Taking a solo travel tip can be one of the most exhilarating experiences of your life. Not only can you go where you want, when you want, and completely work off your own schedule, but leaving your comfort zone and stepping out alone can be a massive life learning experience.
I took my first solo trip in 2016 when I headed to Copenhagen where I had a pillow fight, partied in a supermarket and headed across the Øresund Bridge to Malmo in Sweden. It was something I had wanted to do for a while and I am so glad I did because it quite literally opened up my eyes to a world of exploration. Since that trip, I have been to 15 countries across three continents on my own and I won’t hesitate to go it alone if no-one can, or wants to, travel with me.
However, booking and actually going on your first solo trip can be a daunting prospect, so I’ve decided to round up a few things from experience that everyone should know before taking their first solo travel adventure.
1. You don’t have to speak to people
One of the most nerve-wracking things about solo travel can be striking up a conversation with strangers. But while speaking with locals or getting acquainted with your hostel dormmates can be a valuable and rewarding experience, it isn’t an absolute necessity and you don’t have to do it if you don’t want to. You can still enjoy your trip even if you feel like keeping yourself to yourself
2. No-one cares if you’re eating or sightseeing alone
One of the most popular fears that I have heard from those who have never travelled alone before concerns eating alone. Asking for a table for one seems a far more daunting task than it actually is, and it really isn’t that difficult. After all, the server who tends to you will probably be more interested in making you feel comfortable and happy because they’ll be expecting to be tipped at the end of the day, and other diners will likely assume that you’re either there on business or you are what you are – travelling solo. That’s if they even notice at all.
3. It may get lonely
Solo travel is a risk, and for some people, it won’t pay off. That’s not to say that it won’t for you, but there is always the chance you could get lonely, particularly if you’re hitting the road for a prolonged period. Of course, keeping in touch with people over the phone – whether it’s a call, text, message, or whatever – can make you feel closer to those at home, even if you are halfway around the world. If you think that flying solo may lead to homesickness or missing friends and family, start small with a short haul trip for two or three days and if you feel comfortable, move up to a week and so on.
4. Beware the single supplement
Travelling alone doesn’t always mean that you’ll only be paying for one person. Single supplement charges may mean you’ll spend considerably more than if you were travelling with someone else and tends to affect accommodation options. A single supplement is an extra charge paid by a solo traveller to compensate a hotel or cruise line for losses incurred because only one person is staying in a room or cruise cabin.
So, for example, if a hotel only has double rooms and you want to stay there, you would have to pay full price, even though you’re the only person staying in that room. This is what makes hostels such an attractive option to solo travellers because you’ll only have to pay for the bed as opposed to the room itself.
5. “Failing” is okay
What’s the worst thing that can come of a solo travel trip? You waste some money and maybe even a couple of work holiday days – that’s not an end-of-the-world scenario and, if you start with a short, cheap trip, then you minimise any risk. Solo travel is not something for everyone, and there will be plenty of people who give it a go and don’t even like it. That may be seen as a failure – but is it really? No solo trip is a waste of time, regardless of how you feel after it. It’s all part of a learning curve, and you’ll probably return home with a clearer understanding of how you feel about travelling alone. And don’t forget, just because you didn’t enjoy a first solo trip doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy a second.
6. Let someone know where you are
Of course, one of the biggest risks when travelling is that there may be no-one around to help you when you need it, and even if there is, a language barrier can prevent you from having an effective dialogue with someone you need help from. For some sort of safety net, always give a copy of your intended itinerary to a friend or a member of family, and check in with them at regular intervals to let them know that you are safe.
7. Be prepared
Some people love spontaneous travel, and that’s great for them, but even a little preparation can go a long way. When travelling alone, make sure to do some research beforehand so you can plan your finances and get some contingencies in place in case you run into trouble – whether that’s losing your valuables or getting injured and needing medical attention. Travel insurance is also a necessity, so don’t leave home until you are covered.
8. Read reviews when booking your accommodation
With the internet at your disposal, booking travel accommodation has never been easier. But if you’re going solo for the first time, you’ll probably want to make sure you stay in the right place. Whether you’re searching for a hostel, hotel, apartment or something else, always check the reviews where possible. TripAdvisor is usually a good place to start, and then take a look at the property’s ratings across the various booking platforms to formulate an idea of whether the place you’re staying at is right for your own needs.
9. There is more than one way to travel solo
Travelling solo doesn’t have to mean hitting the road alone, because there are several ways to go about it. You can keep yourself to yourself and explore somewhere at your own pace, or you could book a place on a group tour and enjoy exploring with strangers. It may seem daunting, but group tours can bring like-minded people together. If you’re social but have no-one to go away with, then why not try a group tour? You may make some new travel buddies along the way.
10. It’s cheap and easy to get your self-shoot game on point
If you’re worried about travelling solo because it’s more difficult to get those all-important Instagram shots when you’re alone, then fear not, because you can still get good quality photos and shoot them yourself. When I go away and I’m on my own, I take a Manfrotto PIXI, a Joby GorillaPod, a phone clamp and a Bluetooth remote with me, so if I ever want to take a photo of myself, I’ve got a setup that’s cheap, easy to set up and can take multiple pictures ensuring I get at least one that’s good for the ‘gram.