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Traveling alone is the ultimate opportunity for self-development and exploration. People who experience solo travel for the first time talk about fulfilling that sense of wanderlust and aspiring to see everything the world has to offer.
Whether it’s trekking the snow-capped peaks of central Asia and camping out in the wilds or couch surfing your way around the cosmopolitan cities of Eastern Europe, traveling alone presents limitless opportunities to see the world in any way that you choose.
Understandably, some people harbor a degree of trepidation about heading out into the world alone; that’s only to be expected.
But the great news is that this guide will tell you everything you need to know about solo travel and will prepare you for the best experience of your life. It will cover everything from handy tips for solo female travelers to some of the best places to enjoy safe, independent travel.
So, without further ado, let’s dive in and take a look at why you should travel alone.
Why Travel Alone?
Opting to travel alone doesn’t mean that you’re a loner. You’ll find that most solo travelers have friends dotted all over the world and cherish the relationships they’ve developed while on their travels.
What’s more, electing to travel solo doesn’t mean that you should never go on vacation with friends and family either. However, heading out into the world on your own is incredibly rewarding and has many benefits. Here are five reasons why you should travel alone.
It’s an excellent chance for self-development
How often have you heard it said that travel truly broadens the mind? This isn’t just a tagline for independent travel. Instead, it’s an established truth.
Deciding to travel on your own is courageous and introduces you to many experiences that are outside of your comfort zone. You will have to think on your feet, adapt to new customs and cultures, and be prepared to communicate with people you’re unfamiliar with.
While not every experience you have while traveling alone will be positive, they will help you build your character and resilience and give you the confidence to try new things and improve your life in so many different ways.
Depending on where you travel, you will also have the chance to learn a new language, experience a new culture, and broaden your horizons. Solo travel is like the life-lesson from the masterful professor you never got the chance to take at college.
You get to meet so many interesting people
From the guy that books your bus ticket to the woman who offers you accommodation in the town you’ve just arrived in, the possibilities for meeting people when traveling alone are endless. Providing you have an open mind, you will be able to meet people throughout your independent journey.
Whether you opt for a homestay in the countryside or prefer to stay in an exciting hostel in the city, you can strike up a conversation with the people around you that may result in life-long friendships.
The great thing about traveling alone is that you’re actually motivated to connect with more people than you would if you were already with friends or family.
Because you’re traveling solo, you need to reach out and speak to people you meet along your way, and you’ll find that they will give you an excellent insight into the country in which you’re traveling.
You’re in control of your route
When you travel independently, you’re 100% in control of your route and plans. If you arrive in a city and fall in love with the people and the culture, you can choose to stay for as long as you like.
Conversely, if you head to a beach resort that’s a little crowded for you, you can simply pack your bag, head to the bus station, and book a ticket to a new location.
Because you’re alone, you don’t need to confirm your route with any traveling companions; it’s totally up to you where you go and how long you stay there.
It’s cheaper than traveling with others
If you’re a solo traveler, you will find things are cheaper than they would be if you were traveling in a group.
Fundamentally, this is because you don’t need to reach a group consensus about where to stay and where to eat; two of the most costly things you need to consider when putting together your budget. When you’re alone, you can grab a bunk in a hostel and eat local street food each night (if you so wish), and keep your costs at a minimum.
What’s more, you can book onto group tours to spread out the costs of things you want to do, which also doubles up as an excellent way to meet new people.
You’ll get more than you bargained for
Many people are motivated to travel alone to simply see a part of the world that they’ve been thinking about for a while. However, by the time they return home, they realize that their trip was so much more than just experiencing a particular part of the world.
They are likely to return home after making new friends, experiencing a new culture, improving their character and confidence, and perhaps even meeting a special someone.
Solo travel is all about embracing the unexpected, and you will undoubtedly return home after experiencing more than you initially bargained for.
For the uninitiated, independent travel is an insightful, life-changing experience. Deciding to travel alone is hugely beneficial and something you won’t regret.
But how do you get the most out of solo travel and ensure you have a meaningful, unforgettable experience? In the following section, we introduce some top tips for independent travel that will help you plan your journey and ensure you get the most out of traveling alone.
Tips for Solo Travel
Beginning life as a solo traveler takes a while to get used to, particularly if you’re used to living with your family and friends at home.
When it dawns on you that you’re totally on your own and need to sort everything out for yourself, it can take time to adjust and plan your schedule to make sure you’re prepared and don’t get caught out.
Here are some top tips that will ensure your solo travels will be safe and enjoyable to help you prepare for traveling alone.
A little bit of research goes a long way
While it might be tempting to simply pack a bag and jump on the first available flight to a random destination, don’t underestimate the importance of doing a little bit of research about the place you’re visiting before you get there. As a bare minimum, you should think about the following:
- Visa and entry requirements.
- Local currency and how to access your funds while abroad.
- Comprehensive travel and medical insurance.
- Local laws and customs you need to be aware of.
- Initial travel and accommodation arrangements.
Although part of the allure of solo travel is the ability to go where you please and be spontaneous, you need to be prepared for arriving in a new country, so make sure you’ve at least conducted a little bit of research, so you don’t get any unwelcome surprises when you first arrive.
Opt for small, owner-operated accommodation rather than corporate-style hotels
If you want to meet people when you arrive, it’s best to stay in small, owner-operated guesthouses or hostels instead of large hotels.
Smaller hotels tend to have communal areas where you can mingle with other guests and also offer advice on how to meet people through trips. If you stay in a big hotel, you might find yourself isolated in your room.
Start in a country that isn’t too difficult to navigate
Easing yourself into independent travel gives you confidence and the ability to meet new people. While you might be excited by the prospect of visiting the remote countryside of Kazakhstan, if you’re not used to traveling alone, arriving at Astana International Airport with nothing but your backpack might not be the most brilliant move.
Instead, start in a country where English is widely spoken, where you can easily arrange travel, and you can stay in comfortable accommodation with other travelers. From there, you can then arrange to travel off the beaten track.
Plan to arrive during the day
Arriving in a new place at night isn’t easy. You will also find that everything is more expensive, too. If your flight arrives in the middle of the night and you have no other option, it’s a good idea to book an airport hotel and plan your onward travel in the morning when you can get your bearings.
Make the most of social media
Social media is an essential tool when traveling alone for two primary reasons. Firstly, you should use it to inform your family and friends back home of your arrangements and let them know when you arrive safely. Even though you might be traveling to get away, it’s only fair to let your loved ones know you’re safe.
Secondly, social media is an excellent way of connecting to people at your new destination. Join Facebook groups and search Instagram hashtags to connect with people when you arrive. This makes meeting new people even easier on your first few days of traveling alone.
Take a few days to get your bearings
When arriving in a new city, don’t rush into anything. Spend your first couple of days getting to know your surroundings and getting a feel for the place. Spend some time walking the streets and hanging out in cafes.
You might also consider signing up for a free walking tour with your hostel or a local tour agent. This is an excellent way of getting your bearings and even meeting some other travelers simultaneously.
Don’t just agree to travel with the first person you meet
While it can be great to bond with someone when you first arrive, don’t just agree to onward travel with them because they’re the first person you’ve spoken to.
You will have many opportunities to meet people if you’re staying in a hostel, so only agree to join a group or travel with an individual if you’re sure about them and are happy with their initial plans.
Try and connect with someone in advance
Some people opt to connect with people in their destination before they even arrive in the country. You will find lots of community groups on social media, as well as forums for specific places that are tailored to solo travelers all over the internet.
Introducing yourself and stating your reason for traveling could result in you making new friends before you arrive.
Tips for Solo Dining
One thing that travelers often find challenging at first is eating on their own. For whatever reason, arriving in a new place and sitting down at a table for one is incredibly unsettling for many people, but it’s something you will have to be prepared for if you travel on your own. Here are some tips on how to feel as comfortable as possible when dining solo.
Chat to the people who serve you
Don’t forget that those who provide you service are people as well! They might not be fellow travelers, but they’re people local to the city that you’ve just arrived in. It’s also part of their job to be friendly and welcoming to customers, so it’s the ideal opportunity to strike up a conversation.
If you feel that your server is friendly enough, feel free to ask them about some local points of interest and use it as an opportunity to find out more about the place you’ve just arrived in.
Take something to read
When you’re sitting alone, it can be tough to know where to direct your gaze. You don’t want it to appear as if you’re staring at a family out for a celebration meal or gawking at some fellow travelers in the hope you will be invited over to their table.
Take a book along to dinner with you, or pick up a local paper to read while you’re waiting for your food.
Don’t be afraid to ask someone to sit next to them
If you’re in a hostel surrounded by other travelers, many of whom seem to know each other, it can be really challenging to strike up the courage to ask them to join their table.
However, you need to remember that everyone has been in your situation before, and they’re very unlikely to say no. Once you pluck up the courage and ask, you will most likely find that they’re friendly and interested to know your story.
Choose the right place for a meal for one
Certain eateries are more appropriate than others when it comes to eating alone. For instance, you’re likely to feel much more at ease sitting alone in a café bar than you would in a fine-dining venue.
When you’re first getting your bearings in a city, spend some time checking out potential places to eat.
Order a takeaway
If you really can’t face another meal in public on your own, order a takeaway or pick up a pizza before you return to your room.
Sometimes it’s comforting to head back to your room with an evening meal in hand while catching up with your favorite shows on Netflix. Just because you’re on the road, it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy some home comforts.
When you start to feel more comfortable in your own company, you will soon adapt to life on the road. Hopefully, these tips will help you enjoy your experience and give you the confidence to try new things and meet new people.
How to Travel Alone Safely as a Woman?
While all of the tips we’ve introduced thus far apply to everyone, there are some things in particular that women have to be mindful of, specifically if they’re traveling alone. Here are some top tips that will help solo female travelers protect themselves from any potential dangers they may encounter while on the road.
Research your accommodation in advance
It’s so important that solo female travelers have a clear idea of where they’re staying before they arrive at their destination. Read reviews online and look for testimonies from other single female travelers. When you arrive at your accommodation, think about doing the following as extra precautions:
- Request a room that isn’t isolated. If the hotel books you into a room that is at the far end of a dimly lit corridor or at the other end of a parking lot, you can request to change to a room that is closer to the center of the hotel.
- Pack a doorstop or alarm. If you’re unconvinced about the security of your room, it’s helpful to wedge the door closed from within or even to fit a portable alarm to the door when you go to sleep.
- Tell your family and friends back home where you’re staying. As well as telling them the location, tell them which room you’re in too, in case you encounter any issues during your stay.
If you’re a solo female traveler, the last thing you want is to attract attention to yourself. When you’re out in public, avoid wearing clothes that will easily identify you as a tourist.
A good approach is to mirror the general dress of the women in the city you’re visiting. If you can try and make yourself look like a local, you’re less likely to attract any unwanted attention.
Try and make friends before taking an extended trip
If you’re planning an excursion that involves a considerable amount of travel, it’s often a good idea to buddy up with a fellow traveler who will accompany you on the trip. Not only will this save you money, but there’s safety in numbers, too.
If you’re with other women, you can have each other’s back when you’re traveling in an unfamiliar place, which can give you the confidence boost you need to explore certain places.
Leave your valuables in your room
While we all love dressing to impress on occasion, if you hit the streets adorned with flashy jewelry, you’re going to attract attention to yourself.
Cities all over the world are home to petty thieves and opportunistic criminals, so leaving your valuables in the room can reduce your risk of a chance attack. The same is true for your camera and devices, too.
The fewer things you have on your person, the less attractive you become to a potential thief.
Ask locals for advice about areas to avoid
There are areas in every city that are considered as ‘no-go’ areas, particularly for tourists after dark. When you check in to your accommodation, try and find a person that you trust to tell you about the areas to avoid when you’re on your own.
Even better, ask them to mark the areas for you on a map, so you can be sure to avoid them when sightseeing. If you’re not sure about who to ask, seek out the local tourist information center and speak to a member of staff there.
Be extra careful when you’re on a night out
One of the best things about solo travel for many people is the opportunity to head out to the town for a night out with fellow travelers.
While you shouldn’t be put off from partying in a new destination, you need to exercise caution when you go for a night out. Try and take out as little as possible with you and always tell someone where you’re going.
What’s more, if you’re drinking alcohol, try and keep things sensible and don’t accept drinks from strangers.
Email your travel itinerary to loved ones and keep them updated
While you’re away having the time of your life, it’s easy to forget that there are people back home that are worried about you.
Make sure you send your loved ones an up-to-date itinerary with details of your travel plans and update them when you make any changes.
While it’s good to keep them informed of your plans, it also an important safety measure to keep people informed of where you are and what you’re doing.
Packing Tips and Essentials for Every Solo Trip
When you’re about to set off on your solo adventure, packing is one of the things you’ll spend a lot of time thinking about. Many items on your list will depend on where you’re going in the world, but others are fairly universal and are useful for all backpackers.
In this section, we’re going to introduce some helpful packing tips, as well as some essential items that any solo traveler won’t want to be without.
Don’t pack for every eventuality
When it comes to packing for traveling, you shouldn’t pack as if you’re going on vacation. While you might want to take that stunning evening dress that you might wear once a month, it’s not practical when your space is limited.
Instead, opt for versatile items that can be worn in various settings. One of the bulkiest items you need to consider is shoes. If you can, try and limit yourself to three pairs that serve different purposes.
For instance, you might think to pack some trainers, a pair of flip-flops, and something a little more robust. That way, you will have something for different terrains and climates.
Invest in a good backpack and day pack
Your choice of backpack is vital when you set off as a solo traveler. You should pick something that’s a good size for you and also one that has enough compartments for all of your things.
It’s a good idea to take a smaller day pack with you too, so you don’t have to unpack all of your clothes when you’re heading out on an excursion.
Your day pack should be able to fit in the overhead lockers on a plane and can serve as the place where you can store your valuables like your passport, money, and gadgets.
Plan for your valuables
If you’re planning to stay in hostels and spend time traveling by public transport, you need to be security conscious when it comes to your valuables.
Most hostels have lockers available for guests, which is useful if you’re sharing a dorm room with other travelers.
You might also benefit from carrying a hidden wallet that you can strap to your body when traveling. This is an excellent place to keep your bank cards, passport, and money if you’re unsure of the safety on a particular route.
Consider buying an e-reader
When traveling, you will have lots of time to kill. Whether it’s sitting at a bus terminal waiting for your ride to a new city or perhaps on a long ferry journey to an island paradise, you will always want to have a book available to read.
While many of us prefer reading hard copies of books, it’s just not practical to carry books around with you in your backpack.
E-readers are the ideal solution, as you can download your books when you connect to WIFI, and you can update them when you need something new to read.
You can buy bulky toiletries when you arrive
Don’t waste lots of space in your backpack with toiletries. Other than the essentials (toothbrush, toothpaste, etc.), you can pick up bulky toiletries as and when you need them.
Sun lotion, large bottles of shower gel, and shampoo take up valuable luggage space and weight, so make sure you only pack what you need.
Bring a power bank
When you’re on the road, you won’t always be able to keep your devices fully charged. Power banks are a lifesaver for solo travelers, particularly when you take trips off the beaten track.
Just remember to charge it along with your phone so you have a constant backup for your device when you’re on the road.
Think about your laundry
It’s a good idea to pack enough clothes to last you for about one week without doing laundry. This means you don’t have to constantly look for somewhere to launder your things.
When you’re packing your bag, think about taking a waterproof laundry bag that you can put your dirty clothes in so they don’t mix in with your clean stuff.
On the road, you’ll find that most hostels and hotels offer a laundry service (for a fee), or if you’re really hoping to cut the costs, you can always head to a laundromat in the city that you’re visiting.
Choose comfort over anything else
You should make sure that all of the clothes you pack are comfortable. Long journeys aren’t fun at the best of times, but they’re even worse when you’re uncomfortable.
Make sure you have lots of loose-fitting clothing that’s light and airy. While you might look stylish, sitting on a bus for ten hours in Kenya with a pair of skinny jeans on isn’t going to be much fun.
Packing is an extremely important part of preparing for your solo adventure, so you need to make sure you get it right.
Now that we’ve looked at why you should travel solo, how you should do it, and what you should take with you, let’s take a look at the safest destinations in the world for solo travelers.
Safest Destinations for Solo Travel
When it comes to solo travel, the world really is your oyster. Sit in front of your globe, give it a spin, and see which country stops in front of you.
While you undoubtedly want to experience a country that is exciting and is somewhat off the beaten path, you need to make sure you’re safe and aren’t wandering into a warzone.
Here are ten of the safest destinations for solo travel in 2021.
Well-known for its fiery volcanoes, hot springs, and stunning glaciers, Iceland is an excellent place to explore on your own.
As public transport is limited in the countryside, the best way to see Iceland is to either rent a car or book onto an organized tour.
Rugged coastlines, friendly hosts, and great food await you. Just be sure to pack warm clothing and save up! Iceland is one of the most expensive countries in the world.
The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is an extremely welcoming place for solo travelers. You can buy ‘The Jordan Pass’ as part of your visitor’s visa and receive discounted entry into many of the natural wonders within the country, including the Nabatean city of Petra and Wadi Rum.
Jordanian people are incredibly friendly, and independent travel through the country is an excellent way to experience the unrivaled hospitality of the Middle East.
The Emerald Isle is an incredible place to begin your travels in Europe. Whether you want to party in the streets of Temple Bar in Dublin or take a walk through the breath-taking countryside of Kerry, Ireland truly has something for everyone.
Irish people are good-natured and welcoming and love meeting people from all over the world. The country has a great hostel scene, too, making it easy to meet travelers to share your journey with.
Spain is actually a huge place, with so many stunning places to visit. Tourists often flock to Barcelona to see the stunning Gaudi architecture that is so prominent, or often to the Balearic Islands for tropical beaches.
Wherever you decide to visit in the country, Spain has an excellent network of buses and trains, as well as many internal flights that can cut out long journeys in the heat of summer.
The Pearl of Africa; Uganda is an awesome country to get off the beaten track. From incredible game drives across parched savannahs to trekking through impenetrable forests in search of mountain gorillas, Uganda is an awesome place for nature-lovers.
You will struggle to meet friendlier people in the world than Ugandans. Regardless of where you find yourself in the country, you will find someone willing to help you out and point you in the right direction.
Arguably the most enjoyable country in South America for backpackers, Bolivia has stunning salt flats, breath-taking lagoons and volcanoes, and a bustling capital city that make for exciting adventures.
The capital, La Paz, is like backpacker central, with numerous hostels, great bars, and so many departing tours for popular destinations across the country. It’s the ideal place to start your solo South American adventure.
The land of the long white cloud provides solo travelers with incredible adventure opportunities, from taking on world-famous Bungy jumps, canyon swings, and skydives to exploring rugged mountain passes that inspired The Lord of The Rings movies.
New Zealand is a solo travelers dream, with buzzing hostels all over the country and like-minded adventurers from all over the world. It’s a great place to meet people and see what one of the world’s most stunning countries has to offer.
Long gone are the days since the brutality of the Khmer Rouge under Pol Pot. Cambodia is now a tourism mecca, with incredibly interesting historical sites throughout the country, most notably the Angkor Wat complex that draws millions of visitors each year.
Siem Reap is an excellent place to begin your adventure, with lively bars, independent cafes and restaurants, and so many great places to stay.
Most travelers arrive in The Netherlands via Amsterdam, a city with so much more than just a seedy red-light district. Independent cafes abound, interesting museums and art galleries are nestled into the quaint streets, and it’s a city that is best enjoyed on a bicycle.
Wherever you go in the Netherlands, you are likely to enjoy Dutch people’s liberal attitude to life, and you’re bound to meet many like-minded people to create memories with.
The jewel in Tanzania’s crown, Zanzibar is the epitome of an island paradise. Stunning white sand beaches encircle this island in the Indian Ocean, and you can enjoy the slow pace of life in any of the coastal towns for an insight into Zanzibari life.
The capital city of Stone Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and you can wander down the labyrinth of tiny streets and marvel at the beautiful, other-worldly buildings. A very gentle introduction to life in Africa.
Best Movies to Inspire You to Travel Alone
Into The Wild (2007)
The true story of Christopher McCandless (or Alexander Supertramp, as he renames himself) is the dramatization of the best-selling book of the same name by John Krakauer.
Instead of following in his wealthy parent’s footsteps and taking a job in the corporate world, Chris sells everything he owns and disappears into the Alaskan wilderness.
Although not everyone’s cup of tea, it’s an interesting insight into the life of someone who gave up everything to follow his dreams of solo travel.
The Beach (2000)
Anyone who has been backpacking in Thailand has probably seen The Beach. Leonardo DiCaprio plays the role of Richard, a young American backpacker who arrives in Thailand with adventure on his mind.
The drama that unfolds when he visits the mystical paradise on one of Thailand’s pristine islands is certainly not what he anticipated.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)
Walter Mitty is an employee at a top magazine and spends endless days developing photos for the publication.
Because of his boring life, he inhabits a world of exciting daydreams in which he plays the hero. However, when the magazine asks him to find the perfect photo for the final print issue, he has the chance to go on a real-life adventure of his own.
Although the book by Robyn Davidson is better than the movie, Tracks is the incredible true story of a young Australian woman who transcends the Australian outback with her loyal dog and four camels.
Robyn’s story shows what’s possible when we put our mind to something and breaks down lots of the barriers that society puts up when it comes to solo female travel.
Another story of an incredible woman taking to nature on her own, Wild sees Reese Witherspoon walk the Pacific Crest Trail to overcome her emotional pain.
What she learns about herself and the world along the way is enough to inspire other women to follow in her footsteps and see what the world has to offer.
The opportunity to travel on your own is something that everyone should experience at least once in their lives.
The beauty of solo travel is that there is not one single correct way to do it. Whether you sleep in dorms with other travelers or opt for five-star opulence, it’s totally up to you.
However you decide to travel alone, we hope this comprehensive guide gives you the inspiration to pack your bag and head out into the world.
Just remember to be smart and safety conscious, and keep your loved ones updated with your plans. But above all else, have fun.
A solo trip around the world is something that you’ll remember forever, so make the most of it while you still can.