So you’ve decided it’s finally time to visit that exotic destination you’ve always dreamed of. You’ve managed to save up enough money to buy your plane ticket, you know where you want to go and the places you want to see…but here’s the catch: you’ve decided to do this journey alone, all by yourself, just me-me-me. For whatever reason you’ve decided to go traveling alone, it will probably be the best investment you’ll ever make for your future. So when all the excitement of your decision wears off, it can be replaced by a feeling of fear. It’s okay to be scared, don’t worry, it’s completely normal. I’ve complied five of my best practical tips to help take scariness out of your solo trip planning!
1. Research your destination
This is probably the most fun and important part of trip planning! Research, research, research! Even if you are the impulsive and a free roamer type like I am, doing proper research about your destination is crucial. For me it’s all about being safe on the road and my trip research rarely have anything to do planning out my day minute for minute. What should you research then? First familiarize yourself with your destination. Checkout maps, read blogs, guidebooks, use helpful websites on accommodation and transportation inside the city. Once you’ve identified which part of the city to stay in, research accommodation in that area as well as all the modes of public transport serving the area and use google maps to lay out different paths to your hotel/hostel/airbnb from main points/attractions/restaurants/metro stops in the area. It might seem elaborate to do this beforehand but if you have a working background knowledge of the area you stay in, you’ll be less panicked if you get lost late at night or if you jumped on the wrong train/bus.
2. You will get lost, here’s what to do
I love getting lost in a destination, it’s the best way to explore and truly experience it. Getting lost in the old city center of a big city can reveal hidden gems off the main tourist path. Getting lost can also be quite scary, especially if you realize that you are in the bad area/slums of town or ended up in a residential area with no metro station in sight. So include this in your trip planning: always have the address and telephone number of your accommodation with you in English and the native language. If you have a working phone it can also be useful to have the number of taxi companies in your destination. If you get lost it’s easy to find a taxi back. If there is no taxi’s however, trust your intuition and ask some of the people around for directions or if you can use a phone to contact your hostel and maybe ask them for directions from which ever place you are. In the end you will have to have faith in yourself to either grab a map and navigate your way out or call a taxi and also have faith in the local people who, most likely, don’t mind helping you out.
This sounds strange, I know. Especially for a budget, traveler getting together enough cash for the trip might be daunting so why even think of over-budgeting? Well, because life happens. You miss a flight or a train and have to buy another ticket, or you loose your belongings or passport, you get lost and have to pay for that overpriced taxi ride, or you want to buy that designer watch you saw in the window of that upmarket store. I’ve had stuff stolen like phone/camera chargers, etc, things you don’t really want to go without on your first solo journey. So in my mind I always budget for a little extra than my initial budget, like an emergency fund. If you don’t tap into your emergency fund, you’ll come back from your trip not completely broke. Also don’t forget to take out travel insurance for any other unforeseen circumstances.
4. Stay in hostels
International hostels aren’t just good for your budget, it’s also a great place to make new friends. Chances are, you’ll end up going out with a bunch of people from the hostel to some of the main sights or go bar hopping at night which can enrich your solo journey even more. Sometimes even the best self-sufficient travelers among us don’t mind some company on the road every now and then!
5. Learn some of the language and customs of your destination
Learning some of the local language and customs of your destination beforehand can be helpful indeed. Knowing the basic hello, goodbye, thank you, please, how much, which direction, can get one far. In my opinion if the locals see you making an effort in trying to speak to them in their language, they’ll be more willing to help you. If you have time to delve into a foreign language and learn more than just the basics it can open up a whole new world of exploring and chatting to locals. You’ll also feel more confident when you arrive alone at the airport and manage to ask for directions/taxi/train/bus in a complete foreign language.
There’s no reason to stress out as you plan your first solo journey. It’s part of the fun! Just remember to put your own safety first (especially if your a female traveling solo) and trust your intuition.
These are five tips I find useful when planning trips. What do you think? Have any others to add to this?