A first-timer’s guide to travelling alone

A first-timer's guide to travelling solo

There are many reasons why people choose to travel solo, and one of them is not having to wait for a travel companion’s schedule to clear up. Henry David Thoreau hit the nail on the head when he said “The man who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready.” Independent travel comes with its own set of challenges including decreased sense of security and of course, loneliness. However, solo travel can be the most liberating, gratifying, and addictive travel experiences you will ever have, and here are some tips on getting the most out of it: 
Look for the best deals

Your first trip as a solo traveller will always be your most cherished one but that doesn’t mean you go overboard with your expenses. If you plan early, you can get lucky and find great travel deals on everything from flights to guided tours. Grab those early-bird discounts and get planning. 

Pack light

If you’re the kind of solo traveller that likes to see as many places as possible within a limited amount of time, pack light so that you can constantly be on the move and won’t need assistance with your luggage.  

Get insurance 

Knowing that all your travel plans are insured will take a huge weight off your shoulders when you travel solo. Don’t hesitate to spend a little extra for an insurance that covers everything. The key things you should look for in your insurance include – ensure the insurance covers the entire duration of your trip, check if the insurance covers all the destinations on your itinerary, declare any pre-existing health conditions, and take into account the excess component of the policy. 

Learn the language 

Language barrier is one of the most common reasons solo travellers avoid new places. But you will find that some of the most stunning places on the planet don’t have English as their first language. So if you’re planning to travel solo to a country where English isn’t widely spoken, it will certainly help to learn a few commonly used words in the local vocabulary. Some helpful phrases include everyday greetings such as “hello, how are you”, “my name is xyz, what’s yours”, “excuse me”, “thank you”, “good day / good night”, “good bye”; food phrases such as “no eggs”, “is this spicy”, “water”, “where’s the toilet”; shopping phrases such as “how much”, “too much”, “no, thank you”; travel phrases such as “where is…”, “left”, “right”; and emergency phrases such as “help”, “call the police”, “call a doctor”. You’ll find that the locals love when you make an effort to speak their language, which will in turn help you form instant, and sometimes even lasting, friendships. 

Carry spare batteries

It is important to remember that the reason you chose to travel solo is to create lasting memories, and if you don’t carry spare batteries for your camera, you will be defeating the purpose. Carry backup batteries for your digital camera, extra film for your Polaroid, and a fully charged power bank for your phone to ensure you’re never caught out when the perfect photo opportunity presents itself. 

Keep your loved ones posted

Your decision to travel solo is quite likely to make a few family members nervous. Giving loved ones constant updates and keeping them posted about your whereabouts is a key tip for solo travellers. This is not just for peace of mind for your family and friends, but also for your own safety. Share a copy of your itinerary, flight details and accommodation address, and inform them of any changes along the way. Also keep a copy of emergency contacts on you and include details of your emergency contact back home, a toll-free number for your credit card, and details of your insurance company. 

Blend in the crowd

Safety is a common concern for most solo travellers. No destination is perfect and you may find yourself feeling moments of insecurity. The best way to be safer during your tours is by not looking like a tourist. Don’t wear clothes that are too flashy, or openly carry gadgets or wear jewellery that is expensive. Try to be discreet and blend into the crowd to keep from attracting undue attention and to soak up the local vibe. 

Join a guided tour / cruise

Travelling independently can get lonesome and a good way to strike a balance between solo travel and travelling with company is to join a guided tour or cruise. You’ll have plenty of alone time whenever you need it, without ever feeling lonely. You’ll always find someone to share a beer with or strike a conversation over a meal while also having the chance to explore new places by yourself. 
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