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(Written November 2018)
So you’ve decided, I want to travel alone, but you have no idea how to travel alone for the first time…
A few years ago when I initially sparked an interest in travel I always thought I might end up travelling alone. I liked the idea of being completely free and just doing whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. Planning solo trips is of course daunting, so I want to share some of my best tips for first time solo travellers to help you feel more at east travelling alone for the first time.
- 1 10 TIPS FOR FIRST TIME SOLO TRAVELLERS
- 1.0.1 1. Have common sense – keep your wits about you and don’t put yourself in a vulnerable position.
- 1.0.2 2. Remember why you solo travelled – do what YOU want to do!
- 1.0.3 3. Plan but don’t over plan – have a rough idea but not a concrete plan, don’t book everything so far in advance
- 1.0.4 4. Always have plenty of battery on your phone
- 1.0.5 5. Save important numbers to your favourites on your phone
- 1.0.6 6. Feel the fear and do it anyway
- 1.0.7 7. Be confident
- 1.0.8 8. Cut yourself some slack – have a rest if you need to
- 1.0.9 9. Be yourself and don’t care what others think
- 1.0.10 10. ENJOY YOURSELF
- 1.1 Enjoyed reading these 10 Tips for First Time Solo Travellers?
My First Time Travelling Alone
My first experience of solo travel was an interrailing trip around western and Central Europe. My first stop on this solo trip was Berlin, a city I had visited twice before. As a first time solo traveller it was helpful to go to a familiar city, and as I am from the UK, Europe is just a stones throw away, making its a good first time solo travel destination.
I definitely felt out of my comfort zone when I first arrived in Berlin as it was my first experience of hostels, as well as solo travel. But the best thing to do is not to give up. It will most likely be one of the best experiences of your life and give you the confidence to do similar trips in the future.
Being scared to travel alone is completely legitimate, especially as a female. So here are some of my best tips on travelling alone for the first time!
10 TIPS FOR FIRST TIME SOLO TRAVELLERS
1. Have common sense – keep your wits about you and don’t put yourself in a vulnerable position.
It may sound obvious, but this has to be first on my list of tips for first time solo travellers. I met some people who had been robbed or got lost on nights out because of how drunk they were. If you are going to get really, really drunk you are likely in a position to get money/ID/cards stolen.
As regards to nights out, the same rules apply as they would at home! When you’re out, if someone offers to buy you a drink, either decline or make sure you watch your drink being poured. If you have a drink that you have bought, don’t let it out of your sight. You may end up in a situation you feel uneasy in. That’s okay, don’t panic! Just walk away from it. Always make sure you have you phone to hand so you can call someone if necessary.
2. Remember why you solo travelled – do what YOU want to do!
The beauty of travelling alone is that you are totally in control of your own decisions. The other great thing about solo travel is that you have the opportunity to make some great new friends. With social media nowadays you can easily keep in touch with these friends for years to come!
Of course new friendships are great but don’t forget – you are a solo traveller! Don’t lose your independence! Don’t feel as if you HAVE to spend time with your new friends if they aren’t doing what you want to do. Certainly don’t feel bad for going off and doing your own thing! Initially I felt rude doing this, however after I’d been travelling a couple of weeks I constantly reminded myself that I was solo travelling for a reason.
3. Plan but don’t over plan – have a rough idea but not a concrete plan, don’t book everything so far in advance
I booked my first 6 days of hostels but that was it. Even then after my first night away I was already considering making alterations. I had an idea of what cities I wanted to visit and what a logical order to visit them was, but that was about it.
After my first week away I started to just book hostels one city in advance. I much preferred it this way! It made it easier for me to form friendships and arrange to meet up with new friends in different cities. It’s ideal not to have concrete plans for this reason, although most hostels do have cancellation available! At one point I cancelled my hostel in Vienna the day before I went and headed to Budapest 2 days early to catch up with some friends I’d made in Berlin.
4. Always have plenty of battery on your phone
This kind of goes back to the common sense thing. If you aren’t careful you could find you have no form of contacting anyone should you get into trouble, or no map to help you navigate! I always made sure I had enough battery to last me, I was with someone I trusted who had phone charge or I took a portable charger out with me.
5. Save important numbers to your favourites on your phone
If you need to contact someone quickly it’s useful to have emergency numbers easy to hand. Save these to the favourites on your contacts and also add them to your emergency contacts on your phone. This way you can call them quickly or someone you’re with can find them easily.
Have your travel insurance contact numbers saved into your phone book. Hopefully you won’t need to contact them but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Also bear in mind that emergency services numbers are different abroad to in the UK.
6. Feel the fear and do it anyway
This applies to a lot of things in life, but I definitely had to push myself into new situations constantly throughout my time solo interrailing. There were a lot of scenarios I found myself in where I didn’t know exactly what to do.
One poignant example: I wanted to go out on my last night in Krakow but didn’t have anyone to go with, nor did I know where to go! In the main square I saw a sign for a bar crawl so took the chance and just paid to join it. I asked some girls waiting there if I could tag along with them for the night. I ended up having a really good night out and was so glad I just threw myself into the situation!
7. Be confident
Easier said than done, I know. But this is one tip for first time solo travellers that you just need to run with! Even if it doesn’t feel that natural to you, just hold you head high and exert confidence. Speak to people, start conversations, try new things, go out and do things. Don’t shy away from anything because once you’re back home and doing normal things you only regret the chances you didn’t take!
Also, even if you don’t feel confident, do you best to look confident, if anything just for safety purposes. If you seem nervous and anxious you are more likely to end up attracting the wrong kind of attention. Just act like you know what you’re doing and where you’re going, even if you have no idea!
Confidence is also key when getting photos of yourself. You need to just go for it and ask people to take pictures of you. My technique was: look for a family / couple / fellow solo traveller struggling to take a selfie, offer to take a photo of them and then ask them to do the same for you. Easy.
8. Cut yourself some slack – have a rest if you need to
I am the worst for cutting myself some slack. If I’m not on the go all the time I feel guilty. But I also get so tired and this is awful for my mental health. So it’s important for me to realise when I need a lie in, a day drinking coffee or an afternoon nap. Push yourself but don’t push yourself too hard. It’s okay for you to have a lazy day, even if you are away / travelling! You wouldn’t spend a month, 6 weeks, 3 months etc. at home constantly doing something every day so don’t push yourself to do the same when you’re away. You’ll enjoy yourself more if you feel more energised and mentally clearer anyway!
9. Be yourself and don’t care what others think
Being away on my own and attempting to form new friendships showed to me that I care a lot more about what people think of me than I thought. When I found myself in situations with new friends trying to join in conversations, I found I got really nervous at times. I had such an urge to try and prove myself to people.
This is definitely one of the most important tips for first time solo travellersL DON’T CARE WHAT OTHERS THINK! If someone is meant to be your friend, they will be!
- If you don’t want to talk to people because you’re hot and tired, don’t talk to people!
- If you want to sleep, go for it!
- If you want to make conversation, go for it!
- If you want to try and tag along with someone’s plans, ask them!
10. ENJOY YOURSELF
What a cliché final point, to round of my 10 tips for first time solo travellers. But seriously you are doing this with the intention of having the time of your life. Just try your best to be in the wonderful moment that you’re in.
Since travelling alone for the first time I have embarked on other solo trips including city breaks to Edinburgh and Lisbon, as well as a backpacking trip to Southeast Asia. Once I’d gained that first experience of solo travel I wasn’t nervous to do anything alone anymore! It really is an excellent stepping stone in your travel life. I know there are some people that would categorically never solo travel, however if you have even the smallest inkling that you might want to do it, please, GO FOR IT.
Someone wonderful people I met during my first time travelling alone:
Enjoyed reading these 10 Tips for First Time Solo Travellers?
Check out some more of my travel advice:
- 10 First Time Camping Tips for Camping Alone as a Woman
- Ultimate Camping List: What to Bring Camping
- Backpacking Southeast Asia Packing List
- Travel Vaccinations for Southeast Asia
- Beginners Guide to Backpacking: planning your first Southeast Asia trip
Or watch my travel Q&A where I discuss Solo Travel: