I took my first solo trip when I was 12, during the Easter school holiday. It was a 16-hour-long bus journey through Greece, the border, and Bulgaria to arrive at my grandmother’s town in Pleven. Ever since, I have travelled around Europe, Africa, North America, and Southeast Asia with family, friends, and myself. And while every trip has been a unique experience, I have grown the most during my solo travels. I cannot stress enough on how fulfilling solo travelling is. But if you are a beginner at solo travelling, you don’t want it to be overly adventurous or unpredictable. The following female-friendly tips will make life on the road easier and fun. Whoopee!
Select a less challenging destination
For your first few solo trips, it’s advisable to choose a country that will be easy on you. Practically, this means a country where locals speak the same language as you (or at least have a good understanding of a widely spoken language), and it’s used to travellers. Singapore, New Zealand, or the Nordics make for excellent destinations for beginner solo travellers. If your first language is French, consider French-speaking Canada such as Quebec. Chile is also a solo travellers’ heaven, and nearly everyone speaks and understands Spanish. Once you gain some experience and know your boundaries, you can experiment with more challenging destinations.
Do your research
Regardless of the destination you pick, don’t underestimate the value of proper planning. I don’t mean to say that you must know every step of your journey in advance. This kills the fun. But have an idea of the sites you want to visit and the activities you want to do. Are they easy to reach to? Also, familiarise yourself with the local transport system, and pinpoint on the map a few central locations. Where is your accommodation in relation to the airport and the sights? As a novice solo traveller, feeling that you have the basics under control will help you relax into your experience. You can then play around with your schedule, depending on your mood and things that come your way.
Pack for a solo adventure
When travelling alone, you are the only responsible for your packing. If you forgot to bring your makeup remover wipes, unfortunately, there’s no one else to borrow from. Also, remember that you will be caring and lifting the suitcase, so keep it light. You probably don’t need all five pair of shoes you have in mind. But you need walking shoes to support you during all the exploration, and something stylish yet comfortable for the evenings. Being solo means one backpack only, but what about the souvenirs you just bought? You want your hands free to continue taking pictures — and this is where a foldable reusable bag comes handy. Last but not least, a funny pack (or belt bag). It not only keeps your money, passport, and phone safe but also within easy reach at any time.
Check-in solo-friendly accommodation
Some accommodation options are more welcoming to solo travellers than others. Booking a hostel instead of a hotel is better if you worry that you may get lonely during your trip. Hostels have communal areas, which are great for meeting fellow solo travellers and finding out information about the location. Also, hostels organize special events, activities, and tours, which may be a pleasant addition to your itinerary. My favorite part is the spare books travellers have left behind that you usually find in the lounge. After all, solo travelling is an excellent opportunity to catch up with your reading list.
Download useful apps
Each city has its apps to help you move around, and it’s definitely worth checking what’s available. Apps for city maps, taxi services, or dining out are some of the most common worldwide. Now, if you want to connect with like-minded locals for recommendations and insightful advice, loclpal is an excellent tool. Having access to vital local information in an instant saves you time, money, and keeps you safe.
Women solo travellers — no matter how independent, strong, and confident — are unfortunately more prone to risks. Probably the most useful safety tip is not to be an obvious target. You can minimize the chances of being given a hard time by not showing that you are a non-resident. You can still take pictures and hang out outside museums. But when you leave touristy areas, be discreet with your camera, and mindful of where you stop to read the map, and whom you ask for directions.
Don’t let the fact that you are alone stop you from going off the beaten path. As long as you keep reasonable precautions for your safety as a female traveller, let your inquisitiveness bloom. From a pop-up bar to a temporary exhibition and from a hidden viewpoint to a serene beach — you never know what you may discover around the corner. Some of the best travel memories, I created when I took the wrong turn, or walked the extra mile.
Inform your close ones about your whereabouts
Personally, when travelling for leisure, I like to disconnect from social media and connect with the place and the people. However, I make sure to dedicate five to ten minutes per day to update my loved ones on my trip. So, if they don’t hear from me for a while, they are allowed to worry (a bit).
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Chat with a local
Chatting with a local — preferably female — is the best way to get first-hand and real-time information about your destination. An insightful local can tell you the best neighborhoods to stay in and the streets to not walk on alone at night, among others. They can also give you a list of local emergency numbers, and a few useful phrases in the local language. Besides, a local can take you off the beaten path, and give you a different perspective of the location.
A serial expat and writer, living abroad helps me look at things with fresh eyes and get rid of preconceptions. I find it easier to board a plane and start all over again than deciding what to have for dinner, but putting my life on the scale and hitting the 23 kg target isn’t sorrow-free. From Greece to England, Ghana, South Korea, and Mauritius, the world is my home.