Solo travel is one of the greatest experiences one can encounter in life. Relying only on yourself, facing the fear alone and enjoying the moments without any distractions are one of the perks of solo travel. However, travelling alone is not only roses. It can turn into a pretty frustrating experience for those who’re unprepared. Read this complete solo travel guide below to make sure your next solo adventure brings you nothing but pleasure and fun.
Check out everything you need to know before travelling alone, read my solo travel tips, safety instructions and find answers to all the curious questions about travelling alone.
WHAT IS SOLO TRAVEL & WHY IT IS IMPORTANT
What solo travelling actually means and am I a solo traveller when I hook up with a bunch of people from a hostel? Before you decide on travelling by yourself have a closer look on how we can define ‘solo travelling’ itself and why it is actually important to make journeys without fellow companions.
SOLO TRAVEL MEANING
The definition of ‘solo travel’ is simple – it describes all the trips and travels on which one embarks completely alone, without having a single travel companion. A person decides to travel single, chooses a particular destination or trip itinerary alone and books the flight or train tickets and accommodation on her or his own.
There is nobody waiting for a solo traveller on the destination. He or she encounters all the trip independently and travels alone. A Solo traveller wanders the city alone, hikes alone and explores all the places alone until she or he decides to connect with other travellers in the area and get on a journey with them.
There are no differences between solo travellers who prefer getting to a place alone and gad around completely unaccompanied; and those who like to socialize. The more sociable types can after spending some time alone hang out with locals, or do trips with people from the hostel or other solo travellers they met online.
Solo travelling is usually referred as well as: travelling alone, travelling by yourself, single travelling, single trip, solo trip, solo vacations (American), going on holidays alone and so on.
WHAT IS SOLO TRAVEL LIKE? IS IT GOOD?
It is very difficult to describe what is solo travel like as it is impossible to talk about experiences of other people in general. For each person solo travelling can bring varied feelings and emotions.
For many people travelling alone is about being free and independent. Other solo travellers take it as a form of a spiritual journey to find more about themselves, for others it is fun because they meet new people. Solo travelling can be as adventurous or as relaxing as you – the single traveller – make it.
Of course, travelling by yourself can be sometimes lonely, but still offers such a diverse knowledge, experience and skills. You can rely only on yourself. All your senses are fully activated, and you can afford to do whatever you want.
Your experience is maximized because instead of focusing on finding an agreement with a travel companion and trying to fulfil his or her needs, you’re completely soaked in the sensations from the place itself. You can read more about the whole solo travel experience in my article ‘What Solo Travel Teaches You’.
SOLO TRAVEL TIPS: HOW TO TRAVEL ALONE
How to travel solo successfully? What should be a single traveller prepared for? How to plan a solo travel tip and what kind of budget to expect when travelling alone?
HOW TO PLAN A VACATION BY YOURSELF
Planning a solo trip is crucial. On one hand, you have all the freedom with choosing the destination of your dreams, selecting the perfect time, the way you travel and activities you plan to do.
On the other hand, for your safety and enjoying the trip to its maximum, you need to be extraordinary cautious with planning your solo travels into the tiniest details.
We can divide the planning into choosing the destination, selecting the right time, the best transport, choosing accommodation, making an itinerary of the trip, list of activities and list of necessities to perfectly pack for the solo trip.
1. CHOOSE THE DESTINATION
I believe that every single trip starts with choosing a destination. At least, every solo travel should! This decision is completely on you and your travel bucket list.
It very much depends on what you’re fond of, what you can afford budget wise, how adventurous and solo experienced you are and of course, where you can go Visa and restriction wise.
Did I forget anything? You got me! What else could be more important for a solo traveller than the safety itself? I will talk more about safety in the section ‘Solo Travel Safety’ (in progress) and soon you will be able to read more about destination selection at the page ‘Solo Travel Destination’.
Meanwhile, I can briefly help you with the big decision on where to travel alone by stating a few questions you need to ask before travelling solo to a certain place:
- What are your motivations to see this place?
- Does the place really meets the purpose of the trip – in terms of nature, hiking options, culture, etc.
- Is it safe? Would you feel safe and comfortable there?
- How difficult is to get to the place or the city? Do you need a car? Do you drive?
- What is the infrastructure? Can you safely hang around using only public transport?
- Can you afford to stay in this place?
- Are there any cool places around? Or can you imagine staying there during all your trip?
2. SELECT THE RIGHT SEASON, DATE AND TIME
You are travelling alone so avoiding disastrous weather, especially something serious like tornados and hurricanes, is essential. Research the best time to visit your dream destinations and avoid the ‘unpleasant seasons’.
For example, the Atlantic Hurricane season runs usually from June to November. Therefore, if you can’t imagine handling with possible weather complications during your solo travels to destinations affected by Atlantic hurricanes, you want to select a different date.
Time of arrival in the destination is also critical. When I travel solo, I prefer to spend a few more bucks on planes or trains with a reasonable arrival time. Most of the city transfers have a very limited schedule during nights, and I, personally, don’t feel very safe by crawling through the city at 1am to find my accommodation.
The other thing I am aware of are bank holidays of the country where I am travelling to. In many lands all shops and services may be closed during these days, so your arrival might be very disrupted. You may have less intercity connections, or you end up hungry because all shops are closed.
To summarize, you want to make sure that you select the perfect:
SEASON – the weather you want, no hazardous weather conditions.
DATE – how run the things in the destination during bank holidays or Sunday?
TIME – avoid late arrivals for your safety.
3: PLAN THE BUDGET
Lucky those who can travel without the expenses in their minds! The rest of us have to get prepared on how much money we can afford to spend for the particular trip.
How to plan your solo travel budget:
- Set up a total budget (What is the maximum you can spend?).
- Allocate expenses into categories: accommodation, travel, transport, food & drinks, entrance fees, souvenirs, etc.
- Follow the currency of your destination to get the best exchange deal.
- Think how much cash you want and check ATMs available at your destination. What are the fees to withdraw money there?
- Set aside some emergency money.
- Decide on which credit or debit cards to take with you.
- Decide where you will store your cash, cards and emergency cash.
HOT TIP: if you have more debit or credit cards, take with you only the one where you have less but sufficient amount of money. In case of pick pocketers and other thieves you lose only one credit card, the second one is safe at home.
4. BOOK THE ACCOMMODATION & TRANSPORTATION
You know where you’re going, and you know how much you can afford to spend. The next step is selecting the best travel method and choosing the right accommodation.
SELECTING THE BEST TRANSPORTATION
Look for the safest, most comfortable and most affordable means of transportation. Even if you’re on a budget, don’t make extremely ‘cheap choices’. The differences between prices are sometimes minimal and simple 10 euros or pounds can help you to reach your destination earlier and stressless.
Yes, travelling alone can be really stressful. Because there is nobody making the decision for you. You have to do everything to put yourself in a chilled mode. Hectic, chaotic and uncomfortable travelling can turn your solo trip into a nightmare.
Once I booked a super early flights just to save around 20 euros. I ended up travelling exhausted, waiting for my next bus for hours and hours. Don’t waste money but mostly don’t waste your time. You can earn the money later, although you’ll never get back the hours you’ve lost.
CHOOSING ACCOMMODATION WHEN TRAVELLING SOLO
This is very subjective and very much depends on your budget and preferences. I know many travellers who prefer hostels not only to save some money, but mostly to socialize and meet new people.
I, personally, don’t need any of those. Furthermore, I prefer having my private bathroom, toilet and peace. One thing what can ruin my light night sleep is people checking in during super late or early hours, talking or partying directly in the room.
So far, I was lucky enough to find hotels or hostels offering single rooms, or I found a double room for a very discounted price. You can also book only 1 place in a double room, but you will end up paying so-called single supplement.
WHERE TO STAY WHEN TRAVELLING ALONE.
Pros: comfort, safety, amenities, usually better central locations
Cons: price, hard to meet new people
Pros: budget, easy to socialize, mostly friendly and open atmosphere, kitchen,
Cons: sleeping next to a stranger, less comfort, no privacy, less safety (you never know who you share the room with)
AIRBNB SHARED ROOM / GUEST HOUSE:
Pros: home atmosphere, mingling with the locals, safety (AIRBNB takes their polices seriously), usually affordable
Cons: Less privacy, shared space; if you don’t connect with the host, it might be awkward
AIRBNB / VRBO / ENTIRE APARTMENTS
Pros: Complete privacy, home atmosphere, kitchen, comfort
Cons: Pricey, loneliness (when staying at a hotel you can at least bump into somebody or have a chit-chat with the stuff.)
Pros: it is for free, mingling with locals, exceptional & intimate atmosphere
Cons: no privacy, again when not connected to your host it can be very awkward; shared space
5. CREATE A ‘WANT TO SEE’ LIST AND PLAN THE ITINERARY
One of my most common solo travel tips would be: ‘know where and when you go but leave some space for random adventures’.
I believe it is vital for a solo traveller to make a proper research about the place that she or he is visiting. You want to make the best out of your trip, you want to spend your trip by exploring not by planning or getting lost in a dodgy area.
Planning freaks like me will have no struggles by creating to do & see lists and scheduling their itineraries. The other ones can easily underestimate solo travel preparations and leave the trip to ‘go with the flow’.
I enjoy spontaneous trips and hang-outs too, but I am not a big fun of wandering without any purpose; or even worse, ending the trip with a misery of missed opportunities.
Planning your solo trip itinerary is also important from the safety perspective. If you know where you’re heading you can’t get lost, and you don’t look like being lost. The first one causes stress and anxiety, the second one makes you an easy target for scammers and criminals.
WANT TO SEE LIST:
- Research the place.
- What do you want to see and do?
- What are the priorities of visiting these places? (must-see vs. nice to see)
- Do you plan to stay at one place or do you plan to travel from a city to city?
- Are those places safe for a solo traveller?
- Do you need to buy some tickets in advance?
- How can you get to the places you want to see?
- How much time do you need to explore the places?
- When is the best time to visit those places?
- Are those located in the same area?
- Can you group these places or things according to the location or niche? (museum day, beach day, visiting the centre, suburbs…)
- What do you have to pack? (hiking shoes, own food
6. MAKE A LIST OF ALL ‘TO PACK NECESSITIES’
It’s packing time! Once you know where you go and what your solo travel activities will be, making a packing list should be a piece of cake.
Pay extra attention to the weather forecast and, of course, required dimensions of your travel luggage!
Don’t forget chargers, first aid kit, medication and your passport. I’ll give you more insights in the next paragraph about packing.
SOLO TRAVEL ESSENTIALS & NECESSITIES
How to pack for your solo trip? I usually travel on light, not only to save some money but mostly my energy.
Dragging a monstrous 20 kilo luggage which doesn’t fit basically anywhere, with +30 degrees heatwaves outside doesn’t sound like pleasing travel to me.
The secret is to know what you really need and what, on the other hand, might stay at the bottom of your suitcase during the whole trip.
What to pack when you’re travelling alone:
- Smart & light luggage
- Right clothes & shoes
- Enough funds
- Good insurance
- Reusable water bottle & food container
- First aid kit, medication & hygiene
- Chargers, adapters and other gadgets
- Personal documents & their copies
- Written cheat sheet with emergency contacts
1. SMART & LIGHT LUGGAGE
Once again, you’re not going to a catwalk (I guess). The fewer things you take, the fewer things you lose and the fewer things you carry.
It is such a pain to wander around with heavy baggage. You may also grab much more unwanted attention than when travelling light.
I prefer taking a medium-sized backpack or a tiny smart suitcase on wheels which I can fit nearly everywhere. Of course, the mean of your luggage depends on the destination.
If you’re about to have a city break, pick up a suitcase – it is more spacious, comfortable and in big cities you won’t look like a stranger.
For more adventurous solo travels, when you visit further parts of the world, and you plan to change places often, then a backpack is the right choice!
2. RIGHT CLOTHES & SHOES
One more reason to have at least a tiny idea about what places you want to visit during your solo trip. Do you plan to swim? Do you fancy a beach day? Is the purpose of your solo travel hiking or culture hunting?
Once again, keep an eye on the weather in all your destinations. Always travel in the heaviest clothes to save some weight and space in your luggage.
Is the destination conservative? Then pay extra attention to the norms of clothing of the place you head to. As a woman travelling to Muslim or other religious countries you will have to follow some rules like covering your legs, shoulders and head.
You may want to avoid too sexy fashion as well at dodgier places. As a female solo traveller you don’t want to grab too much attention.
HOT TIP: Check-out the fashion norms and trends of your destination to fit into the crowd and don’t look like a tourist.
3. ENOUGH FUNDS
We’re talking about money again. Answer yourself these questions:
- What currency you need, and what’s the current trend of its fluctuations?
- Is it worth to exchange all the amounts before travelling, or can you find enough low fee ATMs / exchange agencies at the place?
- Where do you want to store your money?
I usually have a higher amount of cash in the local currency directly in my purse which I carry with me everywhere (mostly in a vigilantly monitored backpack or a handbag). Then I have a debit card with a sufficient but not significant amount which I save in the hotel room, in a locker.
Finally, I have also a reserve amount of cash, hidden somewhere. This way when I get rob I can still rely on some hidden safety cash.
4. GOOD INSURANCE
Don’t travel without insurance, especially during the corona crisis. You might be healthy and young, and you might be supremely cautious, but you never know what happens.
Insure both yourself and your journey. Double check if your current health insurance insures you also abroad and where. Are you insured against emergencies and accidents? If not, do so!
My next tip would be – take the physical insurance card with you. Everything is online nowadays including insurance and other ID cards. I prefer to take my physical card and keep it together with my passport on a very secure place. This might be either the strictly monitored handbag or pocket of your trousers.
I assume that thieves might be more willing to steal my phone rather than my insurance card. And when this happens, I still have my physical insurance card with a hotline number to call in case of emergencies and accidents.
5. REUSABLE WATER BOTTLE & FOOD CONTAINER
Don’t make a single step without a reusable water bottle. Travelling takes lots of energy and the levels of hydration have to be filled frequently.
With a perfect sized reusable water bottle you’ll save yourself some money, and you’ll use definitely less plastic. Many cities have a fresh source of tap water in parks, gardens and other public places.
However, if you’re heading to a trickier destination where tap water is not really recommended, there you may need to spend more money on bottled water. A better solution would be to get one of those fancy water filtrating bottles.
I like to take a small food container to have enough energy boosters on my trips. A little snack can save you from fainting during your hikes or unpleasant surprises when visiting cities where a daily shut down of all restaurants and shops is something completely usual (siestas in Italy and Spain).
6. FIRST AID KIT, MEDICATION & HYGIENE
Be ready for the best and be ready for the worst. Pack your regular medication, painkillers, medicaments for stomach, thermometer, plasters, bandage, tweezers, vitamins and immunity minerals like zinc and iron, energy boosters, pads, etc.
Don’t forget sun blockers, sunglasses with high UV, lip protector, hat or a cap. FFP masks together with antibacterial gels are a must nowadays.
Dental hygiene is important so pack yourself a toothpaste, tooth brush, floss and possible a small package of dental water.
Moisturizing is not only for princesses! Especially when you travel to dry and windy destinations. Cracked skin aches! Take care of it before it’s too late.
7. CHARGERS, ADAPTERS AND GADGETS TO SAVE YOUR LIFE
Do your research – again. Know what kind of plugs they use in the country you’re solo travelling to and try to get a suitable adapter before the journey (there are also some multifunctional variations, or multi USB adapters).
Of course, never forget your cellphone or tablet charger, and possibly the gadget itself (phone, camera, tablet, laptop, etc.). Make sure your credit is topped up or your roaming completely set-up for the country of your stay.
Little example of a big fail: my friends and I managed to get to Morocco without previously checking on if our Spanish numbers and roaming were valid there. We split into 2 groups to get our rental card and guess what – none of our EU phones worked.
MUST HAVE GADGETS:
- Cell-phone or/and camera
- tablet or/and laptop
- Chargers & adapters
- Portable Powerbank
LIFE SAVING GADGETS:
If you plan a little crazier trip (like a solo wandering through an Amazon jungle or solo hiking in Iceland), I leave for you a list of hardcore gadgets:
- Portable Wi-Fi Hub
- Survival kit,
- Pocket-Size washing machine
- goTenna Mash
- Automated travel vacuum
- Water Purified Bottle
- Tent & sleeping bag
- Compass or GPS
- High-tech foot warmers
- Female Urination Device
- Utility knife
(source: Travelaway )
8. PERSONAL DOCUMENTS & THEIR COPIES
Make a copy of every document you take – ID, passport, insurance card, visa, etc. It may become handy in case you lose the originals. I have usually pictures of the most important documents also in a digital form – saved in Cloud, on Google Drive, or any software which is password secured.
9. WRITTEN CHEAT SHEET WITH EMERGENCY CONTACTS
Don’t rely on your phone only. It can get broken, it can be stolen, or it can be lost. Carry with you a paper cheat sheet with a list of all the necessary emergency contacts – telephone number and address of your hotel, telephone contact to your family and friends, your country’s embassy, local police, ambulance, etc.
Have those always with you, in a secure pocket or – a tip for ladies: in the back of your bra! This little piece of paper can save your life in case you get lost, your phone is having a bad moment, or in the worst scenario when it has been stolen or misplaced. Safety should always be the priority number one of your solo trip.