So, you’re thinking doing a spot of solo travel. Excellent idea! As someone who’s spent most of the year as a globetrotting backpacker, I can promise you that it will be an adventure of a lifetime. Like travelling with your mates, fam bam or SO, solo travel comes with its own unique challenges, many of which you don’t realise exist until you’re actually on the road.
If you’ve read this article, you might be questioning by expertise on the subject of solo travel, and rightly so. I’ve been travelling with my boyfriend, someone who has learnt to deal with my appalling sense of direction, indecisiveness and unwavering quest to find gelato everywhere we go like a pro. So really, I’ve always had a support person by my side.
I have, however, been that annoying person in hostels who asks solo travellers to spill the beans on how the heck they do it. While I was met with some oh-so insightful answers, like “oh, I just do it” and “I was born to travel the world” (thanks, guys), dozens of globetrotters have let me in on their ultimate hacks for travelling solo.
Here are 25 hacks for travelling solo by people who have actually done it. About time you followed suit!
- You’ll be powerless without a portable power bank. When you’re stuck on a 14-hour bus and your phone has run out of juice, you’ll be grateful that you made this nifty purchase.
- Set up a Google Drive with all your important documents for easy access and send it to someone you trust. Plus make sure you have copies of your passport and visas handy.
- Get a Netflix account or bring a good book. Airport layovers alone can be a bore.
- When you’re sleeping in an overnight bus or train be sure to have all the important things on your person. Yep, sleep with your passport, credit cards and electronics, no matter how silly you may feel.
- Trust your gut. Sometimes you’re going to get dodgy vibes from something or someone and when you do, it’s best to remove yourself from the situation or find an alternative solution. Especially if you’re a chick.
- Spend AT LEAST five minutes getting to know the basics of your destination before you get there and you’ll eliminate bucketloads of stress upon arrival. We’re talking visas, transport, currency, scams and the like. A little prep goes a looonnng way.
- Join free walking tours. They’re a great way to explore a new city and interact with other travellers.
- Embrace new connections. Dozens of solo travellers in the same shoes as you will cross your path (especially in hostels) so don’t be scared to say ‘hello’.
- Hostels are a mixed bag. You’ll meet lifelong mates at some but you’ll meet absolute nightmares at others. Just take them as they come.
- Speaking of hostels, lock up your stuff! It takes just one scumbag and poof, all your cash and electronics are gone. It legit happens—hostels give you lockers for a reason.
- Speaking of cash monies, do not, for the love of your travel hopes and dreams, carry large wads of cash on you. We met a chick who had USD$4000 (!) stolen from her bag. Hopes and dreams? Crushed.
- Do whatever you want to do. Really. This is YOUR trip. The beauty of travelling solo is that you can do whatever the frik you want so try and truly embrace that.
- Download offline maps. Thank me later.
- Check-in with your homies. It might be tempting to switch off and cut comms ties entirely but checking in with loved ones or people back home and letting them know where you are is important.
- Cut yourself some slack. Sometimes you’re going to mess up and that’s all part of the journey. Be patient with yourself and slow down when you need to.
- Loneliness will happen. Homesickness will happen, too. Acknowledge these emotions and remember that all solo travellers will feel like this at some point. I bet you’ll surprise yourself at how strong and sure of yourself you’ll become along the way. You got this!
- Pack light. No, you don’t need that hair straightener. No, you don’t need seven pairs of shoes. And if you really think you do, remind yourself that you’re the one who has to lug it all around. Yep, we thought so.
- Without the risk of sounding like your mum, have your wits about you. Especially if you’re a female and especially if, like me, have a tendency to zone out occasionally. Try to be aware of your surroundings and you’ll be grand.
- When you can, try to blend in as a local...or at least a seasoned traveller. In some places, getting out a gigantic map or looking lost can make you a target for pickpockets. Do your best to look like you know what you’re doing and where you’re going...even if you have no clue.
- Two words: travel insurance.
- Give yourself a break. Solo travel is tiring stuff so occasionally splashing out on a private room and binge watching telly is totally fine.
- Avoid booking every single thing if you can. Plans change. You might end up travelling with someone else for a while or wanting to visit somewhere you didn’t know about. A pre-booked flight and accom will make that tricky.
- Don’t be afraid to say ‘no’. Taking a say-yes-to-everything approach to travelling results in awesome memories but it’s important to be able to say ‘no’, too. Whether it’s a rowdy night out, a ride somewhere or something you’re simply not comfortable with, it’s more than ok to politely decline.
- Watch ya booze. Pub crawls are a blast and drinks in Asia are dirt cheap but at the end of the day, you can’t truly rely on anyone to have your back apart from yourself. Know your limits and stick to them.
- Grab it by the balls! Whether you’re 18 or 80, introverted or extroverted (or ambiverted!), travelling for three weeks or three months, don’t be afraid to book that ticket for one.