Top Tips For The Solo Traveller.

solo female backpacker

Solo travel is an amazing adventure and has a wealth of experiences and opportunities for those with the courage and the adventurous spirit to take it up. It can be an almost spiritual experience, but it isn’t without its challenges either.

For those of you who have taken that brave step of venturing out on your own, but are still a little worried about the logistics of solo travel – especially if this is your first trip – then don’t be, it really isn’t as difficult or as scary as you think it is.

In my last article I explored just a few of the reasons why you should take up the chance to travel solo at least once in your lifetime. In this article I want to give you just a few of the best hints and tips to make your solo trip run that little more smoothly.

Consider pre booking your first nights accommodation.

Pre booking accommodation isn’t something that I would normally recommend, given the fact that it is often easier, cheaper and much more beneficial to just turn up and find where you want to stay once you arrive in a new place. But there are a few exceptions to this rule.

The very first day of your new trip will be filled with wonder, awe, acclimatisation and exhaustion from your long flight. Travelling alone will mean that you will have to think on your feet, negotiate the sea of touts and get from the airport all on your own without the security of having someone there to watch your back. If you arrive at night or in the early hours of the morning or your trip coincides with a national or public holiday, then being on your own can make it difficult to find and negotiate a place to stay, especially with a backpack on your shoulders and everything about you screaming ‘target’ to every tout, thief and con artist in miles.

That is why for your first night or two, it can be a good idea to pre book a nice private room before you get there. This gives you the advantage of hopping in a taxi and getting straight there when you get off the plane, as opposed to searching for the right place to stay, and will give you the opportunity to get a hot shower and a soft bed to help you rest, beat the jet lag and acclimatise to your new surroundings before you check out and settle into the nomadic lifestyle.

Once you have settled in and acclimatised to your new climate and surroundings, the backpacking norm of looking for places to stay once you arrive, even on your own, is infinitely easier.

Research.                           

Spontaneity is a huge and important part of backpacking, it defines that spirit of independent adventure and allows you the freedom to go where you like on a whim, but researching the basics of your destination before you arrive in a new place is important as a solo traveller and will allow you to get your bearings much more quickly, as well as keeping you safe. You need to know before you even arrive what you need to look for, where you need to go and how you need to get there, that’s it. You don’t need to know and understand everything about your destination, that is what exploring is for, but a little pre trip reading and knowledge can go a long way. That way you can look and behave much more confidently and in control as opposed to standing in a new destination looking lost with a guidebook and a massive map in your hand, which will make you a huge target for all sorts of undesirable characters.

Take full advantage of hostel amenities.

Whether it is meting fellow travellers in a dorm room or having a conversation with those you meet in the communal areas or hostel kitchen, hostels are fantastic places to meet up with other backpackers. Often the smaller hostels of six to eight beds are better for meeting new people than the larger ten to twelve bed dorms, as they can be a little more intimate, but this isn’t always true providing you are confident enough to just say hello.  Sharing tips about the destination you are in, learning about new destinations or experiences that aren’t in guidebooks, or even finding new travel buddies to join up with for a few days of travel and exploration, there are more advantages to staying in hostels than just sticking to your budget.

But don’t be afraid to upgrade once in a while.

Backpacking isn’t just about hostels and sleeping in airports. One of the benefits of solo travel is that you can enjoy your own company and have a bit of time to yourself every now and then. Spending all your time in hostels and backpacker hangouts – as fun as it is – kind of defeats the object here, and can sometimes get a little wearing after a while. Sometimes you just need or want a bit of privacy. Getting a private room in a guesthouse, boutique hotel or any one of the hundreds of unique accommodation options, is not beyond the realms of most backpacker budgets providing that you don’t go overboard and spend every night in one. The only time you will need to limit yourself to hostels realistically is if you are travelling through the more expensive Westernised countries or regions such as Europe, Japan or Australia, unless you have significantly upped your budget of course.

But travelling solo can give you the opportunity to enjoy some down time from the backpacking way of life and take advantage of the wide range of accommodation options that are out there, from plush en suite rooms and luxury hotels to treehouses in jungles and Buddhist temples and everything in between. There is a whole world of choice out there so don’t limit yourself.

Learn to people watch.

Sitting in a cafe or little street stall and watching the world pass you by while you enjoy a coffee or some local street food is one of the true pleasures of travelling alone. Sometimes it’s nice to take a book or do a little writing in your journal or blog or whatever it is you have to pass the time, but other times it is nice to observe the people around you too. Soak up your surroundings and take it all in. This is what you’re travelling for, to experience new surroundings and new cultures. This does have a practical application beyond just stopping to smell the roses, if you listen and watch carefully you can pick up a little of the language, or the intricacies of how to use the metro, hail a taxi, or order food at a local street stall the way the locals do.

Do the walking tours, take a course or join an organised trek.

Just because you are backpacking independently, and solo for that matter, doesn’t mean that you can’t join the occasional organised trek or take a course or two. You can very easily sign up for any course or trek a day before, and there will always be a huge range to choose from. Most hostels, guesthouses or backpacker hangouts will have a list, or there are plenty of tour agencies knocking around. It doesn’t matter what you do, jungle trekking, horse riding, a course in yoga, cooking or Thai massage, they are all fantastic ways to not only enjoy yourself and gain new experiences and skills, but also to meet other travellers in the same situation as you. Being in the same situation makes it very easy to strike up a conversation and you never know, you might just meet a new travelling companion for a day or two.

Have a project.

A hobby or a project is a fantastic way to keep yourself occupied during those times where you want to fill in a bit of time or you don’t want to make it so obvious you are on your own. Many solo backpackers maintain a personal blog or take the time to write a book, maybe hone their photography skills or put together a photograph portfolio of all the places they have been. Some people travel with the aim of learning a specific skill, becoming a dive master while island hopping, learning yoga and meditation at various retreats around the world or studying and training in the different martial arts around the world. It doesn’t really matter what it is, the opportunities are as varied as the people who travel, but whatever it is, it can really add an extra dimension to your trip.

Take your time.

Solo travel really gives you the opportunity to slow down and explore a place properly. You can really take your time and enjoy the locations and sites you are visiting. You don’t have to worry about doing the usual tourist trail or whether or not your travel partner wants to move on somewhere else, you can do what you want, when you want, so slow down and smell the coffee. Drink a few cups too. Hell, go to the farm and learn how the damn stuff is made locally if you like! You have all the time in the world and no one to answer to but yourself!

Trust your gut.

Travelling solo is extremely safe and no more inherently dangerous than travelling in a group as long as you take basic common sense precautions. But when you are on your own you have no one to watch your back so it is important to make sure you watch your own and trust your instincts. Have a good time and meet new people, but keep your guard up, if something doesn’t feel right, leave. It really is that simple. By sticking to reasonable safety precautions and using your common sense, you will keep yourself safe and have one of the best times of your life travelling in what many consider to be the ultimate way to travel, solo backpacking.

So have you ever travelled alone or are you planning to? Do you have any more tips from your own solo adventures or has this article put your mind at ease and inspired you to take that first step? Please comment and let me know below.

Related Articldes

Is Solo Travel Ever Truly Solo?

Solo Female Backpacker Safety Tips.

Why Solo Travel Is Awesome!

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Michael Huxley is a published author, freelance travel writer and founder of Bemused Backpacker. He is also a charge nurse by vocation with an interest in emergency nursing and travel medicine, but his real passion is travel. Since finding his wanderlust a decade ago in South East Asia, he has bounced from one end of the planet to another and has no intention of slowing down.

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14 comments on “Top Tips For The Solo Traveller.
  1. alicesgapyearadventures says:

    These tips are so helpful, thank you! I love the idea of just pre booking a few nights at first! Are there a lot of women who travel alone as I will be on my own and this is something that really worries me?

    • You are welcome, I’m happy you are finding them useful. Yes there are plenty of people who travel solo (and very safely) all of the time, and a lot of them are women! Just enjoy your travels, you will have an amazing time and you really do have nothing to worry about if you take reasonable safety precautions. Check out my top tips for solo female backpackers in the travel tips section if you need more advice.

  2. This is a great list! I love the people watching point, I did this quite a bit when I travelled through Brazil alone. You really get to know your destination just watching the locals go about their day-to-day lives. Another tip I’ve found useful is if you’re travelling to a destination that speaks a language you’re not familiar with is to learn a few basic phrases, or have them written down in the local language on a piece of paper. Worked wonders when I had just finished travelling for over 24 hours and didn’t speak the language.

    • Thank you so much unraveltravel, I really appreciate the compliment, and the comment! I totally agree, I always try and learn at least a few basic phrases of whichever country I travel in, it’s just common courtesy really.

  3. Aleah says:

    Nice tips. As a solo traveler, I really love people watching. I always bring my Kindle with me, too, to keep me company.

    • I’ve always found a good book is a great companion in a restaurant or side street cafe. It’s all about learning to enjoy your own company and spending time doing what you enjoy. Thank you for visiting and commenting.

  4. Kelly says:

    I am 5 weeks into my first solo trip and all the things that I was afraid of have disappeared as I made my way through Croatia, Bali, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. I am meeting so many people and they give me even more momentum!

    I was afraid and now I am not!

    • I’m glad to hear it! Thanks for sharing that, I tell people all the time all the worries, nerves, fears that they have will just disappear when they find out how easy travel is, they never believe me untill they get there and find it out for themselves! Thanks for stopping by.

  5. I agree with the first tip, booking a place ahead of time for the first night. if i’m on a tight budget, i’ll set up a couchsurfing place to stay so I can relax after the flight. I also love the hobby idea, I read a lot to keep busy, and am new to blogging so I’m sure that’ll start to fit in too. great post!

    • Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I think having a hobby – whatever it may be – adds a whole new dimension to a trip as well as staving off any boredom or loneliness. I’d definitely recommend writing if that is something you enjoy. It’s so easy to carry a little notepad around and just scribble some thoughts down. I wrote my first novel when I was in Egypt, guess where it’s set? ;-) Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting.

  6. I really want to take a solo trip this summer so I have read your tips with interest! Thanks so much!

  7. Jon says:

    Great tips Mike! I think that variety is pretty important, the beauty of solo travel is the fact you can do whatever you want, however you want it, there’s no need to stick to 1 style of travel, accommodation etc!

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