11 Tips for Your First Solo Trip AbroadReading Time: 5 minutes
Solo travel can be a truly wonderful and unique way to explore the world. But taking the first steps can seem daunting. Below, you’ll find some advice from a seasoned solo traveller, to help make your first solo trip abroad go as smoothly as possible…
Before You Take Your First Solo Trip
Practice Makes Perfect
If you’ve never travelled alone before, taking your first solo trip abroad can feel like a big shock to the system. Before you take the plunge, why not take a few “practice” trips closer to home? Take some day or overnight trips in your home country solo. It’s a great way to test the water and practice being self-reliant and independent.
Plan Your Dream Trip
The really great thing about solo travel is that you can do whatever you want to do. So you can choose the perfect destination for you, without having to make anyone else happy! When you’re laying plans for your itinerary, don’t book anything that you don’t think you’ll enjoy. Just because all the guidebooks tell you something is a “must do”, it doesn’t mean you have to do it. This is your trip – so tailor it to make you happy!
Make Plans in Advance
Although it’s fun to be flexible when travelling solo, it can make life a lot easier to plan certain things in advance. Do your research and make at least a vague outline for your itinerary. Of course, you should leave plenty of free time so that you have room to change plans. Booking hotels and tours in advance can really take the headache out of solo travel, too.
When travelling, you rarely need everything you take with you! It’s especially important to bear this in mind when packing for your first solo trip, because there often won’t be anyone to help with your luggage. Pack carefully and only take what you will definitely need.
Tips for Travelling Solo
Rely on your Phone (But not Too Much!)
Smartphones can be a vital tool for all travellers, but they’re especially useful for solo travel. Maps, currency converters, translators, and other apps can all ease the difficulties of navigating a new country all by yourself. You can also keep notes of hotel addresses and other important details on your phone. Consider purchasing a local SIM card at your destination, so you can always access the internet.
On the other hand, it’s also important not to spend too much time looking at your phone. Social apps can be a bit of a safety blanket when you’re travelling solo. But spending all your time connecting with folks at home virtually can hold you back from connecting with the destination, and the people, around you.
Ease Yourself in with a Group Tour
If you’re nervous about travelling solo, you could try a group tour for your first trip. Or even just for the first half of your trip. If it’s a long-term solo backpacking trip, kick things off with a couple of weeks on a tour, before striking out on your own. An organised group tour will take a lot of the stress and planning off your hands, so you can focus on the fun stuff. Plus, you’ll be travelling with a group of people, so socialising suddenly becomes much less daunting!
Making Friends on the Road
Solo travel is the perfect way to reconnect with yourself and get some “me time”. But that doesn’t mean you have to be on your own all the time. It’s not as hard as you might think to find opportunities to meet people while travelling solo.
Consider staying in hostels, as these are an easy way to meet people. Especially as many organise regular social events. If you don’t fancy staying in a dorm, a private room at a hostel is often cheaper than a hotel, and offers the best of both worlds.
Booking tours and activities, such as cooking classes or scuba diving lessons, can offer a great chance to chat to other travellers. Steer clear of private tours, as several hours on your own with one guide can be exhausting. Instead, book group tours and activities which are cheaper and provide some much-needed social interaction.
You can also find social events and meet-ups through sites like Couchsurfing and Meetup, as well as Facebook groups. Just look up your chosen destination and see what’s going on. Of course, be mindful of safety if you try something like this, and never agree to meet a stranger unless it’s in a public place.
Tips for Dining Solo
Mealtimes are when many solo travellers feel the most awkward. But dining alone doesn’t have to be unpleasant.
Head to casual eateries such as food trucks, cafes, and fast food restaurants where solo diners aren’t uncommon, so you’ll feel less out of place. Many restaurants are quieter at lunchtime, or outside of normal mealtimes. If you can be flexible with when you dine, you might feel less awkward visiting a restaurant when it’s less busy. If your accommodation has kitchen facilities, you can always stay in and cook for yourself.
Evening meals always seem to be the most awkward when you’re solo. So, I tend to dine out for lunch, and either cook for myself or order local takeout in the evening. Another great tip is to book onto food tours and cooking classes, which include a meal and mean you don’t have to dine alone!
Solo Travel Safety Tips
Finally, here are a few basic safety tips for your first solo trip abroad. Most travel safety is simple common sense; trust your gut and make sensible choices and you should be fine. And, of course, don’t forget your travel insurance!
Let Someone Know
It’s a good idea to let someone at home know your travel plans and itinerary, and check in regularly.
BUT – don’t publicise your location, or your accommodation address, live on social media. You might want to “Check In” online to show off your swanky hotel. But remember that often, anyone can access this information.
Hide your Valuables
When you’re out exploring, try to keep your valuables out of sight, and only carry as much cash as you need. Always leave the majority of your credit and debit cards, as well as some spare cash, safely hidden at your accommodation. If anything happens to your wallet while you’re out and about, you really don’t want to lose all your cards in one go, as this will ruin the trip!
As a solo traveller, it’s important to stay vigilant and exercise common sense. Get acquainted with local laws and customs so you don’t accidentally cause offence or get in trouble for something you had no idea was a crime. Research common scams at your destination and find out if there are any local crime hotspots that are best avoided. If you’re unsure about something, ask the staff at your hotel. And take licenced taxis after dark rather than walking alone in an unfamiliar area.
Stay alert and make smart choices, and your first solo trip should be a breeze. And, hopefully, it will also give you a chance to get to know yourself a little better, test your limits, and discover the world!