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My Top 10 Solo Travel Tips for First timer’s

I love travelling and discovering new cities around the world.  Over the years, I have traveled with friends and family and on several occasions by myself. See, I am not a loner; I love being around people, among friends. I love having laughs and creating memories with loved ones, but the truth is that this may not always be possible. I used to find alone time to be empty, but over the years, I’ve learnt to enjoy my own company.

I love this quote ‘ The man who goes alone can start today, but he who travels with others must wait till that other is ready”. 

Alone time is about self-discovery, its challenging, liberating and beautiful, and – above all – you get to do precisely what you yourself want, when you want it! Don’t let the idea of travelling alone stop you from living out your dream.  Here are some tips that I wish to share with you, based on my years of experience travelling solo.

1.Immediately you arrive in a foreign country, buy a local SIM card and data to ensure that you are always connected.  This will also help access useful apps like your language translator apps, maps etc … not to mention that you are immediately able to be in contact with friends and family at home. Top tip when you get your local line is to make sure you know the local authority emergency numbers and have them on speed dial.

2.Whenever I arrive at my hotel or apartment I like to ask employees for tips on what to do in the area, note them down and spend time researching them over and above what is already in my itinerary.  Not only should you ask for the good but also find out what scams to look out for and which areas and places to avoid.

3. Plan well. I like to spend my evenings preparing my activities for the next day. Check the transportation schedules, purchase tickets, be well versed with the areas you will be visiting via the maps. Check if you can use your credit card or would need to bring some cash with you. If you are doing this with a tour agency, they may be able to help with the pre-planning or answer any questions you may have on site. When all the planning is done, make sure you wake up early to make the most of each day.

4. For safety purposes I always let a family member know my whereabouts and phone number.  And when I go out I make sure to have some form of Identification and a copy of my visa, if I have one, on me. Carrying an emergency card with pertinent details like an emergency contact back home, my travel and medical insurance card, contact details of my local embassy and hotel is a critically important precaution. I also try to write these details down in the native language of the country I am in. With every interaction you make have your wits about you and trust your instincts.

5. Make the best out of contacts with the locals. I use social media a lot to reach out to local creatives like bloggers, photographers etc. prior my travel. Creating these connections while I travel ensures that I am in the company of peers who share the same aspirations as I do. I have made some beautiful long lasting friendships with local photographers while I travel, and these friendships have bred fun collaborations on the content that I share with you online. Trust a local to show you around to the cool photo spots.

6. Travelling to an unfamiliar place can leave you feeling vulnerable, so before I book a place to stay, I always ensure that I do some research on both the apartment or accommodation and the neighborhood, and ultimately choose to stay in a place with positive ratings. Such information will give you an idea of what to expect, and the peace of mind you achieve is definitely worth the effort.

7. Dressing appropriately is not only critical for your safety in some parts of the world, but it is also respectful to the local traditions and religion. In most Muslim and African countries, wearing very short or tight clothes could get you in trouble, whereas you can get away with a super mini dress in touristic places in Bali or Bangkok. Although overly skimpy clothing is not my style, I still like to research on what is appropriate to wear before packing. It’s always safe to be modest. I learnt this once when I wore a short dress in Rwanda to visit the city Centre. It was so bad!  The cat calling, the stares and whispers were just too much, so I ended up buying stockings.

8. Make an effort to learn a bit of the basic lingo.   “Hello, thank you, please, my name is.., do you speak English, could you please take my photo…” are just some of the important phrases that you will need. I use my language translation apps a lot but I find that locals like to see that you have made an effort even when your accent may be rusty. It made me smile each time when the locals in Thailand would gently repeat what I said – clearly trying to correct my pronunciation. It was a great ice breaker at the start of a conversation. I try to approach everyone cautiously and with a smile – and who knows, you may even make a new friend. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people – The truth is there are more good people in this world than there are bad.

9. Safety first – part of my favorite ways to explore new cities is by partying in discotheques, bars and night clubs. Going out alone in a new city is obviously a cause of concern. So like the accommodation I choose, I like to check for prior reviews and make sure I can organize a taxi back to my room for the night.  Some hotels will have taxis that can drop you and pick you up. You certainly don’t want to be looking for a taxi at 2 am in the morning, so always plan your transportation beforehand.  Enjoy the music, feed off the energy and vibe but go easy on the drinks – stay sober to be able to make the best and safest decisions. 

10. Be sociable and strike up a conversation with the hotel staff, the people in the tour group, the waitress at the restaurant or the driver. Most people are very open to meeting and chatting with foreigners.  Such interactions have helped me make new friends, get tips on where to go, eat and shop. I’ll never forget a waitress in Barcelona who took me to a cheap vintage shopping market where locals go. The prices there were of course heavily discounted and I left there with some gems that I treasure to this day.

Happy and safe travels!

Check out my solo trip to Lisbon Vlog blog below