Savvy Travel Tips For The First-Time Solo Adventurer
“Doesn't mean I'm lonely when I'm alone.” – Kelly Clarkson
When you’re young and able, people always tell you to make the most out of your opportunities. This is especially true when it comes to travelling – it truly is life’s greatest teacher.
Travelling with your friends, family or partner is fun, but as Kelly, a seasoned solo traveler, aptly puts it, “Sometimes it’s like playing bubble soccer. You’re definitely enjoying yourself, but your holiday is contained within a bubble. You only interact within your circle, instead of paying full attention to things around you.”
If you’ve been toying with the idea of setting off on your own, now’s a good time as any, especially with technology on your side. From booking a cosy place to seek solace to finding your way around the city, there are lots of apps and websites that serve to make life easier for solo travellers.
Why it’s so amazing to travel alone:
--You get to be completely selfish just this once
Wake up whenever you want, do whatever your heart desires, and eat anything you like – these are only some of the perks of going it solo. There’s nobody to nag, complain or grumble, even if you’re planning to go to that awesome noodle place down the road for the 4th time in a row.--You’ll learn to plan and do things on your own
Travelling solo is the best way to learn the art of independence or self-discipline. One of my friends missed her bus by a single minute, having overslept in the morning. She tells me that it was a painful (on the wallet) lesson, but a well-deserved one.--You’ll work on your strengths and weaknesses
If you’ve always been travelling in a group, heading out on your own will let you discover what you’re good at, and what you can improve on. Some thrive in stressful situations, while some learn that they’re actually really good at talking to people. You’ll never know if you don’t travel solo.
That being said, while we’re all for the idea of “YOLO”, let’s be frank here – you need to stay alive, and your loved ones need to know you’re safe. We talked to 5 seasoned solo female travelers who generously shared their “stay-safe-and-stay-sane” tips with us.
#1: Send live updates of your location to your loved ones
If you’re travelling to countries that are ‘riskier’ for single female travelers, keep your loved ones updated constantly on your exact whereabouts. Google Maps lets you share your real-time location with a list of people for a set duration of time. WhatsApp also has the same function, which really comes in handy because you don’t have to manually send out updates and receive an onslaught of worried messages if you forget to do so.
#2: Join non-shady, cheap/free tours and make new friends
If you know where to look, you’ll find some great gems that come for close to nothing. Chloe says she often checks the local tourism board’s website to see if they’re offering any free tours (most places usually do), which is safer than signing up for some random tour from some shady roadside stall. If you’re keen to see the place from the eyes of a local, Global Greeter Network is a reliable platform that sets you up with a native guide, who’ll take you on a free walk around the area. You might even explore places you never even imagined possible!
#3: Stalk (ahem, research) your hosts on social media
If your accommodation might include a roommate, Zara recommends looking up your host’s details online before saying yes. “My host in Seoul was kind enough to provide his Instagram handle, so I was able to suss him out before making my booking, since it was a studio apartment and I would be living in close proximity with a guy,” she says. A few other women we talked to also found their hosts’ information on Facebook or LinkedIn. Don’t be afraid to ask for more details to find out whether you’d be comfortable living together in the same space (especially if you’re allergic to pets, or have health concerns etc) – they’ll be more than happy to oblige!
#4: Don’t announce to the world that you’re on a solo trip
It’s fun to post Instastories and share your then-and-there with the world, but if your social media accounts are public, it might be prudent to exercise a bit of caution. We always see people posting captions like “Alone tonight, some good me-time is in order!” or “What’s good? Am in X city alone for the weekend!”, which our seasoned adventurers don’t recommend doing. You never know who’s lurking around your FB or Instagram, so if you’re on a solo trip, keep that information to yourself, or refrain from posting live updates of your locations.
#5: Do your Google Map-searching in a less conspicuous spot
One of the biggest mistakes rookie travelers make is to do their Google Map-searching in broad daylight, within eyesight of everyone. If possible, do your research before leaving your hotel, so you’ll have a rough idea of where to go. Make use of your café or lunch breaks to look up information so it won’t appear too obvious that you’re lost or looking for a place. When asking for directions, our ladies say that café or restaurant staff are the best people to turn to – they’re more likely to be friendlier (it’s part of their job!), and they’ll be familiar with the surroundings.
#6: Be brave & impulsive enough to take a mini detour
Trust your gut feeling. If you’re going to a particular destination, but see a totally cute bakery along the way, it might be worth the few extra minutes to drop by and check it out. “Some of the best discoveries I’ve made while on holiday were the ones that were totally unplanned – I found so many good places to hang out and eat!” says Claudia. Be brave enough to take risks, but make sure they’re within your comfort zone and personal ability. For instance, if you’re visiting the beach, renting a bike to explore the surroundings is great, but swimming by yourself in the sea might not be the best idea.
#7: Borrow the eyes and ears of your friendly hotel receptionist
If you’re planning to head out on a day trip, have your hotel receptionist note down your itinerary. “I joined a day tour while on holiday, but had concerns due to the language barrier. I talked to the very nice hotel manager, who called the tour agency and helped me check out whether it was legit. When the tour guide arrived to pick me up, she even checked the documents and marked down the car registration plate,” shares Kelly. Inform the hotel on your expected time of return, so that they’ll know if something goes wrong.
#8: Instead of hotels, consider booking a private room in a hostel
It might get lonely when travelling solo, especially if your trip stretches over a few weeks. If you’re a social person, shared rooms in hostels are the way to go (budget friendly and you’ll make lots of new friends!), but if you like a bit of privacy with the option to hang out with someone when you get back from a long day, many hostels offer private rooms that give you the best of both worlds. For some me-time, tune out with a set of travel-friendly KEF Motion One wireless earphones and feed your soul with music.
#9: Write down your emergency contacts on a piece of paper
In worst-case scenarios where you don’t have your phone, gadgets, passport or wallet on you, old-school is the way to go. Write down emergency contacts (names, phone numbers, email addresses) on a piece of paper, and keep it on you at all times – stash it in a tiny ziplock bag, safety-pinned to your pocket. That way, in times of need, someone can always contact a family member on your behalf. It’s not a surefire way, but when you’re on your own and run into a crisis, you’ll need all the help you can get.
With these tips in hand, you’ll definitely be able to enjoy your holiday and focus on yourself for a change! Happy travelling!
Thank you to Chloe L., Claudia Skyler F., Regina T., Zara N. and Kelly C. for sharing their experiences.
Cover Image: C.L / KEFWhat
Writer | Michelle Tan
Underneath her RBF, Michelle is actually a friendly raccoon. Loves collecting ugly things, changing her hair colour, and dinosaurs (not necessarily in that order).