This is a blog post by Sathy who has travelled to more than ten countries by herself. She is also a member of www.floh.in, a network that connects singles in real life.
Taking a trip by yourself for the first time is an intoxicating experience. It’s normal to have some apprehension and anxiety in the weeks preceding the trip, however. So, we’ve compiled a list of things to do for the single traveller before and after the trip.
1) Pick a Where and When. I know that this sounds basic, but, you’d be surprised by how ambitious people get when picking a ‘where.’ Twenty countries or cities in two weeks is going to be exhausting. Unless you have two months of vacation leave, it’s probably best to stick to a few countries or cities. There will still be time to visit all the countries in the world that you want to. They’re not going anywhere. Once you’ve decided the Where, you can pick the When. Sometimes, this might be beyond your control. But, if you do have control, you have the opportunity to figure out when would be the best time to visit this country. Do you prefer colder climates? Go in the winter. If you can’t handle the cold, it makes sense to plan something in the summer.
2) Plan. Plan. Plan in advance. This cannot be stressed enough. I know a lot of people like to go with the flow and like to just show up at a place and decide what they want to then. But, for a first time single traveller, planning and research are key. Apart from the first point where I mentioned that it would be sensible to research what the weather would be like, there are a million other things that you should be planning. Buying your tickets, booking accommodation, organising a visa, getting travel recommendations, buying clothes that are weather appropriate.
3) Carry a medium sized travel bag. When you’re travelling alone, odds are you’ll have to lug your bag up and down steep flights of stairs by yourself, get in and out of crowded metros and buses. So, it’s better to carry something that you can handle. There is always going to be a temptation to over pack. But trust me, there’s a laundromat or a laundry facility in almost every city you’ll go to. Pack a few basic clothing with weather appropriate footwear, and you’re set.
4) Stay in hostels. Now, this might not sound too appealing for the 30+ traveller who just wants to sleep in the comfort of their own room. But, if you’re travelling alone, I’d recommend at least one hostel option. Hostels are not the small, smelly dorm rooms you remember. There are a lot of boutique hostels nowadays. And, they also have their own private rooms in case you want your privacy. They also have four bed dorms as opposed to the usual six to eight. And, women travellers can request a womens only dorm. Hostels are a great place to meet fellow single travellers, find great travel companions, get local recommendations, and make friends for life.
5) Sign up for tours. If hostels are not your scene. Then, another way to meet new people is to sign up for tours. Almost all Europeans cities have walking tours. Other parts of the world have cycling tours, or even just a bus tour. It’s a great way to know the city as well as meet other tourists and single travellers. Remember to always tip your guide.
6) Get a local prepaid SIM Card. Preferably with 3G. This is the most useful piece of advice I ever received. You might be tempted to pick up a Matrix SIM Card at the airport. I know they have a big stall just before duty free. But, resist the temptation. The easiest and cheapest option is to pick up a local SIM card at the city you’re staying in. Most airports and train stations will have a store. And, if not, there is bound to be one close to your hostel or hotel. You can easily pick up a local prepaid SIM for 10 Euros or less that will have the same amount of talk time. It will work out a lot cheaper than your post paid Matrix connection. It’s extremely handy to be able to WhatsApp with your friends and family back home, open up Google Maps, or Translate, or just find a place to eat.
7) Try out the local cuisine. We get it. the local cuisine might not be your cup of tea. And, you’ve probably already looked up the closest Indian restaurant. But, you owe it to your travel experience to sample the cuisine at least once every day. If hostels and tours don’t work for you, then local restaurants and bars are a great way to meet new people as well.
8) Be safe. Safety is a primary concern for single travellers. And, with good reason. Use your common sense. Put your passport and other valuables in safes when possible. Keep your bag close to you at all times. Seriously, if you’re in a crowded touristy area, do not let your bag out of your sight. Use common sense when visiting bars or restaurants late at night. It’s always better to go with a hostel buddy. Some cities are safer than other. Read travel forums to figure out which, and it’s always better to err on the side of caution.
9) Don’t feel obliged to sight see. People like to experience travel in a lot of different ways. If sight seeing isn’t really your thing, don’t waste time on it. Because there’s always going to be a lot of important landmarks to visit, and you’ll spend all your time in that city trying to catch all the sights and not enough time soaking up the culture, trying out the cuisine, and visiting museums. This is why the planning in advance is so essential.
10) Master the art of the landmark selfie. Selfies are here to stay. And, they’re the single traveller’s best friend. You will always find another tourist to take a photograph of you. No one says no. But, sometimes, a selfie is all you need. Make sure the landmark is in the background when taking the shot.
Travelling alone for the first time doesn’t have to be a daunting experience. It can be the most exhilarating and liberating experience of your life. You learn so much about yourself in just a few short days. And, once you’ve tried it, you wouldn’t want to travel any other way.
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