Thinking of traveling alone for the first time? Don’t worry it is not as scary as it sounds. Solo travel is very common, so you won’t be the only one traveling by yourself. If you decide to head on your first solo trip, here are my top tips to travel safely, meet people (if you want to) and have a great time.
Tips for making friends
1) Stay at a hostel
If you want to meet people, consider staying at a hostel, AirBnb, or using couchsurfing rather than staying at a hotel.
If you don’t mind sharing a room with other people or just want to travel as cheaply as possible, you can stay at a hostel. Some hostels tend to have dorm rooms where you can room with a bunch of other travelers. If that is not for you, look for a hostel where you share a room with 1 other person. There are even hostels that have solo rooms, but it is still easy to meet other travelers if you hang out at the common lounge or kitchen. You can also look if student houses for rent which are similar to hostels are available in the destination you are intending to travel to.
2) Consider a tour or activity at your destination (some are even free).
If you really don’t like the idea of traveling alone but have no one to travel with consider a tour. Even if you don’t want to sign up for an organized group tour where your entire trip is in a group, you can sign up for short tours, day trips and activities at your destination.
For example you can sign up for a 2-3 hour tour in the city you are visiting such as a walking tour, bike tour, food tour, pub crawl or even a day trip to a nearby town or area. A day trip can be a fun way to hang out with other travelers, but also a convenient way to visit an area that is only accessible by renting a car or hard or impossible to visit by public transportation. You can also sign up for a fun actitivity like a cooking class. My favorite website for booking short tours and activities is Get Your Guide.
Another option is to sign up for free group walking tours -many cities offer these and they are good introductions to a new city.
Travel Safety Tips
You do have to be more careful when traveling alone – especially if you are female or are traveling in a country where solo female travel is not common.
3) Keep in contact with friends and family.
Check in with family or friends back home by email, phone or text and let them know where you are. It is a good idea to share your travel itinerary (flights, hotel reservations and any other plans) with at least one person in advance of your trip.
4) You don’t have to tell people you are alone or are single.
If you are traveling someplace where people bother you while you are alone, consider creating a story about a companion. You can tell strangers that ask if you are alone that your friends or significant other are on their way to meet you. Some travelers will even wear a fake wedding ring- a simple cheap ring that looks like a wedding band will do the trip.
5) Use common sense safety precautions.
Some of my tips for staying safe when traveling alone are pretty common sense precautions that you need to follow even in your own city and country. For example, don’t walk around alone at night, pay attention to your surroundings rather than looking at your phone, don’t accept food or drinks from strangers, and don’t drink to the point of intoxication.
6) Pay extra for safety.
Even if you are are budget traveller, don’t sacrifice your safety to save money on your travels. For example, spend the extra money to take a taxi or ridesharing instead of walking alone at night. Instead of staying in a dorm hostel room in an unsafe area, spend a little more to stay in a nicer hostel or hotel.
7) Research the dress code and local customs in advance.
If you are traveling to Muslim country or someplace where people dress conservatively, research the dress code in advance to make sure you pack appropriate attire. If you are traveling to a country where locals dress conservatively, do that same. Not only is it more respectful, you will be less likely to stand out or attract unwanted attention.
8) Try to blend in with the locals.
While it is not always possible in some countries, try to blend as much as possible with the locals. Even if you cannot pass for a local due to your race or ethicity, try to look like an expat rather than a tourist. In addition, to the dress code, follow any customs or traditions in the country you are visiting. Don’t look at maps, guidebook or phone on the street if you are lost, duck in a store and do it there.
9) Stick close to local women.
When taking public transportation as a solo female traveler, try to sit next to local women to avoid unwanted attention or advances. If you need directions ask a woman or a couple rather than a man or group of men.
10) Follow your gut.
Try not to be paranoid, but if you have a bad feeling that a person, place or situation is unsafe go with your gut. Quickly avoid it or remove yourself from the situation.