Master the entry requirements to your chosen destination BEFORE you leave. This is something you need to check sooner rather than later. Some countries require Visa’s which involve a complex application process and a timely response, whilst some can be instantaneous. Either way, in some countries without one, you won’t be travelling anywhere. I rocked up to the US a few years ago a naïve first time solo traveller – without a Visa or an ESTA (approval for a visit lasting 3 months or less). As a result I was frogmarched through security and questioned as to my intentions, relationships and whether I had a fondness for weapons, things that go bang etc. Whilst another security officer ran a criminal background check on me. I was told if I failed their checks then I wouldn’t be going anywhere. I was thousands of miles from home and on my own. I’m not quite sure how I didn’t have a breakdown there and then. Thankfully I was deemed innocent enough to enter the great U.S of A, so I left the holding area as quick as I could and had a little cry over my enormous stupidity in the toilets. Needless to say since then, I have checked for Visa requirements prior to every trip I make.
It’s better to be safe than sorry. When you book flights, hotels or holidays most sites will ask you to provide an additional point of contact. Make sure you do. In case anything (god forbid) should happen to you. I always provide my parents details and ensure that someone back home knows where in the world I will be and when. Flight times, arrival times, hotel/hostel address. As much as the world is out there to be enjoyed, nothing and nowhere is 100% safe.
Comfort zone, what comfort zone? Push yourself. Some trips are a once in a lifetime opportunity. Whilst you may be umming and ahhing about whether to do that skydive, go off the beaten track to see that mountain, or swim with sharks/dolphins/turtles this may be your only chance to do it. Unless you’re a frequent flier to Asia, Australia, South America or wherever it is you may be going, you can’t just pop back whenever you feel like it.
There is no such thing as feeling awkward. If you’re travelling el solo, then you can’t be shy about striking up a conversation. Otherwise it will be a pretty lonely trip and you’ll only have yourself to talk to (unless you’re into that sort of thing). So get talking. If you’re staying in hostels then this won’t be a problem as you will meet so many people without needing to try. However, if slumming it in hostels isn’t your thing but you still want to socialise, it’s up to you to make that happen. When I first went to NY I was out for dinner and a few drinks – yep on my own (be brave people). Two girls, similar in age to me were meeting up after work for drinks and sat next to me. I listened for a while and then joined in the conversation and introduced myself. Several hours (and drinks) later I eventually headed back to my hotel. We swapped numbers, added each other on fb and kept in touch. In fact when I went back to NY a few months later, I hung out with them again.
|Get money smart. I was a bit wary about travelling with a huge sum of cash, especially as a young female on her own. I would have been a self-promoting target if I just handed out bundles of cash here and there. I found the best thing to do was invest in a cash currency passport. These are basically like debit cards with a chip and pin, but in the currency of your choice. I ordered mine online from mastercard (for free) and it arrived in a matter of days. You simply create an account online, choose which currency you wish to use and transfer however much you want from your bank account. Ta-Daaa instant currency.|
Insurance is always worth it. Especially if you are travelling on your own. Should you lose your luggage, your bankcard, you miss your flight, or should any other misfortune occur, then you’re covered. If you’re on your own you won’t be able to just borrow your mate’s phone if you’ve lost yours or have them lend you a bit of cash. There is no-one there to fall back on, except… insurance.
People will doubt you, it’s up to you to prove them wrong. When I announced to family and friends that I was going to travel a bit this year, their first comment wasn't 'good for you', or 'where are you going?', it was always 'who are you going with?'. Why was it customary that I had to travel WITH someone? When I announced my intentions to go solo, instead of support I was met with 'won't you get bored?', 'Alone? Really? Why?' and ‘you should be terrified going on your own’. Thankfully I chose to ignore these people’s presumptuous thoughts and after coming home and sharing some of my experiences, people started to realise their pre-judgements of solo-travelling were actually wrong. Firstly they saw that I met people (so no I was not lonely), I made friends (again, not lonely), I was not mugged or murdered (I feel like I may be tempting fate by saying this) and I had fun!
On the other hand sometimes people do give good advice, so listen up and don’t think you know it all. This doesn’t necessarily have to relate to solo travelling in particular, it can just be things to think about if you’re on the move and away from home. For example, packing to go to North America in Feb, I packed some killer outfits, think ripped skinny jeans, heeled ankle boots, leather jacket – basically all clothes inappropriate for inches of snow and minus temperatures. My Mum told me – ‘It will be freezing. You need to pack practically not fashionably.’ Did I listen? No. Was she right? Yes. Upon arriving in Montreal it was -11 °. I spent the entire week wearing the leggings under my ripped jeans, I bought knee high socks from the nearest CVS and all my outfit planning went out the window, as anything I wore was covered by a giant khaki parka. Mother 1 – Hayley 0.
Research the area. If you’re travelling alone, you may want to give more consideration to where you will be staying and in what part of the city. I did this half-heartedly when I went to Rome and I soon realised that was a mistake. I stayed quite central and on the main roads so I didn’t have to wander off the beaten track. The hotel I stayed in was lovely and the main train station was just round the corner so good transport links. Now having the station so close was great during the day, but not so much at night. One evening I thought I’d do the quick walk from the station to my hotel. No biggie. Except I was offered drugs by about 3 different people and I passed a man lying unconscious in the middle of the pavement. He wasn’t a tramp asleep, sheltering in a doorway of some building. He was lying on his back in the middle of the busy pavement and everyone was just stepping over him like he didn’t even exist. Apparently drug dealings and unconscious/potentially dead people is a common occurrence near the Termini at night.
But do take reviews of hotels/hostels/places to visit with a pinch of salt. What might be fantastic for you might not be someone else’s cup of tea. There will always be conflicting reviews as everyone has different tastes and preferences. Some people just have very high standards – I know a woman that will not go anywhere which is less than a 4 and a half star and where a porter won’t carry her luggage. Some people want the loud and boozy atmosphere rather than a quiet little get away. From my own experiences any hotel that is 3* and up is more than likely to be clean with friendly staff. In fact sometimes the more you pay the ruder the staff can be!
What are you trips for travelling solo? Anything I need to take on board for my next trip? Have you travelled solo before?