The solo travel survival guide: quick tips

02 Oct 2019

From choosing your accommodation to staying safe while navigating a new country alone, there’s a range of things you need to consider when planning to travel solo.

Organising a solo trip isn’t that dissimilar to planning a holiday with friends or family. You’ll still need to find suitable accommodation, work out how to get from the airport to your destination and do a little research into what exciting things you can see and do while you are there. But being alone means you have total control over all of these elements.

To help you prepare, here are some quick solo travel tips that will help you get the most out of your adventure.

Tips for planning a solo trip

Tips on accommodation

Tips for staying safe

Tips for saving money while travelling

Tips for blending in

Tips for socialising

How to pack for your solo trip

Tips for dining alone

Tips for making the most of your trip

Tips for planning your first solo trip

  • Find out the average daily rate for expenses such as accommodation and food from a travel guide such as Lonely Planet. This will help you create a budget
  • When booking flights, try to avoid arriving in a new destination at night. You’ll feel safer finding your accommodation in the day and can spot landmarks to help you find your feet
  • Organise transfers to and from the airport to your accommodation before you arrive.
  • Research the best attractions near your location and map out how far away they are from each other to plan your day
  • Email yourself your passport details and a backup of all the important travel documents
  • Check in online before to save time at the airport and to make sure your flights are confirmed

Tips for choosing solo accommodation

  • Shop around online to avoid or reduce any single supplements. for more advice
  • Use Google Map’s street view function to view your accommodation to check if the neighbourhood is in a good, well-lit area
  • Choose accommodation close to plenty of attractions or amenities such as a supermarket within walking distance
  • If you are a woman travelling alone, consider a female-only dorm room
  • Use trusted accommodation reviews on websites such as TripAdvisor to find a suitable hotel
  • Choose accommodation with free Wi-Fi so you can check in with friends and family regularly

Carolyn Pearson, founder and CEO of Maiden Voyage, adds:

"To help to safeguard yourself during your stay, book hotel rooms above the ground floor, request a non-adjoining room, request two room keys and book under an initial and surname so your gender cannot be identified. Take a door wedge or door jammer to secure your hotel door and challenge any staff members who announce your room number out loud -- don’t be embarrassed to request another room."

Tips for staying safe when travelling alone

  • Don’t tell strangers where you’re staying
  • Trust your instincts. Don’t be afraid to say no to things you’re uncomfortable with
  • Split your money across several travel cards in several places such as on your person, in your toiletries and in the side pockets of your bag
  • Don’t lose sight of your belongings, especially in busy areas
  • Know where the nearest hospital and police station are
  • Check and make a note of the number of the British embassy
  • Don’t leave your drinks unattended or accept free drinks from strangers
  • Try to avoid sitting alone on public transport; sit near a family if possible

Carolyn Pearson continues:

"From a safety perspective, remember that some countries have different legal, cultural and social attitudes to women so do your homework, understand the local rules and make sure you adhere to the local dress codes."

Tips for saving money while travelling solo

  • Travel out of peak season. There will be fewer crowds and you’ll enjoy a cheaper rate
  • Instead of booking flights, see if it's cheaper to get there by rail, boat or bus
  • Make sure you have an international phone plan to avoid roaming charges
  • Take public transport when available, or walk if it's practical and safe to do so
  • When shopping for souvenirs, clothes or food, try haggling for a lower price.
  • Find free activities where just gratuity is encouraged
  • Sample street food instead of going to restaurants
  • Choose a room with a kitchenette so you can make small meals instead of eating out
  • Bring a refillable water bottle with a filter to use instead of buying bottled drinks 
  • Book your flights with a perks credit card to earn air miles
  • If you’re in a busy city, buy an attraction pass to enjoy a better rate at museums

Tips on how to not look like a tourist

  • Map out your route in the hotel or café before you head out, so you can put your phone away in busy places
  • Learn a few common phrases to help you navigate the area
  • Dress appropriately; try to wear clothes similar to those the locals wear
  • Take a smaller day bag and carry the rest of your belongings in a bag from a local supermarket
  • Walk as if you know where you’re going, even if you get lost

Gemma Thompson, solo travel specialist from GirlsThatTravel, adds:

"Researching the local culture is also a must, you want to know any social etiquette in advance so you can fit right in and not worry about offending anyone or turning up to a temple in short sleeves!"

Tips for meeting new people when travelling

  • Be proactive
  • If you’re feeling lonely, stay in sociable places such as hostels or bed and breakfasts
  • Be interested in the local culture, cuisine and etiquette and ask questions
  • Join an organised group tour
  • Find like-minded people in online communities on social media such as these, before you arrive
  • If you’re in a city, join a walking tour
  • Keep the conversation light; talk about your own culture and ask about theirs

Tips for holiday packing

  • Leave your valuables at home
  • Take photocopies of your passport, travel documents and insurance policy as backups. Leave these in a secure hotel safe
  • Bring an address book of loved ones’ details just in case you were to lose your phone and highlight emergency contacts
  • Buy a day bag that can cross over your body to protect yourself from thieves who may try to grab and go
  • Don’t overpack. Ask yourself if you really need that item before packing
  • Rolling your clothes will save space in your suitcase

Elaine Hopkins, solo traveller, adds:

"Pack as lightly as possible. You need to take account of health and safety issues. Travelling by yourself means you won’t know anyone, so you can drop all pretence of having to be or dress a certain way. Remember that, if you pack with a 'What if?' mentality, you’ll be toting around a load of exotic electrical appliances and medicaments that you’ll never use. Regard packing as a mini-decluttering exercise."

Tips for dining solo

  • Enjoy a meal with a local family; you can organise this through a dedicated guide company
  • If you don’t want to eat alone, eat at the bar for the company of the staff
  • Eat early to avoid the crowds
  • Take a book or study the route of your next destination to stay occupied
  • Bring refreshments with you for long journeys, but be sure to follow the local dining etiquette. For example, in Japan, it’s considered rude to eat on public transport

Tips for making the most of your solo travel

  • Stay in unique accommodation -- from igloos to zoos, there’s a whole world of weird and wonderful places to rest your head after a long day
  • Join an organised excursion
  • Put the map away and follow your feet – you never know where you may end up
  • A hop-on, hop-off bus is great for getting your bearings in a new city
  • From skydiving to white water rafting, try something you’re afraid of
  • Take photos and videos and back them up on the cloud, just in case you lose your phone
  • If you don’t like taking photos and videos, keep a journal or update a travel blog
  • Become an early riser to make the most of your time

If you’re ready to plan for your solo adventure, find your perfect break here with our solo traveller deals.

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