I’ve traveled the world, usually without a partner. And I’ve found that this style of travel, more than any other, fosters an appreciation for place and community. Here are a few tips I’ve learned over the years to make the most of going it alone.
Locals and fellow travelers can be invaluable founts of knowledge. One of the best ways to connect with them is through single-friendly, social accommodation. Check out homestays for a true residential experience (and try to pick up some of the local language so that you can engage with your host). Hostels and guesthouses, where you’ll mingle with other like-minded travelers, are also great options and can be easier to coordinate.
If you’re out in a café, or maybe waiting for a bus, avoid fixing your gaze on your phone or book, as you may miss out on important interactions that could make your trip a whole lot more interesting.
When you travel solo, you need to become self-reliant, so get yourself organized well in advance with money, visas, and vaccinations, as well as travel insurance for any unfortunate eventualities. And book at least one or two nights’ accommodation for when you arrive at your destination, so you can land firmly on your solo-traveling feet.
Get clued up about your destination with advice from other solo female travelers on TripAdvisor or other forums, as well as female-specific safety tips on Smartraveller. Dressing appropriately to respect local customs is important in some countries to avoid offending anyone or drawing attention to yourself, so check your guidebook for details.
Leave a copy of your itinerary and travel documents with a friend or family member, and register your trip with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program if you’re in the U.S., Smartraveller in Australia, or the equivalent in your own country. Arrange to check in with a family member or friend on a regular basis, so that one person back home is always aware of your location.
This has never come naturally to me, but I do admit it makes sense, so I’ve refined my techniques over the years. To lighten your load, don’t pack heavy items, wear layers and convertible clothes, and leave one-time outfits at home. You’ll enjoy the benefits when your luggage doesn’t weigh as much and you’re jumping on and off airport buses or climbing stairs in accommodation where there’s no elevator (in Europe especially, where elevators are hard to come by). I also pack a comfy change of clothes for long-haul flights and wear my heaviest shoes on the plane to save baggage weight.
Conducting a bit of advance research on stuff you’d like to do and see at your destination will mean you won’t miss out on the important bits. However, don’t book out every minute of every day. You want to allow room for spontaneous outings, plus you won’t exhaust yourself by trying to do everything.