Traveling alone for the first time seems daunting and I completely understand why. Numerous questions churn around in your head: how will it go? Isn’t it dangerous to travel solo? How will I meet people? Will I get bored? Making the decision to travel solo is already a huge step. Taking your first flight/train/bus to start your trip is the hardest thing to do. After that you’ll realize traveling alone isn’t that complicated. Still, there a some traps you have to avoid. I’m gonna share numerous tips if you’re going to travel alone for the first time. Tips to prepare your trip, but also useful tips during your solo trip! You can also check out this post listing travel mistakes to avoid!
Pick the right destination
So how to travel alone for the first time? Either for a short solo trip or long term travel, you first have to pick the right destination. You have to ask yourself several questions. Are there countries or an area in the world you really like? If you’re traveling on a budget, don’t go to Iceland, Japan or Scandinavia, where the cost of living is high. Also pick a safe country. When choosing a country don’t forget to check if you need to apply for a visa. If you want to meet people, go to areas where you’ll meet other solo travelers. In my opinion, I think Southeast Asia is perfect for your first solo trip. Otherwise read my artcle about the best places to solo travel.
Use flight comparison sites
Once you picked your destination, if you go far away you’ll have to check the flight prices. It’s better to use flight comparison sites to find the best prices, then buy on the airline website. You can use Kiwi, Momondo or Skyscanner. I mostly use Skyscanner. Click here to do your research. And read my article explaining how to find cheap flights.
Make a plan
I’m not talking making a schedule hour by hour, but at least you have to know where you’re going and have a rough idea of your itinerary. There’s nothing worse than traveling alone not knowing what you’re going to do. You can still reconsider your plan later on. There are going to be unforeseen events anyway (a cancelled bus, a hotel fully booked although you booked online…).
Book your first night of accommodation
When you start to travel solo, think about booking your first night of accommodation (at least when you’re getting started). You’ll avoid getting somewhere not knowing where to sleep. It seems obvious but many people don’t do it. It’s not fun popping in and out of hotels asking about rates in the heat with all of your luggage. When you know where you’ll sleep, you can go straight to your accommodation from the airport/the train station. And you can check in advance reviews from prior guests. If you want to be flexible, you don’t need to book several nights. You’ll be able to change accommodation if you’re disappointed by your hotel. Click here to book a place to stay!
Stay in social accommodation
Traveling alone and you’re scared to get bored? To spend your whole trip by yourself? Stay in a place where other solo travelers stay. That’s why I love hostels! There are people like you who want to meet people. It’s very easy to strike up a conversation. For those who don’t know, hostels are not just for people under 25. Above all, there are not 30-bed dorms only in hostels. There are also private rooms. Here’s how to pick a good hostel.
This is a pertinent advice especially if you’re traveling long term. Don’t forget that all the stuff you’re bringing with you, you’ll have to carry them yourself. A common error among rookie solo travelers is to bring way too many things with them. Only pack essential items, no more than if you were traveling for one week. If you need something you don’t have, you can still buy it on the road.
Make extra copies of important documents
Imagine being on the road and someone steals your wallet with everything: money, ID, passport… Good luck for getting new ones, especially if you’re thousands miles away from home. That’s why it’s very important to have a paper copy of important documents but also electronic copies: passport, ID, driving license… Getting new ones will be a lot easier.
Don’t forget travel insurance
We tend to forget it, or think that it’s not important. However getting travel insurance is very important, especially if you’re long term traveling. I heard many horror stories about travelers getting injured on the road and having to pay several thousand dollar bill. It doesn’t just happen to others. Be smarter than that. Here’s why you should get travel insurance. Click here to get one.
Create a travel budget
I’m not talking about planning every dollar you’re gonna spend. But have a rough idea of your spendings on the road. Depending on where you’re going, assess the cost of living. Have an idea of the price of one night at the hotel/hostel, the price of a meal, activities, transportation… It will allow you to find out approximately how much you’re gonna spend every day. You can still adjust your budget once you hit the road.
Know your route before you land
There’s nothing worse than looking like a lost tourist when leaving the train station or the airport. Scammers spot you very quickly and you become an easy prey. As I said earlier, book your first night of accommodation but also do your research to find out how to get from the airport/train station to your accommodation. You won’t look lost and you’ll know if you have to take a taxi, a bus or the subway. Likewise, always arrive at your destination during the day and not nighttime. It’s easier to get around daytime in an unknown environment, and it’s less intimidating.
Sign up for group activities
If there’s one tip you need to remember for those about to travel alone for the first time, it’s this one! Talk to people! It’s easier than it looks! As I said hostels make it easier to strike up a conversation with travelers. But if you don’t like hostels, sign up for group activities to meet people! Either a local cooking class, a pub crawl, a walking tour, a retreat not fat away… You’ll make memories and friends!
Look for people to connect with online
We’re lucky enough to live in an era where it’s possible to exchange with people from all over the world. Make the most of it and try to meet people or glean some tips about your destination. There used to be a time when Couchsurfing was great for this. Right now there are still expat or travelers Facebook groups, the website Meetup and even Tinder to meet people platonically! Think about it!
Don’t plan everything hour by hour. I said it before, you need to have a rough plan but you also need to leave room for spontaneity. Planning everything ruin all the charm of travel, and you’ll miss wonderful experiences. You met people at the hostel and they invite you to join them for a hike? Although you wanted to wander in the city? Follow them! You get it, if you don’t have an imperative, there’s no need to follow your schedule to the letter!
Mingle with the locals
It’s not always easy especially if you don’t look at all like the local population, and they want to take a picture with you. But you get the point: avoid drawing people’s attention, respect their culture and the inhabitants, keep a low profile in general. You won’t get into trouble ill-intentioned people won’t spot you.
Let someone know where you are
We’ve all heard stories about travelers disappearing, and their friends and family have no idea where they were the last few days before they went missing. I’m not saying it’s gonna happen to you, but always tell someone in which city you are. You never know. Generally speaking, stay in touch with your friends and family. They appreciate it, and it’s good for you too.
Be open and curious
I said it earlier, plan your trip but not too much. Above all live in the moment and stay open to opportunities coming your way: talk with the locals if you can, accept this invitation to a buffet, go sunbathing with other travelers if they invite you to join them… If you follow your schedule to the letter, you miss incredible opportunities. That would be a shame!
Trust your instinct
It’s great to say yes to all these new experiences but don’t forget to trust your instinct. You know, sometimes this little voice deep down saying “Don’t do this”. Listen to it. Five strangers ask you to follow them in this dark alley? You already know it’s fishy. Therefore trust your instinct but don’t become totally paranoid either.
Don’t go out late at night alone
It’s especially true in areas with very few tourists. You’re one of the few tourists in the area, you’re very visible and it’s dark time. You become an ideal target for scammers and ill-intentioned people. Avoid staying outside late by yourself. Better safe than sorry.
Get in your own photos
I visited numerous places around the world and I realized recently that there are many countries where I don’t have one single photo with me on it. It’s a little regret because it can be a cool souvenir. We often think about it later on when watching our photos. Now I try to get in at least one of my photos, wherever I go. Do the same, you won’t regret it. I’m not really into selfies so if you’re like me, ask someone to take a picture of you. And make a backup of your photos! It’d be a shame to lose them!
Enjoy eating alone
There are numerous people who are scared just thinking about having to eat alone. Just the thought stress them out. I’ve never been like this, I realized it was a fear among many people when I started traveling. Are you worried about eating alone? Read my article about the fear of eating alone at the restaurant!
Know how to manage your money
I’m not talking about creating a travel budget but the logistics regarding money. If you’re leaving the Western countries, you have to check if there are ATMs where you’re going, if your credit card will work, where to exchange your money… For instance in Iran it’s impossible to pay or withdraw money with our credit cards. Also don’t carry all your cash with you, keep some cash at the hotel. And of course don’t flash your money around.
Always have combination locks
Buy several combination locks, they’re very useful when traveling. The pickpockets want to steal quickly what they can. A combination lock will dissuade them, they’ll look for another prey. A combination lock will keep you bag or your backpack closed safely. Click here to buy the ones I use. They’re very efficient! And you cannot lose the key!
Know how to get back to your accommodation
It seems obvious however… Many solo travelers get in a new city, check in at the hotel and go explore the city. At the end of the day, they have no idea how to get back to the hotel. Think about checking where your hotel is, the streets in the surroundings, the neighborhood… Take a business card of the hotel during the check in. If you’re lost, take a taxi and hand the driver the card. Easy peasy!
Beware of scams
As a tourist, you’re the perfect target for scammers. Moreover you must have money since you’re coming from afar. You may face fake taxi drivers, so-called homeless kids, those who want to lure you into a trap to steal your money… Without being paranoid, you have to stay alert. Here’s a list of common travel scams.
There are numerous other tips I could share about how to travel along for the first time: chat to hostel staff and listen to their advice, respect the locals, learn some words of the local language… It’s very useful for solo travelers! I hope this list has been useful! Feel free to share in the comments other tips for those who will travel alone for the first time! You can also read my article about why travel solo!
- Traveling soon? Check out my travel resources page! This list of travel accessories can also be useful!
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- Always use a VPN when traveling! I use ExpressVPN and I love it! Here’s why use a VPN when traveling!