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Travelling Solo: 10 Top Tips for First-Timers

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Travelling Solo: 10 Top Tips for First-Timers

Written by
Sarah O'Neill
September 2017

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We have 10 top tips for those travelling alone for the first time to help make your first solo trip the adventure of a lifetime.

So you’ve decided to travel alone? Maybe you’ve been inspired by our article Travelling Solo: 5 Reasons for Going It Alone.

Taking your first solo trip can be a thrilling and daunting prospect, which is why we’ve prepared these 10 top tips for first-time solo travellers, to help make your first solo trip the adventure of a lifetime.

1. Ease Yourself In

You’re going it alone for the first time! That in itself is a great adventure – so there’s no need to choose the most exotic, far-flung destination for your first solo trip, lovely as it may be. If you’re a little nervous about travelling alone for the first time, then choose a destination that eases you in gently to the logistics of navigating yourself around a foreign country.

Your first destination might be somewhere a little closer to home, a country where you speak the language, one that is well known as a safe and hospitable destination, or somewhere with a friend or family member you can visit, to help you orientate yourself.

2. Overcome the Language Barrier

The language barrier is a common concern – especially for solo travellers, who will need to manage accommodation, transportation and booking activities on their own. But for English speakers, the language barrier is no object in many destinations worldwide – from Singapore to South Africa, from Ireland to India, you have a huge choice of countries where English is widely spoken scattered across the globe.

What’s more, English is also readily spoken in tourist resorts around the world. Start your trip somewhere that is often frequented by tourists, and you are sure to be able to get by with English. You can then make most of your bookings and travel arrangements before you head off to remote mountain villages and get away from the crowds.

It’s useful to learn a little of the local language and to carry a phrase book. Universal phrase books are available online and in most book stores, and provide you with a wide selection of pictures which you can point to for every kind of situation. Very useful if you find yourself in the pharmacy or at the post office and are trying to make yourself understood!

3. Make Your Trip an Add-On

Travelling solo could be just one part of a larger trip. In fact, many people see it as an “add-on” to existing trips, allowing them to extend their planned travel with friends, family or business.

Many business travellers choose to take their holiday at the end of a business trip, so that they have a chance to see something more of the country or city they are visiting than just the boardroom.

Perhaps you’ve arranged to travel with friends, but they have less holiday time than you. Why not stay a little longer, or arrive a little earlier? Then you have the perfect chance to combine a holiday shared with people you love with a personalised itinerary letting you pursue your own interests.

4. Meeting People

A common concern for solo travellers is how to meet people while they travel. The good news is that individuals, as a rule, are much more approachable than groups, so as a solo traveller you are much more likely to make new friends and build new relationships.

Don’t be afraid to linger - find a café or bar and watch the comings and goings of everyday life. You will be surprised at how many conversations develop naturally. Stay a little longer in one place and get to know the staff in your hotel. They often have the best local tips and inside advice.

When you meet locals who speak English, find out what they think — about anything. Don’t be afraid to smile! You may feel more anonymous in a large city, but there are often groups on Facebook and Twitter offering local connections for wherever you’re travelling. You may find a local guide for the day, or be able to meet up with a group of like-minded people for an evening out.

The smaller the town, the more likely you are to find a real connection with the local people. Some of the best travel tips will come from locals you meet at a festival, bar or in the park. You could also choose to organise a homestay. Once you have a foot in the door, many travellers find that it is flung wide open, and your hosts can recommended you to other friends or family.

5. Preventing Theft

Safety is often the biggest concern for solo travellers, especially as you don’t have a second set of eyes and ears when you travel alone.

Preferably, use ATMs inside banks, shopping centres or stations rather than out on the streets, and split your money up among various wallets to ensure that you always have a reserve.

Carry some emergency funds and a photocopy of your passport hidden on your person at all times, in a money belt or some other safe pocket close to your body. Your real passport should be kept in the safety deposit box at your accommodation together with your valuables.

Avoid wearing overtly valuable items of jewellery or clothing in public and change large notes for smaller denominations, so that you are not flashing large amounts of money. Make a note of the contact details for your bank and your embassy before travelling, in case your credit card or passport are stolen.

6. Choose Safe Transport

As a solo travellers, you may want to spend a little extra on safe transportation, especially for journeys when you are having to travel with all of your belongings. Choosing a hotel close to the airport and taking a registered airport taxi can give you peace of mind on arrival and departure.

Be particularly careful of your belongings on crowded public transport, and follow your hotel or hostel’s advice on travelling at night. If you are renting a car, it is advisable to keep your possessions out of sight, under the car seats or in the boot/trunk, and not visible through the car window.

It is generally safer to call a reputable taxi company than to hail a cab on the street. When taking a cab, some drivers allow you to agree a price beforehand, which discourages them from “taking you for a ride” to run up the meter. You can also follow your route using a smartphone with GPS, to make sure that you are going the right way.

7. Walk Tall

As a solo traveller, you may feel more vulnerable when you are approached by strangers, especially if they are trying to sell you something! Walk tall and exude confidence, and you are far less likely to receive unwelcome attention.

Wherever you go, walk purposefully, as if you know where you’re going. Clutching a map and looking confused in the middle of the road may attract the wrong kind of attention. If you need to check your route or ask for directions, stop by a shop or café, rather than poring over a map on the open street.

8. Look After Yourself

Ultimately, when you’re a solo traveller, the only person looking out for you is you, but you will always find people willing to lend you a hand if you need it.

Wherever you choose to stay, the staff at reception or your host are your first port of call for any questions you have about the local area, be it tips on the must-see areas, or advice on the parts of town to avoid. You can also let them know where you are going and when to expect you back, especially if you are going hiking or clubbing alone.

If you become ill on holiday, you don’t have to suffer in silence. Let the staff know at reception, or your host. They can help you to make arrangements if you need to visit a doctor or purchase medicine from the pharmacy, and may be able to make you more comfortable, by providing meals in your room, for instance.

9. Some Useful Items for your Packing List

Some useful packing items for any traveller:

A Lock – this can range from a simple padlock for securing your hostel locker, to a full chain and lock for securing your baggage to a railing or post. Very useful when you’re travelling by train, or storing luggage at your hotel!

A Slashproof Bag – This is perfect as a daysack and protects your belongings from pickpockets and opportunistic thieves.

A Safety Alarm – a small safety alarm which you can slip into your pocket or hook onto a belt may give you an added sense of security when travelling alone. If you face a situation where you feel threatened, you can activate it, and a loud, high-pitched alarm will alert others to your situation.

A Dry Sack – Sun-worshipping solo travellers often face a conundrum at the beach – who will look after your valuables while you go splashing around in the surf? A small dry sack lets you take your money, camera, and whatever other valuables you may have with you into the water.

10. For the Ladies

Safety is often highlighted as the number one concern of female solo travellers. Walking down the street in Bangkok really shouldn’t be any more dangerous than walking down the street in London, but often how safe we feel has very little to do with our actual safety, and a lot to do with our confidence and familiarity with a given situation.

Solo travellers, especially women, receive a lot of advice about being safe on holiday – everything from how to dress, to inventing spouses and fake wedding rings to ward off unwanted attention. Whilst attitudes, culture and dress certainly differ from nation to nation, we would simply advise you to carefully research the country you are travelling to, and then do whatever it is that you need to do in order to feel safe and confident.

It is your holiday, after all, and above all it should be enjoyable. If you feel happier and more confident telling people where you’re going, dressing conservatively, or joining a group, by all means do so. Often, it simply takes a little time to get used to a new situation and a new culture before we start to relax and feel confident in our surroundings.

Above all, it’s good to know that, as female travellers, we make up the majority of the growing number of solo travellers. Although we’re venturing off on our own, we’re not alone, with thousands of other women making the same decision each year. So wherever you choose to travel alone, whether it’s the shimmering Cretan seaside or the lofty cloud forests of Peru, do so with an ounce of common sense and buckets of confidence.

Written by Sarah O'Neill

A passionate traveller, linguist and writer, Sarah has visited over 20 countries around the globe. She loves immersing herself in new cultures, learning the language, and getting to know the local people.

Would you like to be an author at Moments of Inspiration?
Do you have an original idea for a guest blog post or interest to write regularly as an author for us? Send us your article or simply contact us at:

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