Another British winter is predictably dragging its feet, and with every day which doesn’t bring sunshine and good times, yours are getting a little more itchy. You’ve hovered over the ‘buy tickets’ button too many times for this to be a phase and you’ve got familiar with all the local insider knowledge on software like the eDreams travel app; the problem though, is finding an equally adventurous companion to match that intrepid fire which burns inside you.
The answer, it seems, is to go solo. There are plenty of pros and less cons to operating unescorted, unburdened and unleashed, but this approach does demand a little know-how, a touch of streetwise sensibility, if it’s to be truly rewarding. We’re here to help, so here are 10 IDEAL tips for getting the most out of solo travelling.
KEEP ALL OF YOUR TRAVEL INFORMATION AT HAND AND IN ONE PLACE
Clutter and endless paperwork is a pain in all walks of life, but when you’re travelling and trying to forget bureaucracies’ toils, the annoyance of losing important forms and information is amplified tenfold. It’s a good idea, then, to have all your travel information (flight times, hotel addresses, maps…..) stored in one place. There are plenty of apps available which can do this, and with reminders and updates sent to your phone, there won’t be any nasty surprises if schedules change.
BE BUDGET SAVVY
Planning, preparation, strategy and foresight; not exactly words which chime with the spontaneous, carefree approach you’re hoping for. But realistically, a little planning before you set off goes a long way, and this is especially true for budget. You won’t have old friends at your side ready to lend you a couple of crumpled notes for another round of beers, so it’s good to have a financial foundation set out, however boring that may sound. Have a weekly – even daily – spend in mind, and stick to it. Also, bear in mind the plethora of money saving travel tips out there to help you get the most bang for your buck.
ARRANGE APPROPRIATE ACCOMMODATION
Where you stay, both in terms of location and accommodation type, will have a huge impact on your experience as a solo traveller. Try to arrange somewhere in the thick of things, preferably walking distance from lively spots where you’ll be likely to meet people. Also look into places which are solo-traveller friendly, such as backpacker hostels; these places tend to arrange group events and generally have a really inclusive, friendly vibe.
Solo travelling is an adventure, and in the process stuff will inevitably get lost, broken and occasionally lent and not returned. Them’s the breaks and it’s part of the experience. Unfortunately, not having companions means you won’t be able to share that phone charger of theirs after breaking yours, or use a friend’s laptop to skype after you’ve left yours on the bus to Goa. So, it’s a good idea to carry reserves of the things you need everyday; a back up charging lead, a substitute old phone, a second bank card…..you get the picture.
We can’t express how much of a difference this makes. When travelling alone you want to be super flexible, super flighty and not burdened by loads of ‘stuff’. Restricting yourself to one bag is liberating both for your back – less weight to carry, of course – but also for your mind, as there’s less stuff to worry about keeping an eye on. Without friends by your side to pitch in with the carrying and the looking after of your possessions, it’s essential to keep things on the light side. After all, you’re in this to collect memories, not things, right?
….. AND TRAVEL LESS OFTEN
There is so much to be said for limiting the amount of sites and cities you see, in favour of really getting to know somewhere, inside out. We here at IDEAL would much prefer to get installed in a city and unearth the best bars, street food joints, coffee shops, gig venues and galleries, than to be on the go constantly, never enjoying a place anymore than superficially.
BECOME A REGULAR
What’s more, when travelling solo, one of the best ways to integrate and socialise is by becoming a regular somewhere. Eat that bowl of pho at the same Hanoian shop a few days in a row, or drink your pisco sours in the same streetside bar in Lima a few times, and soon you’ll have made friends with the shopkeepers and patrons, both.
LEARN A LITTLE OF THE LOCAL LINGO
Making friends with fellow explorers is great, and part of the reason you’re out here on your own, but don’t just cosy up with other travellers for the duration of your trip or you risk missing out on seeing the ‘real’ culture of the country you’ve chosen. Instead, learn a few phrases – some polite, some playful – of the local lingo to help you integrate with the people of the city; people who may well offer to show you around.
BE OPEN TO CHANGE
Having a plan and a schedule is great as a solo traveller, as it gives purpose and meaning to your trip. What’s really important, though, is not to be too rigid in sticking to this plan. If you’ve met some great people who’ve invited you along to see the local temples, do it! Perhaps you’ve been invited to a local’s house for dinner with their family; you’d be crazy to pass up the opportunity! So, be open to making changes to your carefully laid plans, and you’ll end up having a much more rewarding time.
Finally, a word on safety. A good mantra to follow when travelling alone is both to ‘trust no one and trust everyone’. Apply a little caution to every situation but don’t let worries about safety hold you back from enjoying the experience of solo travel to the full. Remember; every city has safe and dangerous areas, and a little common sense goes a long way.
Happy travelling and don’t forget to send a postcard!