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Traveling Solo For The First Time: 50 Essential Tips

tips for traveling solo for the first time
Photo courtesy of Morgan Sessions

Traveling solo for the first time?

Let me start off by saying congratulations!

Personally, aside from my family and friends, nothing has shaped me to the extent that solo travel has.

My confidence, sense of adventure, compassion for others, and tolerance for differing beliefs have all grown stronger because of traveling alone.

Additionally, you can use traveling solo to find yourself and to grow the relationship you have with the most important person in your life — you!

This is why I encourage you to travel solo for the opportunity to grow mentally, spiritually — and physically, too (because you’ll see those muscles toning from lugging around a backpack with no help!).

That being said, I realize that the idea of traveling alone for the first time can be scary for many.

To help you plan an incredible experience with confidence, this solo travel guide shares 50 essential tips for traveling alone for the first time.

How To Travel Alone (Free E-Course!)

Want to learn how to travel alone as a woman and how to feel confident exploring solo in general?

My free Savvy Solo Travelers E-Course can help!

tips for traveling solo for the first time
Click here to grab your seat in the free solo female travel course!

The six-day ecourse is designed to help you feel confident about booking your first solo trip and exploring the world alone.

Lessons include:

  • Common solo travel fears and how to overcome them
  • How to choose your perfect solo trip
  • How to tell loved ones you’re hitting the road solo
  • Mentally preparing for your solo journey without losing your mind
  • Essential steps for staying safe on a solo trip
  • How to take amazing solo selfies

My Favorite Solo Female Travel Destinations [Video]

Need some destination inspiration for your first time traveling alone?

Watch the video above!

You’ll learn nine of my favorite places to travel alone, though note this list is in no way exhaustive. For instance, Tulum solo travel, taking a solo trip to Amsterdam, and traveling Israel solo are also incredible experiences.

After watching, let me know in the comments below what destinations you’d add to it!

Is It Weird To Travel Alone?

Before diving into the tips for traveling alone, I just want to address this question that I get frequently.

In my opinion, it is not weird at all to travel alone — and once you get the hang of it, you won’t feel strange doing it.

Personally, I started traveling solo because I was sick of waiting around for travel partners. After numerous cancelled trips and plans that never came to fruition, I decided to take matters into my own hands and start traveling solo.

The best part?

Along with no longer needing to wait on other people, traveling solo allows for ultimate freedom over your trip itinerary — no negotiation required.

Okay, so now that we’ve gone through that little pep talk for traveling by yourself, let’s dive into the tips.

50 Essential Tips For Traveling Solo For The First Time

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 solo travel 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. For example, when sharing about the Black solo female travel experience, my friend Efia noted that within 10 minutes of her first solo trip she’d made a friend!

5. Invest in some Clever Travel Companion pickpocket-proof clothing, featuring hidden pockets that hide your valuables and eliminate the need for a purse.

By the way, this is a very important solo travel safety tip. Here are others to keep in mind, too:

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.

10. Know about travel apps and communities that exist to help connect travelers, like Couchsurfing, Penroads, HereToMeet and Reddit’s Travel Partners message board.

eating at a local home while traveling alone
Photo courtesy of EatWith

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.

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.

19. Invest in an intervalometer and a Joby SLR GorillaPod to take better solo photos of yourself, no selfie stick needed. More on my experience using these gadgets on the road here.

traveling solo to find yourself
A glimpse of the Nashville Hostel Down

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 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.

traveling solo for the first time

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:

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.

how to travel alone as a woman and have fun on the beach
Having a blast on my own

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.

travelling alone for the first time
Good times with new friends

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 private photo tours!

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.

Solo Travel Tips

New to solo travel?

Truth:

I made so many mistakes when planning my first trip solo — like booking out every second of my itinerary so that I had no room for adventure.

That’s not what I want for you.

To help you plan a meaningful and memorable trip, I’m sharing my top tips for planning the perfect solo trip — with confidence!

What tips would you add to this guide on traveling solo for the first time?

Additional Solo Travel Resources:

Black Solo Female Travel: An Eye-Opening & Empowering Guide

11 Amazing Destinations For Curious Solo Female Travelers

Mastering The Art Of Solo Travel

How Solo Female Travel Changed My Life (And How It Can Change Yours, Too!)

Psst – Don’t forget to pin these tips on traveling solo for the first time for later!

solo travel tips
Jessie Festa standing in front of grafitti wall

Hi, I’m Jessie on a journey!

I'm a conscious solo traveler on a mission to take you beyond the guidebook to inspire you to live your best life through travel. Come join me!

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8 Comments

  1. Cindy Hoffman on February 12, 2016 at 7:57 am

    Those are some great tips Jessie. I am a seasoned traveler because I am trapped in my 9-5, but loving it 😉 I have one question for you though; How selfish are you LOL.

    Anyway, thanks a lot for the share, It was very interesting to read.

    Cindy

    • Jessie Festa on February 12, 2016 at 2:40 pm

      @Cindy: Thank you for the kind words and for reading!

  2. Jenny on April 29, 2016 at 11:31 am

    Hi jessie,

    This is a great post. I particularly like the fact you encourage your readers to book at least a few days’ worth of accommodation. This is one area of travelling that’s always pushed me way out of my comfort zone as I like to know where I’m going next and what to expect.

  3. Roger Patel on August 2, 2016 at 4:50 am

    No matter what you solo travel will become a hell if you’re not friendly with people. I think as a solo traveler it becomes tough to take pictures of yourself with wonderful things or scenarios. Other than that, I’ve traveled twice solo and really enjoyed a lot.

  4. Travel Center UK on April 7, 2021 at 8:33 am

    OMG Super good article, Very useful for a solo traveller like me 🙂 What’s the best way to travel solo, while travelling in Europe?

  5. Interesting news on April 23, 2021 at 11:46 pm

    Your post has really helped a lot in guiding me with the process of creating my travel blog. It is so articulated. Especially the plugin’s suggestions……

  6. Pranita Purohit on May 9, 2021 at 1:36 am

    Truly great tips for traveling solo first time! In fact, these tips can also be implemented by season travelers. You have covered every single minute and major preparation necessary to ensure traveling safe.

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