One of the biggest challenges of traveling solo is actually making the decision to go – to book your flight and pack your bag. The reality of solo travel is very different to what most people think, and can be completely different than you imagine.
Many women will find solo travel to be empowering, rewarding and a wonderful experience. For whatever reason you’re choosing to take a solo trip, I applaud you, and encourage you to make the most of it!
1. Have Confidence
You’re on your own for the first time, and it’s as daunting as it is exciting. Adopt a secure and open posture when you go out and explore. You’ll look approachable to the right people and not an easy target for the wrong people. Don’t feel confident? The old adage is right: fake it until you make it.
2. Blend In
On the other hand, standing out too much as a foreigner can attract distasteful looks or even tourist scams. Blend in as a local and you’ll be able to observe so much more of your host country. Dress the way locals dress. Talk at an appropriate volume. Learn to listen and watch, and the world will unfold before you.
Smiling goes a long way, especially if you and the locals don’t speak the same language. Remember, not all locals are looking to take advantage of tourists, and a smile can lead to a friendly encounter or a good conversation.
4. Have a Backup Plan
My biggest tip is to make sure you keep the address to your hotel somewhere on your person, in case you get lost, need directions or need a taxi to bring you back .
Carry your passport in a well-concealed place when you’re traveling between destinations. I always keep an extra $50-100 somewhere safe in my luggage or on me when I’m exploring for the day. Your shoe or bra are great hiding places!
5. Check Before You Go
Check maps and transport schedules before you leave your hotel or tourist office just to be sure you’re heading in the right direction. If you know where you’re going generally, you’ll be much more focused on your surroundings than on a piece of paper, and enjoy more of the scenery!
6. Let Someone Know
Leave your itinerary or brief outline of destinations with someone back home, as well as a photocopy of your passport.
When you’re going out for the day, it is also smart to let someone at the hotel know where you’re headed, even if its someone behind the front counter, just in case.
If you’re a US citizen, you can also sign up with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, which assists travelers in case of emergency.
7. Reserve in Advance
As it’s your first trip, go easy on yourself and book your accommodation and airport transportation in advance. Depending on your accommodations, ask if the hotel will send a driver to pick you up from the airport, or has a recommended shuttle service.
Keep the hotel’s number and address with you, in case you need to call them when you land or let the driver know where to go.
This can ease a lot of the stress of traveling by yourself for the first time.
But with experience, I suggest that you reserve less often. It gives you the freedom to change your itinerary at any whim. “The tourist doesn’t know where they have been; the traveller doesn’t know where they are going.”
8. Take Only What You Need
Before you go, lay out everything you think you need, then take half – trust me! You can always buy something you may have forgotten.
When you’re traveling or our for the day, keep your expensive gadgets well-concealed and in pockets or bags that are not easily accessible to pickpockets. Make sure your valuables are never together in one bag, and always keep your cash and cards in different places on your body, as well as your passport.
Don’t stay cooped up in your hotel, online or on Skype. Get out there! You’re here to see the world–go wander the streets, walk down alleyways, check out a market, hike to a park, hop on trolleys and trains, get a bit lost. It can be a bit scary to travel on your own, and even lonely at sometimes, but the best way to get past the initial loneliness is to put yourself out there. Whether it is in the hostel common room, on a walking tour, or at a local restaurant, it never hurts to strike up a conversation.
It can be stressful being in an unfamiliar place by yourself, but do yourself a favor and relax. You’re here. You’ve made the first step toward a new journey. Take it in, slowly, bravely, one step at a time.