How to be more comfortable with travelling alone

SJ shares four dos and don’ts to help the whole concept of solo travel seem less daunting.

How to be more comfortable with travelling alone

A regular travel contributor to YourLifeChoices, SJ has been to five of the seven continents and has lived in two.

There’s no disputing the fact that solo travel can be scary. While it’s one thing to enjoy your own company, going to an unfamiliar environment without any companions is enough to make most of us feel uncomfortable. It can be further isolating if you don’t speak the local language.

That said, it would be even more of a shame to not travel just because it meant going on your own. As an experienced traveller who has taken a number of solo trips, here are my four dos and don’ts to help the whole concept of solo travel seem less daunting.

DO book in advance
A solo adventure is not the time to ‘wing it’. Make life easier for yourself by booking all flights, accommodation and transfers so that you have peace of mind. A few less things to worry about will mean that there’s less scope for things to go awry. Make sure you research areas for accommodation beforehand and pick somewhere you think you’ll feel safe and comfortable – ideally within walking distance so you don’t need to constantly catch taxis alone. Pre-organising your airport transfers – or at the very least knowing how you’re going to get to your destination – will make you feel more relaxed when you arrive than if you have no plan of attack.

DON’T let the language barrier scare you
Many locals know that tourists aren’t going to be fluent, or even remotely good, at speaking in a foreign language. While nowadays in most places there are locals who speak some level of English, there are countless apps available to help you if they don’t. Make note of some key phrases before you go and download Google Translate, which allows you to scan foreign words and gives you the English translation. Have your accommodation or any other key places of interest written down as well so locals can have a better chance of helping to point you in the right direction.

conversation between solo travellers 

DO try to make friends
While it may be tempting to just hole up in your hotel room and order room service – this is a waste of all your hard-earned money and now how you’ll get the most out of your trip. Pluck up your courage and head out see the sites and experience the local culture. Booking a walking tour or another group activity is a great way to meet other travellers and sitting at a bar will allow you to strike up conversations with locals whose tips may be invaluable. When you’re on your own you are far more approachable than when you have company, so the chances that you’ll meet some new friends to spend time with are far higher when travelling solo.

DON’T worry about what others think
Most of us fear that by being seen alone we are viewed as ‘losers’ or loners. This couldn’t be further from the truth. It takes extreme courage to step out alone – particularly when it comes to dining. Hold your head high and remind yourself that everyone is far more concerned with their own lives rather than with judging you. It’s also helpful to remember that it’s better to be alone than in bad company just for company’s sake.

 

Airbnb has also recently revealed the top 10 most popular cities for solo travel. Based on data from their site – solo bookings are rapidly rising in a number of cities – the top 10 are:

  1. Cancún, Mexico
  2. Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
  3. Cologne, Germany
  4. Playa del Carmen, Mexico
  5. Johannesburg, South Africa
  6. São Paulo, Brazil
  7. Auckland, New Zealand
  8. Mexico City, Mexico
  9. Charlotte, North Carolina
  10. Busan, South Korea

Have you been to any of these cities? Where would you recommend or not recommend for solo travel? We’d love to hear your advice or tips for travelling alone in the comments.

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    COMMENTS

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    22nd Jul 2017
    12:24am
    Traveling alone is liberating and very self enriching
    Everyone should do it even if they have a partner

    How boring to travel as a couple all the time
    May
    22nd Jul 2017
    9:26am
    I have to be brave to travel alone since my husband passed away. And I did it. The first time i travelled to Vietnam but as you said, I booked everything before to go. The second time I travelled to Canada & USA for a month, and quite enjoyable and I met some new friends. My friends said I am too brave & adventurer. And you want to know my age? I am a 61 years old lady at the time. I will travel again soon.
    Maggie
    22nd Jul 2017
    9:32am
    Good for you May. I am 76 and I still travel alone. I always find lovely people to spend a little time with - in fact I always meet more people than I ever did when I was one of a pair.
    Rosret
    22nd Jul 2017
    11:16am
    I think the one thing that bothers me most is theft. Loss of cards, tickets or passport in a non English speaking country with no backup. The key is knowing where your support will come from in that country if war, weather or some other disaster hits when you happen to be there.
    Health is the other issue as well. You may think its easy enough to rock up to a foreign hospital with a broken arm or equivalent - but no.
    When you go overseas without support you are most definitely alone so you do need to know what to do if something does wrong.
    Rosret
    22nd Jul 2017
    11:30am
    Actually I should add:
    1. Know where the Australian Embassy is located in the country you are travelling to.
    2. Notify DEFAT that you are travelling overseas
    3. Take your common medicines with you and make sure they are not banned in the country you are visiting. - and make sure your vaccinations are current.
    4. Learn some of the language before you go.
    5. Don't rely on the internet. Print off a few paper maps in English!
    6. Buy a digital language translator so you aren't relying on Google.
    7. Leave your jewelry at home.
    8. Use the hotel safe - its safer than your bum bag.
    9. Purchase a special visa card from the post office before you leave.
    10. Wrap your passport in Alfoil or buy a skimmer protection card.
    11. Don't drink the water or ice and avoid fruits that are moisture laden (like watermelon).
    12. Just because other people are behaving dangerously (like jumping off cliffs) doesn't mean it is safe. Research activities before you leave home so bravado isn't your best friend as the euphoria of the holiday sets in.
    May
    22nd Jul 2017
    1:02pm
    Thanks so much, Rosret for your important informations. Very appreciate.
    Also Maggie, awesome, 76 still travelling alone.
    Rosret
    23rd Jul 2017
    10:00am
    I need to add this excellent source too:
    http://www.australia.gov.au/information-and-services/passports-and-travel/australian-travellers

    The more I associate with "oldies" the more I realise the thought patterns get a tad wonky. There is a belligerent attitude that we are still part of the British Empire and we will be safe no matter where we travel.
    That era is over. It is absolutely so important to know the country's taboos and culture because on your own - especially if you are female - no one except for the tourism employees who are in your service care about you whatsoever.
    Ted Wards
    24th Jul 2017
    8:48am
    I've been a solo traveler for 7 years. The end of this year Im off for 5 weeks to Europe to do a river cruise, see the Christmas markets and lots of tours. Yes the planning is well underway. From facebook I know now people whom I will be meeting up with once in their home town. So that's another tip, use facebook to research places and meet people from where ever you are going.


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