As a woman who’s traveled alone, I know that planning for a solo-trip can be extremely daunting. Between media scare-stories and overly-concerned relatives, it’s surprising anyone even makes it out of their front door. The truth is, traveling alone doesn’t have to be lonely, dangerous or unsafe ー even if you’re a woman. In fact, it can often be even more enjoyable than traveling in a group! Make sure you have the best trip possible by reading our top tips for solo travel.
Knowing where you want to solo travel and why is incredibly important. Do you want to go off-grid in a remote jungle setting? Do you want to let loose in some of the world’s biggest party hostels? Do you want to learn the local language? For first time lone travelers, larger cities with a wide network of fellow travelers often feels like the safest option, but there’s really no reason for solo-travelers to be afraid of lesser-known locations. By making use of simple safety tips (which we’ll get into later), you can feel confident no matter where you end up!
Photo credit: Beth Watson
Much like the now infamous surfer’s paradise Sayulita was 10 years ago, Yelapa is a sleepy hippy town with relaxed vibes and regular beach parties, making it the perfect location for a nervous solo-traveler looking to make new friends. Fly to Puerto Vallarta and then get the boat from Los Muertos Pier. Found a partner on your travels? Yelapa also makes the perfect romantic getaway.
As hoards of tourists make their way to Rio de Janeiro, find your own path in Brazil’s friendliest city. Known for having a sea of bars rather than a beach, Belo Horizonte is one of the safest cities in Brazil and perfect for the lone traveler.
Photo credit: Beth Watson
Known by locals as the Paris of Peru, (which might be a bit of an overstatement) Arequipa is a low-key alternative to tourist-packed Cusco and is easily reachable by plane or bus. Its relaxed atmosphere makes it the perfect stop-off for anyone traveling alone.
Perhaps not as beautiful as neighbouring islands, Ton Sai is popular with climbers for its impressive rock formations. Combine this with reasonably priced accommodation and beach bars filled with potential new friends and it makes the perfect stop-off for someone traveling alone.
Talk to most solo travelers and they’ll tell you there’s no better way to meet local people than using the site Coachsurfing. But, the reality is that for lots of women traveling alone find the idea of staying with a total stranger a bit nerve-wracking. If this is you, there’s no reason to miss out. Use the Coachsurfing community on the site to find locals to show you around the city and stay where you feel most comfortable.
Even after carefully selecting the funnest place to stay in town, you might end up with no one to talk to. I once found myself booked into a hostel in a teeny-weeny seaside village in Portugal with no one but the owner’s cat for company. Luckily, I had just started reading Gone Girl (honestly one of the best books to read when traveling alone) and the addictive thriller was enough to keep me entertained for days. Books can also be a great conversation starter, and they don’t even need WIFI to function!
Photo credit: Beth Watson
If it's your first time traveling alone, eating alone in restaurants can be a little bit intimidating. While it might be tempting to grab some fast food or cook in the hostel every night, getting out to a local restaurant is much better way to learn about the local culture. Tell the waiting staff you’re traveling solo and ask for some help with the menu. Let them give you some recommendations, you might even make a new friend!
Sorry for sounding like your Dad or a Public Service Announcement, but staying aware of your surroundings is extremely important. When you’re on you're traveling on your own, have your wits about you and make sure you know how to get back to where you’re staying. Drinking less also means having more energy for exploring the next day (woohoo). Which leads me to my next tip…
Without a doubt, the best thing about traveling alone is not having to live by anyone else’s timetable. The downside, however, is that there’s also isn’t anyone to wake you up for that early morning boat-trip or unmissable sunrise. So, learn to be your own alarm clock. Rather than being the life and soul of every bar crawl, skip a couple of nights-out and make the most of the day time.
Photo credit: Mundo Lingo New York
If you need a bit of company and the people at your accommodation aren’t what you expected, then don’t be afraid to find people elsewhere. Meetup is a great resource for finding like minded solo travelers with similar interests. If you want to brush up on the local language, Mundo Lingo also runs language exchange events in cities all around the world! Speaking the local tongue (or trying to) is not only the polite thing to do, but can also help you make a whole bunch of new friends. Another fun online language school to try out is Habla Bonito, which offers Spanish, Italian, German, Chinese, Japanese and English classes and is available worldwide.
No, this doesn’t have to mean stuffing twenties in your socks. Bringing two separate travel cards is a great back-up plan if something goes wrong. Paying for your flights with PayPal is another way to make sure your card details don’t get passed on to any third parties you don’t know about. Check out the Alternative Airlines page on the reasons to book with PayPal. Another money saving and flexible tip is to spread the cost of your flight tickets when making your solo travel trips. There's loan options like Affirm or paying them back in small chunks with Sezzle, Klarna and Quadpay. There's plenty of payment plan options to make the money spending process before you've even stepped on the plane!
A great tip for solo travelers is to keep a simple document listing your travel plans and the addresses of your accommodation. This not only helps to keep prying relatives at bay, but is a great safety-net if something goes wrong.
Even with all the new friends you’ll make, there’s no doubt that at times you might feel homesick. People tend to see calling home as a weakness or worry that it might make things worse. In reality, talking to your family or BFF can actually help you get over your loneliness. Just make sure they’re not the only people you talk to!
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