Your first solo trip can be both crazy exciting and overwhelmingly scary. Here are the best solo travel destinations, tips on how to stay safe, and how to make lifelong friends along the way.
Over the past 10 years, I’ve travelled to dozens of places by myself and can’t recommend it enough. Whether it’s your first solo trip or you’re a seasoned solo traveler this guide has everything you need to know to prepare for any solo trip.
1. Why you should travel solo
Travelling solo is one of the most liberating and eye-opening experiencing you’ll ever have. You become more independent, street-smart, and confident.
When you travel solo, you get to call all the shots, create and alter your schedule should an exciting invitation arises or something else comes up. If you’re tired, you can curl up in your bed whenever you want or go out when you’re feeling more sociable.
The best part of travelling solo is meeting people along the way. When you travel alone you’re more likely to strike up a conversation with someone than if you were already travelling with someone. My closest friends have all been the result of travelling solo.
From preparation, accommodation and the best destination for solo female travellers. After more than 10 years of solo travel experience, here’s everything you need to know about how to travel alone for the first time… and again and again and again.
2. How to prepare for a solo female trip
Research. Research. Research. As a female solo traveller, doing your research before you travel is essential. While it’s fun to flick through Pinterest pinning gorgeous photos of beaches and planning your itinerary of places to visit, there are other things you should know too. Your safety is key.
Think about your safety in the context of the destination itself, your accommodation, getting around, and your health.
When choosing a place to visit, are there any neighbourhoods you should avoid? Is it safe to walk around?
Choose your accommodation wisely by reading reviews from multiple websites. How do previous guests rate their experience? What did they say about its safety and location? Are there any things to be cautious of?
What is public transportation like in your destination? Is it unsafe after a certain hour? When, if at all, do trains and buses stop? How will you get home if you get stuck?
When it comes to your health, are there any vaccines you need to get? Is it safe to drink tap water? Are there any foods to avoid? Where is the nearest clinic or hospital? Are there any local health issues, bugs or viruses to prepare for? If you’re injured, will you be covered by your travel insurance? Check out my step-by-step guide on how to choose the right travel insurance for you.
Your research should also extend to learning the basics of the local language. Not being able to communicate will give you a distinct disadvantage in many situations. Do a little bit of preparation and learn some basic words and phrases in the local language so you can do important things like asking directions.
Knowing some of the local lingo can be a great ice-breaker for getting to know the locals as well as help you avoid being ripped off when you go shopping. Learn some local phrases with my free travel phrase guides.
People will show you more respect when they see you’ve made an effort to learn some of their language.
3. How to find safe accommodation
Every destination has its unsafe areas, shady characters and pickpockets but if you do enough research and plan well, you can travel to almost anywhere safely.
I put off visiting Egypt for years until I finally bit the bullet and decided to go on an organised tour. I thought, if they are still running tours, it must be fine.
Organised tours always work with locals who know the destination well and the fact they can speak the language means you’re always in safe hands.
From the moment I landed, I was met at the airport, received helped getting my visa, and was escorted through security. I couldn’t imagine doing all that by myself. Cairo airport is definitely an airport anomaly as far as airport standards go.
While it’s always smart to check your local government travel website, don’t let that be your only guide. These sites tend to paint the picture of doom and gloom. If we all followed their suggestions there would be fewer travellers. I recommend asking around, join forums and travel groups on Facebook and ask people about their experiences. This will help you make better and more informed decisions.
4. Best solo travel destinations
There are so many great solo female travel destinations to choose from, but here are my personal favourite best places to travel alone to for the first time.
Norway and Iceland. Their natural beauty is incredible and I’ve found Scandinavians to be especially friendly and welcoming. A near-native level of English is spoken throughout the country and crime is pretty much non-existent,
Great Britain and Ireland are also great options for getting your travelling feet wet if you’re doing it for the first time. It will feel like a home away from home with the shared language and similar culture.
The Netherlands is a country I keep going back too, not only is it irresistibly charming with its flower-lined canals, but the Dutch are just so damn lovely. Start with Amsterdam and branch out to the adorable smaller cities like Leiden, The Hague, and Rotterdam.
Italy is another great option. Aside from being extra cautious in certain parts of cities like Naples and Catania which have an underlying mafia presence, Italy is like no other place on Earth. I lived there for three years and travelled the country extensively. I never felt unsafe, even in Naples! But that’s because I knew which neighbourhoods to avoid. Just be sure to brush up on your Italian. Rome and Florence are a must.
Spain is another great country to visit. It’s affordable, the locals are warm and welcoming, and the weather is gorgeous all the country itself is stunning. Start in either Madrid or Barcelona then continue up to Costa Brava.
5. Top tips for staying safe
When you’re travelling, it’s easy to drop your guard and ignore warning signs when something just doesn’t feel quite right. Ask yourself, would I do this at home? That’s usually a good place to start.
One of the most important lessons I learned whilst travelling is that I can’t trust everyone. As beautiful as the world is, there are some characters out there who know how to take advantage of inexperienced travellers. Be cautious who you talk to and what information you share about yourself (especially where you’re staying), and who you leave your valuables with.
If you meet someone you fancy during your travels, make sure you err on the side of caution and avoid speeding up the dating process. Take your time to get to know them before you trust them. Don’t ask them to mind your stuff when you go to the bathroom or buy you a drink when you’re not there. Drink spiking is prevalent in bars and clubs, which if you’re not alert or sober enough to notice, can make you vulnerable to serious harm.
Don’t draw attention to yourself by dressing like a tourist. Read up on local dress codes and avoid unwanted attention. This is especially important when visiting Muslim countries where you should cover your arms, legs and cleavage. If you’re considering visiting Egypt, check out my Egypt travel tips guide which covers clothing.
If something does go wrong, have a backup plan. God forbid your wallet is stolen, you get hurt and need medical assistance, or you lose your passport. Use your email account to save a list of contact details such as your bank, an emergency contact, travel documents and of course, a copy of your passport and any visas you need for travel. In tandem, keep a hard copy of these in a separate bag along with some emergency cash. Putting USD$50-100 aside offer you a financial buffer until you can get things sorted.
All that said, make sure you get travel insurance. There are so many affordable options online that there really is no excuse not to get it. From lost luggage to being stuck due to a natural disaster, good travel insurance will cover your expenses.
6. Best ways to make friends on the road
Making friends on the road is much easier than you think. One of the best and easiest ways to meet like-minded people and kickstart new friendships is by staying in hostel dorms. When you stay in hostels you’re naturally going to start to talk to people. It all starts with small talk like asking “Where are you from?” but eventually the conversation will evolve and a shared passion for travel will usually unite you, lead to hanging out together.
Hostel bars are also great hotspots for meeting fellow travellers. You don’t have to have a crazy night out to meet people. Head to the bar whenever you feel like socialising and you’ll meet people either chatting, playing cards to or having a few drinks. Join them. If you’re a bit shy, ask the hostel staff about social events they run and join those.
My personal favourite way to make friends is by going on organised group tours like Topdeck or Contiki. When you spend a week with the same people, friendships grow very quickly. I’ve been on three group tours and I swear by them. I’ve met up with friends again years after our tour together and still message others who are thousands of miles away.
If you don’t want to commit to a long group tour, start with going on a day or walking tour, they can be just good for meeting new people. All you have to do is strike up a conversation when the tour guide isn’t talking or when there is nothing else to do or look at.
A great way to both immerse yourself in the culture and make friends is by taking up a language class. Group language classes are great for meeting fellow travellers, but more importantly, they enable you to communicate with the true locals. If you’re on a budget, look out for free language exchange meet-ups at hostels, on Meetup, or via location-specific Facebook groups.
Don’t forget to check out my free travel phrase guides.
7. Travel hacks that will make your trip better
Being as prepared as possible is the best thing you can do to avoid unnecessary stress. One of the things we’ve come to rely on is wifi and internet connections, but what it’s not? Before I travel, I like to visit Google Maps and download the regions I’m travelling to so I have access to them offline. Likewise, I also do this with Google Translate and download the entire language library to my phone. These two hacks have a double benefit because they reduce your use of data.
When it comes to packing, I can’t go without my Space Bags. I use them to help to organise my luggage, optimise the space I get and even to protect my clothes from any breakages or leakages from toiletries or liquid or food-based souvenirs.
A great travel hack is to bring a power strip with you that way you only need to take one adapter. A lot of places only have a certain amount of power sockets which can make it difficult to charge all your gear. By adopting this nifty hack, will also save you money on not having to purchase multiple adapters.
Lastly, to save money by getting better exchanges rates and avoiding commissions, always withdraw cash from local ATMs/cash machines once you arrive.
8. Top packing tips
It’s easy to pack everything but the kitchen sink and not have any room left for the important stuff, which is why I always back the essentials first.
Gather all your travel paperwork and keep an electronic copy of it somewhere like in your email or on Dropbox. Keep a hard copy in your suitcase which has all your hotel confirmations, flight information, transfer details, a copy of your passport and any visas, a copy of your travel insurance details. For added safety, always keep your passport separate from your wallet but never in your check-in luggage.
When it comes to money, avoid incurring extra fees and charges. The best way to do this is to get either a no-foreign-transaction-fee credit card or debit card, if you’re outside your home country this will likely save you 2-4% on everything you purchase.
Carry some cash but always withdraw money in the local currency upon arrival. Some places are notorious for loving cash transactions, especially in Italy, so it’s important to always keep some cash on you.
To keep your gear charged, you should pack a global adapter with USB ports which will reduce the number of plugs you need to purchase and allow you to charge multiple things at once.
When you’re out and about, keep your USB devices charged with a portable USB battery pack. These things are absolute life-savers and are getting cheaper and cheapest. Power banks with at least 10000mAh are great for charging two items at a time and last multiple charges.
Unless you’re travelling to a freezing cold climate, avoid packing bulky clothing. Instead, dress in layers by packing lots of light and soft clothes like tops, cardigans, wraps, and tights. This will allow you to easily adapt if the temperature spikes or drops unexpectedly. These sorts of clothes are also super comfortable to travel in on long-haul flights.
Pack a change of clothes in your carry-on. Lost luggage happens to the best of us, all you can do it be prepared for it. You don’t need to pack much just a change of underwear, deodorant, and depending on the climate in your destination, socks, jeans and a top or a dress.
When planes get cold or you feel like a nap on a long bus journey, keep a blanket size scarf on hand to double as a either a jumper or pillow.
While you should bring anything you can’t afford to lose with you in your travel, these days it’s hard not to carry valuable items such as your phones. When you’re in transit, always keep these items with you, either in your handbag or carry-on luggage. Things like your phone, Kindle, iPad, passport, jewellery and camera should never be left in your check-in luggage on flights or put in the hold of a bus. Even if they aren’t stolen, they could get seriously damaged.
The next most important things to pack are locks and items that can keep you and your valuables safe. In my eight years of travel, I’ve never had anything stolen. I credit this to watching my belongings like a hawk, always carrying the important stuff with me, and more recently, using thief-safe travel products. Pacsafe have a great range of anti-theft products such as this cute backpack with cut-resistant sewn-in mesh lined exterior and RFID blocking pocket to protect passport and cards. I love their Slingsafe bag in tweed grey, too.
If you’re staying in a dorm without lockers, need to keep your stuff in the boot of a rental car, or travelling on a train or bus and want to secure your luggage, consider the Pacsafe Backpack and Bag Protector. It is a wire mesh bag which you place your luggage in and attach it to a bed bedpost or any other fixed object that would be difficult to remove. For smaller items, use this compact portable safe bag.
For added room safety at night, you can get travel door alarms which you can attach to the door and door frame. If an intruder opens the door, a loud alarm will sound.
9. Staying healthy on the road
Staying fit and healthy should be your priority, whether you’re travelling or not. Long-haul flights can we super draining on the body, busy schedules can cause you skip exercise, and your diet can get unpredictable. Keep fit with my guide on 20 clever ways to staying fit and healthy while travelling, and ensure you always arrived rested and relaxed with my 10 simple long-haul flight tips.
10. Hit the road. You’ve got this!
It might seem like a lot to think about, but after a couple of trips, this will all become second nature. If you’re new to travel, go on an organised group trip or join any of the solo female travel groups on Facebook and start others in a similar boat as you. This is a great way to calm any travel jitters and make new friends. The world is an amazing place, so get out there and enjoy it!
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Want more travel tips? Don’t miss these
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- What to Wear and What to Pack for a Winter Trip: 17 Must-Have Items
- How to Travel Cheap: Ultimate Guide to 108 Travel Resources
- 43 Amazing Money Saving Travel Tips and Hacks
- Step-by-Step Guide: How to Choose Travel Insurance That’s Right For You
- 23 Top Travel Essentials: Ultimate Travel Packing List for Backpackers
- 20 Clever Ways to Staying Fit While Travelling You Should Try
Over to you!
Are you planning your first solo trip? Which of these tips did you find the most useful? Got a question?
Let me know using the comments section below or join me on social media to start a conversation.
Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed this post.
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