Travelling by yourself has a lot of perks. You can walk at your own pace, be totally spontaneous, and you get to be gloriously selfish and do whatever you want to do (‘cos there’s no one else around to judge you for blowing half of your budget on a trip to Legoland).
But solo travel has its downsides too. It can be lonely, your selfie arm can get tired ( I mean, you can ask strangers to take your photo but they don’t know your angles!) or just plain unsafe (we’ve all seen Taken, but not all of us have Liam Neeson as a dad).
But don’t let the fear of going solo deter you from living your best life. You just need to prepare a bit.
Here’s how to prep for a solo trip
1 Get some pointers from your friends
You can totally use your social media as a travel agent. Make a post on Facebook or Instagram saying ‘I’m going to Bangkok next month; who has been and can give me some tips?’. You might think people wouldn’t take time out of their day to share knowledge with you, but you’d be underestimating just how much people love to talk about their travels.
‘A good question to ask would be whether it’s safe to walk around by yourself’
Once they’ve replied to your post with their favourite places to go, slide into their DMs and ask some pointed questions. Solo travellers are at risk of being taken for a ride and paying way too much for cabs, hotels and experiences. Ask your NBF how much you can expect to pay for things like a night in a hostel or a taxi ride from A to B so that you have a vague idea of what to expect. Another good question to ask would be whether it’s safe to walk around by yourself, at night or in the day.
2 Overcome your solomangarephobia
Yes, there’s a name for the fear of eating by yourself in public. If you feel too self-conscious to go to a restaurant alone, you’re missing out. Just remember literally no one will be looking at you thinking ‘Wow, that’s so sad that she’s eating all by herself’. They’ll think ‘Wow, look at that confident woman who loves her own company’. Or, more likely, they won’t be thinking about you at all, soz.
‘Your waiter is an underrated undercover travel agent’
Pack a book and you’ll look sophisticated AF while you calmly enjoy the cheapest thing you could find on the menu. Also, your waiter is an underrated undercover travel agent. Ask them for tips of where to go and what to see.
3 Stay in a hostel
As a single person you are discriminated against by most forms of accommodation, because they charge per room. If you’re not splitting the cost then rather opt for hostels because they charge per bed and will save you a ton of money. The downside is you will be sharing a room with a few other travellers- but it’s also a great way to make friends with people from all over the world.
4 Go get a drink
This is the one time we would encourage drinking by yourself. If you’re feeling social, go to a bar, get a drink and position yourself near a chatty group of people who you like the look of. Make some casual eye contact, maybe throw a smile their way and if they’re friendly they might ask you to join them. Or take things into your own hands and ask if you can join them for a drink and get some tips on what to do in the area. Worst case scenario is they say ‘no’. If this happens you can just leave and literally never see those unfriendly people ever again.
5 Be safe
If you grew up in South Africa you probably know a lot of the safety measures one should take while travelling alone ingrained in you already. Like not walking around alone after dark, always locking your door and not flashing your valuables. These might be unnecessary in some countries but we’d rather be cautious than phoneless.
6 Take photos
Duh, you’re going to take a ton of photos to humble-brag about this trip to all your friends via Instagram. But you can also use your camera as a visual memo. Photograph posters of events that look cool, places along your drive or walk that you want to remember to check out another time, and landmarks to note in case you ever get lost.
7 Go to bed early
At home you might stay up until 11:30pm every night no problem, but while you’re travelling you need all the energy you can get. Rather wake up super early and carpe diem. By 9pm you’ll be too exhausted for your usual bedtime routine, but you can catch up on Netflix when you’re done travelling rather.
8 Find like-minded people
A quick way to make friends in a foreign city is by bonding over a mutual interest. If you’re into soccer go for a stadium tour, or if you’re crafty look for a sewing circle. Most art galleries and museums have a free tour a few times a day you could check out to connect with someone over your love of beautiful art and/or old things.
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