In the past few years, a new travelling movement has begun to really take hold – solo travelling. Although solo travelling has of course been around for years it was often seen as unsafe and risky by many people, leaving it cast aside for dedicated backpackers or the experienced traveller. Today, thanks to a more positive portrayal in the media this viewpoint has largely changed and now solo travelling is seen widely as the ultimate freedom within the travel community.
Although the stigma surrounding solo travelling has shifted it’s still a very different ball game to travelling with friends, family or in a group and many people, even the more experienced travellers amongst us, still find the prospect inherently daunting. So here’s a quick guide to travelling alone safely and successfully.
Make a plan
Although one of the many joys of solo travelling is being able to act spontaneously on your own whim it’s also very valuable to have at least a basic outline or plan for what you want to achieve out of your trip, this could be sampling the local delicacies or culinary delights, completing as many excursions as you can or simply sitting back and relaxing. Whatever you plan to get up to on your trip try to make a simple plan, don’t bother with strict timings unless you like that kind of structure but do list out what you want to achieve to make sure you don’t miss anything out.
Sadly, solo travelling can sometimes be more expensive than travelling with friends due to single room supplements so its important to budget carefully. One way to get around single room supplements is to negotiate with the company in person rather than booking through their website, or alternatively, look for hostels or backpacking apartments where you can share a room and split the cost. Although some hotels and rooms may be more expensive as a solo traveller there are plenty of other opportunities for you to make back the lost money, such as by taking advantage of last-minute deals. Elsewhere on your trip, you should be able to pick up low-cost food easily from the local supermarkets and you may even find that your travel costs are significantly reduced as you can occupy any seat.
Take a tour
One of the best pieces of advice for solo travellers is to book themselves onto a local tour for their first day in their new location. Whether it be tours to Africa, a tour around Amsterdam or a tour around Toronto, a tour is a perfect way to acclimatise yourself to a new city, to meet some other travellers, to get to know your way around and to help you feel more confident navigating your way for the duration of your stay. Most tours are very inexpensive and some are even free with participants paying what they think the tour is worth so don’t be put off if you’re trying to travel on a price tag. Whilst you’re walking around make use of the time to ask the guide and your fellow travellers for recommendations of things to do and try that you may have missed off your list.
Don’t be afraid of dorm rooms
Dorm rooms are often one of the cheapest accommodation options for solo travellers but many people are put off by the thought of sharing a room. Sharing a room can actually end up being the best thing to happen to a solo traveller, introducing you to other independent adventurers and keeping you safer with more eyes and ears around you. If you’re worried about sharing a mixed-sex room then there are usually single-gender dormitory options available and most hostel sites now have Facebook pages where you could even connect with travellers sharing your holiday dates before you go.
Common sense keeps you safe
For many first-time solo travellers, their number one concern is safety and although this is a good fear to have it is often blown out of proportion and the key to safety as a solo traveller usually lies in common sense. In the same way that it may not be a good idea to walk through a dark park alone in your home country, it probably isn’t abroad either, so keep your wits about you and don’t let alcohol lead you to do things you wouldn’t ordinarily do at home. Some other safety tips to consider include:
- Check the foreign office website
Should there be trouble at the destination you are going to the foreign office website is the first to be updated.
- Keep your friends and family up to date
As soon as you know what your plans are, let your friends and family know so they can be aware of your whereabouts.
- Be wise with money
Keep a secret stash of cash in case your card or main source of money is stolen. It’s also a good idea to take a second card and keep this safe and out of sight too should you need it. Don’t carry too much cash with you at any one time.
- Trust your instincts
If at any point during your travells you feel unsafe then trust your instincts and head to a public place. Don’t be afraid to stop a passer-by if you feel you are being watched or followed and ask them to take you to the nearest police station.
- Wear a wedding ring
Yes, it’s frustrating to have to say, but as a female traveller in some parts of the world, you may face an increased amount of harassment. One tip shared by solo female travellers is to wear a wedding ring whether you’re married or not and to carry a rape alarm or a small can of pepper spray in the very rare chance you feel in danger.
Solo travelling can be addictive and many who try it love the freedom it gives them so much that they do it again and again. Enjoy being able to take your adventures at your own pace, spend time people watching, eat the food you want to eat and do the activities you want to do.