The idea of traveling alone seems intimidating at first. After all, you have only yourself to rely on to make plans, manage your budget, organize transport, and make bookings. In this guide, I outline the most important solo travel tips to help you save money, stay safe, and make friends while traveling alone.
Table of Contents- Solo Travel Tips
- Before your Trip- Solo travel tips for planning and organizing your trip.
- Avoiding Loneliness- Solo travel gets lonely. These tips help you meet fellow travelers and locals.
- Money and Budgeting- Solo travel tips to save you money.
- Staying Safe- Solo travel is slightly more dangerous than group travel. These tips help you minimize risk and avoid scams and crime.
- Health Tips- Solo travel tips to keep your body and mind healthy.
Before your Solo Trip
Planning a solo trip involves a significant amount of work. You must research your destination, design a budget, make reservations, and handle all other aspects of the trip. All by yourself. The following solo travel tips are designed to make that process just a bit easier.
Choose a Solo Travel Friendly Destination
Some destinations are better suited to solo travel than others. Infrastructure, culture, politics, economy, and language all play a role in determining the difficulty of travel in a particular country or region. For your first solo trip, consider choosing an easier destination.
Western Europe and Southeast Asia are some of the easiest regions to travel. Tourist infrastructure is excellent. Many first-time solo travelers choose these destinations for the following reasons:
- Finding accommodation is easy- There are plenty of decent hotels and hostels to choose from.
- It’s easy to get around- Transportation is easy to find and arrange. Plenty of bus, train, and plane routes cover these regions.
- Tourists are everywhere- This makes meeting fellow travelers particularly easy.
- The language barrier is minimal- Most locals speak decent English.
- The culture is relaxed- Locals are friendly and accommodating.
- Food is delicious- Some of the world’s greatest cuisines come from these regions. There are lots of restaurants to choose from.
- They’re safe- You can wander around without having to worry too much about security.
On the other hand, some parts of the world are more challenging for solo travelers to navigate. For example, much of Africa and Central Asia are a bit tricky. Accommodation and transportation options are more limited. There may be a language barrier. Visas can be a challenge.
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 probably want to stay connected to your friends and family back home. Before you leave, tell them how you prefer to communicate. You may also want to have the ability to make local calls at your destination. You have several options to achieve this:
- Your regular cellphone service from back home- Depending on your plan and destination, you may end up paying roaming charges. Check with your carrier before you leave home so you don’t rack up unexpected charges.
- A local sim card- In most countries, you can buy a prepaid plan. In order to do this, make sure your phone is sim unlocked. This is handy because you can call local numbers and use data for research and navigation. No more looking for wifi. This is usually a pretty cheap option.
- Wifi- Free wifi is available pretty much everywhere these days. You can keep in touch through internet apps like Whatsapp, Skype, Facebook, etc.
- No communication- Some people travel to get away from their life back home. Maybe you don’t want to talk to anybody. That’s fine too.
Do your Research
I know this is a cliché but 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 dishonest salespeople.
- Common scams- Travel scams vary by country. If you are aware of the scams, you’ll be able to identify them immediately. 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 at night. This will help you avoid getting mugged or worse. Research this before your trip or ask a local 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. For example, don’t assume that just because your destination is on the equator it will be warm. High elevation cities can be cool year-round.
- 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, how are you, etc. can be helpful. Locals love this in most places. Learning a new language is fun too.
While solo traveling, you have to keep track of your own luggage at all times. You can’t just leave your bag with your friend while you go grab a coffee. You have to schlep your pack with you everywhere you go. Packing light makes this much easier.
To help you avoid overpacking and cut down on the weight and bulk of your pack, check out my ultralight travel packing list.
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.
Solo Travel Tips to Help Avoid Loneliness and Make Friends
One of the biggest drawbacks of solo travel is the fact that it gets lonely. Humans need some type of social interaction in order to function properly. Spending long stretches of time alone can lead to depression and generally poor health. The following solo travel tips will help you make friends with both locals and fellow travelers alike.
Meet Locals and Other Travelers
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 put you back on track. Places to meet people include:
- Hostels- This is the best place to meet fellow solo travelers. 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.
- Day tours- You don’t need to travel alone the entire time. Sometimes day tours are the cheapest and easiest way to visit a particular site. This instantly gives you someone to talk to.
- 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.
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.
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.
Become a Regular
If you’re staying in the same town for more than a couple of weeks, consider returning to the same bar, restaurant, or cafe a few times so you become a regular. After several visits, you’ll become friendly with the staff. It’s kind of a nice feeling going into a familiar place in an otherwise foreign city.
While living in Mexico I used to eat at this breakfast restaurant once a week or so. After a while, a couple of the servers would remember me and greet me by name. It was kind of nice. Occasionally, they would bring me some free extras with my meal like some fresh fruit or a cup of coffee.
Go on a Date with a Local
Fire up your favorite dating app and try your luck. By going on a date, you’ll make a local friend and experience the country’s dating culture. You can invite your date to visit one of the city’s sites with you or ask them to show you their favorite bar. Who knows? Maybe you’ll end up meeting your husband or wife. You never know. At the very least, you’ll have a unique cultural experience.
Of course, you have to be careful with this as well. There are plenty of catfish and criminals working online dating sites looking to run scams. Take the normal precautions. Don’t drink too much and meet in a public area just in case your date is up to no good.
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, bars, and attending events can feel awkward the first couple of times. Try not to miss out on a great meal or night out just because you don’t have anyone to go with you.
To get over this fear, I try to tell myself that nobody cares if I’m alone. Even if someone notices that I’m by myself and thinks it’s weird, who cares? It’s my vacation. I’m there to enjoy myself. I’ll never see any of those people again anyway.
Read 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.
I like to read something related to the region that I am traveling. It’s nice to learn a bit about the sites that I’m about to see. I also enjoy reading the classics. As a kid in English class, I never really read the books. Now I need to catch up.
These days, I always travel with my Kindle Paperwhite. I prefer paper books and actually think e-Readers look kind of lame 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.
Solo Travel Tips for Money and Budgeting
Thinking about money is stressful. The following solo travel tips will help you save money, stop overspending, avoid falling for scams, and overall make your trip go a bit smoother.
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 $20 taxi ride from the airport, you must pay the whole fare yourself. The same applies to hotel rooms.
To make sure you don’t overspend, make a travel budget. You don’t want to end up stranded 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
This is particularly important while solo traveling. Maybe your debit card gets lost or stolen. Maybe your bank blocks ta withdraw 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, after all.
I recommend you carry a minimum of $300. That is enough money to survive on for at least a week anywhere in the world. That should give you enough time to get some more cash.
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 easiest to convert.
Tip: If your card gets lost, stolen, or denied, call your bank immediately to get the ball rolling with solving your problem. It may take a few days for them 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 don’t want to run out of money in a foreign country.
Solo Travel Safety Tips
While solo traveling, the likelihood of getting robbed, scammed, or mugged is slightly higher than while traveling in a group. You’re just an easier target for a criminal when you’re alone. The following solo travel tips will help you to avoid injury and reduce the likelihood of falling victim to a crime.
For my complete safety guide, check out my article: Is Solo Travel Safe? Avoiding Crime, Scams, and Injury While Traveling Alone.
Tell Your Family and Friends Your Travel Plans
On the off chance that something bad happens to you, it’s important that someone knows where you are. This doesn’t mean that you have to make a day by day itinerary. You can simply share with your friends or family the city or region that you’re currently traveling in.
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. Just let someone know when you move to a new destination or change plans.
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.
It is especially important to share your travel plans for the following two types of destinations:
- Places where people may not find you if you’re lost or injured- For example, while hiking or trekking the backcountry.
- Particularly dangerous destinations- For example, if you’re visiting an active war zone or somewhere where risks of kidnapping or terrorism are high. In this case, you may wish to register with your embassy as well just to be safe.
Don’t Get too Drunk While you’re Traveling Alone
While solo traveling, you don’t have any friends around to babysit you or take you home if you drink too much. You have to rely on yourself to stay safe. If you get too intoxicated, bad things can happen. To stay safe:
- Pace yourself and know your limits- Don’t drink too much too fast. Stay away from shots while you’re drinking alone. They can sneak up on you.
- Carry a card with the address of the place that you’re staying written down- That way, if your phone gets lost or stolen, you can always find your way home. You can also show it to a cab driver so they know where to take you.
- Keep an eye on your drink- So you don’t get drugged.
- 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.
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.
Remember to purchase your travel insurance before you leave. Some companies don’t sell insurance to people who are already out of their home country.
Have Copies and Online Backups of All Important Documents
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.
I recommend you carry two sets of spare 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 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- Color copy and digital copy.
- Copy of visas- If you arranged any visas before your trip, a copy can come in handy.
- Yellow fever vaccine certificate (if required for your destination)- Paper copy and scanned.
- Drivers license- If you plan to drive during your trip. This can also help you identify yourself if you lose your passport.
- Passport photos- Carry a few already printed out in the proper size. These come in handy when applying for visas. Also, have 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.
Carry a Map or GPS so you don’t get Lost or Wander into a Bad Neighborhood
Getting lost in a new city is always a great way to get to know the area and see some parts of the city that you otherwise wouldn’t get to see. Having said this, you don’t want to get too lost or wander into a bad neighborhood while traveling alone. The solution is to make sure you always have something to help you navigate.
While out walking around, always carry a map or your phone to 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 myself a route. I’ll look for points of interest or walks along the waterside or anything that I’d like to check out. I just 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.
Try to Blend in and Stay Low Key
One downside of solo travel is the fact that you are a bigger target for scammers, muggers, and other criminals. It’s just easier for them to prey on an individual than 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.
- Store your camera in your backpack- Cameras are a major target for pickpockets.
Speak quietly- Talking loudly or yelling in a foreign language draws attention.
Solo Travel Health Tips
While solo traveling, you need to take care of your health. You can’t stay up drinking all night every night while spending all day traveling and sightseeing. Sooner or later, you’ll burn out and your health will suffer. The following solo travel tips will help you keep your mind and body healthy for the duration of your trip.
For my complete health guide, check out my article: How to Stay Healthy While Traveling: Tips for Diet, Exercise, Sleep, and Avoiding Sickness.
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, bargaining, dealing with a language barrier, figuring out transportation, 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.
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 shower, catch up on your favorite TV show. By the next day, you’ll feel fresh and ready to continue your trip.
Final Thoughts- Solo Travel Tips
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 trip. You have to do the research, budgeting, organizing, and booking to make your trip happen. Hopefully, this guide makes that process just a bit easier.
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!
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