as a tourist. Make the effort to learn the language, even basic conversational sentences like introducing yourself, asking for directions or even giving someone a compliment. Remember, you are a guest in someone else’s home and culture, so don’t expect everyone to accommodate to your language, culture or preferences.
Duolingo is one of the best apps to learn new languages. You’ll learn the basics through fun exercises with rewards that make learning enjoyable. You can always use language translator apps like Google translator as well. However, direct translation apps often leave much to be desired when it comes to colloquial language or even idiomatic phrases. However, it’s generally a good resource for basic translation needs.
Consider solo travel a date with yourself – along with the perfect opportunity for self-exploration and care. You’ll not only experience different cultures but also define your tastes and learn more about yourself by facing new challenges on your journey. To have the best solo travel experience, it’s not always the common tourist spots filled with people that you’ll want to prioritize. Hidden trails, lesser-known attractions and off-the-grid local favorites have a lot to offer and can make your trip unique. There is no better way to explore the city than walking around the streets and observing the cultures. Another option can be renting cycles or bikes to travel off beaten paths.
The best part of solo traveling is exploring and doing things on your own time. You can learn the local language or cultural traditions or how to cook a regional dish – anything that makes your journey memorable and eye-opening.
Social media and apps like Backpackr, Solotraveller and EatWith are social networking tools that can help you meet new friends while traveling. Cafés, outdoor dining or bars are typically engaging hang out spots for solo travelers. Also chat with the service locals. Making friends that live there can not only give you the inside scoop, but you’ll have friends in that place for when you return on another trip.
While it’s amazing to sink into your travel experience, relishing in the culture, it’s important to observe your surroundings for safety. When you’re on your own, it’s best to be sober and alert at all times. Be careful wearing headphones in public. Stick to public places, especially at night. Keep your important belongings close and avoid telling strangers your personal information like where you’re staying (or you can lie and say you are staying with your friends or visiting family).
Women especially must take extra care when using ride-share services like Uber or Lyft (or even a taxi) in unfamiliar areas. Don’t answer questions about who you are meeting, where you are going, when you are leaving, etc. to anyone, including your driver. Solo travelers can become a target for nefarious intentions, especially if the perpetrator has information about you or your travel plans.
Leave a copy of your itinerary with a family member or friend. Include your flight times, accommodation details and a rough travel list and stay in contact by checking in regularly.
Carry a map
You may not always have locals around that can provide directions or good internet access to GPS, so before you set off on an adventure, know how to read a local map for directions to your adventures. Phone batteries die, cell service can be spotty – so a physical map is always handy to have. Plus, it folds up in your bag nicely and won’t take up too much space.
Be your own photographer
Taking photos makes you more aware of the surroundings. Travel photography is important, as it not only tells you a story of the place or culture but also educates and inspires you while memorializing your explorations. One of the best ways to take your own pictures while traveling solo is to carry a tripod or take selfies using the timer. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from others, but do be wary handing over your expensive camera or phone to strangers.
Buy travel insurance
Even if you err on the side of caution, there’s always a slight chance of things going wrong. As many people found out the hard way during this pandemic, travel can be canceled or restricted due to emergency situations. It is possible that you could be injured or become sick while traveling. Travel insurance protects you from travel-related accidents, unexpected medical expenditures, baggage or passport losses and also delays in flights. Ensure you fully read and understand the policy and what is included beforehand.
In pandemic times, many destinations require travel insurance that covers COVID-19 treatment, so make sure you’ve researched all the requirements before you set out on your trip. You don’t want to be turned away at the airport because you got the wrong insurance coverage.
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