Solo Traveler Tips: 40 Tips For When You Travel Alone
Being a solo traveler wasn’t a big part of my life until a few years ago. In 2011, I decided to take the plunge and go on a round the world trip. After going through a tragic event, I needed to take a break and I wanted to go on an extended trip. It would have been nice to travel with some friends but most of my friends are in relationships, married, married with children, or tied to their careers or a combination. At the time, my parents were still alive but too elderly to travel any kind of distance. Plus no offense to my late parents but I didn’t really want to travel with them. My solo trip was life changing and I recommend that everyone no matter how young or old, take a solo trip at least once in their lives. Traveling alone gives you more confidence and you are also able to meet new people and make friends with people from all over the world who you may never know otherwise. Since my return, I’ve continued to travel by myself and have been asked many times for advice about solo travel. I have not written any solo traveler tips so I thought it was about time to share some.
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Here are some helpful solo traveler tips:
- Make a scanned copy of your passport, bank/ATM cards and email a copy to yourself as well as a family member or good friend who you trust. If for any reason you lose any of those things, replacing them will be so much easier. I know from the experience of having an ATM card stolen in a foreign country.
- Some people like to disconnect but I like to be connected for emergency purposes along with being able to use maps. If I can’t find my hotel or accommodations, I will call and ask for help. Those few cents or dollars to make a call is often worth it!
- Don’t carry your money or wallet in pockets or bags that can easily be rifled into. I have been pickpocketed in my hometown in North America so this can happen anywhere.
- If you are carrying a purse, have it in front of you rather than to your side or behind you. Keep a watchful eye on it.
- Carry smaller bills as much as possible. It’s never a good idea to show that you have a lot of money on you, no matter where you are.
- Have a plan. I am not a crazy detailed planner like I used to be but it’s vital to know where you’re going, know about local holidays and festivals that could shut down a city or make accommodations booked up. I won’t book my accommodations for the entirety of my stay in a destination but at least have the first night sorted.
- When booking travel, try and plan your arrival during the day so you can get to your accommodation safely and easily.
- If it’s not possible to book a daytime arrival, research getting from the airport/train station to your accommodations. Is there a free shuttle? Does your accommodation provide pick up? Is there a subway/train system. Find out how much it costs to get to your hotel by taxi. Ask the hotel so that you don’t get ripped off by unscrupulous drivers.
- Have a copy of your itinerary printed or at least take a photo of it so that you can access it when you are not connected to the internet.
- Before you start driving away in a taxi or local transport like a tuk-tuk or tricycle, make sure that you have agreed on the price or that the driver has turned on the meter. If they do not agree, get out and move on to the next driver.
- Write down the name and address of your hotel/accommodations. In case you’re traveling somewhere you can’t speak the language, you can show the taxi driver the address. If you have trouble communicating and have access to data, show the driver where your hotel/accommodations are on Google Maps (or an offline map) or save it on an offline map.
- If you’re arriving at odd hours or very late, make sure you can check into your accommodations at that time or book a place with 24-hour front desk.
- Ask your hotel staff/concierge about any tips or what they like to do on their day’s off. In SE Asia I ended up befriending my hostel staff and going on adventures with them on their days off and even got invited to one if their weddings.
- After checking into a place, I grab a business card and put it in my wallet. This is very handy when you’re in a foreign country. If I have issues communicating with a driver, you can show them the address of your hotel on the business card.
- When you are going out, research where you are going and how to get back. Know landmarks, bus or train stops that are close by.
- Be completely aware of where you are. Sometimes it’s too easy to get caught up on our smartphone or the beautiful scenery but always pay attention to your surroundings, people, etc.
- Let your family or friends know where you are. I didn’t check in all of the time but they had an idea of where I was and where I was going next.
- If you feel like someone is following you, make sure you stay in busy crowded areas. Don’t go down quiet alleys or side streets. I was followed once in Europe so I popped into a cafe and ordered some coffee and sat there for a long time. I didn’t leave for some time and when I left I jumped into a taxi to take me to the train station instead of walking.
- If I am spending time with new people who I didn’t know too much about I would text a friend and tell them my plans, where I was going, what I was going to be doing, and when I was expected home. I would check in when I got back.
- Watch your alcohol consumption when you travel alone. Do not let your drink ever leave your sight. Ever. If you accidentally leave your drink or you don’t think you kept a careful watch, ditch it. You never know when someone may have slipped something into your drink.
- If anyone asks you where you’re staying, don’t tell them. If they are persistent, tell them a different hotel.
- I don’t normally wear tight or short things anyway but when I travel alone I tend to be even more covered up because I don’t like unwanted attention.
- We are always taught to be polite but if someone is bothering you or being aggressive then be rude if you have to be.
- For ladies: If you’re concerned about unwanted attention, wear a fake wedding band. I did. If a man was a bit too inquisitive, I would say that my husband is back at the hotel or meeting me shortly.
- If you are going out at night, bring as little as possible. Grab a bit of cash, ID, an ATM/credit card, and your smartphone. I don’t like to carry my passport so I leave it in my accommodations locked up. For ID I would bring my driver’s license and a scanned copy of my passport.
- Wear sunglasses. Sometimes random glances are taken as something else but if your eyes are covered then you are less likely to get unwanted attention.
- If you plan on taking money out of an ATM, withdraw money in the day time. I like to use bank affiliated machines on busy streets and go inside the bank where there are cameras or CCTV. If you need to put down your bag or backpack when taking out money, put it between or in front of your legs so that it can’t be snatched away.
- Some people hate selfie sticks but if you’re alone and have expensive camera gear that you don’t want to be stolen, this will be your BFF.
- If you get lost, don’t pull out your map or phone in the middle of the street. Try to duck into a cafe or a business where you can safely find your way.
- Keep your purse/wallet/bag close and keep an eye on it when traveling alone on trains and buses.
- Don’t ride in an empty train/subway car bar yourself. Make sure there are others and sit near other women. If you’re taking an overnight bus, make sure you have valuables on you and not under the carriage. Try to avoid overnight trains.
Solo traveler tips for meeting people / going out
- If you are staying in a hostel you can easily meet people in the common room or kitchen. I was never the kind of traveler to stay in a hostel but as a solo traveler, it was one of the best ways to meet other travelers to connect with.
- When I am traveling solo and staying in a hotel/apartment/Air BnB, I sign up for day trips, tours, cooking classes, or excursions. It has been a great way to meet other people, especially other solo travelers. I fondly remember meeting a girl named Becky in the Philippines who was the only other solo traveler on my snorkel tour in El Nido. We ended up hitting it off and I even went traveling with her to another destination after our tour.
- Break the ice by saying hello. More often than not, other travelers on a tour or in your accommodations will be happy to have made your acquaintance. If you’re getting along with the other solo travelers just ask them if they want to go for a drink or dinner after your tour/activity. The worst thing that can happen is that they say no. It’s not a big deal, they probably have made other plans already. And if there’s friend chemistry, you’ll know right away. I have traveled more with complete strangers I have met on tours than some of my own friends I have known my whole life.
- Another way to meet people when you travel is through meet ups. While I am not a couch surfer myself, I did go to a couple of Couchsurfing meetups while I was traveling. I was traveling alone in Barcelona and went to a meetup and met a nice group of people who I ended up exploring the city with. You can try Couchsurfer.com or even Meetup.com. If you’re a blogger, check to see if there’s a local Travel Massive (travel industry networking events) happening.
- Ask your friends if they have any friends or contacts in the cities you are traveling to. I am lucky to have a wide network of friends and have been able to get local tour guides or hosts in other cities. If those friends of friends can’t meet up or host, at least ask for recommendations of things to do or places to eat. When I was in Wellington, New Zealand my friend Helen had one of her guy friends meet me for a beer. He recommended that I hike up Mount Victoria and visit Te Papa Museum which was excellent advice. My friend Sam introduced me to her friend Jo in Sydney who came through with a couch when all the hotels and hostels were booked during Mardi Gras (check for dates of local holidays, events, festivals, etc.). Later that year I stayed with Jo when she moved to Paris. Since then I have met up with Jo in New York, Los Angeles, and Portland.
- Use social media to connect. While I was traveling my friends would notice if I was in a destination and happen to be there too or had a local friend I could meet. I ended up seeing friends from home in Paris and Hong Kong.
- Dining solo can be a really nerve-wracking experience for some people. I felt awkward in the beginning but now I’m used to eating alone and don’t mind it at all. I enjoy eating alone at popular restaurants because you can often get seated quicker than if you’re dining with a group. The best thing to do is find restaurant or eateries that have bars or counter service. I used to bring a novel but now I just bring my smartphone to keep me busy while I’m waiting for food, etc. Or I chat with the bartender or person seated beside me.
- If you don’t like the idea of eating alone in a restaurant, go grab food to go and find a park that has benches.
- Always remember that these people don’t know you and won’t see you again. So there is no reason to feel weird, awkward, or nervous.
Some photos of my 19 month solo round the world trip:
I’m being a little sarcastic with my travel photos. I met so many new friends and lovely people on my solo round the world trip. Of course, there were moments where I was lonely but it was honestly few and far between. All my fears disappeared once I opened up to new possibilities.
It’s not just young backpackers who travel. Vicky (in the middle) though married travels alone. She’s my idol!
Met all these solo travelers in the Philippines
My day trip friends who I met in the Philippines. We took a tour to see an active volcano
Ran into my dj friends in Hong Kong!
I met the lovely Kori in Bali, met up again with her in London and just recently in Banff!
Went to a village dance solo on Siargao. Partied with travelers and locals (yes kids and families)!
Exploring Bali on scooters with travelers from Canada and UK who I met in my guest house
Ran into the Adidas skate team in Melbourne
A night out in Bali with other ladies who were traveling solo
Met this lovely lawyer Laura in San Sebastian and did a day trip to see the Guggenheim in Bilbao
My friends Eric and Dana saw that I was in HK on Instagram. We met up for food and drinks during their layover!
Hiking to a viewpoint with friends from Olga’s Hostel in San Sebastian
Going for beers with girls who I met at Olga’s Hostel in San Sebastian
Have solo traveler tips to share? Leave them in the comments!
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*This post will be updated whenever I remember or discover new solo traveler tips!*