10 Tips for First Time Solo Travelers
I recently concluded my solo travel going to three countries in one go. Bucket list item, check! The experience was absolutely surreal and fun and with it are lessons learned that I would like to share to other travelers. If you are considering to travel solo but is hesitant or unsure how to start, here are some tips that might be able to help.
1. Determine your travel goals
Why do you want to travel at this time of the year? What are your main objectives during your trip? Considering the number of days you’ll be on your trip, knowing what you want to accomplish would make your travel more meaningful and rewarding. Do you want to go sight-seeing? Do you want to spend time with family members who have been away for too long? Do you want to learn more of the culture and live like a local? Know and understand your travel goals and do your best to achieve them. You will come home happy and fulfilled.
2. Prepare your itinerary
Where do you want to go and how many days is your trip? If you already have a city in mind or the spots you want to visit, will you have enough time? How much is your budget? How about your accommodation? These are the important considerations you need to iron out ahead of time. You will not be able to control everything but a well-planned vacation would certainly lessen the chances of dealing with hassles and glitches along the way.
3. Complete all documentary requirements
If you will be flying international, make sure to secure and complete all documentary requirements needed for the country where you are going. Your passport should be valid for at least six more months on the date of your departure. Secure a valid Visa if applicable. If you will be staying with family or friends, it might help for them to send you a document or a letter, for you to show and prove to the immigration officer that you will be staying with them, with a copy of their ID and other documents to support their current work and residential status. If you will be staying in a hotel, make sure to know the complete address. You might also be asked to present your return ticket.
4. Choose your accommodation wisely
These days, choosing your accommodation when traveling is just at the tip of your fingertips. As long as you have the financial capacity to pay for the place, you could book it in as easy as 1, 2, 3. However, being a solo traveler, you cannot just book the first place that pops up on your search result without considering your utmost security. If you will be staying with family, a trusted friend or you could afford a well-known, guarded and lavish hotel, then this could be the least of your worries.
On the other hand, if you will be staying in a hostel, a capsule hotel, a transient house and other more affordable options for backpackers, your safety is not something you can disregard. Is the place safe and secure? Would you prefer a common room or gender exclusive dorm only? Is it near the spots you want to visit or at least accessible to public transportation?
In choosing your accommodation, first, scrutinize the photos on its website. It should show a photo of the actual room where you will be staying, the restroom and the common rooms and not just close up photos of the bed or the appliances you will be allowed to use. Second, utilize a map and identify how far it is to the nearest public transport. Most importantly, read the reviews of the guests. You might find something useful there that could help you decide on which one to book.
5. Be ready with your emergency cash
When traveling, it is essential to have your allotted budget to avoid or at least minimize over spending. This budget is for your food, hygiene kit, transportation, tour and maybe shopping. However, aside from this budget, you should always have your extra cash or source of cash - like an internationally accepted ATM card - in case of emergency. Despite careful planning, you will never know what might happen along the way. You need to be ready especially if you’ll be traveling alone and do not have any family or friends in the city you will be exploring. And remember not to put your cash in one place!
6. Pack lite! Follow the dress code
The sad reality is, you do not have the super powers to bring your closet with you hence a crucial reminder for all solo travelers; pack lite! Your two hands and arms is all you've got so the lighter your bags, the better. Plan your attire per day based on your itinerary and bring only the essentials. Furthermore, keep the country’s dress code in mind while packing. This will surely make things easier for you.
7. No valuables, less risk
While touring, you will be spending most of your time outside; on the road or in various tourists spots. If you will be exploring alone, avoid wearing expensive things that might attract the attention of thieves and scammers who are just waiting to prey on their next vulnerable victim. As you are discovering a country’s history, culture, people, the streets and way of life, the fact remains that behind the colors and flashes that attracts the tourists, there is the dark side to every city. You can always wear your outfit of the day and look good in photos less the risk. Be fashionable but avoid putting yourself in a dangerous position.
8. Choose your friends well
Often times, solo travelers could meet other travelers in hostels and other accommodation common for backpackers. And unless you absolutely prefer and strongly keep to yourself all throughout your trip, it is unavoidable to meet new people and gain new friends usually of other nationality. Some of these friends you might keep for years, some just for the duration of your trip and others might not mean well. Be friendly but always have the right amount of caution; when traveling alone, protect yourself at all times.
9. Learn a bit of the language
Language is one of the fundamental things that identify a society, a country. And traveling solo in the midst of a chaotic street speaking in total gibberish, at least to your ear, to be able to deliver even just the very basic words to be understood could be liberating. If you will be touring for at least a week, start with numbers and money since that’s how you get around and get things done. Then you can proceed to learn polite greetings, basic directions and so on. If this is something you find easy, feel free to learn more and practice while you explore.
10. Enjoy Your Trip
To be able to travel is a gift in itself. You will be given the chance to learn and experience different things, meet new people, observe another society diverse from your own. Not everyone will have the same privilege. So savor the moment, celebrate the good times, and learn from the not-so-good experiences. Again, enjoy your trip.
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© 2017 Sheila Pornan