In ExperiencesResources on 21/07/17
A girl kayaking solo down a calm stream, surrounded by trees with dappled sunlight shining through

Solo Travel – 8 Top Tips

“Twenty years from now you’ll be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do” Mark Twain

The idea of travelling alone fills many with dread, and I often hear people lament their lack of holidays because they have no-one to go with.  For those who aren’t strong on confidence this is understandable, however there are ways to build a safe, fun trip that could improve your confidence and literally open up a whole new world of adventures.

Going solo gives you the freedom to go exactly where you want, when you want and do what you want.  You have no-one’s agenda but your own and can change your plans as you choose.  Once you find your feet with solo travel, it’s really liberating!

When travelling alone I’m naturally cautious and instinctively make safe choices – I’m all about problem avoidance.  These are my top tips for solo travel for the confident, not so confident and the outright terrified.

1.  Go it alone, or join a group trip?

Broadly speaking there are three options, depending on how brave you’re feeling:

Go it alone

  • I believe there’s an intrepid explorer in all of us and we’re usually braver than we think, so don’t be put off creating your own holiday
  • Designing your own bespoke holiday and booking everything separately gives you the freedom to go where and when you want. If your flight has a connection, why not stay in the connecting city for a couple of days?  I used to see connections as an inconvenience, now I see them as an opportunity
  • The top tips below apply to all types of solo travel, but especially for those of you going it alone

Package holiday

  • So many options, and most trips include transfers so you’re taken care of from beginning to end.
  • This is a stress free, safe option so long as you pick a reputable company
  • Beware the single supplement, this can add a significant cost to your holiday
  • Beware of resorts that are geared towards kids and/or couples which can make you feel a little like the odd one out, and reduce your chances of meeting like minded people to share a drink with

Group holiday

  • If you’re travelling solo but would like some guaranteed company along the way, there are endless travel companies and organisations that organise group trips
  • These trips provide the ease of having everything booked for you, and others to keep you company if and when you wish

Example: I’ve taken a solo package holiday in the past to recover from work related stress and I didn’t want to have to think or plan!  But mostly I create my own bespoke holidays – rather than looking at what holidays are available I decide what I want and then create it.  My Top Tips document details my holiday preparations to ensure it all goes off without a hitch, sign up on my homepage to receive this.

2.  Destination

Pretty much the whole world is open to us now but there are places I won’t go, especially alone:

  • Avoid anywhere with civil war, gun-toting rebels, high crime rates or a bad human rights record
  • Go off the beaten track, in a safe country
  • If you’re female, stick to countries where women have equal rights. Personally I would’nt travel to e.g. Iran
  • Do a little research on your destination to check safe areas and areas to avoid. But don’t be scared off by isolated incidents

Example: On my way to Australia I connected via Thailand and spent ten days there island hopping.  Just before I left, a British tourist was murdered in northern Thailand.  My parents immediately questioned how safe I’d be there.  But in the previous three months, three people had been murdered in the town I lived in at the time in the UK.  There’s crime everywhere.

3.  Method of travel

  • Pick flights with short connection times, so you won’t end up falling asleep and waking to find your belongings stolen. Or better still, stay in your connecting city for a couple of days to broaden the scope of your trip
  • Choose airport to resort transfer options with established companies, be it a taxi, bus or train
  • The best way to get around when you reach your destination depends on how remote you are. If in doubt, get a taxi. I never walk through dark areas alone in places I don’t know

Example: I use Skyscanner to find the best flight options, and then check which cities they are connecting in.  I then search again for a split journey, sometimes it’s cheaper to book the two legs separately and this allows me to have a few days in the connecting city – why not?!

 4.  Accommodation

The safety line here depends on where you are.  Some things to consider:

  • Hotels: Can be checked on TripAdvisor for guest ratings, and are probably your safest option
  • Hostels: A great place for singles to meet other travellers
  • Bed and breakfast: Cheaper and you can likely get some great local recommendations. Check they are established and reputable
  • Airbnb: This suits pretty much every budget with options from a shared room to private house.  Check the ratings and the area they are in – if travelling solo, pick a place in a safe part of town
  • Family homes: Some less developed countries have an informal room rental system in family homes. This is common in Cuba which has very little crime and a wonderfully welcoming culture.  Research if this is an option and how to find a trustworthy family
  • Camping can be great, where possible avoid remote places or empty campsites for safety – tents offer very little security for you or your belongings

5.  New friends

  • Going out alone can be daunting, but it’s often the best way to meet new people. Take a book with you so rather than feeling lonely you can read and people watch
  • Be cautious, but be open minded – you could be about to meet a new friend for life
  • If you’d like some company, look at excursions you could join, they’re a great way to meet people
  • Read the safety tips below for some points of caution

Example:  I always carry a book or laptop with me so I can read or write in a bar or restaurant while I watch the world go by.  People often approach me to ask what I’m reading/writing, it’s a great conversation starter.  On my last two solo holidays I didn’t get any reading or writing done after day two, I’d met so many people I was busy chatting each time I went out.  I still always took a book with me though, just in case!

Example: Most of my friends these days are spread across the world.  Having lived met them during my time living and travelling abroad, I now have a network of like minded people I get to catch up with in the most amazing places.  In the pub where I write much of this blog one of the bartenders commented that I didn’t seem to have many friends.  Having only lived here a year I only have a few in the village, but this year I’ve also spent time with friends in the Marshall Islands, Greece, France and Cayman Islands, and I’ll be spending Christmas and New Year in Thailand and Malaysia with a friend I met in the Turks & Caicos Islands.  I certainly don’t feel friendless or lonely!

6.  Safety

Keep your wits about you and don’t be an easy target

  • If you’re lacking in confidence, fake it! Stand tall, look people in the eye and if you feel at risk, look angry, all of these things make you look like less of an easy target.  If you’re not confident and can’t fake it, stick to known hotels, attractions and transport
  • Avoid wearing expensive jewellery or clothing, or carrying a lot of cash
  • Keep your drinking in check and never accept a drink from a stranger
  • Be careful about how much information you give away about yourself. Don’t tell people you’re travelling alone, if they figure it out, tell them you’re meeting a friend soon.  Don’t tell them your full name or where you’re staying.  Don’t be afraid to say no or walk away, anyone decent will understand your caution.  This is your trip, you set the rules
  • If you’re uncomfortable with someone who’s talking to you, tell them you’d really just like to read your book. If that doesn’t work, move to a different bar.
  • If someone suspicious is targeting you, leave immediately via a safe route, e.g. taxi
  • Be pragmatic – don’t be alarmed by stories in the news, they are designed to alarm and shock us! But be mindful of your safety and trust your instincts

Example:  I once found myself on a dark stretch of road on the way back to my hostel, and heard footsteps behind me.  He wasn’t acting suspiciously but I realised I was out of earshot of anyone and in a potentially risky situation.  I crossed the road, stopped and stared at the man with a look of anger on my face.  I had him at a distance and in view so I could have run if need be.  I was terrified, but he wouldn’t have known that as I did my best not to look like an easy target.  After that I took the longer route back to the hostel that was busier and well lit. 

A lady walking down a small alleyway lined with old hosues and pot plants

7.  In case of emergency

  • Have a point of contact you trust, e.g. someone at home you check in with every day, and who knows your current location and next planned stop. If you don’t check in with them, they can raise the alarm, and know where you last were
  • Carry a printed copy of your travel insurance and write an emergency contact name and number on it. If you are in an accident, the hospital will know the bill will be paid and can call your emergency contact on your behalf
  • Have a credit card with available funds in case you need urgent medical care or a flight

Example: I do all of the above, on every trip, it gives me peace of mind

8.  Have an open mind

I’ve just written a lot about safety that can sound alarming, but this is more about problem avoidance than a list of things that will befall you on your solo trip!  With the right forethought and preparation, these things won’t happen.  A solo trip can bring you into contact with places, people and experiences that will enrich your life.  Even if you don’t meet anyone or do anything remarkable, the places you see and the confidence you’ll gain in yourself will enrich your life.

Example: I wrote this blog because a friend suggested I write something for single female travellers – I’m so used to travelling solo now I hadn’t even noticed I fell into that category!  And of course these tips apply to both genders.  I sincerely hope this blog inspires just one person to embark on a whole new adventure that brings them the same sense of freedom and joy I have had along the way.  Go for it!