Solo travel may not be on the top of everyone’s list. If you’re reading this, chances are that you are thinking of doing a trip on your own. Kudos to you, my friend. Not everybody understands the urge to travel solo, much less as a woman. I love sharing cultural experiences with my husband and children, but just like there are things back home that I enjoy doing on my own, there are some trips out of town that I like to take on my own.
There’s a bit of (or a lot of!) an adrenaline rush when planning a solo trip, so be careful that you do not lose yourself in the excitement and overlook details. Travelling solo means that you are your own partner and there isn’t someone else to share the responsibility of double checking things, or to blame if things don’t go according to plan. Preparing for your first solo trip? Here’s a bunch of stuff to look out for and bear in mind:
* Note: while many of these tips don’t necessarily apply only to female travellers, but to solo travellers in general (and maybe even just regular travellers!), but I strongly recommend that female travellers take extra precautions in playing it safe, particularly if it is their first time abroad on their own. So this bunch of tips was written with that in mind.
1. Do your homework
Jot down a few places you’d like to visit, and directions on how to get there. I would even go as far as to write specific instructions like “Use Exit L6 of MTR Tsim Sha Tsui Station, walk along Salisbury Road toward Clock Tower. Approx 10 minutes”. The more information you have, the more confident you will feel
2. Reassure those at home
Leave a copy of your itinerary at home, and the names and numbers of the places you are going to stay. You may be off on your great adventure but remember that those at home are going to be worried about you. As soon as you can, send a message back home to notify them of your safe arrival.
3. Plan your arrival
Plan to arrive in the day to give you sufficient time to get to your hotel while it is still bright. Transport systems may not run as late as you think.
ON THE TRIP
1. Hotel stuff
1.1 Know where you’re going to stay
I like spontaneity as much as any other person but I also like knowing where I’m going to sleep. Book your first night’s stay at least, and when you’ve recovered from jetlag, you can take the opportunity to shop around for another place. Stay away from seedy areas (this is where your research comes in!) and find a place that’s in a convenient location, for example, a short walk from a train station.
1.2 Always take a hotel card
Keep a hotel card with you so that you have the address and phone number in case you get lost and need directions. Get your hotel’s receptionist to indicate where the hotel is on a map.
1.3 Take a photo of your hotel’s facade and remember nearby landmarks
Sometimes a hotel is too new or has had a name change and locals may not be familiar with it. Photos will help. Or if the hotel is too obscure, ask for directions to nearby landmarks.
2. Moving around
2.1 Look confident
Don’t make yourself an easy target by looking lost. Be confident and walk with purpose. Doing your homework helps. Don’t refer to your ‘notes’ openly, instead, stop and look to get your bearings, then continue.
2.2 Practice a good sense of judgement
You know to be wary of strangers, but if you need help, you may have no other choice but to approach strangers. Shopkeepers are a good bet – they’re likely to be familiar with the area if you get lost.
You’ll make friends along the way too, especially if you stay at hostels where other solo travellers hang out. It’s nice to have company for meals or to share travel costs; just trust your gut feel.
2.3 Travel in the light
Make sure you are familiar with the route back to your hotel in the day before you venture out at night.
2.4. Watch how you dress
Don’t dress to attract unnecessary attention. #OOTD posts can wait till you’re home.
3. Your belongings
3.1 Take only what you can carry
If your travelling partner has always been the one in charge of the suitcases, make sure you bring along one that you are able to manage. Backpacks are great for travelling, by the way.
3.2 Find the perfect day bag
Try getting something that you can sling across from shoulder to opposite hip. Flimsy sling bags can be easily grabbed and backpacks, while comfortable and ergonomically the best choice, may be cumbersome when you have to reach your items.
4. You might get lonely so…
Join walking tours (google “free walking tours + city name”) – you’ll find out more about the city and possibly make some new friends. Frightened at sitting alone at a table during meal time? Opt to sit at the counter instead!
4. General reminders
4.1 Lay off alcohol
Sure, a glass of wine probably wouldn’t hurt. But if you’re a non drinker, it would be unwise to order a bottle of sake on your own.
4.2 Be alert
You are your own eyes and ears – don’t use your headphones when out and about.
4.3 Don’t put all your eggs in one basket
So don’t put all your money at the same place. Make copies of your passport as well
4.4 Register with your local authorities
If you are Singaporean, let the Ministry of Foreign Affairs know where you will be so that they can reach you in case of emergencies. Like political unrest or natural disasters for example.
A lot of this seems like common sense, but it’s easy to get clouded with excitement and forget some of these basic things. So, what’s it going to be, Sister? Mountains? Cathedrals? Rivers?
Safe travels to you, my friend 🙂