Aside for my family and friends, nothing has shaped me to the extent solo travel has. My confidence, sense of adventure, compassion for others, tolerance for differing beliefs and relationship with myself have all grown stronger because of it. This is why I encourage you all to travel solo for yourselves and grow mentally, spiritually and physically (you’ll see those muscles toning from lugging around a backpack with no help!), too.
But, not without some guidance.
Here are 50 essential solo travel tips for a more successful independent journey.
Bonus Tip: Before traveling, check out this guide to choosing the right travel backpack. Comfort and organization on the road = happy traveler.
1. Book your first night (or the first few nights) of accommodation to help you ease into your journey.
2. Do you tend to get anxious? Planning out your itinerary and having things booked can help relieve this.
3. However, realize you may want to change your plans as you meet other travelers and learn about new cities along the way. This is why I personally choose to travel without making plans.
4. Traveling solo doesn’t necessarily mean you’re “alone.” In fact, I find it almost impossible not to meet other people while traveling, especially as being on you’re own makes you more approachable.
5. Invest in some Clever Travel Companion pickpocket-proof clothing, featuring hidden pockets that hide your valuables and eliminate the need for a purse.
6. Always carry your accommodation’s card with address. It makes it easier to hop in a cab and get home, especially if you’re in an uncomfortable situation.
7. Give yourself a day or two to get used to your new environment and resist the urge to plan too much during this time.
8. If you’re looking to find a travel buddy make sure to ask them essential questions, such as what their budget is and how much alone time they require.
9. Carry a safety whistle. Not only can this help startle ill-intentioned individuals, but it assists with scaring away wild animals, letting people know if you’re trapped somewhere and really any time you’d need to attract attention to your situation. I often wear one around my neck — especially when hiking — tucked into my shirt.
11. Get involved in the sharing economy to help introduce you to locals and immerse you in local culture. Some of my favorites include BonAppetour and EatWith for dining with locals, Skillshare for classes with locals, and Airbnb for staying with locals (I’m also an Airbnb host in Brooklyn).
12. Opt for travel insurance, as you never know would can happen on the road. I like Allianz Global Assistance Travel Insurance.
13. Walk and talk with confidence. Don’t make it obvious you’re an unsure tourist by burying yourself in a map or walking with your head turned down. Walk tall and proud and people might even think you’re a local.
14. Give yourself the opportunity to grow. Traveling solo means you’ll be presented with challenges and new experiences that you’ll need to navigate. Every time you conquer an obstacle or try something new you’re giving yourself the opportunity to learn and grow.
15. As soon as you walk into your accommodation ask for an annotated map of which areas are safe or unsafe to walk alone. Keep it on your person — although don’t be glued to it while you’re walking, as you’ll both make yourself a prime target looking like a distracted tourist, and will miss out on taking in your surroundings. This is an important tip for traveler safety.
16. Make sure any gear you bring with you — if you must bring gear — is insured (I use a floater policy adjoined to my renter’s insurance). While I’d recommend this to both solo and group travelers, you are a bit more susceptible to theft when a friend isn’t watching your back. That being said, the mere act of moving from place to place means you’re less organized and sometimes rushed.
17. Keep those valuables at home or hidden. There’s no need to attract unnecessary attention to yourself. Moreover, less important things with you means less important things to worry about.
18. Erase the word “can’t” from your vocabulary. If you think you can’t, then you can’t; however, if you think you can, then you can. A positive attitude will lead to an enhanced solo travel experience.
20. Look for hostels with common spaces — kitchens, TV lounges, movie theaters — as well as hostel-planned outings and events if you want to meet other people.
21. Invest in a good flashlight (I like the Fenix LD01 for its small size and intense light) or headlamp. I cannot count how many times I surprisingly needed one of these, whether on an unexpected camping trip or night hike, overnight trains, or having the electricity go out at a place I was staying.
22. Be open minded and flexible. If you don’t know how to use a squat toilet in Thailand they’re not going to roll out the red carpet for you and bring you a flusher. You figure these things out as you go, and as you encounter new situations and cultural facets you’re able to engage, process and react to them without influence from others.
23. Try to arrive to your destination during the day to avoid being alone in any sketchy areas at night alone.
24. If you’d rather be guaranteed a group of friends to explore with, a G Adventures tour means you can still go on your on but be placed with others. I really enjoy their large array of tours and their sustainable model. Here’s a coupon, as well: Click here to save up to 25% off, too!.
25. Also check out Intrepid Travel for adventurous, sustainable and social group tours that you can sign on to, solo.
26. Packing light is always a good, but an even better idea when traveling solo and having to manage your luggage on your own. Here’s how I travel with just a carry-on. Also, a few cool carry-ons I’d recommend:
- Tylt Energi Backpack + Battery (for shorter trips; it charges your gear)
- AmeriBag’s Healthy Back Carry-All Bag – HBBEvo (great for those with back and shoulder issues)
- Booq’s Cobra Squeeze laptop backpack (eco-friendly with lots of organizational pockets)
- Travelers Choice Siena 2-In-1 Hybrid Hard-Shell Carry-On Wheeled Garment Suitcase (great for those who will be doing business on the road as there’s a garment bag)
- Granite Gear Cross-Trek 22″ Wheeled Carry-On Duffel (a rolling suitcase, backpack and duffel in one)
- Granite Gear Cross- Trek Convertible Wheeled Carry-On with Removable 28L Pack (if you’ll be doing adventurous activities having the removable back is nice)
- Deuter Futura Pro 34 SL Pack (this is what I use for backpacking trips)
27. Enjoy at least one new experience each day, whether it be taking a class, trying a new sport, going for a scenic hike, sampling a new food or wandering through an interesting museum.
28. Don’t tell everyone you’re alone. While I tell other backpackers in my hostels and guesthouses that I’m traveling alone when trying to put a group outing together, if a stranger asks you who you’re traveling with, tell them your husband/wife/friend is in the bathroom and will be out in a minute. Moreover, if you ever feel uncomfortable, move to a very public area, and even start chatting to someone to make it look like you’re traveling together.
29. Use solo travel to strengthen your relationship with yourself. You’ll be having a lot of alone time — reflecting on what you’ve learned and how you’re feeling — allowing you to get to know yourself without distraction.
30. Eliminate doubt from your mind. Have confidence in your social and problem-solving skills and you will conquer any challenge that comes your way.
31. If you’re a US citizen, the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program is a free program designed to help keep travelers safe. By entering your information into their system before you leave, the government is then better able to assist you in the event of an emergency.
32. If you carry a bag keep it in front of you. Always have your belongings in sight.
33. Start a blog, or at least an up-to-date social media account about your travels. It’s a great way to keep a sort of journal of your experiences and keep friends and family up-to-do on what you’re doing (although I also recommend keeping in touch with loved ones via phone or email to let them know your accommodation and location details).
34. Before leaving for your trip make copies of your passport, visas, ATM card, credit cards, birth certificate, driver’s license and other important documents or ID cards. Leave one copy at home with your family or a close friend, and take another to hide somewhere in your bag, away from the originals. This will save you much trouble if anything gets lost or stolen.
35. Revel in your complete freedom. Solo travel means you call the shots. Do what you want, where you want, when you want, without having to answer to anyone.
36. Don’t get distracted. One of the most common tactics thieves use to pickpocket travelers is distracting them with a chaotic or interesting situation.
37. Know when a group is a good idea. While solo travel shouldn’t limit you from doing and seeing what you want, there are certain situations where you will be better off with a group. For example, while popular hiking areas are fine to trek alone, more remote ones are better done with a companion.
38. Don’t assume your hotel room is 100% safe. Make use of in-room lockers and safes, where only you know the combination.
39. Be aggressive in your pursuit of cultural knowledge. Don’t look at the culture you’re visiting as an outsider, but inside dive in headfirst by interacting with locals, taking cultural classes, sampling typical dishes, attending community events and partaking in local life as much as possible. One benefit of solo travel in general is you’re forced to interact with the community since you don’t have travel companions to talk to.
40. Talk to strangers. Remember how your parents told you never to talk to strangers? Don’t listen. This doesn’t mean go back to a stranger’s house all by yourself; it means interact with locals in public places and meet other travelers in hostels and on tours for a social and well-rounded travel experience.
41. Instead of making it obvious you’re a tourist, leave your Yankee’s t-shirt and fanny pack at home and instead try to assimilate with the locals.
42. Be selfish. Solo travel means there is nobody there to tell you what to do. Take the opportunity to be selfish without compromise.
43. If you venture out on your own let the front desk — as well as loved ones back home — know your plans. Better safe than sorry.
44. Hire a local guide, at least part of the time, to see your destination from a local point of view. Many cities nowadays also have greeter programs or free tours by locals, where you pay on a tips only basis. Visiting NYC? I offer custom local tours and photo safaris!
45. Learn a few phrases in the local language. While nobody’s expecting you to become fluent in another language before your vacation – although, if you can, you’ll certainly have an advantage – knowing a few useful phrases is crucial. Along with being able to ask where the nearest bathroom is, how to order food and the proper way to greet someone, it is important to know how to ask for help.
46. Say “yes” to adventure — without doing anything completely stupid — and go home with unforgettable memories and stories you can cherish for the rest of your life. That being said, use your common sense and make sure your adventures aren’t jeopardizing your safety.
47. Learn how to defend yourself. Taking a self-defense class is not only smart for solo travelers, but for everyone. Whether you’re on a trip or at home, violent attacks are possible.
48. Don’t get too drunk. Whenever you are so drunk people need to take care of you, you’re making yourself vulnerable. This is especially true if you’re traveling alone in a foreign country.
49. Replace fear with curiosity. Instead of being afraid of the unknown, turn on your curiosity and make a list of trip goals. Bonus points if you do something that completely freaks you out like skydiving or bungy jumping.
50. Most important: listen to your gut! Your intuition is stronger than you think, and usually knows before you do when a situation is positive or negative.
Jessie on a Journey’s Ultimate Guide to Solo Travel (free with newsletter signup!)
The Solo Traveler’s Handbook (Traveler’s Handbooks) by Janice Leith Waugh
Travel Junkie: A Badass Guide to Solo Female Travel by Julia Dimon