Beginners’ Tips for Solo Travel

August 23, 2016
Solo Travel Tips: What You'll Want to Know

I compare solo travel to living alone. You can have company when desired, or you can isolate yourself temporarily. Unless you are experienced in the hermitic lifestyle and make your home in a cave, you will probably find it’s healthy to balance your interactions.

After about a month of solo travel with limited human contact in Sydney, I found myself yearning for some companionship. I’d set off with the goal of fixing everything that I considered wrong with my life. I wanted a new career, but wasn’t certain of the profession. I wanted to move to a different state or country, but couldn’t decide on a location. If it happened in the movies, I could solve my problems by traveling, too.

In the end, my problems weren’t magically solved, but I tucked away some fond memories in the process. Even if you spend the first few days locked in your hotel room, it’s certainly better than sitting at home and regretting not getting out there. Consider these tips before boarding your flight.

Solo Travel Tips: What You’ll Want to Know

1. Do your homework.

It is especially important for a woman to research her destination prior to arrival. Type anything you want to know into Google and the answer almost always will pop up. Check the Pink Pangea website and see what your fellow gal travelers have recommended.

I was worried about arriving in Bangkok alone and securing transport to my hotel. I looked up the logistics of finding a taxi at Suvarnabhumi Airport, which turns out to be one of the most efficient systems in the world. I also researched the cost of the ride, reading comments on TripAdvisor, and was pleasantly surprised to discover the actual fare matched the reported one.

If at all possible, do not arrive at your destination after dark. If no other flights are available, research the best course of action. Does your accommodation have a shuttle service? Do you know a friend of a friend who can pick you up? Trust your instincts.

2. Plan a little, but not too much.

“You only know where you’re going to stay the first two weeks?” a concerned and
incredulous friend asked. I’d wanted to keep my options open, after talking to the locals and gathering recommendations. As it turns out, my plans in Australia mainly depended on budget, but Airbnb kept me at or under budget, simultaneously providing a safe accommodation.

As a solo female, it’s essential to book your first few nights so you have a comfortable place to recover from your possible jet lag and time to gain your bearings. Maintaining a balance between a schedule and spontaneity makes for a varied trip. Don’t establish too many goals for the trip.

3. Pack light.

YOU are the one responsible for your own luggage on this journey, so don’t rely on anyone else to carry it for you. I was sure that I needed a large backpack, rolling suitcase, small daypack, and two messenger bags for my four-month trip. Surprisingly I was able to manage all these pieces by zipping the daypack onto the larger backpack and only using one messenger bag at a time. At present, I can’t remember why I thought I would need two. Thank goodness for my friend Ellie, who housed my extra pieces in her garage while I travelled to and from Sydney.

You can always rinse your clothes in the sink if you are staying in an accommodation for more than one night. Pack for about a week, or less, varying your pieces, but ensuring your pieces are interchangeable. I needed shoes for the Sydney Opera House, and it turns out my strappy black walking sandals paired beautifully with a travel dress and some jewelry. I felt just as elegant as the Sydneysiders in attendance.

Solo Travel Tips: What You’ll Want to Know

4. Schedule some group tours or activities.

Many large cities have walking tours, where you will invariably meet other first time visitors. I scheduled a day tour of Phi Phi Island from Patong Beach, Thailand in order to achieve the most comprehensive visit. The Artist House, my accommodation, arranged the entire tour, which resulted in a lovely day and interaction with fellow travelers.

Booking a day tour also relieves some of the frustration of trying to visit all the major sites in a city. Someone else plans it for you, and you can leave the guidebook in your room for the day. Plus, in sweltering tropical climates like Thailand, you might get lucky enough to be chauffeured around in an air conditioned bus. You can return to public transport the next day.

5. Relax and enjoy!

Yes, you should be vigilant, but if you are constantly anxious you will miss the spontaneity and learning experiences. I’m in India right now, and was talking to another traveller in my residence. She’s been here a week, and still hasn’t ventured outside the gates alone. “Take baby steps,” I advised. “Walk down to the corner to buy a bottle of water. The next day you can go farther.” Allowing yourself time to acclimate at your own pace, should you be afforded the time, is a growing experience in itself.


Solo Travel Tips: What You’ll Want to Know

Solo Travel Tips: What You'll Want to Know

Are you interested in sharing your solo travel story? We’d love to hear it. Email [email protected] for details. Solo Travel Tips: What You’ll Want to Know photo creadits by 

About Anne Castagnaro

Motivated by the “go big or go home” adage, Anne V. Castagnaro, PhD is a lifelong traveler who prefers to mark her life in travel milestones. A Southern California native, she makes her base camp there while pondering new adventures. While saving up funds for the next journey, she enjoys reading, scrapbooking, nature, and educational issues. Travel and other musings can be found on her blog and on Instagram @victoriatravels9

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