Tips for First-Time Solo Travellers
27 July, 2016
Travelling solo has its perks and pains. While you get a chance to fully explore a country without having to accommodate high-maintenance travel-mates, it may be challenging to navigate a new city alone and stay safe. As a frequent solo female traveller, I have visited 8 cities myself in the past 2 years, and have encountered my fair share of solo travel pains. Here are several tips to help make your first solo trip an enjoyable, safe and memorable one.
1. Travel with data
Yes, while you might have always wanted to go off-radar while on vacation, as a solo traveller, you NEED to find your way around effectively and Google Maps is your best companion. It isn’t always advisable to go all Indiana Jones style and use a hardcopy map either. Imagine standing in the middle of a busy traffic intersection, while unfolding and studying a huge paper map- It’s basically a signal that you’re a lost tourist, aka easy target to get robbed or pickpocketed. On the other hand, by quickly locating your position with GPS and mapping your route to the destination with your phone, the entire navigation process becomes much easier for a first-time solo traveller.
2. Be alert and carry a “weapon”
As a solo traveller, you might run into danger. As experts would tell you, running away is your best bet. However, if it is not possible to escape, and you have zero martial arts experience, you have to be prepared to fight off attackers. Everyday items that are somewhat sharp (e.g. keys, the sharp part of your watch, fingernails, etc.) or heavy (your phone, powerbank, camera, waterbottle) might help you to gain a few seconds of precious time from the attacker, which can be critical in helping you run away and call for help. In general, return to your hostel or hotel earlier and avoid staying out too late while you’re alone. After all, it is better to be safe than to be sorry.
3. Learn the language
While travelling alone, it is particularly useful to pick up a few words and phrases that can help you to better communicate with the locals. Before take-off, it may be useful to download language apps at the airport and learn a few snippets of their language. For example, phrases like “Where is the toilet?”, “How much is this?”, “What do you recommend?” go a long way in making your life easier in a foreign city. If all else fails, the primitive mode of communication, body language and actions, will suffice.
4. Be shameless in getting help for pictures
When you’re at the Niagara Falls and you really want a non-selfie photograph but you’re travelling alone… Relax. There are probably lots of other tourists around who are more than happy to help you take a picture with that incredible backdrop. Ask nicely, and in turn, offer to help them take a picture as well. It might be awkward to approach unfamiliar faces at first, but you’ll eventually get the hang of it. If you’re truly conscious about asking someone else for help to take your #instaworthy shot, investing in a good selfie stick will probably help.
5. Do your research
Cumbersome, but absolutely necessary. You don’t have to plan out a super detailed itinerary and timetable/schedule for each day, but you should roughly know which places you are intending to visit and accurate directions on getting there.
6. More cash is always better than less
Being on your own means you can save on travel components like accommodation and even meals (if you eat on the go and stay in hostels). However, there is also a risk that you might run into trouble- touch wood- if you lose your wallet. To be safe, carry extra cash along in your luggage in case this happens. I personally prefer to carry additional international currencies (e.g. USD, Euros) which are easier to convert to the local currency than SGD.
7. Remember the local emergency hotline
Last but not least, be aware of the Singapore embassy number/location, and register your stay on the MFA website so that you can get alerts and updates if any emergency occurs in the city you are in.
While the prospect of travelling alone might seem daunting to many, it is an incredible experience that is exciting, thrilling and memorable. I personally enjoy solo travels for the freedom of travelling alone and the opportunity to linger in a particular tourist attraction for as long as I wish to, before moving on to the next destination. If you are a female traveller deciding on a place to test out your first solo trip, I personally recommend choosing a city with an established metro/subway network for the ease of travelling and convenience, before attempting more adventurous solo trips. If you have other seasoned solo traveller tips, share them with us by commenting below!