They say traveling alone is one of the scariest, overwhelming, yet liberating experiences one can ever have in life, and true that! Remember the movie Queen in which the central character, 24-year old Rani, takes a solo trip when her wedding is called off by her fiancée? She travels alone in Europe, makes new friends, tries new things, drinks and cries and laughs, and ultimately, finds inner joy, independence, and peace. That’s exactly what a solo trip can do to you, not necessarily in that order though. And above all, a trip all by yourself and in your own company will help you learn a thing or two about yourself.
Doing a solo trip, however, is easier said than done and even more so when you are doing it for the first time. There are a lot of things – from budget to itinerary – to be planned, making first-timers feel butterflies in their stomach at the very thought of it. Fret not! In this blog, we have put together some solo travel tips for first-timers. Read on and get yourself ready to go solo!
Decide on the Destination
First things first – the destination! All seasoned travelers agree that in solo trips, the experience of exploring places alone is more important than the destination itself. That said, it is indeed better that you choose a place that makes you feel at ease since traveling solo is already an overwhelming experience. Is there a place that you always dreamt of traveling to? A place that you always felt attracted to? Do you like cities bubbling with activities or are you more of a nature lover who enjoys quiet and picturesque places? Ask yourself and accordingly plan.
Those who are feeling a little panicky about traveling alone can start with familiar places while hard-core adventure seekers can even consider places abroad. Either way, it should be a place that motivates you and keeps you excited.
A place with good tourist infrastructure, that is closer to your hometown or where they speak a language you are familiar with are sure to earn some extra brownie points with first-timers. Our most important solo female travel tip to all wonderful women out there is to look for places that have the reputation of being safe and female-friendly.
Do Your Homework
Solo trips leave a lot of room for flexibility and might not require you to plan out every single detail. This, however, doesn’t mean that you can pack your bags and hit the road just like that. You will need to do a good deal of homework on your destination – from its climatic conditions and sightseeing options to its culture, food, and everything in between. You should also do a thorough research on the accommodation and transportation options available. If you are planning to visit any monument or popular attraction, check the timings, rules, and other regulations, etc. It’s also a good idea to look for one-day tours in the destination, which allows you to meet new people and visit many places in just one day.
When you want to familiarize yourself with a destination without even going there, the internet is your best companion. Search, search, and search; read, read, and again read. There are many blogs and travel guides online on pretty much every destination under the sun. If you know someone who has been there, talk to them.
Keep a journal or use a travel planning app to keep all your researched data in one place. This might sound like a boring thing to do, but you will find yourself giving a pat on your back for this sooner or later during the trip.
Chalk Out a Budget
Now comes the most important part – money! Two things that determine your solo trip budget to a considerable extent are transportation and accommodation. When we say transportation, the cost of moving around within the destination – sightseeing, pickup and drop, etc. – should also be factored in. Your tentative itinerary should give you a fairly decent idea about these expenses.
Accommodation, however, is the trickiest part of all. In every city or small town, you will find luxury establishments as well as budget boarding places. Which one should you choose? When your plan is to get out and explore the place from morning till evening, all you need is a neat and safe place to catch a good night’s sleep. So, you can go for a hotel or boarding facility that is affordable, safe and offers all amenities required for a comfortable stay. Make sure that you read the reviews and check the ratings and pictures online before taking a decision.
Besides these, make room for other expenses in your budget, such as food, drinks, entertainment, tickets and entry fees, souvenirs, and travel insurance, especially if you are traveling outside India.
Map out your travel budget in a spreadsheet with different expense heads and then, allocate budget for each item.
Book Your Tickets in Advance
Once your travel plan and budget are finalized, it’s time to make the next big move – booking your tickets. This is an area where you can save up some money. For instance, most of the places in India are connected via a network of railways, which is the cheapest mode of travel. However, if you get air tickets at incredibly low rates, you can also consider flying to your destination. Likewise, also book your accommodation well in advance. Don’t forget to look for online deals for hotels; there are many online travel companies that run great offers and discounts all through the year.
Book your onward tickets in such a way that you don’t reach the destination very late in the night or pretty early in the morning. You also need to consider the check-in time; you wouldn’t want to reach the hotel several hours before the check-in time.
Convince Your Parents
Those who are born to Indian parents know how important (and difficult) it is to convince your parents about anything, let alone a solo trip. The very word ‘solo’ is enough to set off the alarm bells. Unless you are extremely lucky, you will have to deal with a volley of questions, starting from “Solo what!?” to “Why don’t you take your brother along for company?” The number of questions and the degree of apprehension might double or triple if the traveler is a woman. Solo travel is gaining momentum in India, but it hasn’t become a norm yet. So you must be prepared to talk to your parents and answer every possible question coming from them, no matter how ridiculous they might sound to you.
The strategy that works with most parents is a fine and well laid-out travel plan. Don’t hesitate to reveal details that you think will make them feel assured – the number of days, mode of transportation, details of accommodation, your sightseeing plans, etc. Promise them that you will keep in touch and do keep the promise. Remember, you should feel confident and excited, and accommodate your parents’ concerns rather than dismissing them altogether.
Pack Light Yet Smart
There are two kinds of people – those who travel for weeks with just a backpack stuffed with essentials and those who take a suitcase, a duffle, and a backpack even when going for a sleepover at a friend’s place. One of the cardinal solo trip tips is to pack light, yet smart. Remember, you sometimes have to lug around your stuff when you go sightseeing, so the best idea is to carry all your essentials in a backpack; you can also take a tote bag. This makes traveling in public transport and navigating through crowds a lot easier than you can imagine.
Coming to packing, carry only those things you find absolutely necessary. For instance, if your hotel provides toiletries and bathing towels, cut those items off your list. When it comes to clothes, the best idea is to wear layers or convertible clothes; this not only enhances your bling quotient but also allows you to mix and match your clothes. Taking more than two pairs of shoes is a complete no-no.
You must carry a first-aid box, power bank, money belt, and a few re-sealable plastic bags when you do solo travel for the first time. Also, carry your journal where you can jot down the details of your trip. And most importantly, keep a book in your bag even if you are not a voracious reader; you will know how useful it is only when you meet inquisitive (or even annoying) co-passengers. And when you meet one, you can just open the book and start reading, or at least pretend to do so.
Things to Remember During Your Solo Trip
That’s about the planning part of your first solo travel. Now, there are a few things you should pay attention to during the trip as well. Here’s a quick guide from us:
- Use public transport: When traveling alone, use public transport as much as possible instead of hired cabs. It is not only safe and pocket-friendly but also gives you more opportunities to meet new people.
- Give Your Day An Early Start: On days you plan to go sightseeing, start your day early. That way, you can avoid crowds in popular sightseeing places such as parks and museums. After your day-time activities, come back to your hotel and have a nice dinner to replenish your energy.
- Keep in Touch: Always! Let your family know where you are each day and where you are heading to. Let them know that you are safe and having a good time. It helps, a LOT!!
- Go Easy on the Alcohol: While there is nothing wrong with visiting a local pub and having a drink to lighten up your mood, you should go a little easy on alcohol. Never EVER get drunk when you are on your own.
- Make Friends Yet Trust No One: Of course, you are taking a trip all alone but it doesn’t mean that have to travel or feel lonely all the time. Make friends, have fun, and share happy moments with them; after all, that’s the beauty of solo trips. However, always use good judgment and trust no one completely. Be very careful about what details you choose to reveal with your newly found friends.
- Be Safe: Now, this involves a lot of things, from being aware of your surroundings to walking away from situations that don’t feel right or safe. Also, make copies of all your important documents lest you fall prey to theft or pickpocketing and keep the business card of your hotel in your bag or wallet. Learn to say ‘no’ wherever required; keep your cool; and move around with confidence. However, make sure that you don’t draw a lot of attention to yourself.
- And Finally, Never Ignore Your Gut Feelings
Have you ever walked into a place and felt eerie for no apparent reason? Ever met a person who looked and sounded just fine, but who gave you very strong uncanny vibes? Ever been in a situation that didn’t feel right? That, my friend, is called a gut feeling. If something – a place, person or situation – doesn’t feel right, it isn’t probably right. It’s as simple as that. And when you are on your own and exploring the world, there’s no better friend you can trust than your own gut feelings.
So, get, set, SOLO!