So you've decided to travel around the world as a solo backpacker. You feel the world is your oyster as you pack your bags, say goodbye to your friends and family, and board the plane. But once you arrive, you find yourself in a foreign country with new people, a different culture and new surroundings.
A new setting can be a challenge to adapt to, but we've put together our best tips for travelling alone as a solo traveller. So whether you're looking for advice on getting around, making friends or safety, it's all here.
- Pack light - You will need to carry your bag round with you on your trip. If you can pack everything you need in to a day sack, then do! There are many reasons in favour of this including being easier to carry, able to keep track of things, no additional airport charges, no waiting around at the luggage carousel and takes up less space on public transport.
- Aim to arrive at your destination during the day so that you are not trying to navigate your way to your accommodation in the dark and in an unfamiliar place.
- Avoid venturing out in dark or desolate areas and especially if you're not familiar with them. Avoid saying 'yes' to a lift from a stranger, if in doubt contact a reputable taxi company.
- Start a conversation at every opportunity - Learn how to start a conversation and be friendly and open at all times. Have a variety of open-ended questions to hand that you could ask to keep the conversation flowing.
- Sign up for courses and guided tours - Whether you go for a guided tour, or cookery course, why not make the most of your trip and learn something new that's related to the country you're visiting. If you like walks, consider venturing off the beaten path, as there will be other travelers in the places where there are fewer tourists. This is a great way to meet new people and you'll at least share one common interest.
- Carry a destination travel guide with you to use as a starting point once you arrive. Visit a local café, market stall or restaurant each day to spend time with those that may also visit on a daily basis.
- Mix with the locals - they will know all the best places to go for food and entertainment so it is definitely worthwhile asking them. They may know of a great place tucked away that you've never come across before. If you enjoyed the recommendation, return the favour by passing the details of your new found favourite place to others so that they can enjoy it too.
- Keep busy - plan your days and arrange trips or activities in the evening to keep yourself occupied. This is a great way to help prevent homesickness.
- Dining alone should not be discouraged! Consider asking a local to order the food for you if you get stuck - an excellent way to start a conversation.
- Research your destination prior to travel and any customs unique to your destination. In some countries, smiling and eye-contact can be a sign of sexual interest. The more you know prior to travel, the more you can be prepared.
- Don't carry all your money, documents etc. in the same place - have a backup. For example, if you have two passports, 2 bank cards, split your money between the two and keep the sets in different places. This works in the sense that if you are mugged on your travels or your bag is stolen, you always have a backup.
- Only carry out what you need for the day such as money, plus a little extra in case of an emergency.
- If you have a drink, know your limits and never leave it unattended or out of your sight.
- Check that your mobile phone will work in the countries you're visiting. Grab a local sim card, charge your phone and make sure you have enough credit.
- If you're bringing a camera, take a photo of yourself holding your contact details and leave it as the first photo.
- Check that your camera and mobile phone are covered under your home contents or travel insurance policy before you depart, as if not, you will need to take out additional cover.
- Learn how to take photos of yourself. Your friends and family will love the scenery but they'll want to see you in it too!
- Leave the expensive jewellery at home. Wear cheap and easily removable costume jewellery for if you are mugged.
- Contact friends and family back home on a regular basis to let them know where you are, what you're up to and when you expect to be in contact with them again.
- Purchase an adequate level of travel insurance that includes cover for any additional sports or activities you're planning to do, making a note of any important contact numbers.
- Listen to yourself - if you get the feeling something's not right, then trust your instincts and leave. Learn to say 'no' if you're not happy with something.
If you found these tips and advice to be helpful, then please spread the world to other solo travellers or those currently planning a gap year. You never know, it could help them too! Got some tips for us about solo travel? Get in touch and let us know!