The art of solo travel: solo travel tips for exploring alone

The art of solo travel: solo travel tips for exploring alone

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05 November

Travelling with friends is fine, right up until you want to explore the bazaar while they prefer to spend the day by the pool. Or perhaps you’re craving the local cuisine, but your pal doesn’t share your taste for spice. That’s when you realise it’s time to take the plunge and try travelling alone for the first time.

Yes, it can be scary to get on that plane with no idea of who’ll be sitting beside you — but the life of a solo traveller is packed with amazing opportunities. Take a deeper look at your destination, make friends with locals and fellow travellers, and never compromise on what you want to do. Read on for solo travel tips that will help you make the most of your holiday, and you’ll soon realise that alone doesn’t have to mean lonely.

Make your bucket list

The single best piece of solo travel advice? Go where you want to go. This is your chance to set the agenda, and there’s nobody to nag you or storm off in a huff if you don’t agree about something. Before you set out on your first trip, put pen to paper. Do some research about the destinations you’d most like to visit. It’s worth thinking all the way back to childhood: was there a particular place that captivated your imagination? Great! Add it to your bucket list.

Once you’ve done that, it’s time to prioritise. Of the destinations on your list, which ones are must-sees? The world is a pretty big place, and time is limited. Most of us don’t get the chance to travel as much as we’d like during our lifetime, so ensure you don’t miss out on the destinations that make your heart flutter. Looking for inspiration? Check out the best travel destinations for 2024!

A person with a pen compiling a bucket list.

Safety first: how to travel alone without fear

It’s not the most exciting thing in the world, but before you set out on your solo trip, you’ll need to think about safety. Every smart traveller knows there are some basic precautions to take, and that’s particularly true when you’re travelling solo. Start by making sure that a trusted friend or family member has a copy of your itinerary. Let them know how often you plan on checking in. That doesn’t mean making an hour-long phone call every single day — but with today’s technology, regular communication has never been easier, so take advantage of that. You can usually buy a local SIM card at the airport when you first arrive at your destination, which will help you stay in touch with friends back home without needing to rely on Wi-Fi networks.

If it’s your first time travelling alone, it’s better not to stray too far off the beaten track. Choose a destination with decent tourist infrastructure, and you won’t need to get into any shady situations. Don’t worry — that doesn’t mean you have to stay locked up in a Disneyland hotel. Be smart, though. A popular destination like Thailand, Greece, or Australia is a much better choice for your first solo trip than, say, North Korea.

Staying safe means trusting your gut. Before you go, it’s a good idea to research taxis at your destination. In many places, you’ll find both official taxis and unofficial cabs, which may be operated by scammers. Don’t get into a vehicle if you’re not sure about it, and don’t be afraid to ask to see the driver’s taxi licence. One of the most important words to learn in the local language is “no”, delivered with a firm shake of the head.

Make friends on the road

Let’s continue to discover the best solo travel tips for your next trip! If you’re not a natural social butterfly, this might fill you with dread. However, holidays for solo travellers are a great way to shed your inhibitions and discover the confidence you never knew you had. You’re in a completely different environment, and nobody knows you. So, why not make the most of that and get chatting?

Staying in a hostel can be a good way to make friends, but do it the sensible way. Check online for reviews before you make a reservation, and don’t leave any valuables lying around while you’re in the shower. Hostels are often geared towards a younger crowd, so they attract a lot of students and backpackers. That might be just what you’re looking for, but if you’re not interested in all-night parties with the gap year crowd, then it’s better to try something different.

Travel groups for solo travellers are a fabulous way to explore, particularly if you’re feeling a little nervous. You’ll be surrounded by like-minded people who are all in the same boat. Solo group trips can take you to see the best sights and explore all that the destination has to offer while you make new friends along the way. In fact, you might just find that your next solo trip will be a holiday to visit your new travel buddies…

A group of people watching the sunset.

Learn the local language

Don’t panic! No one is expecting you to master German verbs, the Spanish subjunctive, or Chinese tones. In most parts of the world, there’ll be someone nearby with enough English to help you out — but you’ll get a more rewarding travel experience when you try to communicate with locals in their own lingo.

Just a few phrases are usually enough. If you can say “hello”, “goodbye”, “please”, and “thank you”, you’re off to a good start. A huge number of travellers never even bother to pick up these simple pleasantries, so just making a little effort will often be enough to endear you to the local people.

Remember, language is often non-verbal, too. Before you set out, it’s worth reading up on body language no-nos in your chosen destination. Eating with your left hand in Arabic countries, making the “OK” sign in Brazil, or beckoning with a finger in the Philippines can all be seriously offensive. An apologetic smile can help soothe a potentially awkward situation — and yep, you might want to add “sorry” to your local phrasebook, too.

Step outside your comfort zone

For many people, even the act of travelling solo is a big leap. This is the perfect opportunity to push yourself and discover another side of you. We’re not saying you have to bungee jump from the tallest building or throw yourself into white-water rafting (but hey, if you want to, solo group travel is a great way to try it out). Even if you start off with baby steps, use your solo trip to test your limits and try things you’d never do at home. More than just one of many solo travel tips, this should be a real mindset.

What does that mean? It’s different for everyone. Perhaps you’re not much of an adventurous eater at home — so go ahead and order the weirdest thing on the menu. Maybe you’re not comfortable haggling — well, there’s only one way to get good prices in the bazaar. It could be that you only ever stay in five-star hotels, but there’s something surprisingly charming about that run-down place with the flickering neon sign and 1980s decor. Is there a sport you’ve always been curious about but never wanted to try? Are you nervous about going out in public without shaving or wearing makeup? When you travel, you have the chance to reinvent yourself. Make the most of it.

Plan ahead…

When you arrive at your destination, you’re going to want to spend your days doing action-packed things, right? After all, if you were going to stay in the hotel bed watching Netflix, you could’ve stayed at home. Before you travel, do as much research about your destination as possible. Track down all those cool spots and make a list of the things you want to see, do, and eat. You may have to spend hours trawling the internet and checking out travel blogs to come up with ideas — but it’ll be worth it. Plus, it all helps build anticipation for your trip. This is probably one of the most important solo travel tips to keep in mind.

Make your itinerary by looking at the big-ticket items first. Some attractions will only allow advance bookings and may be sold out days or even weeks ahead of time. Others are best to book in advance, as there are usually long queues for same-day entry tickets. They should be your top priority. After securing your tickets, you can build the rest of your trip itinerary around these events.

Not much of a planner? That’s where group trips for solo travellers can be handy. They’ll take care of the tickets for you, giving you one less thing to worry about.

…but be spontaneous

If you travel with a totally inflexible itinerary, you might find that you miss out on special experiences. It’s important to give yourself some leeway, especially if you want to hang out with the new friends you’ve met along the way. You might want to plan a strict itinerary for some days — when you’re visiting something special like the Taj Mahal or Angkor Wat, for example — and give yourself room to go with the flow the rest of the time.

Be open to new ideas. If someone mentions an amazing waterfall that isn’t on your list or a local festival you haven’t heard of before, don’t be afraid to mix things up. Spontaneous decisions can often turn a simple trip into an experience you’ll never forget. Just make sure to pay attention to safety. If you decide to check out of your hotel and head to a city 300 km away because there’s a street vendor who makes the best green curry in the country, tell someone back home what you’re doing. You don’t need to tell them exactly why you’re doing it, but make sure they know your plans have changed.

Travel light

Here is another of the most fundamental solo travel tips: travel light! Now for something truly practical. When you travel alone, you’ve got no one to help you manoeuvre that giant suitcase off the conveyor belt and into the taxi — or, even worse, lugging it up two flights of stairs to your hotel room. You’ll either have to be dependent on the kindness of strangers or risk a hernia! Want to avoid that? There’s an easy solution.

Travelling light is always a good idea, but that’s particularly true when you’re alone. Remember, you probably don’t need as much stuff as you think. Check out the weather forecast for your destination, and don’t freak out if you have to wear the same shorts a couple days in a row. If you’re planning an adventurous trip, then you probably won’t need to bring your glam outfits. You might feel nervous about going to a nice restaurant in your travel gear, but here’s a secret: no one else is watching. Really.

What happens if you arrive and there’s a freak snowfall? Don’t worry. Other countries have shops, too. You can always buy an emergency coat or an umbrella if the need arises.

Travel solo and have the time of your life

Now that you’ve read up on how to travel solo and learned some important solo travel tips, you’re probably raring to go! If you’ve got itchy feet already, then check out WeRoad’s list of destinations. You’ll find solo group travel tours in countries all over the world, with something to suit every taste, budget, and level of comfort. Grab your backpack and get ready for the adventure of a lifetime.

Single person watching the sunset.
WeRoad Team
Written by WeRoad Team