Over the last decade, the idea of traveling alone has gained steam. Thousands of solo travel blogs and Instagrammers entice others to follow suit in the nomadic lifestyle. At the same time, more flexible and affordable airline flight options exist than ever before, and the rise of Wi-Fi allows us to communicate from anywhere even if we’re without our normal cell service.

People venture solo because they prefer the freedom of traveling without a companion, or they want a new perspective on life or perhaps they don’t have anyone to go with — whatever the case may be, if you’re considering visiting a new country alone, consider these tips for a first-time solo traveler to ensure a safe, fun, and memorable experience.

Plan Ahead

Arriving at night in a foreign city can be an overwhelming experience, especially if you’re having trouble finding your accommodation. For these reasons, plan to arrive at your destination during daylight hours.

As a solo traveler, safety is a big concern, so do your research to make sure your lodging is in a safe neighborhood. If you’re staying at a hotel, scan the reviews on major travel sites like Expedia, Booking.com, and TripAdvisor to get a safety gauge for particular areas. If you’re staying at a hostel, then solo travel-oriented sites such as Hostelworld, LonelyPlanet and Solo Traveler will help give you an idea of what to expect before you arrive.

Print your flight and accommodation confirmations so you can quickly reference them if you’re lost, or to direct a taxi driver who doesn’t speak your language. 

Apps you should download:

  • Google Maps – Download maps of the area to use offline.
  • Google Translate – Translate words and phrases to navigate a foreign-language country on your own successfully.
  • Smart Traveler – Provides frequently updated official country information,
    travel alerts, travel warnings, maps, U.S. embassy locations, and more.
  • Couchsurfing – meet locals and other travelers and maybe find a free place to stay!

One man and two women stand in circle and have conversation outside.

Don’t Be Shy

Traveling solo can get lonely, so you’ll want to meet new people to make your trip more enjoyable. Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to strangers when you’re at a restaurant, on a tour, or in your accommodation.

When dining alone, sit at the bar and strike up a conversation with the bartender; they’re usually pretty chatty! Book group tours to be surrounded by like-minded travelers. If you’re at an Airbnb, hang out with the host. At a hotel? Hang out at the bar! For those that prefer hostels, you’ll be surrounded by other solo travelers in your room and the common areas. Most hostels also host social events, so don’t be shy and participate in as many as you can.

Make Smart Choices

Pickpocketing is common in many touristy cities so never have anything valuable in your pockets. Use a money belt worn under your shirt or invest in an anti-theft bag to carry your important documents. At your accommodation, lock up your belongings in the hotel safe, the hostel lockers, or even in your own suitcase with a zipper padlock.

Obvious, but necessary PSA: go easy on the alcohol. Even if you’re out with a group, you can’t trust that they’ll make sure you get home safe. Stay conservative and limit yourself to just a few drinks. If you’re out late or arriving at your destination after dark, splurge on a cab or Uber. Public transportation may be cheaper, but it’s not always the safest option. Educate yourself on taxi and Uber safety tips to help you identify legitimate ride service vehicles and ensure your security. Check for a meter and a driver ID badge in all taxis!

Don’t forget to keep your friends and family in the loop. Someone you trust should have your full itinerary or should at least know where you are staying and what your next destination is. If something were to go wrong, they can quickly raise the alarm and notify the proper authorities. It’s understandable to want your trip abroad to be zen and digital-free but maintaining a casual posting cadence will keep friends and family up-to-date on your whereabouts and well-being. The best way to stay in touch while overseas is with the Whatsapp or Facebook Messenger apps. You can send international messages for free while on Wi-Fi.

Person sits on bench in peaceful park in Hanoi, Vietnam

Enjoy Your Own Company

If you’re the type of person that is always around people, take advantage of your alone time on your trip. Read a book in a park, catch up on your journaling at a cafe, listen to podcasts during a train-ride, take up jogging or cycling to explore the area you’re visiting. There are so many things you can do alone that you probably don’t feel like you have time for at home. Use this solitude to start a new hobby or pick up an old one that you used to enjoy doing. Being alone isn’t a negative thing. To the contrary, it can be a disciplined way to change your mindset, learn something new about yourself and grow.

Whether you’re interested in trying something new, want more freedom on your vacation, or don’t have anyone to travel with, a solo trip may be exactly what you need. These essential considerations for first-time solo travelers — such as planning ahead, being social, and making smart decisions — will help you get the most out of your trip and keep you safe along the way.

Should you have a layover or need to recharge your energy along the way, we’ll be waiting with a flexible stay hotel room

Whether you partake in alcohol on your flight or not, there'll be a day use room to rest or recharge in the city you touch down.

Image Credits

“Young Woman Taking Urban Photos” by Wanaporn Yangsiri via Unsplash

“Young People in Conversation” by Alexis Brown via Unsplash

“Hanoi Bench” by Lukasz Saczek via Unsplash

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Julia Thompson

Julia is a corporate Account Manager turned Travel Writer. She spent 3 years in San Francisco as a Sales Rep for a tech startup before leaving the country to travel for a year on her own. She now owns a travel blog and works as a freelance writer for various clients.

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