The idea of traveling alone can feel intimidating and even scary. You have to make plans, manage your budget, organize transport, book accommodation, and more. It’s a lot of work. If you get into trouble, you have only yourself to rely on. If you plan ahead, traveling solo doesn’t have to be overwhelming. In this guide, I outline the most important tips for traveling alone. We’ll cover planning, budgeting, safety, loneliness, and much more. Hopefully, this guide helps you have a smooth, safe, and fun first solo trip!
Choose a Solo Travel Friendly Destination
Some destinations are better suited to solo travel than others. Infrastructure, culture, politics, economy, and local language all play a role in determining the difficulty of travel in a particular country or region alone. For your first solo trip, consider choosing an easier destination.
Western Europe and Southeast Asia are some of the easiest regions to solo travel. Tourism infrastructure in these regions is excellent. These regions are also pretty stable. English is widely spoken.
When choosing a destination for your first solo trip, try to choose a place that meets the following criteria.
- Plenty of accommodation options- Go on Booking.com, Hostelworld, and Airbnb and make sure there are plenty of decent hotels and hostels to choose from.
- Easy to get around- Try to choose a region where transportation is easy to find and arrange. Ideally, you should choose a densely populated region where lots of bus, train, and plane routes are available. Organizing transportation is one of the most stressful parts of travel.
- Touristy- It’s easier to meet other travelers and make new friends when there are lots of tourists around. Touristy countries are touristy for a reason. There is lots to see and do.
- Minimal language barrier- Try to choose a destination where either English or your native language is commonly spoken. This makes it far easier to get around. If you don’t speak the local language and nobody speaks your language, you’ll struggle.
- Relaxed culture- Consider choosing a region where the culture is familiar or laid-back. This makes travel easier.
- Delicious food- One of the best reasons to travel is to enjoy the cuisine. Choose a destination with great food.
- Safe- For your first solo trip, try to choose a region that is politically stable with a relatively low crime rate. This allows you to wander around without having to worry too much about personal security.
- Within your price range- Prices of accommodation, transportation, food, and activities vary widely around the world. Try to choose somewhere affordable for your first solo trip so you don’t have to constantly worry about overspending.
Some parts of the world are more challenging for solo travelers to navigate. For example, parts of Africa and Central Asia can be a bit tricky. Accommodation and transportation options are more limited in these regions. There may be a language barrier. Visas can be a challenge as well.
Of course, you can solo travel anywhere you like. If you really want to travel to a particular destination, go there. Some destinations just take a bit more work than others.
Plan your Communication Before your Trip
While solo traveling, you will want to stay connected to your friends and family back home. Before you leave, make sure you have a way to communicate with everyone. Tell everyone how you prefer to communicate while you’re away. You may also want to have the ability to make local calls at your destination. A few communication options include:
- Use Your regular cellphone service from back home- In most cases, your regular phone plan will work while you’re traveling abroad. You may rack up some roaming charges. Check with your carrier before you leave home so you know what to expect. For Americans, Google Fi and T-Mobile offer good international options.
- Buy a local SIM card- In most countries, you can buy a SIM card and a prepaid plan. Usually, you can get a few gigabyes of data and calling and texting for less tha $20 for a month. In order to do this, you need to make sure your phone is sim unlocked. This is handy because you can call local numbers and use data for planning and navigation. You’re not always looking for Wifi.
- Use Wifi- Free wi-fi is available pretty much everywhere these days. You can keep in touch through internet apps like Whatsapp, Skype, Facebook, etc.
Keep Your Friends and Family Informed About Your Solo Trip
While you’re solo traveling, your friends and family will worry about you. Particularly your parents. If they don’t hear from you, they will imagine the worst. Make sure to keep in touch with them and reassure them as much as possible that you’re doing alright.
Call, email, or text your family and friends every day or two to put their minds at ease. If you’re traveling somewhere remote where you can’t get internet access for a couple of days, let everyone know ahead of time so they don’t worry about you if they don’t hear from you.
Before you leave home, give them your travel itinerary. If you don’t have an exact itinerary, give them a rough outline of where you plan to go. You can update them throughout your trip. They will feel more at ease knowing where you are. This can also be helpful if something actually does happen to you. It’s a good idea to let someone know where you are.
Do your Research
Knowledge is power. Simply being aware helps you avoid crime, save money, and just have a smoother trip. Things you want to know before you travel alone include:
- Exchange rates- This will help you avoid losing money to scammers and dishonest salespeople.
- Common scams- Travel scams vary by country. If you are aware of the scams, you’ll be able to identify them more easily. To help you out, check out my list of 19 common travel scams, how they work, and how to avoid them.
- Dangerous neighborhoods- Know where you shouldn’t walk alone. This will help you avoid getting mugged or worse. Research this before your trip or ask a local about places to avoid once you arrive.
- Pricing- Research the average costs of hotel rooms, taxi rides, food, tours, and anything else you plan to purchase. This helps you avoid getting overcharged.
- The weather- Make sure you pack properly for the environment you’re traveling in. If you’re traveling solo during the rainy season, bring a rain jacket. If it’s going to be cold, pack warm clothes. It’s always a good idea to pack a jacket, just in case. Even warm climates get chilly at night.
- Common dishes- Research the country’s cuisine so you know what to order. This comes in handy while visiting a local restaurant with a menu in a language you don’t understand.
- Learn a few common phrases- This is optional, but learning how to say things like hello, goodbye, please, thank you, yes, no, how are you, etc. can be helpful. Locals love when you put in the effort to speak the local language. Learning a new language is fun too.
While solo traveling, you have to keep track of your own luggage at all times. While you’re waiting for your train, you can’t just leave your bag while you go grab a coffee. You have to carry your pack with you everywhere you go. Packing light makes this much easier.
To help you pack lighter:
- Choose a backpack or suitcase that meets the carry-on size limit. For backpacks, that means 40-45 liters or less. Using a carry-on sized bag forces you to pack light.
- Choose clothing that can be mixed and matched. Don’t pack outfits. Packing this way allows you to carry fewer clothes.
- Pack clothes made from lightweight and compressible materials. Synthetic fabrics work well. Avoid cotton and wool clothing.
- Consider using packing cubes or compression packing cubes to help you fit more in your luggage. This allows you to use a smaller piece of luggage.
- Pack a maximum of two pairs of shoes. I pack one pair of trail runners for walking around and going out and one pair of sandals for showering.
To help you avoid overpacking and cut down on the weight and bulk of your pack, check out my ultralight travel packing list.
There are several benefits of packing light. Most importantly, you can carry your luggage on flights, buses, and trains. This saves you time and money on travel days. You can also walk to your hotel or hostel when you arrive in a new city instead of having to take a taxi or public transportation. This also saves you money. Small luggage also fits in hostel lockers and luggage storage lockers. This is better for security. It’s also easier to keep track of your stuff when you pack light. There are fewer items for you to lose.
On my first solo trip, I overpacked. For 2 months, I carried around several pounds of extra clothing that I really didn’t need. I lugged my heavy backpack miles across cities. It was a hassle. I also had to check my bag every time I took a flight. These days, I travel with a carry-on. I can easily bring it with me everywhere I go.
Planning ahead greatly reduces stress and anxiety for first-time solo travelers. Before your trip:
- Research which travel documents you need. Do you need a visa, vaccine certificate, proof of onward travel, or bank statements? Gather all necessary documents so you’re prepared.
- Plan how you will pay for things. Will you use a credit or debit card or will you pay cash? Plan how you will get cash. Will you use an ATM or exchange booth?
- Buy your transportation tickets. Flights should be booked at least 2-4 weeks in advance. Bus and train tickets should be booked a day or two in advance in most cases.
- Book your hotel, hostel, or Airbnb. Try to book at least a few days in advance. If you’re traveling during peak season, you may need to book a month or more in advance.
- Research all of the sights you want to see. If necessary, make reservations or buy tickets in advance.
- Research how you will travel to each destination. Look at the bus, train, and public transportation schedules and ticket prices.
Knowing what to expect and being prepared for potential issues can help alleviate fear and uncertainty. Planning ahead also gives you peace of mind. You can relax and immerse yourself in new environments, knowing that you have a place to sleep and you know what you’re doing the next few days. You won’t have to spend your precious vacation time worrying about where to go, how to get there, where you’re going to stay, or what to do.
It’s not necessary to plan the whole trip out and book everything in advance. Try to plan ahead at least a few days. You want to know where you’re going to sleep at night and how you’re going to get to your next destination. Once you gain some travel experience, you can start to wing it a bit more if you choose.
Carefully Select Your Accommodation
Where you stay will have a major effect on your solo travel experience. Hostels, hotels, and Airbnb are all accommodation options for solo travelers. Each of these options has its benefits and drawbacksChoose your accommodation carefully for the best solo travel experience.
Hostels are a great option for solo travelers who want to meet new people and socialize. They provide communal spaces, bars, and activities that are great for socializing and making new friends. They are also the cheapest option. However, one of the drawbacks of hostels is that they may not always be the cleanest or most comfortable option. Some hostels can be noisy and smelly, making it difficult to get a good night’s sleep. There is also no privacy when you stay in a hostel.
Hotels are a more luxurious option for solo travelers. They offer private rooms with comfortable beds, private bathrooms, and amenities such as room service, gyms, and swimming pools. Hotels are perfect for travelers who want privacy and comfort. However, hotels are usually the most expensive option. They also don’t offer the opportunity to socialize with other travelers. It’s hard to meet other people when you stay in hotels.
Airbnb is a popular option for solo travelers who want to experience living like a local. It offers a wide range of accommodation options, from shared rooms to entire apartments and houses. Airbnb is usually cheaper than hotels and provides a more authentic travel experience. Staying in an Airbnb allows you to live like a local and explore the city at your own pace. However, the downside of Airbnb is that the quality and cleanliness of the accommodations can vary. Also, some hosts may not be as responsive or helpful as others, which can be a challenge for solo travelers who may need assistance during their stay.
The best accommodation option for you depends on the type of traveler you are. If you want to be social, hostels are the best option. If you want luxury, hotels will be the best choice. For those who want to cook and have a more homey experience, Airbnb is a great option.
It’s also important to choose accommodation with a good location while solo traveling. Try to stay in. a centrally located place that is near the sites that you plan to visit. Also, try to choose a place that is close to public transportation. You’ll go out and explore more if it’s convenient. Also, try to stay in a safe neighborhood. You will be walking around alone.
Learn About the Local Culture and Customs
Before your first solo trip, take some time to research the culture and customs of your destination. Learning about the culture can help you feel more comfortable when you arrive. It can also help you avoid getting into embarrassing situations. It could even prevent you from inadvertently committing a crime. While studying the culture:
- Research what types of clothes you can wear. In some countries, certain types of clothing aren’t appropriate for religious reasons.
- Learn about religious customs. Some countries have very strict customs that you must follow as a tourist. This is particularly important if you’re planning on traveling solo in certain Muslim countries.
- Local laws. Different countries have different laws. For example, you may want to research where you can and can’t take photos and public drinking laws.
- Greetings. Learn how to greet people that you meet.
Keep Your Phone Charged
Keeping a charged cell phone on hand while you travel is essential. Not only can it help you navigate your new surroundings, but it also acts as a lifeline in case of an emergency. Even without a data or wi-fi connection, you can use maps and translation apps, as well as make emergency calls. A phone is an essential piece of travel gear.
To ensure that you can always use your phone, pack a power bank. A small one can charge your phone 2-3 times. That way, you’ll never be left without a working phone.
When traveling solo, it’s also a good idea to carry a backup phone. You could use an old phone or a cheap phone as a backup.
A backup phone can be useful in a number of scenarios. On nights out, you can leave your main phone at the hostel and use your backup for navigation. You don’t have to worry about losing your main phone. Robbery, theft, and pickpocketing are also common issues while traveling solo. If someone takes one of your phones, having a backup ensures that you still have access to your important accounts.
Leave Your Itinerary Open
One of the biggest benefits of solo travel is that it allows you to be spontaneous. You get to decide exactly what you want to do. Maybe you meet a fellow solo traveler who invites you to travel to another city. Maybe you meet a local who tells you about a beautiful hike on the other side of the country. If you didn’t book your trip in advance, you can change your plans in a moment.
While solo traveling, I change my plans often. For example, while traveling in Nairobi I met cool Irish guy. We ended up traveling through half of Africa together. While visiting Mexico, a friend told me about a beautiful place called Hierve el Agua. I ended up taking a bus to Oaxaca so I could check it out.
Meet Locals and Other Travelers
One of the biggest drawbacks of solo travel is the fact that it gets lonely. Just because you’re traveling alone doesn’t mean you have to spend all of your time alone. There are plenty of ways to meet other travelers to hang out with, eat with, and go sightseeing with. If you prefer, you can also meet locals. The following tips will help you make new friends with both locals and fellow travelers alike while you’re traveling solo.
- Hostels- Hostels are the best place to meet fellow solo travelers. They are set up for socializing. For a few tips, check out my guide: How to Choose the Best Hostel.
- Couchsurfing- When you stay with a local, you have an instant friend in a new city. Most hosts are happy to take you out and show you around. You can also use this site to meet fellow travelers.
- A bar- The classic spot to meet people. Have a few drinks and chat up the bartender or the lady sitting next to you.
- A coffee shop- Many cafes have bar seating or communal tables where you can strike up a conversation with a local.
- Dating apps- These are great resources for meeting locals. Going on a date in a foreign country is also a great cultural experience. Try Tinder and Badoo. These apps are active in most countries.
- Free walking tours- These days, most large cities have a free walking tour. You meet the guide in a central location or tourist zone and they show you the main sites in the city on foot. These free walking tours are tip based. During the tour, you’ll have the opportunity to meet other travelers who are on the tour with you.
- Day tours- You don’t need to travel independently the entire time. Sometimes day tours are the cheapest and easiest way to visit a particular site. This instantly gives you some people to talk to. You can make friends with the other people on the tour. You’ll have plenty to talk about.
- Pub crawls- The pub crawl is usually organized and hosted by a staff member of the hostel. This is a great way to meet people and get to know the city. You’ll spend two or three hours visiting different bars and pubs in the area with other travelers. After a couple of drinks, you’re sure to meet some fellow travelers.
- Meetup.com- The whole purpose of this site is to meet like-minded people. There are meetups all over the world for various activities, hobbies, events, and more. Find some local events that interest you and join in.
- On the street- If you have an outgoing and friendly personality, you can meet people pretty much anywhere. Just strike up a conversation with an interesting-looking person.
There is no avoiding the occasional loneliness of solo travel. In my travels, I’ve gone weeks without having a meaningful conversation with another human being. Simply talking to someone can do wonders to lift your spirits and put you back on track. Sometimes you have to put in some effort and step out of your comfort zone to meet people.
If you’re worried about not being able to make friends during your trip, check out my guide: How to Meet People While Traveling Alone. Here, I outline 19 ways to make friends while traveling.
Of course, you don’t always have to meet people if you don’t want to. Some solo travelers prefer spending time alone. That’s perfectly fine.
Learn How to Eat Alone
Eating alone in restaurants while solo traveling can feel uncomfortable for many people. It feels awkward to sit alone and be surrounded by groups of people having conversations and laughing together. The truth is that nobody really cares that you’re dining solo. If you’re feeling nervous there are a few tips you can use to help overcome your fear:
- Choose the right restaurant: Look for restaurants that are comfortable with solo diners, such as cafes, bars, fast food restaurants, street food stands, or restaurants with counter seating.
- Bring a book or journal: Having something to read or write can help you feel less self-conscious and give you something to do if you feel awkward.
- Be confident: Remember that there is nothing wrong with eating alone. It’s a common practice, and most people won’t pay much attention to you.
- Be open to conversation: If you feel comfortable, strike up a conversation with the waiter or other solo diners. You might be surprised how friendly people can be. If you plan to try this, I recommend you sit at the bar.
If you really dislike eating alone, there are some alternatives. You can:
- Invite people out from the hostel: Go to the common area around dinner time and ask people if they’d like to grab a bite to eat with you. Chances are, another solo traveler will be happy to join you
- Join a food tour: Food tours are a great way to explore new cuisine and meet other foodies. You can join a group tour or hire a local guide to take you around.
- Take your food to go: If you don’t feel comfortable eating in a restaurant alone, order takeaway find a nice spot to enjoy it by yourself. You could eat in a park or in your hotel room or at your hostel.
In my opinion, one of the hardest parts of solo travel is eating alone. I’ve spent years of my life solo traveling and I’ve eaten in hundreds of restaurants alone. I still don’t enjoy it. These days, I try to cook most of my own meals while traveling alone. I also enjoy eating street food. I only eat alone in a restaurant when I have to. This is something I’m still working on.
Don’t be Afraid to Do Things Alone
Solo travelers sometimes feel embarrassed or self-conscious doing certain activities alone. For example, going to restaurants and bars alone or attending local events alone can feel awkward the first couple of times. Don’t miss out on a great meal or an activity just because you don’t have anyone to go with you.
To get over this fear, remember that nobody cares if you’re alone. When you’re out and about, how often do you notice when someone is alone? Probably never. Even if someone notices that you’re by yourself and thinks it’s weird, who cares? It’s your vacation. You’re there to enjoy yourself. You’ll never see any of those people again anyway.
Bring a Book
While solo traveling, you have a lot of downtime. You’ll spend hours on planes, trains, and buses with nobody to talk to. Reading is a great way to pass the time. Reading also gives you something to do if you’re feeling self-conscious about being alone. When you’re in a restaurant waiting for your meal, you can simply pull out your book and start reading.
Consider reading something related to the region that you’re traveling. You could read a non-fiction book to learn a bit about the country you’re visiting and the sites that you’re seeing. Alternatively, you could read a fiction book written by an author from the country you’re visiting. This might teach you a bit about the local culture. Of course, you could always read a guidebook and plan your next stop.
These days, I always travel with my Kindle Paperwhite. I prefer paper books but this thing can’t be beat for travel. It can store thousands of books. It has a backlight for reading in the dark. The battery life is also incredible. I only need to charge once every couple of weeks and I read quite a bit.
Make a Travel Budget and Stick to it
Solo traveling costs around 20-30% more than traveling with a friend. The reason is that you can’t split costs. For example, if you need to take a $40 taxi ride from the airport, you must pay the whole fare yourself. You don’t have anyone to split it with. The same applies to hotel rooms. You have to pay for the whole room yourself. You can’t share.
To avoid overspending, make a travel budget and stick to it. Before your trip, research the cost of accommodation, transportation, food, activities, and any other expenses you may incur. You don’t want to end up in a foreign city with an empty bank account.
During your trip, check your account periodically to make sure that you’re sticking to your budget. If you find that you’re going over budget, make adjustments to your spending. Eat out less. Travel slower. Reduce your alcohol consumption.
For budgeting help, check out my guide: How to Make an Accurate Budget for Long Term Travel.
Carry Extra Cash While Traveling Alone
It’s a good idea to always carry some extra cash. This is particularly important while solo traveling. Maybe your debit card gets lost or stolen. Maybe your bank blocks a withdrawal because it looks suspicious. If you find yourself in a situation where you can’t access your money, you need to have a backup plan. While traveling solo, you can’t just borrow money from a friend.
How much you need to carry depends on where you’re traveling. I like to carry enough money to sustain myself for a week. That should give you enough time to get some more cash. I recommend you carry $300-$1000. In cheap countries, you can get away with a few hundred. In more expensive countries, you may need more.
The currency that you carry depends on where you’re traveling. USD works everywhere. Euros and British Pounds are also an option. Bring new bills in denominations of 20, 50, or 100. These are the easiest to convert. Avoid carrying small bills.
If your credit or debit card gets lost, stolen, or denied, call your bank immediately. It may take a few days to sort out the problem. Your bank may need to send you a new card. If you can’t get a new card where you are, contact a friend or family member to send you some cash by Western Union. You may also be able to send yourself money if you have access to your online banking. You don’t want to run out of money in a foreign country.
Tell Your Family and Friends Your Travel Plans
On the off chance that something bad happens to you, it’s important that someone know where you are. Send your itinerary, hotel reservations, and details about any activities you’re planning to a friend or family member back home.
To help you with this, you can use an app or simply send a message indicating your plans and location. You don’t need to communicate every day if you don’t want to. Just let someone know when you move to a new destination or change plans.
Before heading out for the day, it’s also a good idea to tell a hotel staff member where you’re going and when you plan to come back. That way, if you don’t come back, they will know something is wrong.
It is especially important to share your travel plans if you’re traveling solo in places where people may not find you if you’re lost or injured. For example, while hiking or trekking the backcountry you need to tell somebody where you’re going.
If you don’t have anyone to share your travel plans with, you can always register with your embassy. That way, they know that you’re in the country if something happens. You’ll be able to get help faster if you need it.
Prepare for Emergency Situations
Prepare for the worst case scenario. Being prepared helps you stay safe. Before your trip, check the travel advisories. You can find travel advisories from the U.S. Department of State here.
It’s also a good idea to notify the embassy of your travel plans. If you’re a U.S. citizen, you can enroll in the STEP program (Smart Traveler Enrollment Program). That way, they know that you’re in the country. If something happens to you, you’ll get help quicker.
You should also write down the emergency numbers of the country you’re traveling in. 911 doesn’t always work. Different countries use different numbers.
It’s also a good idea to learn a few words of the local language. For example, knowing the words for ‘police’ and ‘help’ can come in handy in an emergency situation.
You should also download an offline maps app. This will allow you to navigate, even when you don’t have an internet connection. I like Maps.me. You should also download an offline translation app and download the local languages of the country that you’re traveling. This will allow you to communicate with people in an emergency.
It’s also a good idea to have a travel insurance policy. Travel insurance can help you pay for emergency medical care if you need it. It can also help you get out of a country in the event of an emergency.
Don’t Drink Too Much While you’re Traveling Solo
While on vacation, you’ll likely want to enjoy a few drinks. While solo traveling, you don’t have any friends around to babysit you or take you home if you drink too much. You are the only person you can rely on to stay safe. If you get too intoxicated, bad things can happen. To stay safe you should:
- Pace yourself and know your limits- Don’t drink too much too fast. When you’re alone in a foreign country, it’s best not to get too intoxicated. Have a couple of drinks and call it a night.
- Carry a card with the name and address of your hotel written down- That way, if you get lost, you can always find your way home. You can also show the card to a cab driver so they know where to take you.
- Keep an eye on your drink- If you leave your drink unattended, buy a new one when you return, just to be safe. It could have been spiked.
- Don’t get too friendly with people you just met- Have fun and socialize but don’t put too much trust into anyone you just met.
I made the mistake of drinking too much while visiting Tijuana alone. After drinking a few too many beers at a sketchy bar, my phone was pickpocketed on my way home. Luckily I got it back.
Even while out drinking with friends you met at the hostel, you need to be cautious. You can’t trust people you just met to take care of you. They could meet someone and leave you on your own. It’s not their job to look after you.
Of course, you need to have fun too. Don’t be overly cautious or paranoid. Just use your best judgment and don’t get blackout drunk while alone in a foreign country.
Be Cautious of Pickpockets While Solo Traveling
Us solo travelers make easy targets for pickpockets. We’re easily distracted and we often carry valuables. They know that.
The best things you can do to avoid falling victim is to secure your belongings and stay alert while walking around crowded areas. The most common tactic that pickpockets use is distraction.
To further lower your risk of falling victim of a pickpocket, consider trading your wallet in for a money belt while traveling. These help you secure your passport, cash, cards, and other valuables by hiding them. A money belt is a hidden pocket that you wear around your waist. I like the Eagle Creek Silk Undercover money belt. I’ve used mine for the past 8 years and am really happy with it. You can read my full review here.
For some more helpful tips, check out this great guide about avoiding pickpockets from Rick Steves.
Have Travel Insurance
Travel insurance can cover you in the event of theft, injury, or a medical emergency. It also brings peace of mind.
I use World Nomads travel insurance. For more info and a free quote, check out my travel insurance page.
Remember to purchase your travel insurance before you leave. Some companies don’t sell travel insurance to people who are already out of their home country.
Have Copies and Online Backups of All Important Documents
It’s important to be prepared for all situations. Maybe your wallet or money belt gets stolen. Maybe the airline loses your entire backpack. You need to have a plan in the event that you lose everything.
If you have access to copies of your documents, the process of replacing them becomes much easier. Being able to identify yourself is a necessity while traveling solo.
I recommend you carry two sets of copies of your documents. One set should be a physical copy printed out. The second set should be a digitally scanned copy. I recommend you store the scanned copy of your documents on your phone, email, and in the cloud. That way, you can always access your documents, even in a worst-case scenario where you lose all of your belongings.
Documents you need include:
- Passport- Scan a color copy and print out a couple of black and white copies.
- Copy of visas- If you arranged any visas before your trip, a copy can come in handy. If you obtained a visa on arrival, take a photo of it so you have proof in case you lose your passport.
- Yellow fever vaccine certificate (if required for your destination)- Paper copy and scanned. If you lose the original, you can print out a copy.
- Driver’s license- This can also help you identify yourself if you lose your passport. It can work as a second form of identification.
- Passport photos- Carry a few already printed out in the proper size. These come in handy when applying for visas. Also, bring the photo file so you can print out more without having to pay for new photos. For more info, check out my guide: How to Take Your Own Passport Photo for Free.
- Credit and debit card- I recommend you block out the numbers. The only piece of information you need is the phone numbers on the back to call if your card is lost or stolen. For card recommendations, check out my guide: The Best Debit and Credit Card for International Travel.
Download Offline Maps to Your Phone
Wandering around a new city is always a great way to get to know the area and see some parts of the city you otherwise wouldn’t see. It’s easy to get lost if you wander too far. The solution is to make sure you always have a map to help you navigate.
Before your trip, download an offline map of the city you’re visiting. You can download an offline version of Google Maps or use a maps app. I like Maps.me. This way, you can navigate even when you don’t have a data or wi-fi access. You can still use your phone’s GPS, even when you’re not online.
While out walking around, always carry your phone. This will help you get back to your hotel or hostel if you wander too far. It’s also a good idea to write down the address of the place that you’re staying so you can take a cab back if you have to.
I have a terrible sense of direction. Before I leave my room, I like to look at the map and plan a route. I’ll look for points of interest, busy areas, downtown areas, walks along the waterside, or anything that I’d like to check out. I try to memorize the basic directions and a few large street names. This way I have a plan and I’m less likely to get lost. Of course, I can always change my route If something interesting catches my eye while I’m wandering around. I can also check my map if I get lost.
Try to Blend in and Stay Low Key
One downside of solo travel is the fact that you are a bigger target for thieves, scammers, muggers, and other criminals. It’s just easier for these criminals to prey on an individual than a couple or a group.
One way to reduce the likelihood of falling victim to a scam or crime is to try to blend in the best you can and stay low-key. Some ways to do this include:
- Try not to stand around looking lost or confused- Criminals will notice this and attempt to prey on you. If you’re lost, ask someone for directions or look at your map or GPS.
- Avoid wearing flashy clothing or jewelry- Try to dress in a way that makes you blend in with the crowd. You don’t want to make yourself a target. Dress down.
- Store your camera in your backpack- Cameras are a major target for pickpockets. Only take your camera out when you want to use it then put it away.
- Speak quietly- Talking loudly or yelling in a foreign language draws unwanted attention.
Carry a First Aid Kit
You need to be a bit more self-sufficient while solo traveling. This can mean patching yourself up in the event of an injury. A good first aid kit can save the day. I bought the First Aid Only 299 Piece First Aid Kit from Amazon. It includes a lot of gear for a reasonable price.
You may also want to study up a bit on basic first aid before your trip. Knowing how to properly treat a minor wound to prevent infection could save you a lot of pain or a big medical bill.
Take a Day Off
Solo travel gets exhausting. You’re constantly packing and unpacking, bargaining, dealing with a language barrier, figuring out transportation, and dealing with an unfamiliar currency. On top of that, you’re spending a lot of time out in the sun, carrying a heavy backpack, and probably not eating all that healthily.
Sometimes you need to give your mind and body a break to reset. This is particularly important if you’re traveling alone long-term.
Take a day off to relax and catch up on your chores. Do your laundry, check your bank account to make sure that you’re on budget, plan the next leg of your journey, take a long shower, catch up on your favorite TV show. By the next day, you’ll feel fresh and ready to continue your trip.
Trust Your Instincts
Traveling alone can be an incredibly rewarding experience, but it can also be daunting at times. One of the best pieces of advice to remember when traveling alone is to trust your instincts. Your gut feeling can be your best friend in unfamiliar territory.
Sometimes, the feeling of unease may come from a specific individual or a group of people. It could be something in their behavior, the way they talk or move, or simply the vibe they give off. In such cases, it’s best to stay away and find a safe spot. Sometimes a place may feel unsafe. It may feel creepy, dark, or have an eerie atmosphere. In this case, it’s best to get out of there. If you ever feel uncomfortable or uneasy about a person or a place, listen to your gut and take action.
If you are in a public place and feel uncomfortable, you can step into a store or a restaurant. Places like these are typically safer and have people around who can help if needed. It’s also a good idea to keep the phone numbers of the local police and emergency services handy in case of an emergency.
If you’re out walking and feel uneasy, try to find a busy street or a well-lit area. If possible, catch a taxi or ride-sharing service instead of walking alone. Another option is to simply ask for help. Ask someone to call you a taxi or walk you to the bus stop. There is safety in numbers.
Remember that it’s okay to walk away from a situation or a person that makes you feel uncomfortable. Trusting your instincts and taking action can help keep you safe while traveling alone.
I’ve been solo traveling since 2011 and have made plenty of mistakes in that time. Some expensive, some painful, and some just embarrassing. Even after making so many mistakes, I have decided that traveling alone is the best way to see the world.
Solo travel allows for absolute freedom. If you want to be social, you can. If you want to change your plans at the last minute, you can. Your trip is in your hands.
That freedom comes with a cost. You must put in some work to plan a solo journey. You have to do the research, budgeting, organizing, and booking to make your trip happen. Solo travel also isn’t for everyone. Some people don’t enjoy their own company.
Hopefully, this guide makes your first solo trip just a bit smoother and easier. Traveling alone can be daunting, but it can also open up a whole world of opportunity.
Do you travel alone? Share your solo travel tips in the comments below to help fellow travelers prepare for their next trip!
Still undecided about solo travel? Check out my guide solo travel vs group travel pros and cons list to help you decide if solo travel is for you!
More from Where The Road Forks
- 17 Free Airline Stopover Options and How to Make Them
- Summer Travel Tips: Beat the Heat, Avoid Crowds, and Save Money
- How to Provide Proof of Onward Travel: 8 Options Including the Fake Ticket Method
- The Best Solo Travel Destinations
- How to Cook in a Hotel Room Without a Kitchen
- Winter Travel Tips: Stay Warm, Enjoy the Holidays, and Save Money
- Backpack Vs. Suitcase for Travel: My Pros and Cons List