Tips for the solo traveller I had to learn the hard way

Green Point, Cape Town
Exploring Green Point, Cape Town

It is getting more and more popular for people to travel alone. A lot of us realize that we cant wait till we actually have a travel partner otherwise we might never get to travel. Traveling solo is quite daunting and here are a couple of tips that I had to learn the hard way.

  1. Green Point, Cape Town
    Green Point, Cape Town

    Plan in advance
    Do some advance reading about the country and city you plan to explore. Do some planning of what you want to see and where you would like to go. You don’t need a detailed plan but you should know, for the first night at least, where you’re going to stay so definitely book your hostel before you leave. Believe me its not fun arriving in a strange city at night and then having to search for accommodation.

  1. Pack light
    Pack light so that you can manage your luggage by yourself with ease. One carry-on, a suitcase or backpack, should be enough whether you’re out for one week or three. Remember you are the one who has to carry all that stuff with you so only pack the essentials.
  1. Try to arrive during the day
    Plan to arrive during daylight so you’re not trying to find your way through an unfamiliar city in the dark. It is not fun and it doesn’t feel very safe if you are a woman on your own. At least in daylight you can see what the area looks like and get a feel for the city.

 

  1. Green Point, Cape Town
    Green Point, Cape Town

    Talk to strangers
    Connect with other travelers. The common rooms and lounges of hostels are great places meet short-term friends as well as pick up excellent travel advice. Yes, talking to strangers is recommended here and it took me a while before I felt comfortable doing this. Smile and start a conversation. Be curious and ask open-ended questions and follow-up questions. This way you learn about what to do and where to go or not to go in this strange city.

  1. Meet the locals
    Connect with locals, this is the best way to learn about the new country culture. Many cities now have a free local walking tour which is a great way to get to know the local area. Markets are my favourite place to meet and talk to the locals. Here I don’t only get to experience the local culture but also to taste the cuisine of the area.

 

  1. Green Point, Cape Town
    Green Point, Cape Town

    Watch the world around you
    Take the time to observe how people interact, and how things work. While sitting at a sidewalk cafe, on a park bench, or just killing time you can learn how to use public transit, whether to pay your bill at your table or at the counter, how to tip or how to hail a cab and much more. This has saved me from either asking questions in a language I don’t speak or feeling stupid and sticking out as a dumb tourist.

  1. Go out and enjoy yourself
    Go out in the evenings and enjoy dining by yourself. Go to pubs and bars and grab a seat at the bar or counter. Go to concerts and the theatre. It’s all possible solo, although it does feel a bit strange so always take a book with or some postcards to write.
  1. Sign up for courses
    If you’re in one place for a while, connect with others by taking language or cooking classes. Whatever interests you. This is a great way to dive into the culture and meet new people.

 

9. Go on organised day trips
Break up long trips with organized day trips. You’ll enjoy the company and a chance to let someone else take care of all the details. Especially if it is hard to reach places like the top of the Andes mountains.

10. Always have the essentials

Carry the essentials with you when you head out for the day. Have the name of the place you’re staying on a piece of paper in the local language or the hostels business card. Have a copy of your emergency contacts and your documents on you as you might need them. And make sure you have a mini first aid kit with you in the form of headache tablets, plasters, Imodium and antiseptic cream. You never know when you might need it.

Green Point, Cape Town
Green Point, Cape Town

The last 5 tips…….

  1. Store important items in one place
    Always keep your most important items in the same place and have a simple check. For me it’s passport, wallet, camera and phone. Those are the items I check every now and again just to make sure I haven’t lost anything along the way. The easiest way to do this is by having a travel bag with different pockets of sections so that you always know where your things are.
  1. Get in your photos
    Learn to take your own photo or how to ask people to please take a photo of you. This way you wont end up with a load of photos of places and not be able to prove you were actually there.
  1. Green Point, Cape Town
    Green Point, Cape Town

    Save on phone charges
    Consider getting your cell phone unlocked so that you can buy a SIM card for your phone in each country as you travel. This will save you lots of money. Also, load Skype onto your phone so that you can connect with friends and family for free when you have access to the Internet. While traveling there are loads of places that offer free wifi so you will be able to stay in contact with everyone without having to pay roaming charges.

  1. Take advantage of other useful apps
    Download useful apps to your phone such as a GPS, a translator, a currency converter and some travel guides. Its easier carrying your travel guide in your phone than having a heavy book to carry around. A weather app is also very useful and a great help when trying to plan your next travel day.
  1. Trust your instincts
    Be aware of your surroundings and listen to your gut. If something doesn’t seem or feel right, leave, immediately. You are alone and cant afford to get into trouble so avoid it at all cost.
Green Point, Cape Town
Green Point, Cape Town

I hope these tips help you while on your next adventure!

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32 comments

  1. Some great tips. A weather app is a great idea for planning, museums are great for rainy days but when the sun is out, you can hit the beach or the parks. I think you have a spelling mistake in the title…do you mean “the hard way”?

    Like

  2. Great tip, I especially agree with the one about planning ahead a bit, makes it a little less daunting when you travel on your own. I have to say though that these tips are good for couple/family travelers too in my opinion.

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  3. Great tips. I am currently on my first overseas solo trip. Your tips are helpful. I have been getting used to it after traveling with a partner for the past 16 years pre separation. Definitely go out on your own is a good tip.

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  4. Great tips, should be very helpful for anyone. I have been traveling solo for years (decades) and the best one of all is: DON’T WAIT! If you can’t find anyone to go with you, JUST GO! You will find so many adventures and meet all kinds of interesting people. It’s actually easier to do if you’re by yourself (at least it seems that way to me). I’ve never regretted going on a trip, but I sure have regretted NOT going.

    Liked by 1 person

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