Of course it’s always fun to go somewhere new with your family, significant other, and/or friends. However, there’s a different kind of thrill in exploring the world all by your lonesome. You get to do what you want, where, and how you want; and you learn to enjoy your own company in unique circumstances—something that sounds easy, but isn’t in reality.
Especially in recent years, solo travel (or doing anything alone) has mostly shed the stigma attached to it. But some important matters must still be kept in mind, and safety precautions followed, particularly for female travelers.
There are travelers who love having the barest of itineraries and revel in winging it. I’m in the opposing camp: I prefer planning and booking ahead as well as having a detailed list of activities and destinations pre-departure. That way, everything’s mapped out, and I can spend more time actually enjoying my holiday and not having to look for alternatives.
Booking months in advance is important particularly for hotel/hostel accommodations and transport. Not only will you be sure you’ll have a bed to sleep in and a (mostly) guaranteed way to get from Point A to Point B, you can also take advantage of regular promos or snag your preferred options at travel expos.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t be flexible. You can change your itinerary when you get there and balance planned activities with spontaneous detours. It’s good to take chances, but since you’re on your own, you’ll need to be picky with it.
There’s another advantage to planning and booking ahead. You can share your reservation details with your emergency contacts, as well as give them copies of your official papers (passport/visa, valid IDs, etc.), just in case. Things can go wrong real quick when you’re on the road, and without any companions to pick up the slack, your loved ones will need to know where you plan to go, when they can expect you to be there, and how to reach you.
And then there are the other crucial things you’ll need to do beforehand. I suggest investing in travel and flight or luggage insurance—again, just in case you get sick while away from home, or the airline/bus company/train operator loses your luggage. Speaking of luggage, get those that fit your activities and preferred method of travel, with enough room for souvenirs and those last-minute (and unnecessary) Duty Free buys. Check with your bank for overseas withdrawal limits and exchange rates, and get medical checkups and health clearances if needed.
During your trip
You love being away from everyone else, but don’t forget to check in regularly with family and friends, at least once a day. That way they’ll know you’re doing fine, and won’t have to worry about you for the entire holiday. The cheapest way to do that is via a Wi-Fi connection, or the nearest internet cafe. But if you want to go strictly mobile, you can avail of your telco’s roaming services or buy a local SIM at information or tourist centers in the airport.
One downside of traveling alone is you’ll have to ask strangers to take your photo for you. Sure, you can take selfies galore on your smartphone, but we suggest bringing a compact camera or getting a 360-degree camera like the Ricoh Theta S. Oh, and remember that selfie sticks are now being banned at some tourist hotspots. So make sure to check if you can whip that selfie stick out.
Most hotels and hostels provide lockers and safes for their guests. We suggest stashing your passport and travel documents there, and bring only duplicates with you when you leave your room. And to be on the safe side, don’t keep all your money and cards in one place; keep them in secure places like a safe or hidden pockets in your locked luggage or safe, and bring only the amount you need for the day. This is also a good way to avoid going over your budget or becoming broke by the time you get home or to your next destination. (Turn to the next page for more money-saving tips while traveling.)
Especially in tourist-packed places like Saigon’s Pham Ngu Lao, Bangkok’s Khao San Road, or Siem Reap’s Pub Street, it’s easy to get scammed or robbed. Before you leave your accommodations, know how you’ll get to your next destination, make backup plans, and move like a local. Those who look like they don’t know what they’re doing or where they’re going are usually the ones preyed on by shady folks.
Speaking of the locals… while it’s okay to go to the usual tourist spots, you’ll find that it’s better to go where the locals go. Prices are often lower, the vibe is less hectic and frenzied, and you get to see what it’s really like to live in the city or town you’re visiting.
Another way to cut costs and make new friends is to talk to fellow travelers. You’re all trying to figure out a new place at the same time; you might as well do that together, right? Trade notes on the places you’ve already been to, go together to those you haven’t stepped foot in yet, and get to know people you may never meet otherwise. Who knows, maybe you’ll remain friends long after you’ve all gone home?
Just because you’re from a different city or country doesn’t mean you get a free pass for your entire holiday. Know about and respect your destination’s cultural traditions, enforced laws, and religious practices at all times—surely you don’t want to be that tourist.
After coming home
There are only three things left to do: unpack ASAP (no to stinky laundry!), review if you’ve gone over budget or if you missed out on some activities and destinations, and plan and save up for your next solo trip. After going through it on your own, you won’t have it any other way—or, at least, not think of it as a scary or lonely experience.