10 Tips for the Solo Traveller
Solo travel is a great way to experience the world on your terms. It is an adventure entirely unique from the experience of travelling with other people. Because of this solo travel is a skill, and it can appear to be a daunting undertaking. So, here are 10 helpful tips to ensure your trip runs smoothly and safely.
“I can distinctly think of my life in two halves, before and after my trip, in terms of opportunities and confidence”
Grace Scott 2015 BBM Horticulture Scholar
1 – Planning ahead is absolutely key
There is nothing worse than being stranded by yourself somewhere in a foreign country because you failed to plan ahead.
Schedule your arrival during the day so you aren’t navigating a new place while tired and at night.
Stay somewhere which has easy access to public transport, access to public transport instantly increases your mobility around the city.
Speaking of public transport, organise necessary transport passes (when possible) ahead of time. This minimises time wasted organising your pass when you arrive.
2 – Pack light
Trust me, you don’t need nearly as much stuff as you think you do. Being able to manage your luggage by yourself is incredibly important. Two carry-on bags should be more than sufficient.
Having only carry-on luggage allows you to:
- Leave the airport faster and easier, with no wait time for your luggage
- Easily catch all forms of public transport. Ever tried to catch a bus with loads of suitcases? It’s an absolute nightmare.
- Go to the bathroom easily. This is an oversight of many solo travelers. You can’t ask someone to watch your things while you go to the toilet, which means that your luggage has to fit in the stall with you. Pack light.
- You will never appreciate packing light more than when you are required to walk somewhere with all your luggage.
3 – Take some basic safety precautions
Unfortunately travelling alone comes with some risks. That being said, there are several simple precautions you can take to keep yourself safe.
- Keep a print out of your full itinerary and a scan of your passport in a separate location to your passport. This is an important practice which will make your life infinitely less stressful if you lose your passport. A print out is accepted as ID at most hotels and other places (not airports) that require it. It also provides the necessary information to cancel your current passport and apply for a new one.
- Don’t carry money, cards and your passport all in the one place.
- If you’re not posting on social media regularly (which you should be as part of your scholarship!) make sure to check in with a few friends to let them know you are still safe and well.
- If in a city that has it – always share your Uber ride with a friend. This allows them to monitor your entire trip.
- Pockets with zips are your friend. Practical and harder for your phone to be stolen from.
- Trust your instinct, if something doesn’t feel right – leave.
4 – Learn the local language
Being able to communicate, even on a very basic level is incredibly helpful. But if you find yourself stuck, remember that exaggerated miming is a universal language.
Some phrases you might consider learning:
- Please/Thank You/Sorry
- My name is –
- Where is the toilet/train station/bus stop?
- Can I get the bill/check?
- How much?
5 – Check your passport is valid
Check that your passport is still valid for the entire duration of your trip. Some countries have different requirements. For example, you can’t travel out of Australia if your passport is less than 6 months away from expiration. Or, you can’t enter South Africa if you do not have a full blank page in your passport.
6 – Check the water situation
Being able to drink water straight from the tap is something we take for granted in our home country. But, many places in the world do not have safe tap water.
If you can’t drink the water:
- Always check the seal is still intact when buying bottled water
- Brush your teeth with bottled water and keep your mouth shut in the shower
- Order drinks without ice
- Depending on how unsafe the water is, avoid salads in restaurants as the vegetables will have been washed in tap water.
If you don’t know if you can drink the water, don’t drink the water.
That being said, there are plenty of places where the water is perfectly safe. For example, you can drink water straight from the spouts of fountains in Rome!
7 – Keep yourself healthy
Travel can be rough on your immune system, so make sure that you are looking after yourself. Check with your local GP to find out if you need any vaccinations to travel. Some of these aren’t always as obvious as you’d think. Get your flu shot before travelling, always.
Wash your hands regularly, especially after handling money.
Consider your food choices just as you would at home. If they don’t look sanitary, pick somewhere else to eat.
8 – Challenge yourself
If something is outside your comfort zone, be it eating alone or going hiking, do it. When travelling alone, the only person who can tell you no is you. Do something you’ve always wanted to do. Especially if it is something that you wouldn’t have done if you were with a group!
Strike up conversations with people around you, visit places where you can make new connections. Just because you are travelling solo doesn’t mean you need to be alone! Say yes to invites for coffee or to join tours. Just make sure you’re doing it safely.
9 – Be Taxi smart
Find out from a local how much the ride should cost and how long it should take.
Before getting into a taxi negotiate the price with the driver based off of this knowledge. Or, ask for the meter to be turned on, but be mindful of where you are – many drivers will go unnecessarily long routes with the meter running.
It can sometimes be difficult to ascertain which taxis are legitimate and which are not. Ask a local what the indicator for a legitimate taxi is. If you aren’t sure, don’t chance it. When possible, ask someone trustworthy, like a concierge, to call a taxi for you.
10 – Enjoy your own company!
The joy of travelling solo is that all decisions are entirely your own.
Visit that museum! Try the weirdest food you can find! Take shameless selfies of your enjoyment!
The world is your oyster, go forth and do things.