Solo travel is becoming more popular than ever and is no longer deemed a lonely and awkward experience. More travelers are choosing to wander solo and at their own pace for a variety of reasons, be it to focus on well-being and soul searching or to have the freedom to be alone or join up with others as you please. When you travel alone, you travel on your terms. Lone travelers often describe it as an incredibly rewarding and liberating experience, and as safe, if not safer than walking alone through a city in your native country. Some say it’s something everyone should take time to experience in their lifetime. But first, read our quick guide to solo travel to get you started on planning your next great adventure, tailor-made for you.
Before You Go
1. Always check the news for updates on what is happening in the places you are planning to visit. Things like disease and wars can break out quickly and you’ll want to know about it before you head there.
2. Know your budget and save up. It’s so much for satisfying to put aside some money for the delayed gratification of travel than having to deal with the unnecessary stress of going into debt and having to catch up once you get home.
3. There’s an app for that. Make sure to download some essential apps, maps and guides before you go to help you on your way. Google Translate, Maps.me, Skype and Prey are just a few we recommend to start with. Travel Republic has created this handy illustrated guide of clever and unique tips clever and unique tips especially for beach holidays.
4. Network online. Interacting with other travelers all the globe is an invaluable resource for shared experience, tips and even making great friends. A great one for female solo travelers is The Solo Female Traveler Network
5. It can be challenging to pick out a backpack to suit your individual body size and shape. Don’t opt for a size that you know fit somebody else well and forgo carefully selecting the right one for you. For example, women, tend to be shorter and curvier than men with narrower shoulders, and since you’ll be spending a lot of time carrying that pack, it’s worth it to choose carefully. You will need to measure your torso length and hip belt size and don’t forget to try it on before buying. Outdoorgearlab for instance, offers a really thorough guide to choosing your best pack.
Pack light! The minimalist movement applies to travel too. Carting around less stuff means less weight, less worry and more freedom.
Some of the Best Beach Destinations for Solo Travel
1. The longest and sunniest Croatian island also happens to be one of the most beautiful in the world. Hvar Island is a serene escape with unspoilt beauty that is perfect for solo travelers. Reachable by ferry or catamaran, the island offers plenty of things to keep the solo traveller occupied.
2. Budget-friendly Portugal is generally safe, and filled with friendly people and is one of the best beach destinations in Europe for anyone. The beaches backed by sandstone cliffs in the Algarve offer spectacular cliff walks, off-coast sailing among rock formations and some secluded beaches if you’d like to escape the package holiday crowds.
3. One of the most popular solo travel destinations, a trip to Thailand alone means you’re likely to meet other people in exactly the same boat. It’s popular for many reasons – Thailand is safe, welcoming, affordable, easy to navigate and has something to offer anyone. A country rich in natural beauty, Phuket and Khao Lak offer some of the best white sandy beaches and snorkeling adventures you’ll find anywhere.
Essential Safety and Security Tips
1. Keep local emergency numbers in your phone – police, ambulance etc. so that you can reach them quickly if needs be. While an international phone plan is not necessary, it can be useful to have a cheap unlocked phone with a pay-as-you-go SIM card at your disposal.
2. Be aware of your surroundings. While it can be really nice to put in headphones or bury your head in a good ebook when on a bus journey or sitting in a waiting room, you should also have your wits about you and don’t get too distracted from your surroundings.
3. If you’re camping alone in the woods, try to camp at least a mile from the road where people might arrive in cars.
4. Backpacking as a solo female traveler in some parts of the world can draw a lot of unwanted attention and even marriage proposals. If you feel pressured and out of your comfort level by someone who is trying to follow you, be polite but increasingly firm. You may need to even show anger and tell them outright to stop. Don’t let anyone follow you out of guilt or wanting to not be rude.
5. A satellite messenger with GPS to call for help can be a lifesaver when traveling in the most extreme places and conditions and many models weigh less than half a pound.
6. It’s always smart to bring a cross-body bag with you. Thieves who are known to drive past you on motorbikes can be encountered all over the world while in some places street vendors can distract you while an accomplice sneaks up on you. Keep one hand on it at all times to be extra safe.
Etiquette and Customs
1. Shoes off, please. In Southeast Asian countries and some African countries, you will need to remove your shoes before entering some buildings. A rule of thumb is to look for shoes lined up outside. Don’t show the soles of your feet unless you mean to offend someone.
2. Be careful with hand gestures like ‘ok’ and ‘thumbs up’ as these can be offensive or provocative in some cultures.
3. For women, you will need a sarong to be able to quickly cover your shoulders and possibly also your hair when entering temples or places of worship. While we’re on the topic, you might want to bring a one-piece swimsuit for beach destinations as wearing a bikini is frowned upon in some places. For men, be aware of places in South East Asia, for example, where sleeveless shirts are an absolute no go and long trousers might be required.
4. Lower your profile and try to blend in with the crowd. You’ll most likely have an easier time if you conform to the local customs and don’t draw attention to yourself.
5. While making eye contact and flashing a friendly smile at home might be totally normal for you, in some regions such as the Middle East it can interpreted as something more. To help ward off unwanted attention you can wear a fake wedding ring which will often signal to your would-be-suitors to politely move along to someone else.
6. Join hop-on tours and group activities. Be open to positive experiences in meeting new people as most people are not out to get you and you will find are actually quite friendly. This is a great method to avoid loneliness on your solo tour and could even make you some lifelong friends.
7. Finally, trust your gut. If your instincts tell you something is off, it probably is.
By Fiona Feeney ©FM