Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Solo Travel: Top Tips


Travelling the world on your own can actually be more invigorating than with friends or family. We offer a bit of guidance for being independent abroad

If you’re considering a solo trip but have worries about meeting people or sharing a room or staying safe, you’re definitely not alone. We’ve put together some top tips and things to consider from our solo travel experiences to help you get started.

If you’re going with a tour operator

  • Ask the tour company what mix the group is – how many couples and singles?
  • Are you willing to share a room with a member of the same sex? You could save the single supplement
  • During this recession you may be able to negotiate a waiving of the single supplement; some companies offer supplement-free trips during the low season
  • Safaris, overland trips, special-interest trips and expedition cruises tend to have a high percentage of solos
  • If you’re going on a tailormade trip, will you have a guide? What sort of accommodation will you be staying in (see tips for going independently)?

If you’re going independently

  • Choose a destination you’ll feel comfortable in for your first trip – for example you may want to start in a place where English is widely spoken
  • Pre-book your first night's accommodation
  • Choose accommodation with communal areas.
  • Small, owner-managed places are often friendlier than large, anonymous hotels.
  • Avoid romantic bolt-holes
  • Even if you are not normally a hostel person, consider staying in one. They’ve come a very long way since the days of single-sex dorms and having to do chores – our hostel partner Hostelbookers has places to stay around the world; search for a place to stay here.
  • Take time to find your feet – hanging out in a café, just people watching, can often help you to ‘acclimatise’
  • Don’t feel obliged to travel on with the first person you meet.
  • If the point of going away was to get some ‘me time’ make sure you get it

Surviving mealtimes

  • Eating alone, especially in the evening, can be the loneliest part of the solo travel experience. However, don’t use that as an excuse to hide in your room - you could be missing out on some great experiences
  • If you're joining an organised trip of some sort, find out what happens at dinner. Will you be eating communally? If you're on a cruise, is it allocated seating or free seating, enabling you to vary where you sit?
  • If you're completely solo, you can always use the time to write your diary, read a local paper, or catch up on your emails.
  • Don’t be intimidated into being seated in a horrible spot. Choose a table where you can people watch. Or, sitting at the counter/bar can be fun.
  • If the staff or the restaurant or bar are friendly (and not too busy) tap into their local knowledge. And don’t be afraid to strike up conversation with other solo travellers. Be open and friendly (without losing your commonsense). Smile!

Safety

  • There’s no reason to fear that you’ll be any less safe if travelling on your own. But, here are a few tips for keeping safe.
  • Avoid arriving at strange airports or stations late at night; get an official taxi to your accommodation
  • Always let people know where you’re heading, eg your friends back home, via social media tools such as Facebook or Twitter or the people at your accommodation
  • Pre-book your first night’s accommodation.
  • Ask at reception about any areas that you should avoid.
  • Store the phone numbers and addresses of your accommodation in your mobile phone.

Find a friend at the other end

  • Use travel communities, such as myWanderlust on this site, to make contact with locals or other visitors. Be open to new experiences, ideas and people. But always trust your instinct.

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