TRAVEL TIPS 5: Flying Solo. Everything You Need to Know About Traveling Alone.

“To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world.”

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Travelling alone can seem daunting from the comfort of home. What happens if you get stranded somewhere? Can you go out at night solo? Won’t it feel weird to eat in a restaurant alone? All these worries and more (Will I get attacked by bandits? Or my car stuck in a ditch?) plagued to all first solo trip travellers.

You need not be an intrepid traveller to enjoy taking a vacation solo, nor do you need be part of a group tour to discover all the cool and exciting experiences that this great big planet has to offer. Regardless of gender, anyone can vacation alone and really enjoy it—in fact, sometimes even more so than when being tied to someone else’s agenda. You just need to follow some basic guidelines. So, gather your sense of adventure, and take that solo holiday!

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Numerous factors will help you determine where and when to travel solo. With thorough research, you can narrow down the many locations and types of travel to put together a trip that suits your needs perfectly.

Advantage of traveling alone: Traveling alone makes you more open to others, as well as more approachable to friendly locals and fellow travelers. You’ll meet people more easily and be invited into their lives more readily; you’ll avoid difficult travel companies and enjoy the freedom of making all the decisions. When you are alone you experience the world unfiltered by anyone else’s chatter or perspective.

There’s nothing quite like the freedom of exploring a new place on your own terms. Learn how to make the most of your next solo travel adventure with these tips:

A) WHERE TO START FROM?

1) DO YOUR HOMEWORK
Thanks to the Internet, it’s never been easier to preview a potential destination. But remember, official tourism websites have an objective to paint only the rosiest of pictures to attract visitors. If you want the real lowdown, a great source of information online is forums like TripAdvisor,WikiTravel. These are the best spots to receive in-depth information from locals about safety and culture, as well as to have your questions and concerns answered in an unbiased manner.

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2) CHOOSE FRIENDLY ACCOMMODATIONS
A five star hotel or chain hotel is not your best choice. When looking for accommodations, watch for words like “lively”, “friendly”, and “family-owned”. After reading your guidebook, double check the hotel onwww.tripadvisor.com and filter the reviews by solo traveler.

Look for room rentals in an apartment, which gives an automatic connection with residents. Even if your landlord doesn’t take you out on the town, you’ll at least scoop up a few local tips.

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Bonus: as a solo traveller, you have tons of options to choose from. Hostels are of course ready-made for solo travellers, but you might wind up spending more time with other tourists than with locals.

3) STAY CONNECTED
Look for warnings about destinations you are about to visit. You should also research reliable hotspots like Internet cafés close to areas you will be staying to ensure you can regularly connect with loved ones about your whereabouts and ongoing itinerary.

4) PACK SMART – BACKPACKERS!
When travelling solo make sure all of your essentials are in your carry-on in case your luggage gets lost. That means a complete change of clothes for hot, cold, and wet weather, walking shoes, medication, and all of your identification and important technology. Split up your cash and credit cards into different spots so if you lose one set you still have another. Dress for comfort and always have some emergency cash stashed on you.

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5) PACK A BOOK
A good book, a magazine or even just postcards to write or your travel journal to jot in – are all legitimate activities at a bar or restaurant if you get to feeling a little bored/lonely/exposed, so carry one of them with you at all times. And as a last resort there’s always fiddling with your smartphone.

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B) AT A DESTINATION

1) BE AWARE
Personal safety and protection of your valuables can be a big concern but needn’t be such a fear that you become paranoid. Don’t dress like an obvious “tourist” (fanny packs, cameras swinging, and home country flag patches) and don’t flash money, expensive technology or wear pricey jewellery. Be aware of your surroundings and stick to main roads and well-lit areas when possible, but walk with confidence and purpose if you end up in unsavoury locations.

2) BE CREATIVE
It’s prudent not to let strangers know you are alone. Little white lies are perfectly acceptable such as letting people think you’re waiting to meet someone until you’re sure they are trustworthy. You can also be creative in finding spots to stash stuff like hotel keys and cash when you must leave them unattended like when swimming at a pool or beach. Travel gadgets designed for this purpose are easily obtainable.

3) BEFRIEND PROFESSIONALS
Discover secret spots by getting to know local service people such as store clerks, hotel staff, security guards, taxi drivers, and servers. Tip generously to make a lasting impression. Travel writer Marcia Frost, owner ofWineAndSpiritsTravel.com says, “When I travel alone, I always eat at the hotel’s bar. Bartenders have the inside scoop on things to do, and you never really feel like you are dining solo when you have someone to talk to!”

4) OUT AND ABOUT LIKE THE LOCALS
It’s much easier to meet people if you use public transportation and stay in local homes, small inns, or bed-and-breakfasts. Don’t isolate yourself in a rental car or big hotel.

5) MEET PEOPLE
Vacationing alone is a great way to enjoy doing your own thing without restrictions, but eventually you might get lonely. A good way to meet people is to be a real “tourist” and join a group tour outing. Or seek out like-minded groups of locals that share a hobby you enjoy and attend one of their functions or go to a local church service of your faith. Having something in common is a wonderful ice-breaker.

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6) EAT BIG
You might be tempted to live on fast food, just to avoid awkward restaurant situations. Don’t. In fact, fancy establishments are fantastic places to dine alone. Waiters are happy to help solo diners who smile and say, “I made a special trip just to eat here. What do you recommend?” Social folks might want to eat at the bar, but there’s no shame in taking a table for two.

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7) BE ADVENTUROUS
Try things that really push you outside of your comfort zone, after all, you’re on an adventure! It doesn’t have to be something extreme like bungee jumping or dangerous like hand-feeding sharks. It could be as tame as singing karaoke at a local bar or taking a windsurfing lesson, as long as it’s something you’d never consider doing at home. You might be surprised to discover what you’re capable of when no one is watching.

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8) BE A GOOD SAMARITAN
No matter where in the world you go, helping hands are always needed. Whether it be opening a door, aiding the elderly, taking someone’s picture, or even going so far as volunteering at a soup kitchen, walking dogs at a local shelter or participating in a beach clean-up. Even the smallest kindnesses are appreciated and often lead to new friendships as well. So always be on the lookout for where you can help.

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9) AVOID UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS
If you’re not comfortable doing things on your own at home, then vacationing solo might not be for you. If you’re not sure, then you might first try being part of a group tour or cruise to see if you like it. Once you’ve tackled vacationing solo successfully, you’re sure to feel a renewed sense of confidence and pride you would never have had experienced had you not done it alone. Go for it!

10) GET AN EARLY START
If the thought of bar-hopping alone makes you die a little inside, just recast your day. Wake up early, enjoy a leisurely breakfast (when all the good stuff is still available on the hotel buffet) and head out for parks, museums and other daytime-only activities. If you pack your day full enough, you’ll be ready for bed by 9pm.

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11) REVEL IN IT
Even if you do get lonely, don’t lose sight of all the things you can do when you travel by yourself. But the real bonus of solo travel is much larger: pure freedom. You can take the exact trip you want, and even if you’re not quite sure yet what that might be, you’ll have a great time figuring it out.

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12) TAKE PHOTOS
Making photography a mission, even if it’s just little odd details you notice about a place, gives a little structure to your day. And you will notice more odd details, because you’ll have the time and attention to look around. Your friends at home will appreciate your perspective and the story that comes with it.

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C) SAFETY

There’s no reason to fear that you’ll be any less safe if travelling on your own – but it helps to follow a few tips for keeping safe.

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1) Avoid arriving at strange airports or stations late at night; get an official taxi to your accommodation.

2) Always let people know where you’re heading, e.g. your friends back home, via social media tools such as Facebook or Twitter, or the people at your accommodation.

3) Pre-book your first night’s accommodation. Ask at reception about any areas that you should avoid.

4) Store the phone numbers and addresses of your accommodation in your mobile phone.

5) Be open to new experiences, ideas and people (without losing your commonsense). But always trust your instincts. Smile!

D) 20 THINGS NOT TO FORGET:

1) Be flexible, it is the best way to adapt.

2) Start travelling when you are young.

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3) Learn the basics of the local language. Use them often. It is the best way to show respect, break down barriers and start conversations.

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4) Manners are universal, use them.

5) Don’t judge, instead say, “Isn’t that interesting? Tell me more.”

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6) Respect local customs. It is not about your way, you are the visitor.

7) Bargain, it is an expected part of a transaction. Do not over bargain. 50 cents is nothing to you, but may mean a days worth of meals to the person you are haggling with.

8) Party?? YES. Have fun?? YES. But do not go so far to extremes that it means you trash the local area and people die.

9) Leave a good impression of your culture on the countries you are visiting.

10) Have off the beaten path adventures and enjoy traveling to the touristy stuff too – just add a different angle to it.

11) Travel in a style that is in alignment with your values and suits your likes and interests. Ignore everyone else’s opinion.

12) Do as much local as you can: local food (eat street food), local transport, local accommodation.

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13) Smile. Smile. Smile and Laugh often 🙂 you’ll meet so many new friends this way.

14) Celebrate local customs and festivals with the local culture in their traditional manners.

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15) Learn about other religions, not necessarily to believe something new, but to understand and perhaps to bring light unto your own beliefs.

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16) Don’t rely on technology to help get you around, you will end up lost when the map app crashes.

17) Travel for longer in fewer places.

18) Don’t be afraid to blow the budget on those once in a lifetime experiences.

19) If you get robbed or bad things happen, don’t get hung up on it. As long as you are safe and well, let it go and continue to enjoy yourself.

20) Be prepared for reverse culture shock when you return home as it could really mess you up. (Hahahaha)

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Solo travel is easier than you think and it’s more rewarding and intense than daily life. Give it a try, it’s better than staying at home.

Do one thing each day that scares you and push those comfort barriers a little further out each time.

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