Travelling by yourself can be liberating and self-indulgent in the best possible ways.
Some travellers most treasured memories are from the times they set out on their own.
It’s not just the fact that you can do whatever you want to do whenever you want to do it, it’s the way you get to know more about yourself as you discover new places.
That said going it alone does have its challenges, from not having anyone to wait in line or watch your bags while you pop to the bathroom, to no second opinions on the best way to tackle a public transport system.
There are also times when you miss not being able to share some of the highs and lows of travel with a friendly face.
But the solo travel pros greatly outweigh the cons, and there are ways to make the experience easier and safer.
Talk to an empty hotel room when you travel solo. This is to create the illusion that someone else is there with a casual ‘I’m back’ and ‘see you soon’ as you enter and leave. Also ask for two keys at check in for you imaginary friend and you.
Female solo travellers should book and check in using a first initial and surname only, with no Miss, Ms or Mrs, and it’s a good idea not to tell anyone where you’re staying if they know you’re by yourself.
If anyone else is within earshot when you are asked your room number at breakfast give your name instead, and always listen to your intuition.
If your room doesn’t feel safe when you check in, ask to change rooms or move to another hotel. If someone waiting for the same lift makes you feel uneasy, say you’re waiting for a friend and will get the next one.
Avoid a ground floor room if you can as they are the easiest to break into, and as so many hotel doors don’t have chains on them a simple rubber door wedge can help you sleep better at night.
If you’re planning on getting a taxi from the airport ask the hotel how much it should be and then ask the taxi driver the same question before you get in so you’re not taken for the wrong sort of ride.
Sit in the back seat behind the driver and either make a call to someone to say you’re on your way or mention to the driver that your partner is waiting for you. If you opt for the train instead, avoid sitting in an empty carriage.
Petty theft can happen regardless of where you travel so it’s best not to carry all of your cash and cards on you when you’re out and about and leave your expensive jewellery at homt.
Keeping a reserve locked away in the hotel means you have a back-up plan should the worst happen. Make scans of important travel documents and email them to yourself, this will save hours of time in paperwork if anything does happen.
Ask your hotel if there are any areas you should avoid before you go exploring, and if you ever do feel a little lost or uncertain, don’t show it. Walk with calm confidence and retrace your steps until you’re back in your comfort zone.
If you start to crave human interaction join a walking tour, shoot the breeze with a friendly barman, or Skype with someone you love back home.
And don’t be put off if you see a Sold Out sign on a show you want to see. Single seats can appear so ask and you may be happily surprised.
TABLE FOR ONE
Solomangarephobia is a fear of eating alone in public, if it makes you nervous there are some things you can do.
Bring along a book or magazine, take the time to write postcards or capture your travels in your journal, edit the photos in your phone or do a little social media update.
But don’t spend the whole time with your face in your phone or book. Really taste the food and take in the scene around you.
A counter seat or a seat at the bar can be a good option, but if you prefer a table don’t let the waiter stick you on the worst one in the corner just because you’re alone. Ask if you can sit at a table you like and if they refuse you can always move onto somewhere you’ll feel more welcome.
While bathroom breaks are easy if you’re in a nice restaurant and won’t lose your seat, if you’re in a café leave something like a book or scarf to show your seat is taken and tell a waiter or another customer you’ll be right back while always taking your valuables to the rest room with you.
CONSIDER A GROUP HOLIDAY
Apart from the social aspect of travelling with like-minded people, they give inexperienced solo travellers a sense of security and confidence.
But even for the veteran traveller a group tour can be a great idea as it can give you access to regions that may be hard to visit independently. Different tours are tailored for different travelling styles and so you should check what best suits your interests from city highlights to off the beaten track.
Your Travel Director is like a 24 hour concierge and can give you all the tips you need before you do some exploring on your own.
Listen to your Travel Director when they offer safety tips and areas to be mindful of (and) ensure you have their mobile number in case you’re running late or lost. But overall enjoy and take in all of your surroundings from the sounds to the scents and everything in between, some of the best experiences and memories are captured when you’re solo and can fully immerse yourself in your surroundings.
While some group tours pair you up with someone of the same sex so you can save money on a single room, others waive single supplements altogether.
There are also companies like Monograms that mix the flexibility of travelling by yourself with the support found on a guided holiday.
Monograms holidays include a choice of hotels, transportation and transfers, but guests are free to explore at their own pace.
They include a selection of special activities and guided sightseeing as well as the services of a Monograms Local Host to offer advice and assist with planning additional excursions. The packages also give travellers the option of VIP access to popular tourist attractions, a perk that is usually only available to larger groups.
CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE.
When it comes to deciding on a destination there are some countries that are easier for solo travellers than others.
Places like the UK, USA and Canada offer a mix of the new and exciting with the familiar and comforting as you speak the same language and are familiar with most of the customs, and you can easily meet fellow solo travellers in popular tourist spots throughout Europe and Asia.
Solo travel can be daunting in places like Russia and in parts of Africa where overland travel is next to impossible without a local guide.
Also, when touring overland across several borders, it can be much safer and more efficient to travel with a tour company in certain parts of the world. In some countries, solo female travel is not advised, often due to cultural considerations, so a tour group in these places is an ideal solution.
No matter where you decide to go, make sure you do your research beforehand.
Read and subscribe to the travel advice for the countries you plan to visit (and) talk to friends, relatives and colleagues who have travelled to the places you plan to visit.
Remember that careful planning before you leave is essential to help you choose a destination where you’ll feel safe and comfortable, be prepared for any issues you might face.
Make sure you have the right insurance for all of the activities you plan to do.
Listen to your intuition, follow your travel dreams and remember a solo trip is one of the best gifts you can ever give yourself. And you deserve it.