Solo travel is one of the most amazing experiences a girl who travels can have, but it can be a bit intimidating! Don’t worry, help is here. I’m pleased to give you 30 travel tips for the solo traveler to make that next trip a great one.
1. Hostel Life
Choose to stay at hostels for at least part of your trip. The backpacking community is, more often than not, very welcoming, inclusive, and helpful! Hostels are filled with like-minded solo travelers, which makes for a great experience. You will meet some great people that have loads of information/tips and can become your friends for life. Also, you now have a buddy/buddies that you can go exploring with and if you’re lucky you might get an invite to stay at their place if you decide to travel to their country. You can also be their tour guide and learn more about your own country if they visit you.
2. Walk it Out
Join in on walking tours, food tours, pub crawls etc. Following on from the previous point, this is also a fantastic way to meet friendly people! Google ‘Free Walking Tours‘ for the area you’re in or ask at the reception/information centre. There’s a good chance your hostel offers free or discounted activities!
3. Pack Light
The term “less is more” couldn’t be any more relevant when traveling. Not only will your body love you for it, but it will make your life SO much easier and possibly cheaper if you can cut it down to just a carry-on and a small day-pack. Sea to Summit have fantastic durable, light-weight products like packing cubes and toiletry bags etc. It doesn’t matter if I’m going on an 8-day trip or a 2-month long trip – I still pack the same amount of clothes. Remember: you can always do laundry/hand wash or buy pretty much whatever you will need for that climate over there.
4. Learn the Language
I really recommend learning the local language of the places you plan to visit. You don’t have to study for months on end, but just knowing a few basic words/phrases can really boost your confidence, and the locals will love you and respect you for it. A few great language learning apps are Duolingo, Memrise, and Babbel.
Don’t live your holiday through a lens. I love a great photo as much as anyone, as I am an aspiring photographer, just like most others. As much as I want to get that perfect shot, I feel it’s more important to put your device down (after a couple of pics if need be). Really be in the moment and experience all of the senses of the environment around you.
Dressing like locals shows respect. Plus, it’s a fun way to learn more about the culture and to start conversations with locals who will respect you for wanting to learn more about their way of life!
7. Don’t Forget to Rest
I always schedule in rest days. Being a solo traveler is hard work! You will be planning and carrying everything all by yourself and will get run down quickly. Give yourself a well deserved rest! Isn’t that what holidays are for, anyways?!
8. Location, Location, Location
Know where you’re staying. Take your accommodations business card and put it in your purse/wallet so that you have the name and address on hand to give to your taxi/uber driver when you need to get back.
9. Love Your Alone Time
Go solo when going solo! Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone and dine alone or go to the movies/shows by yourself. You could miss out on an amazing experience if you hold back!! If you do feel a bit uncomfortable at a restaurant by yourself then bring a book, brochures, or write in your journal.
10. Plan a Little Bit Ahead
Book your first 1-2 nights accommodation. This will give you time to recover from a tiring journey and to also receive the recommended tips that you need from reception/other tourists about the places you’re wanting to see/do/places to eat at etc. A little bit of planning can help prevent a whole lot of stress.
11. External Battery = Lifesaver
You remember how I said to pack light? Well, make sure that pack includes a portable battery charger. They are surprisingly handy, especially in an emergency, on long bus/plane trips, when in remote areas with no other power supply, or when your hostel might not have available power sockets. Speaking of those hostels – maybe pack an extension cord too (and you can share those extra plugs with your new friends!).
12. No Shame in the Selfie Game
Let’s talk about something a bit controversial: selfie sticks. I know they can look a bit ridiculous, but they really help to capture the scene you’re in better than just holding your phone/camera out in front of you with your hand. I have also used one as a walking stick whilst hiking and also used it to save a guy from sliding off the mountain (!! ????). It can also make you feel more secure as you can also use the stick as a weapon if someone were to attack you. They’re truly multi-purpose tools, I’m telling ya!
13. Leave the Valuables at Home
Leave your expensive clothes, jewelry etc at home, or at least in the hotel safe. These will only draw unwanted attention to you and you’ll be a prime target for pick pockets. If you must bring expensive gear, try not to take them out too often in crowded areas and have your back against a wall when you do. I know a woman who had her fingers chopped off for her expensive rings! I also recommend buying an anti-theft bag with locks or that can lock, like the Pacsafe or Travelon gear and/or have a cross-body bag to carry your valuables close to your body in front of you.
14. Call Mom
Let your family/friends know your itinerary. This is pretty much self-explanatory, but you should always let someone know where you are going for safety reasons… and bragging rights ????
15. Act Confident!
Whether you are lost or just taking in the sights, always keep your head up, use eye contact, and smile. Pretend as though you’ve been there for a while and you know exactly where you’re going.
16. Trust Your Gut
Your gut instincts are generally heightened whilst in unfamiliar places and they’re usually never wrong. If something doesn’t feel right, get yourself out of that situation asap!!
17. Stay Healthy
Solo travelers should try and stay healthy. Keep your immune system up. Take your vitamins, take some sachets of hydrolyte, and drink plenty of water!!
18. Basic First Aid
Always pack a small First Aid Kit. Someone always gets sick and/or injured whilst on holiday so it’s advisable to keep bandages, paracetamol, gastro tabs, etc on hand.
19. Keep Animal Interactions Ethical
Please, please, please do some extensive research before engaging with any activity which involves animals, as most are not what they seem. I know animals are cute and you just want to cuddle all of them but wildlife/animal mistreatment/beating into submission is alive and very real. Make sure any interactions you have with animals are ethical ones.
20. Invest in a Local Sim Card
Local sim cards are usually very affordable. Plus, it’s comforting just having that peace of mind that you can contact someone if you need to.
21. Get with a Group
Travel solo without traveling solo by going on a group tour! There’s a tour search engine called Tour Radar that will bring up thousands of different tours from many different companies from around the world. They often have cheaper prices than the actual tour company websites. Intrepid and G-Adventures are both big tour companies that puts together some amazing, well-structured tours. I can personally recommend the Green Tortoise Adventure Tours in the USA, Bali Bucketlist Tours in Bali, and the Intrepid Lombok Tour for a real cultural experience. I had the time of my life with all of them and also made friends for life.
22. Get Social
Join popular community/FaceBook groups of the places that you’re going to. You will get most of the information that you need from like-minded travelers that have been there before. And you never know, you can meet some awesome friends in these groups who can boost your confidence when you’re feeling a bit stuck. You’ve likely already joined the best FaceBook travel group (Girls Who Travel), so you can go on and mark it off your list!
23. Scope it Out
Arrive during the day instead of at night if you’re staying in unfamiliar and new destinations. If you have to pay a little bit more for your safety then DO IT! Your safety is priority! Also, it can be a waste of money if you’re only staying in the hotel room for a couple of hours that night/morning.
24. Work while you Travel
I love using HelpX or Workaway while traveling. These platforms are a fantastic way to save money, learn the locals culture and way of life, learn new skills, and help the local communities. In short – you work (building, cleaning, gardening, au pair, painting etc) for accommodation, which sometimes includes food and use of a car or get a private tour from tour hosts. Some activities like surfing lessons can sometimes be offered, too! Sometimes hosts will even pay you if you have the right visa.
But you need to read the reviews! If something doesn’t sound right (like they only hire women, or you’re welcome to work naked – a girl in my hostel today told me she was asked this once before!), then obviously don’t accept the job! These are great sites, but just like anything of this nature (WWOFF, Couchsurfing, AirBnb etc) you need to keep your wits about you and use common sense. It’s probably best not to take that trip on a yacht with the random man advertising with beautiful pics and offering the world to solo females.
25. Stay Safe at Night
Don’t go out at night alone! Always try and take a mate; but, if you can’t, let someone know where you’re going and what time they should expect you there or back. Also, ask the receptionist at your accommodation which places are known to be a bit sketchy and are best to avoid. If you’re listening to music with your headphones in, then make sure the music is down low so that you are still aware of your surroundings.
26. Be Identifiable
Take physical copies of your travel documents, like your passport, birth certificate, and any visas. Also, email them to yourself and give a copy to your parents or a close friend back home. This will make things a bit easier if you do happen to lose your passport, are involved in an accident, or something else.
27. Do your Research
Always, always, ALWAYS do your research. Find out about the different laws and customs, and any events, festivals, or public holidays happening during your travel dates. I’m glad that I found out about Nyepi Day in Bali, otherwise I could’ve been in a lot of trouble. They shut down the entire island for 24 hours (including the airport), so I could’ve ended up wasting money on a tour. Plus, leaving my accommodation on this day could’ve been a very confusing and possibly scare experience if I was unaware and alone.
28. Rideshare is your Friend
Use Uber, Gojek, or Lyft while you traveling. Rideshares are generally cheaper than taxis, just make sure that you can track your ride and then share it with a friend or family member so someone knows your location and where you’re going. Always double check that the car/number plate matches up with your app.
29. Embrace your Solo Trip!
You’re a solo traveler, so embrace being solo! Going solo is one of the most rewarding and enlightening experiences you’ll ever have. It will help you to become more empathetic and knowledgable with the world around you and beyond. It will help you discover your likes/dislikes and your boundaries, as well as pushing you past some of these which, in turn, will help you to become more confident and stronger. You will also gain many like-minded friends.
30. Leave no Trace
Last but not least, and most importantly: Take nothing but photos and leave nothing but footprints. Take compact reusable bags, refuse single-use plastics, and make your destination cleaner than when you arrived!
BONUS: Finding Deals!
Are you really a solo traveler if you aren’t looking for deals? Compare different tours, accommodation, sights in the area (what’s the cheapest, best, most practical for your needs etc), and then read the reviews on Trip Advisor and weigh up the pros and cons. Some websites that I recommend using for accommodation are Agoda, HostelWorld, Couchsurfing, and Airbnb. I use Skyscanner, I Know the Pilot, Scott’s Cheap Flights, and Google Flights for comparing prices and finding the best/cheapest deals! Groupon and Klook often have discounts for food, activities, accommodations, and even full holidays.
Rome2Rio is great for finding the best transportation options from point a to point b. Vehicle relocation websites are good for cheap transport if you’re comfortable driving abroad and don’t mind the time limit that it needs to reach the destination by.
Compare the Market is a handy tool for comparing insurance companies. XE Currency is good for knowing conversion rates. City passes are typically a great idea if you plan on visiting 3 or more popular attractions in a big city; plus, many save time as well as money through skip the line perks!
I know i’m missing a few things and every situation is different so this advice is just a generalization, but I feel these points are a good place to start. I’m happy to share more specific info or advice! Feel free to reach out through the comments on this post! Also feel free to add your recommendations to this list in the comments and I hope you find these helpful!
Be safe and bon voyage! ✈❤
About Nic: Nicola O’Leary is a 30-something year-old New Zealander who has been working in the Hospitality Industry on and off for the past 10 years, mainly living on luxury islands amidst the Great Barrier Reef, Australia, as well as having worked a season on Mount Buller, VIC and 1 year in the Rocky Mountains, Canada. She’s a seasoned solo traveler and is excited to share her stories!