Solo travel – Frequently asked questions

Explainer:

“Going solo, doesn’t mean you’re alone!”

 I was fortunate enough to have travelled to over 50 countries by age 25, more than half of which I went to alone. I met a lot of amazing people along the way, who I now consider life-long friends and the experiences I had changed me for the better. Travelling solo made me grow. It also helped give me global perspective and made me more self-reliant and resilient. Choosing to travel solo doesn’t mean you don’t have friends, or that nobody wants to travel with you, travelling solo may just be an endeavour you wish to undertake in order to challenge yourself and experience things! And that’s ok! Friends and family are only a message or phone call away, and you can always take a flight back if you’re not liking the experience! But. You should give it a try. Solo travel is a powerful way to let your personality and thoughts have time absorb the world around you unfiltered. It’s a time for inward reflection and outward observation.

Note*

Calling or dialling 112 is for emergency services the world over. If you are ever in a truly serious situation and need help that may be an option.

Note*

At the end of this page are some simple ‘Tips’ to travelling solo which may help.

Frequently asked Questions:

Q1. Is it safe to travel solo?

  • Yes! If solo travel wasn’t safe, then so many people wouldn’t do it! Although it is important to remember that nothing is ever 100% safe or guaranteed. Travelling alone as a male is safer as compared to travelling alone as a female, sadly.  International 112 is the number for emergency services. If you’re in a very very serious situation you could always try and reach your embassy, but this would be for a last result like civil war or adverse weather event. Not to scare you! Just giving you some honest tips. On the whole though, travelling alone is very safe. You can also MITIGATE risk by avoiding certain situations. For example, don’t be walking home alone down a dark street at 2am with a lot of money on your person. Don’t go out and get so drunk that you ‘blackout’ or become incoherent or inebriated. Don’t get into cars with anyone pretending to be a ‘TAXI’. Don’t fall for scams and give strangers your bank details or phone number at random. A common-sense approach to situations and going off your ‘gut feeling’ is usually enough to keep you out of harms way. Be aware of different cultures and religions. South East Asia for example is very safe for younger backpackers, but even there you should never insult or speak ill of the Royal families, or photograph police. In the Middle East and Africa, you may be required to wear certain clothing or cover your skin. In some countries it is forbidden to drink alcohol. Knowing all these little quirks or asking along the way is the best way to adapt and stay culturally appropriate.

Q2. Will I get lonely?

  • Yes and No. There will be days when you meet people travelling and don’t feel alone at all. There will also be days when your completely looking after yourself and you wish you had someone around to share the experience with, or to help you through a stressful situation. Knowing that it’s OK to feel lonely and that the feeling of loneliness will pass, is a good way to adapt. Thousands of other solo travellers have been through this, your no exception! You’ll be ok! Push on, and let the good times roll.

Q3. How do I move around as a solo traveller?

  • Travelling solo on buses, trains, planes is still very similar to travelling in a group but it bodes well to make sure you keep your wits about you. Booking transfers can usually be done either online, at your hostel desk at a tour booking agent or at location (like at a bus depot for example).  Keep an eye on your luggage as much as possible and always double check that the bus or train or car your taking is going where they say they are going. If you are travelling alone in a car, make sure you have your phone with you and try to follow the route with GPS or maps on your phone. If you feel uncomfortable that where you are getting driven is “out of the way” make sure you say something to the driver, and if you feel very uncomfortable leave.
  • When getting into a taxi, bus or transfer try have your luggage within view. This means not putting your backpack in the boot of a car, and having it with you in the cab.

When moving between cities or arriving in a country, try and have your accommodation for the first night pre-booked. Having accommodation already lined up will save you having to work this out at the last minute when you arrive. Go onto hostel world or booking.com and find a hostel or some accommodation in preparation for when you land your flight or disembark your bus or transfer. Knowing where you will stay the night means you can plan: OK I arrive at the Bus terminal, I need to get 4km to my hostel which is in the centre of the city…. Or, My plane lands at 5pm. I should clear customs and be out of the airport by roughly 7pm. I will need to take a taxi to my accommodation. So, what is the taxi number? How much does it cost? Etc etc. Make a plan for when you arrive in a new city.

Q4. Should I buy a phone or buy a local SIM card? If yes, how do I do that?

  • YES. If you can it makes life a lot easier. For most backpackers a phone plan will be quite cheap compared to their home country. Getting a SIM card will mean you have data to use for maps and GPS which is very useful. It also means you can make calls to local operators like hostels, tour companies or bus companies.
  • The easiest place to get a phone SIM is at the airport. When you land in a foreign country there is usually a SIM card stand for you to use. If you are arriving via land, convenience stores like OWL, 7/11 or little corner stores, usually have SIM cards.

Q5. How do I get foreign currency?

  • This is best done in 3 ways. Firstly try and load your travel card up with some foreign currency. Secondly get some foreign currency at the airport. Make sure you check daily exchange rates with a quick google search to see if the rate is fair. Places to get foreign currency are:

– At the airport exchange

– At an ATM – You can use your bank card at foreign ATM’s. This usually incurs a small fee though.

– At currency exchanges in one of the cities in the country you are visiting.

Q6. How do I use foreign currency?

  • Check your conversion rate. This will be what your home currency equates to in foreign currency. For example 1 Euro may equal  = 15,000 Indonesian rupee.  So when you spend 30,000 rupee you should think ** “that is equal to 2 Euro’s”. Paying with foreign currency is the same as buying anything in your home currency, expect change if you pay cash!

Q7. What kind of bank card do I need?

  • A travel card is what you want. See your bank to see if they offer a travel card. Otherwise using a normal bank card will rack up HUGE bank fees. Every time you use a bank card to withdraw foreign currency you will also get a small fee deducted on top of the conversion. Make sure your bank travel card matches daily exchanges.

Q8. Is solo travel cheaper?

  • This is both YES and NO. If you wish to be a full shoe-string traveller, than travelling alone means you can be as budget as you want. But sometimes there are times when travelling in a group or with a friend or partner is cheaper.

 For example;

Accommodation: Sometimes it is cheaper to split a private room between two people than it is for the cost of two dorm beds. EG a dorm bed may be $12 a night but a private room $20 per night, making it $10 each.

Tours: Some tours are cheaper in pairs. You can split the cost.

Transport: Taxis for example are cheaper when split.

Q9. Where do I leave my bags when I need to use a bathroom, or check in somewhere? How can I make sure my bags are safe if I need to leave them unattended?

  • This one is a little tricky, its best to always use your judgement in a situation to gauge whether or not you are comfortable leaving your bags. For example: If you are on a busy street with hundreds of people walking past, should you leave your bags alone to go use the bathroom? No. I would take my bags with me, or go to  small restaurant and either ask the owner to mind my bags for a minute while I use the restroom, or I would order a coffee and ask them to watch my bags.

** Buy bag locks for your baggage to lock your backpack zips, or to be able to lock your baggage in lockers at hostels.

Q10. Is travelling solo less enjoyable?

  • Not at all! As mentioned before there may be moments when you feel a little lonely, but solo travel is extremely enjoyable. You will more often find that locals and strangers talk to you when you’re a solo traveller, and people are more willing to invite you to sit with them, dine with them or join them on tours as they know what it’s like to be alone. Solo travel is still incredibly rewarding and enjoyable.

Q11. Will I meet more people travelling solo?

  • In a short answer YES. More locals, other travellers and people are likely to approach you as someone who is travelling solo and invite you to sit with them, dine with them or join them on an adventure. Being open to new conversations, and open to new experiences will mean you find yourself immersing with more and more people. Being a bit of  YES man definitely helps! But also keep your wits about you and make sure you judge each situation you get yourself into carefully.

Q12. Is travelling solo a more ‘authentic’ experience?

  • YES. This answer is open to discussion though, it entirely depends on the WAY you travel. Will you talk to locals? Wil you get off the beaten path to go to quieter or lesser known places? Will you be open to new experiences like homestays or treks or adventures? If you allow yourself to IMMERSE in the new culture than travelling solo allows you the flexibility to have an authentic experience which is all you own.

Q13. What if I get sick travelling solo and need support?

  • If you feel yourself getting sick it is usually beneficial to get yourself a private room in a hostel. This will mean you can rest easier and can also have a private toilet or shower to use if your are embarrassed or nervous. In some foreign countries like Asia for example, there is usually strong over-the-counter medication for small ailments like stomach upset or cuts and stings. If your sickness is beyond that, notify your hostel and let them know and they may be able to get you to hospital or to see a local doctor.

Q14. How does travel insurance work for a solo traveller?

  • It’s the same as normal! Just make sure your travel insurance covers you for the entire dates your away, and covers the activities you will be doing. If your skiing for example some insurance companies don’t cover snow sports. Or if you ride a motorbike without a license, you wont be insured in case of an injury or accident. So always read your policy.

Q15. How do I get visas to foreign countries?

  • This will differ depending on your nationality. Some nationalities do not need visas to enter counties, and can get a Visa On Arrival. Honestly the most reliable thing to do is check your home nationalities government website for advice on getting visas to foreign countries. Otherwise a google search has never failed me!

Q16. Where are some good places for solo travel?

  • South East Asia in my personal opinion is the best place to do an introductory solo travel. It’s cheap, there’s lots of other travellers, there’s lots of tours to do and its easy to get to-and-from cities and locations.

Q17. How long is a good amount of time to travel solo my first time?

  • This is up to you! I would say one month is a long enough trip to give you adequate time to feel like you are really immersed in the experience.

Q18. What do I pack?

  • This depends on what climate the countries you are going to, and what you will be doing. But the bare basics are: Passport, bank card, Identification, 3x T shirts, 2x shorts, 1x long pants, 1x sweater, 1x rain jacket, a hat, sunglasses, phone, international charger, 1x sneakers, 1x sandals, 3x socks, underwear, toiletries and that’s pretty much the basics and your good to go!

What are some other trips to solo travel?

  1. Always check your travel insurance is in date and covers you for what youre doing.
  2. Always make sure you have a visa
  3. Pre-print your flight tickets and necessary paperwork for easy transit
  4. Keep roughly $50 USD in cash for visas or complications at border arrivals
  5. Try and always keep your phone charged. Especially when moving between cities, as you may need to use maps, or make calls or book buses, trains or taxis.
  6. Get an international charging port to charge your phone or laptop.
  7.  When going to a new city, try and always have your accommodation Pre-booked, and work out how you will get there. For example: If your flying to Kathmandu Nepal, book your accommodation for the night you arrive. Also find out how to get from the airport to your accommodation, how far it is, and how much a taxi should cost. A little bit of pre planning while in ‘transit’ goes a long way.
  8. Try and make friends you can rely on – If your in a hostel it’s a great idea to find other travellers you can rely on.
  9. Don’t tell others what valuables you have in your bag or backpack
  10. Don’t leave your Passport or expensive electronics open in your bag or within view, this also includes in hostel dormitory rooms.
  11. Use lockers and bring a padlock with you to be able to secure your baggage
  12. Try not to be walking home alone late at night
  13. Try not to get very drunk on a night out without anyone you know around.
  14. Do not walk around with lots of money in cash on you
  15. Don’t mock or ridicule royal families or the government in a foreign country, this could end you up in jail.
  16. Never burn foreign money – this could end you up in jail
  17. In some countries certain dress and clothing standards must be adhered to
  18. In some countries drinking alcohol is illegal.

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2 thoughts on “Solo travel – Frequently asked questions”

  1. My mother travelled to Norway alone aged 75 a few years back. Her previous travel experience was New Zealand 1984 on a bus tour with family.
    We did not worry about her. She is an adult and despite detesting mobile phones carried it on her. Never used it once!
    She did not have to fit in with others tastes and likes. She saw what she wanted to and roamed the countryside.
    If you enjoy your own company and like your independence are you really alone? I think people see it as being lonely.

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