20 tips for solo travellers

Our latest guest post is by Janice Waugh, publisher of Solotravelerblog.com, the blog for those who travel alone. She is also moderator the Solo Travel Society on Facebook which has over 8,000 members. She has been a go-to person on solo travel for CNN, the Oprah Blog, the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, LA Times and more. A solo-travel specialist, Janice is also the author of The Solo Traveler’s Handbook which is now in its 2nd edition.People are travelling solo more and more. It’s safe and makes your trip just that, yours. You do what you want when you want. Follow these tips to have a great time.

1. Plan in advance

Do some advance planning. You don’t need a detailed plan but you should know, for the first night at least, where you’re going to stay. Book your hostel before you leave.

2. Pack light
Pack light so that you can manage your luggage by yourself with ease. One carry-on, a suitcase or backpack, should suffice whether you’re out for one week or three.

3. Try to arrive during the day
Plan to arrive during daylight so you’re not trying to find your way through an unfamiliar city in the dark.

4. Mix with others
Connect with other travellers. The common rooms and lounges of hostels are great places meet short-term friends as well as pick up excellent travel advice.

5. Meet the locals
Connect with locals. Many cities have free local tour guides but you can also connect with a local through sites like Meetup.com and 5W – Women Welcoming Women World Wide.

6. Watch the world around you
Take the time to observe how people interact, and how things work. While sitting at a sidewalk cafe, on a park bench, or just killing time you can learn how to use public transit, whether to pay your bill at your table or at the counter, how to tip or how to hail a cab and much more.

7. Open up!
Learn how to talk to strangers. Smile and start a conversation. Be curious and ask open-ended questions and follow-up questions.

8. Go out and enjoy yourself
Go out in the evenings. Go to pubs and bars and grab a seat at the bar. Go to concerts and the theatre. It’s all possible solo.

9. Don’t be put off by dining alone
Enjoy dining alone. Go to restaurants with communal tables or counters. Ask a local to order for you to start a conversation.

10. Sign up for courses
If you’re in one place for a while, connect with others by taking language or cooking classes. Whatever interests you. Also, visit the same café, fruit stall…every day and get to know the people.

11. Get off the beaten track
If you want to meet other travelers, go off the beaten path. Travelers that find each other where there are few tourists are more inclined to talk to each other. Plus, you will likely have something in common.

12. Go on organised tours
Break up long trips with organized tours. You’ll enjoy the company and a chance to let someone else take care of all the details.

13. Always have the essentials
Carry the essentials with you when you head out for the day. Have the name of the place you’re staying on a piece of paper in the local language. Have a copy of your emergency contacts and your documents on you.

14. Store important items in one place
Always keep your most important items in the same place and have a simple check. For me it’s passport, wallet, camera and phone. Those are the items I check when I feel the need.

15. Take your own photos
Learn to take your own photo. Your friends will be far more interested in your photos when you return if there are pictures of you amongst them.

16. Save on phone charges
Consider buying an unlocked cell phone so that you can buy a SIM card for your phone in each country as you travel. This will save you lots of money.

17. Use Skype
Load Skype onto your phone so that you can connect with friends and family for free when you have access to the Internet.

18. Take advantage of other useful apps
Download useful apps to your phone such as a GPS, a translator, a currency converter and some travel guides.

19. Avoid dark alleys
Know the value of being seen. A public place is always safer than a private place.

20. Trust your instinct
Be aware of your surroundings and listen to your gut. If something doesn’t seem right, leave.

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