With a passion for travel and discovering new cultures, exploring the world is what I love to do. Traveling solo started for me when I planned my first solo trip to Paris. I had just graduated from graduate school and I was determined to travel the world. As a broke college student I couldn’t afford to travel, but after getting my first full-time job, I saved enough money to make my dream trip to Europe come true. I wanted to visit all the iconic attractions in Paris and I was willing to go alone if I had to.
Since my first solo trip to France, I have ventured to more than 26 countries and I’ve traveled to many destinations alone including Oslo (Norway), Stockholm (Sweden), Lisbon (Portugal) and lots more.
Read More: The Best Viewpoints in Lisbon
If you haven’t gone on your first solo trip yet don’t worry. In no time you’ll be on your way navigating new places. With that being said, here’s a beginner’s guide for how to travel alone.
Tips For Getting Started as a Solo Traveler
My first solo trip to Paris was after the movie ‘Taken’ came out.
In ‘Taken’, actor Liam Neeson sets out to find his missing daughter after she gets abducted in Paris.
Although this is every solo traveler’s nightmare, the thought of traveling alone for the first time was not that scary to me. However, if traveling alone frightens you, you can build up your confidence by going to local events by yourself first.
Catch a movie alone, eat at a restaurant, go to a concert or take a short weekend trip alone.
Starting local will allow you test the waters and learn what it’s like to travel solo.
Do this a few times and you’ll be ready for your first solo trip.
Don’t Let Language Barriers Scare You
When I went to Paris, not speaking the language was my biggest challenge. Honestly, being fluent in Haitian-Creole only gets you so far. Yet, I quickly learned that everyone was friendly, eager to help and if necessary I used hand signals to communicate.
If you decide to visit a place where you do not speak the language, you will find a way to communicate. Trust me.
Read More: Tips for When You Don’t Speak the Language
Helpful Tips: When I first arrive in a new city, I find the welcome center or information desk at the airport or train station. I ask for directions to get to my accommodation or the city center. These attendants usually know the fastest and/or least expensive way to get around. I’ve also found that speaking with a knowledgeable local helps me get oriented with my new surroundings quickly. These kiosks may also have free maps, suggested sites to visit, coupon codes and other helpful resources so be sure to stop by and check them out.
Make an Itinerary
When I travel, I do a lot of travel planning in advance. This is especially important when you are venturing to a new destination solo. Plus planning helps you maximize your time at a destination.
Before you travel, figure out the top things you want to see and how much money you are going to spend on activities.
Helpful Tips: Book your flight to a major city. Next, use local transportation or join group bus tours to travel to other areas via day trips.
For example, you could fly to Rome and then take the train to visit Florence or Venice (Italy).
If you are not sure where to start with planning out activities, take a free guided walking tour of the city. I enjoy free walking tours (or pay what you want walking tours) because it gives me the chance to not only meet other solo travelers but I also get access to local experts. Ask your tour guide about the best restaurants, bars and local activities – they will be more than happy to share their recommendations.
Whether you travel alone or with a group of friends, safety is extremely important.
I get asked this question all the time – where should you keep your passport?
You could keep your passport in your hotel room but it could get stolen. The alternative is to keep it on you and always remain alert and aware of your surroundings. When I travel I like to use a satchel bag that hangs besides my hip.
When it comes to packing, I tend to travel light. I pack my things in a backpack and carry-on suitcase. This also helps me avoid unnecesasry baggage fees.
Grab this list of items to pack for any trip.
I also try to do most of my sightseeing during the day and I’m back in my hotel room before dark.
Lastly, when I’m exploring, I like to wear shades. Sunglasses help you look around, but also helps you avoid making eye contact. If you want to keep off advances from admirers you can also wear a ring and say that you are married.
[Listen to Podcast]: 7 Easy Steps to Low Cost Travel – A Girl’s Guide to Traveling Alone Podcast
Find Your Happy Medium
If you are still on the fence about traveling alone, one alternative is to find a travel buddy that doesn’t mind if you explore on your own.
Agree to travel together with the understanding that you don’t have to do everything together.
You can do your own thing on some days and then meet for dinner. Over dinner swap stories and share highlights.
Last but not least, here’s a quick recap of all the things we covered in this article.
Solo Travel Tips Summary:
- Start local – go to local events or dine at restaurants alone.
- Don’t let language barriers scare you – use resources like Google Translate to help you communicate.
- Create an itinerary – focus on the things you want to do and how much it will cost.
- Remain alert and stay safe.
- If you travel with family and friends, plan to explore on your own to experience how to travel alone.
Where are you going for your next solo trip?
Danielle is a travel finance strategist, author, speaker and podcaster. She paid off $63,000 of student loan debt in 4 years, bought a house at 27 and has traveled to 26 countries. She refuses to let her financial responsibilities hold her back from living life on her own terms.