29 Tips When Travelling Alone for the First Time
Our Best Tips for Travelling Solo
The single most difficult part of solo travel is deciding to go. Especially for the very first time. The act of travelling solo, however, is far easier than we build it up to be.
Partially because in today’s day and age, we spend very little time truly alone. We worry about safety, loneliness, how we will be perceived by others, and if we would even like travelling alone in the first place? For most, the answer is a resounding yes. But you’ll never know until you try it.
So take a deep breath, and take the plunge. At worst, you’ll hate it and never travel alone again. But at best, you’ll no longer have to wait around for friends to travel with, you’ll gain a new sense of independence, and you’ll have the trip of a lifetime.
Here we share 29 of our best tips for when travelling alone for the first time.
Considering Travelling Solo?
Often people find themselves first travelling solo because their friends and partners don’t share the same desire to travel the world. Or you find that your friends’ busy lives and complicated schedules will just never match up with your own. Finding time to travel is difficult. An entire group finding the time to travel together? Near impossible.
Fortunately, many travellers find that they actually prefer solo travel.
But whether it’s by choice or necessity, you’re thinking about travelling on your own and probably wondering…
Is it safe?
What if I get lonely?
The truth is loneliness is to be expected once in a while. But the trade-off is getting to tailor a trip to your desires. You don’t have to answer to anyone but yourself. Often at the end of the trip, you find yourself more confident and self-sufficient than when you first began.
As for safety, solo travel is no different from other types of travel. It’s as safe as you make it. By following some simple tips (that we’ll share below) you’ll be able to enjoy a safe trip abroad.
Best Tips When Travelling Alone for First Time
Follow these tips and you’re practically guaranteed to come away from the trip a solo travel convert.
Tips for First Time Solo Travellers
1. Consider what level of difficulty you’re ready for
Let’s compare India and Colombia. Two popular travel destinations. One is a sprawling chaotic country known for ancient traditions, street food, and 1.3 billion locals. The other is filled with modern metropolises, scenic green landscapes, and a Caribbean coastline. And one destination (Colombia) is far easier to navigate than the other. Before you choose where to go, consider what level of difficulty you’re looking for on your first solo trip abroad.
Ask yourself…will there be a huge language barrier? Is there a well-established tourist infrastructure? Is this a popular solo travel destination?
This is your trip after all. You’ll want to feel comfortable leaving the confines of your hotel room.
2. Don’t forget to give yourself some challenges
On the other hand, you do want to push yourself a little outside your comfort zone. You could travel solo in your own country if what you’re looking for is a predictable “safe” trip. But odds are you’re looking to experience something new. This means you’ll need to do something that scares you a little.
It can be as simple as signing up for a salsa dancing class. Or a trekking excursion. Something that interests you but also something you’ve never tried back home.
3. Plan your first days in the country
Book your first few nights’ accommodations and plan out exactly how to get from the airport to your hotel upon arrival. This will save you the pressure of figuring out shuttles, buses, and taxis while likely experiencing a bit of jet lag and culture shock.
You should plan to take it easy your first few days in the country to get your bearings. Don’t pack day one with a full itinerary of activities or you’ll overwhelm yourself straight out of the gate.
4. But don’t plan too far in advance
One of the major benefits of solo travel is the ability to pivot your plans at will. If you decide that you hate Cartagena and would rather spend more time in Medellin, you want to be free to do so. Booking too far in advance can hinder the spontaneity of your trip.
If the thought of forgoing planning and showing up without lodging and activities pre-booked terrifies you, try to find only refundable and flexible bookings. That way the option to cancel is always on the table.
(Read Also: Solo Travel to South America)
5. Research your destination thoroughly ahead of time.
The single most important task for soon to be solo-travelers is to research your destination. The more you know, the more confident you’ll be. Study maps of the country and learn the city names. Scour the internet for blogs detailing the best places to go and things to see. You can never do too much research.
Here are a few important questions to research before you go: Do I need a visa? What are the most popular tourist destinations? What are the cultural norms in the country? Where are the cities I plan to visit located in the country? Are there days when many attractions will be closed? What is public transportation like?
6. Sign up for a walking tour.
Arriving in a new country is overwhelming. You’ll be immediately immersed in an unfamiliar culture. Often the best remedy to the uncertainty is to sign up for a walking tour of the city. Most major cities offer free and/or paid walking tours, where you can meet fellow travelers and get your bearings with the help of a local guide.
7. Before you leave your hotel – know how to find it again.
Whether that means grabbing a hotel business card with an address or dropping a pin on an offline map, just be sure that you have something other than simply a hotel name to guide you. In the event you do get lost and need to hail a cab, they may not be able to find the hotel easily by name alone.
8. Download offline maps or get a SIM card.
GPS isn’t essential but it definitely makes travel easier, especially if you’re nervous about getting lost. If you pick up a local SIM card or download offline maps you’ll be able to navigate even the most chaotic streets back to your accommodation.
9. Don’t Overpack.
The two packing rules for solo travelers.
1. Only bring what you can carry easily yourself.
2. You always need less than you think you do.
A good rule of thumb is to leave 1/4 of your bags empty. This leaves room for any souvenirs you may want to snag.
10. Start your trip with an open mind.
Try not to make assumptions, or even better, have any expectations at all. Go into your first solo adventure with an open mind willing to take in whatever experiences the world offers you. Overly romanticising destinations will only lead to disappointment.
11. Prepare to wander aimlessly.
The best way to get to know a new city is to immerse yourself in it. Walk with no real destination in mind and forgo Google Maps. You’ll stumble upon hidden gems you would have never otherwise experienced. Keep in mind travel is rarely just about the destination.
12. Be open to new cuisines.
Food is one of the great joys of travel. Each country has its own signature dishes and preparations. You should aim to try as many as you can. Don’t be afraid to ask a local where they like to eat and order dishes based solely on what others around you are eating.
(Read Also: Swapping Solo Travel for a Group Tour)
13. Be financially prepared.
Even if you’re not planning on sticking to a strict budget during your trip it’s beneficial to know the ins and outs of the local currency. What is the conversion rate? Will you be able to use credit cards or will most transactions be in cash? How much money are you prepared to spend on this trip? Many credit cards have hefty international fees, so be sure to have at least one card set up for foreign transactions.
14. Have more cash than you think you’ll need.
In your bank account and your pocket. Don’t set out on your very first solo trip abroad tight on money. You should also withdraw a little more money from the ATM than you think you’ll need. This prevents you from getting stranded without cash on hand to help yourself out of sticky situations.
15. Be sure to arrive EARLY for flights, buses, and trains.
Especially if this is your first international trip ever. In many countries transportation can be unpredictable. It’s best to arrive early so you’re not rushing in at the very last moment.
16. Bring a book.
One of the biggest concerns of first-time solo travellers (aside from safety) is eating alone in restaurants. The easy remedy to this slightly uncomfortable situation is to bring a good book or something to occupy your time at the table. Eventually, eating alone won’t seem so lonely and you might even find yourself comfortably people-watching instead.
17. Seek out strangers with similar interests.
The truth is you’re never truly alone in the world. Meeting people on the road as a solo traveler is easy. If you’re looking for companionship opt to stay in hostels, join walking tours, or sign up for a cooking class. Pick a social activity that interests you and you’ll meet fellow travelers who share those interests.
18. More of an introvert? Book an Airbnb or quiet guesthouse.
Hostels have become ubiquitous to solo travel. But if you’re someone who gets easily overwhelmed when surrounded by strangers or the idea of sharing a room holds zero appeal, don’t be afraid to book a private room. The most important part of solo travel is that YOU are comfortable.
19. Remember things will go wrong.
Most often these mishaps just create funny stories to entertain your friends back home with later. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
(Read Also: Debunking 9 Myths About Small Group Tours)
Safety Tips for First-Time Solo Travellers
20. Have one confidant back home to check in with.
It’s always a good idea when traveling alone for the first time (or any time really) to have a family member or friend back home to check in with. Decide if that’s going to be every night or every few days and stick to it. That way if the worst does happen, someone back home will be able to notify the proper authorities immediately.
21. Know the emergency numbers.
Before you arrive you should jot down the emergency numbers on your phone and do a little research on decent hospitals in the area. This way you’ll be prepared if you ever are confronted with an emergency.
22. Google common scams in the country or city.
Scammers recycle the same schemes on hordes of unsuspecting tourists. But if you know the most common scams ahead of time, you’ll likely be able to avoid them.
23. Have confidence (or fake it till you make it).
Walk the streets with your head held high. Even if you’re nervous. Exuding confidence makes you less of a target for scammers because it looks like you’ve been there before and know a thing or two…even if you don’t.
24. Don’t keep your cash and credit cards all in the same place.
The most commonly reported crime against travelers is pick-pocketing. And even that is uncommon. To be on the safe side, separate your cash and cards into a few different pockets in a few different bags to avoid them all being snatched at once.
25. Try to blend in.
When packing, focus on comfort over fashion. You’ll want to stand out as little as possible and wearing flashy accessories will only get you unwanted attention from unsavory characters.
26. Plan to arrive at new destinations during the day.
Arriving somewhere new after dark adds a whole other level of challenges. Save yourself some hassle and try to avoid night-buses and red-eye flights until you feel more confident navigating on your own.
27. Be cautious hiking alone.
If you’re travelling somewhere famed for its trekking, Peru for example, you should try to make friends and hike as a group. If you insist on hiking alone, choose popular trails, notify someone you trust where you’ll be hiking and for how long, and be sure to give yourself ample time to complete your hike during daylight. Even experienced outdoors people can find themselves in over their head if they sprain an ankle in a remote area.
28. Bring a small first-aid kit.
Most travel-related injuries can be remedied by a bottle of Ibuprofen, Pepto-Bismol, or a decent Band-aid. Although you can find these items in any country in the world it can be beneficial to have them on hand.
29. Always trust your instincts.
The biggest asset of any traveler, solo or not, is your gut. Always trust your inner voice. If a situation seems unsafe –leave it. As a solo traveler, you’re solely responsible for your safety.
Group Trips for Solo Travellers Aged 25-45 !
We’re Other Way Round Travel and we bring together groups of solo travellers aged 25-45 for immersive & authentic trips to the most exotic places in the world. Here’s some of our popular trips.
11 Days in Mexico. Breathe in the pulsating Mexico city, roam the charming streets of traditional Oaxaca, and hit the beach in sun-drenched Tulum. See Itinerary
12 Days in Brazil. Admire street art in São Paulo, trek rainforests in colonial Paraty and marvel at the madness of Rio de Janeiro. See Itinerary
12 Days in Peru. Cook ceviche in Lima, sail the Amazon, hike to Machu Picchu and become awestruck by the Sacred Valley. See Itinerary
15 Days in Colombia. Dance salsa. Meet coffee farmers. Sail tropical islands. Hike lush jungles. Taste the finest Caribbean rum. See Itinerary