We often get asked questions about travel tips for solo travel, which we can’t answer because we have always traveled as a couple. So I had our friend Izy to write about her Travel Tips for Solo Travelers just for our readers.
Many people fear solo travel, thinking that because they leave home alone they’ll spend all of the trip making conversation with books and starring longingly out the window of the bus. I’ve spent the past 2.5 years on the road, the majority of which was solo travel and I can only remember a handful of days where I was by myself – and I had actively chosen to take some time out to eat ice cream in bed and lounge in my pajamas all day.
I remember how scared I was when I boarded my first flight to Thailand in 2010, with no plan in mind and no one to meet along the way. One of my first nights in a dorm, on Koh Phi Phi, I made friends with a group of English travelers, who took me out and showed me around. From there, we traveled for two months together throughout Thailand, Laos and Vietnam before they eventually had to fly home to reality.
For me, travel is all about these chance encounters that become some of your most treasured memories. Some nights you go out and meet people whose names you choose not to remember because you know you’re going in opposite directions the next day. Other times you meet people who you know you’ll see a number of times throughout your life, even though you only spend a few days together. Regardless of how fun solo travel is, it can be daunting at first before you take the plunge, so here are my tips for making solo travel a little bit easier:
Don’t live at home
I’m talking about social media here: it’s very easy to go away on holiday and to get homesick and spend ¾ of your free time on Skype talking to friends at home and on Facebook talking to your family. It’s good to keep in touch, but if you spend too much time doing so what’s the point in leaving in the first place? If you’re feeding your social hunger pains with friends from home, you’re not leaving yourself much space to meet new ones. Disconnect, as much as you can, and leave yourself open to meeting new people. If I see someone in a hostel who’s glued to their iPhone for hours at a time, I’ll leave them alone to sort out their things. If I see someone who’s sitting down reading a book, I might approach them.
Learn the generic conversation starters
After a few months on the road I used to get tired of the “Where are you from?” “Where are you going?” conversation lines that you have to go through whenever you meet someone new. But, they exist for a reason and they make it easy to make new friends. Another thing you can do is go up to someone in a hostel and hotel and say “hey, I’ve just arrived today, I was wondering if you have any tips on things to do?” – sometimes they might just give you suggestions, other times you might get invited out with them to be shown around. Either way, you’ve made a new friend.
Stay in hostels
Yes, private rooms are nice. Yes, hotels are nice. But nothing beats a hostel in terms of being able to meet people and make friends. I went through a stage of intentionally picking the biggest hostel dorm rooms I could find because I saw it as more potential friends! I’ve found I most easily make friends with people who are staying in my hostel room, because it’s nice to clear the air and usually people aren’t too busy in there. On this front, choose hostels that have good recommendations and read the reviews of others who have stayed there – look for hostels that people have deemed to be “really social” or with “good social areas” as this will increase your chances of meeting new people.
Store your cards/money safely
I’ve heard of a few friends who have had their cards/wallet/money all stolen. ALL of it. I don’t understand how this comes about, as I’ve never lost money or cards while overseas. If you’re traveling alone and your money source is completely removed, well, ugh, that’s a big issue. Even if you get some money sent from Western Union, you’re looking at a few days delay. I travel with 2-3 cards that have access to money on them. I place one in my wallet, one in a hidden park of my backpack and the other one I generally put in my camera bag (as I protect that like I would a child). I keep at least $50 USD emergency cash in another hidden location. This means if my wallet gets stolen, I’ve still got two spare cards. You can never be too careful about preventing hotel thefts.
Do you have any solo travel tips you’d like to share?