I am going to start with a disclaimer – I am not a professional traveller, I’ve only done 6-7 trips solo as of now. But I am definitely someone who has enjoyed each of those trips and look forward to more solo trips. A lot of girls have apprehensions about travelling on their own. I did too and so did my family. The most important advice to be able to travel solo is to be self reliant – you should be able to do everything by yourself. Having said that, I really wish women would experience solo travel atleast once in their lifetime – mainly because it is so liberating. In this first part of this series, I want to share some general & safety tips to keep in mind while planning your solo travel.
Safety and general tips to keep in mind –
HOW TO START
I think the best way to start is to be comfortable roaming around by yourself in your own city. Go for breakfast by yourself, go sit in a coffee shop and read a book, go for a movie alone and go explore touristy places in your city by yourself. I think getting comfortable being by yourself is definitely the first step towards being comfortable travelling solo.
- If on a budget stay in highly rated hostels – go through reviews and ratings and make sure you get yourself a nicely located, highly rated hostel. Things I look at – location near tourist attractions or a main market, closeness to metro station/public transport, ratings especially over the past 6 months, female only dorms, dorms with 4 or 6 sharing (8/12 sharing dorms are too many people for my liking), availability of locker, walking tours and food availability.
- If not on a budget stay in a nice hotel – don’t skimp on spending money on stay. Staying in a shady place will increase your discomfort if living alone.
- I’d skip living in an Airbnb – Firstly, if you’re sharing it with someone else – it can get a little uncomfortable. I stayed in a room in an Airbnb accommodation in Spain owned by a young man. On my second night there (a Friday night), he had a small party with his guy friends and while no one bothered me in my room – it did make me a little uncomfortable – especially about going to the kitchen to get food/water. (I am an introvert) Second, if you do get an entire Airbnb for yourself, it can get lonely with no one around to talk to. It also won’t be easy if you need any sort of help especially at odd hours.
- Don’t accept food or drinks from a total stranger (no matter how cute he is).
- If you’re getting a drink by yourself – don’t drink too much – it is always better to be in control of your faculties. During my trip to Spain I did drink by myself quite a few times but never more than 2 glasses of wine with my meal.
- Have your breakfast/dinner at your hostel if you are looking to make friends and have a cheap meal.
- Don’t skimp on meals – I recommend setting a daily meal budget which suits your pocket. If you plan on a fancy dinner, grab McDonalds for lunch to stick to your budget. But don’t eat from shady places and end up falling sick trying to stay on a budget.
- Look for walking tours, organized day trips etc. – it helps to roam around with a group of people to feel safer. It is also a great way to make friends. All the friends I make during my trips are through these walking tours since I barely spend any time in the hostel/hotel.
- If you feel uncomfortable being out in the dark, schedule your roaming around in such a way that you’re back to your room before late. I am an early riser, so I prefer leaving at sunrise and being back in my accommodation before midnight. While roaming around in India, I head back to my accommodation after dinner.
- Make friends in the hostel or walking tours who will accompany you on your sightseeing plans.
- I know it sounds fun to “fall in love” while on a holiday but lets be honest – that very rarely happens. (Thank you for these crazy expectations – Before Sunrise) Avoid going on dates – especially if a man calls you over to his place. Though this one is a me rule, you can choose your stance based on your comfort level.
- If the locals seem friendly – try interacting with them. Maybe a friendly restaurant owner or someone getting coffee from the same café as you are? Locals can help you discover hidden places and nice eateries.
- I am just going to put this out here with no bad intention whatsoever – some nationality folks are vary of interacting with Indians. So if someone seems vary of you (for whatever reason) – don’t try too hard to talk to them – give them their space. I met this guy (not Spanish) while travelling in Spain – we were living in the same hostel in one city and ended up talking while on a walking tour. We ran into each other again in another city, again on a walking tour but this time he was with his mother and his sister. While he and his sister were very friendly and asked me to join them for a meal – his mother was very vary and cold with me. I know it could be for any reason but somehow from the second he introduced me to her – she was just super uncomfortable and seemed to want to end the whole interaction. So I politely excused myself from joining them. (PS: He was very cute 😉 )
- Don’t hang out with people just because you feel lonely. Don’t force yourself to be in any situation that you are not comfortable with just because you are lonely. Instead get on a video call with a friend to get over that feeling. Schedule some time to talk to your family/friends every day.
- Don’t lend money to any “new” friend you make.
POSSESSIONS (cash, camera, mobile, passport etc.)
- A backpack is a great idea to easily carry around your stuff but can be an easy target for pickpockets. I work around that by –
- If I am carrying a jacket, I usually throw it over the backpack and around my shoulders. That way the backpack is covered by the jacket.
- If I don’t have a jacket on me, I usually make sure to bury my wallet below all the other stuff in the backpack so if anyone does open the zip they’d have to go through it all to get to it – and just let it be. (I keep some small change in an outer zip for easy access)
- A number lock is an extreme step to take but it makes sense to have one on you – if you ever feel extremely worried you can lock your backpack. Eg: Depositing it in a locker at a temple if it isn’t allowed inside.
- If you have a locker in the hostel/hotel – stash all your valuables in a locked bag inside the locker. (Double safety)
- Never carry all your cash/cards on you. I usually only carry the cash I would need on me and leave the rest in a locker in the hostel/hotel.
- Carry a copy of your passport while travelling abroad and in India, carry two ID cards. Incase you lose one, you can use your copy or the other ID card to travel back home.
- I don’t travel solo with a camera. Honestly, I don’t like having too many possessions on me – so I photograph everything using my phone.
- Do your research about the safety of women in the country/place that you are visiting before deciding to go there. It is always better to chose places that are safer especially if you are new to solo travelling.
- Chose a place that has good public transport – because you want to be able to travel around easily.
- Definitely check on any cultural differences or dos/don’ts that might be prevalent. A few countries or temples or places are strict about the clothes women wear – so you want to keep that in mind. Eg: In Bali, Cambodia and India – it is generally expected that women wear knee length clothes or a sarong while visiting temples.
- Try to blend in with the crowd than stand out.
This became a super LONG post – though I really wanted it to be short and concise. I haven’t travelled or written about travelling in a bit and I definitely missed doing it. Here’s hoping through this short series I can help some women get more comfortable with the idea of solo travelling. If you have any questions or doubts that I can cover through this series, please leave them in the comments below – I will definitely try my best to answer them. ❤
Part 2 of the series will go up next Monday. It will cover the resources that I find helpful while planning my solo travel. So hit that follow button to read on.
PPS: Check out my brand of sustainable products and show it some love. ❤
PPPS: I take my own photos while travelling solo – will cover that in one part of this series.
Checkout my other latest posts (which are actually old posts – but what to do with this damn writer’s block) –