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My first experience travelling alone was at the age of 18 and I immediately fell in love. I find solo travel liberating and think it is something we should all experience at least once in a lifetime. Nothing excites me more than packing my bags for a solo journey, but I understand that it can be scary for those travelling alone for the first time.
This is my advice to you if you are travelling alone for the first time.
Leave yourself open to adventures with new friends
It can be tempting to get carried away with planning and pre-book every flight, bus, train, tour and hotel, but DON’T! Leaving your plans open (at least slightly) can lead to experiences you never could have planned for. When I was in Miami I met another solo traveller who was leaving to road trip through Key West, she invited me along and off we went. Being flexible with my plans allowed me to have one of the most memorable road trips to this day.
Get outdoors, explore and try new things – every day
The best thing about travelling is the fact that it exposes you to new experiences EVERYDAY. Don’t fear it, go with it. Try things you wouldn’t usually do, you may just end up loving it. Don’t be the traveller that spends half of the trip inside watching Netflix, you can do this at home.
Ask people to take photos of you
When you’re in a new country standing in front of a national landmark, it’s natural to want that token photo, and so you should get it. Don’t be afraid to ask someone to take a photo of you (or 5). In my experience, people will happily do it for you. If you have a tripod, don’t be afraid to set it up to get that perfect shot. It’s your trip and you should get every photo that you want. A photo is 1000 times better than a souvenir in my opinion.
There is nothing worse than being weighed down with luggage as you navigate yourself through the airport or streets of a new city, especially when you are travelling alone. I’m sure you have heard the saying before, “pack then halve it”, and I’m going to say it again! There are so many benefits to packing light.
Embrace being alone
I’m not going to lie, sometimes it can be hard to travel alone. We often look for others to share the best and worst moments with, and to bounce ideas off, but you don’t get this when you travel alone. You need to learn to appreciate being alone and own the moments yourself.
Don’t be afraid to say hey to the person next to you
When travelling alone for the first time, people often feel that it will be hard to meet others and make friends, when in fact it is the opposite. By wearing a smile and saying hi to the people around you, will be surprised at who you will meet, it may just be your new best friend or boyfriend.
These are my tips on how to make friends as a solo traveller.
Get up early
Get up and explore the city before everyone else. This is particularly important when visiting popular attractions. The earlier you arrive, the fewer crowds you will experience and the better chance you will have for the perfect photo opportunity.
Take your trip, no one else’s
The best thing about solo travel is the fact that you can do what you want, whenever you want. Go to the places you want to visit and don’t listen to other people’s opinion.
Take a tour
Tours are a great way to meet people and can make for a stress-free day as everything is organised for you. If it is your first time travelling alone, sometimes it’s just easier to book a tour than to try and do it alone.
Aim to arrive during the day
When arriving at a new destination, your nerves can be eased by planning to arrive in the daylight. It feels safer and allows you to get your bearings. Explore the area in the daytime before exploring at night, and try not to go too far from your accommodation at night.
Plan your transportation on arrival
You don’t want your first experience in a new country to be getting lost, so plan transport for your arrival. You could arrange a transfer, plan to take or taxi and write down the details of the bus route if you plan on taking public transport. If you do feel lost, don’t be afraid to ask.
Use social media to plan your trip
I love planning my trip through social media, in particular, Instagram and Pinterest. Search your destination through hashtags to find the places you want to visit, then search them on a map to work it out logistically. I also love travelling with a Lonely Planet Guide
You can also use social media to stay safe by updating your networks and notifying them of your plans.
Get Travel Insurance
Travel insurance gives you peace of mind and can save you thousands in the case of emergencies. Don’t risk it, get a quote here.
Explore on foot
I love walking around new cities endlessly. My first solo city was Vancouver. I left the hostel and I just walked and walked with no destination in mind, I wasn’t afraid of getting lost. In my opinion, the best way to see a city is on foot, and you never know what you will find around the corner.
Dress like a local
Avoid drawing unwanted attention to yourself by dressing like a local. This tip is regardless of if you are alone or with someone else. Want more tips on keeping safe as a solo traveller?
Say no with certainty
You will get invited to places that you don’t want to go and get asked to do things you don’t want to do. Don’t be afraid to say NO. When you are travelling alone you have to learn to say NO with certainty or people will hassle you.
Call home when you need to
Don’t be afraid to reach out to your loved ones when you need them. If you have had a bad day, or an amazing day and need someone to share it with, call home. But on the other hand, you don’t want to spend hours each day on the phone. These are my tips for curing homesickness.
Create a travel budget
The best way to ensure that your plans are realistic is to create a travel budget. It is easy to look and social media and decide what you want to do, but if you aren’t smart about it, you can end up spending way more than intended, and may even have to fly home early. This is the last thing you want to happen. I have created a complete guide to affording travel the gives you all the details of how to create a travel budget and plan your dream trip. Get the guide here.
Use my overseas travel checklist
When planning your first overseas trip, there are many boring details that you must take care of. For example emailing a copy of your passport to yourself, notifying the bank of your travel plans, visiting a travel doctor and so on. Download my overseas travel checklist below.
Carry a good book
A good book will be your best friend when you are travelling alone. I love reading when in transit and when enjoying solo meals. If you read a lot, I suggest buying a Kindle or iPad to avoid carrying 5 hardcover books.
Become your own best friend
One of the best things about travelling alone is that you get time to become your own best friend, and that is a truly powerful thing.
You will become addicted
I guarantee that after travelling alone for the first time, you will already be planning your next solo trip. Travelling alone is an experience like no other.
Disclosure: This post on travelling alone for the first time contains affiliate links.