Deciding to travel alone can be a daunting experience, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it! Solo travel opens up a world of possibilities to allow you to create long-lasting memories, strengthen yourself as a person and inspire others to follow in your footsteps.
It was back in 2013 when I started travelling by myself and I must admit that I may have given myself a huge task back then. I spent a week travelling around 8 different cities using Italy’s sophisticated rail network. And I now want to share my top tips for solo travel to show that it can be an enjoyable, worthwhile experience…
Top Tip #1 – Do your homework
Plan, research, triple check! Yes, you heard me – triple check all details! If you’re planning a trip alone, you are less likely to have someone checking over details before booking so make sure you do a triple check yourself. You’d be surprised what you can make mistakes on.
During my solo expedition to Italy, I didn’t check where my hotel in Verona was located. I knew it was near the train station (a major reason for booking), but I didn’t note down exactly where it was. It took me half an hour longer to find it than it should have! Thankfully, I found a very nice older couple going to the same hotel as me and they let me walk with them – they had clearly done their homework!
Top Tip #2 – Have a Plan B, C, D…heck, all the way to Z
So your plan A hasn’t worked out? What was it? Flooding? Hurricane? Or did you just oversleep?
To ensure you don’t find yourself up the creek without a paddle, write down a list of backup plans to ensure your trip is still the adventure of a lifetime…without worrying about plans not working out as expected.
I found myself lost in the tiny streets of Venice without any chance of finding the rail station in time for my train. I’d actually planned ahead for such a situation and found some local hotels with vacancies whilst I was on the train from Verona to Venice. I’d made a note of them in my journal so I knew I had a backup plan if I needed it. Luckily I started thinking straight and found the rail station with 10 minutes to spare, phew!
Top Tip #3 – Bag a bargain
When travelling alone, you are more likely to be able to bag a bargain for your room. Most hotels offer discounts for single occupancy rooms, which could be up to as much as 25% off. But don’t stop there!
Contact the hotel before booking explaining your reason for visiting and that you will be alone, and you may even be able to score an even bigger discount! It’s worth a try, right?
I’ve found some really good bargains throughout my travels – I never take a website’s price when planning alone and have managed to get a few quid knocked off every now and then. Do this enough times and you’ll have enough spare cash for your next trip.
Top Tip #4 – Learn a little language
Learn the basics before you go abroad of how to introduce yourself, how to ask for help and how to order a round at the bar. This little bit of effort will make all the difference to ensure you have a fabulous time away and allow you to connect with the locals (even if it’s you who is buying the drinks)!
Top Tip #5 – Watch the world around you
Take time to people watch. You don’t have to be anywhere, for anyone so why not take some time for yourself?
Watching that old woman giving water to stray cats or the boy dripping gelato down himself is a great way of seeing what the locals are really like. Plus you can relax during the process – bonus!
Top Tip #6 – Pap yourself
We’ve all been there before. When travelling solo, you may feel a little silly taking a ‘selfie’ and so you arrive home to find that you don’t have any photos of yourself at the places you’ve visited! Have your friends also made comments about you not actually going where you said you went? If not, your friends are better than mine…
Anyway, don’t be embarrassed! Solo travel is more common now than it ever has been before, and you should be including yourself in plenty of photos. How else would you get a new Social Media profile picture?
Invest in a Selfie Stick to help capture your location as well as yourself, and don’t be frightened to ask someone to take your photo for you – although do be wary of who you ask!
Top Tip #7 – Forget the embarrassment
When travelling alone, you shouldn’t feel any need to be embarrassed that you’re solo. That means – don’t avoid restaurants or bars just because you’re alone!
With restaurants, the staff will be just as friendly and welcoming as ever and fellow diners won’t notice you’re on your own. And if they do – who cares?! Take the time to enjoy your meal and if you really want to; look through your recent travel photos, make notes for your next blog post or read a book. After all, there’s no need for table manners when you’re alone, right?
Bars are slightly different, but still shouldn’t be avoided. You’re more likely to have someone come up to you to chat in a bar than in a restaurant, but this could be a good way of making friends abroad so don’t shy away from the experience. But as always, do remain vigilant and be careful.
Top Tip #8 – Remain strong
Although solo travel is on the incline, there are still some people out there who will try to ruin your experiences and make you feel uncomfortable. Look your accoster in the eye with a strong, firm look to let them know you’re not going to be intimidated and if in doubt, walk away.
I had a long weekend in Paris a couple of years ago, and although most people were very friendly; there were a couple of frightening scenarios at Sacre Coeur and the Eiffel Tower. In my case, I looked my attackers in the eye and firmly told them “Non!” I think they were so taken aback that I would remain strong that they quickly left me alone. That’s certainly one way to avoid a sticky situation. This leads me onto the next tip – Stay Safe.
Top Tip #9 – Stay safe
Arrive during the day – walking around an unfamiliar place in the dark is never a good idea.
Use Skype or email to contact home on a regular basis so that your family and friends know you’re safe and enjoying your travels.
During my Italian adventures, I emailed my Mum every morning to let her know where I’d been the day before and what I had planned for the upcoming day. This ensured someone back home always knew where I was and at what time – you can never be too careful!
I’m sure you will do this anyway, but you should also take time to post on Social Media where you are and what you’re doing. The more people who know your itinerary, the better. In fact, why not share your planned itinerary with friends and family before you leave?
Trust your instincts! If something doesn’t feel right in your gut, leave.
Top Tip #10 – Make memories
This is my last but most important tip to share with you.
Solo travel allows you to go where you want, when you want and for how long you want. This means you have hundreds of chances to make lasting memories and strengthen your character.
Whether you decide to climb mountains, go paragliding off of cliffs, relax on the beach or taste the local cuisines; you should take time for yourself and see the world.
I hope you enjoyed my top tips for travelling solo. Have you ventured out into the world by yourself? Do you have any other tips to share with fellow travellers? Pop a comment below and share your experiences…
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