15 tips for Solo Travelers

Travelling solo has become a new trend, not just for millennials, but is now being opted by all age groups – the young graduate opting for a gap year to travel, the single mom who wants some time away, the backpacker who is on a mission, the regular worker that is looking for a break, or just a traveler looking to explore a new place. The reasons for solo travel are usually the same –  differing travel styles, economic reasons, and timing issues with travel buddies, friends or family. But lately, travelers have come to appreciate how liberating, exciting and empowering solo travel can be.

Many people tend to travel alone when they seek to find themselves,  and need to put themselves outside their regular environments to be able to self-reflect. I always consider self-reflection in solo travels a bit ‘overated’. Usually, when you travel alone, there is more work involved in planning (even if you completely wing it) compared to when you travel with a partner, friends or family, leaving not so much time for blissful introspection.

There are different definitions of what counts as solo travel – Is a weekend trip by yourself a solo-travel? Do you need to fly across the country? What about going alone on a business trip? Or just driving to a nearby town by yourself? Can you join a tour group and still be considered a solo-traveler?

In my opinion, solo travel can be any kind of travel that puts you outside your comfort zone, and pushes you to interact with unfamiliar surroundings and people by yourself. The duration and location do not matter to be considered as a solo travel. What solo travel does offer is complete flexibility on your itinerary, allowing you to see and experience what you truly want.

However, it can also get intimidating at times – eating alone in a restaurant, walking alone at night, or planning everything all by yourself. I love travelling with family and friends, but usually opt for atleast one solo travel per year by myself. For longer solo travels, there are a couple of things which you can already prepare for to make it a smooth experience for you.

1. Find a safe country

Try to find a country that is considered safe by most travelers especially if it is your first time solo travelling. Japan, New Zealand, Iceland, Denmark, Canada and Singapore usually make it to the list for first-time solo travelers, but literally any country can be traveled alone as long as you have your research done before on what to expect, and take basic measures for safety.

2. Invest in a credit card

Invest in a credit card, preferably with travel insurance which go beyond basic health insurance, and cover cancellation costs as well. If that is not possible, purchase 3rd party travel insurance especially for long vacations.

3. Plan in advance

Research your destination –  book a hotel/hostel/airbnb in a busy location for the first night and research beforehand how to get to the accommodation from the airport. Try to arrive during the day if possible to get a feel of the city, and try to start early on most days to get the most out of your trip. However, remember to plan rest days or rest half-days in your itinerary, even if you are tempted to pack your trip fully with activities.

4. Pack light

Pack light, and if you can in just a cabin bag. It will make travelling alone so much more easier. Always pack a day bag as well,  with essential items – phone, wallet, water, sunglasses, mobile bank/charger and an umbrella. Keep your passport in the hotel locker if you can, except in Japan where you are legally required to have your passport on you at all times.

5. Save travel documents in your phone

Download a copy of your most important travel documents and reservations in your phone (like iBooks or Google Drive offline). Share your itineraries with family/friends before you leave.

6. Download mobile apps

Download main mobile apps to help you during your travel – Google Translator, Uber, travel guides and any local transport apps. Also download offline Google Maps for your destination and save important places like the airport, hotel, etc.

7. Keep a spare phone

Phone will be your best friend when you travel alone, and you will rely on it quite often. Keep a cheap spare phone for emergencies when you are alone.

8. Get a local SIM

Get a local SIM card or make sure you have mobile data in your destination country. Most airports have stores that provide limited data SIM packages, so purchase one in case your destination does not have many wi-fi enabled spots.

9. Carry cash

Carry enough cash for at least 2 days accommodation, travel and food no matter how ‘card-friendly’ the destination is.

10. Meet locals

Ask locals for their advice. Staying in airbnbs and hostels is the best way to do so. Look at reviews if trying Couchsurfing and use Showaround to meet local guides. It is a great way to see a city. Usually locals on this app provide tours for free, although some are paid. You can treat them to a meal or coffee at the end of the tour.

11. Sign-up for courses and activities

There are many ways to meet people when travelling alone while engaging in a fun activity, such as a cooking class or arts class, free walking tours, food tours, organized day-trips or taking an Airbnb experience.

12. Use social media

Share pics during your trip on whichever social media platform you use, and keep in touch with friends and family every few days. Engage in Facebook groups of your destination to ask for recommendations. Follow your destination’s hashtag on Instagram a few days before you leave.

13. Visit cafes

Cafes offer relaxed environments and free wi-fi. They are the best spots to take a break, have a chat with locals or fellow travelers, and just do some research on your itinerary.

14. Ask more

Ask more when you are by yourself, even if you want to figure everything out on your own. Say ‘No’ more often because this is the time when you have full liberty to do exactly what you want.

15. Learn few words in the local language

Pick up few words in the local language, especially greetings and how to order water when travelling to a non-English speaking country.

Overall, always trust your instincts no matter what,  and stay away from dark alleys 😉

If you would like to make a solo travel to Japan, check out my posts series 💙