Why travel alone?
It might be daunting at first… but travelling alone can be fun, invigorating and a big confidence builder. The best thing is that you are in control of where you go; no compromises and no arguments.
Intrepid travel writer Dr. Jill Nash reviews several top destinations that are solo-travel friendly and provides some tips to help keep you safe.
Which countries are solo-travel friendly?
Japan, USA, Australia, Canada, Costa Rica, New Zealand, Thailand, Western Europe (i.e. Italy, Spain, Greece, and France) are among the best destinations for travelling alone. It’s best to avoid romantic and honeymoon destinations like the Maldives and stick to countries where they specialise in an activity you can get involved in, i.e. mountaineering in Canada or surfing in Costa Rica.
Those listed above are generally regarded as ‘safe’ places with low crime rates and established travel routes. Getting to and travelling around these places is easy and there are plenty of locally based, established travel companies to help you plan your itinerary. These countries also have a local British embassy office at hand if you find yourself in trouble. Check out the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office for more information.
They are also reasonably priced destinations as sometimes travelling alone can levy ‘single supplement’ charges which is both frustrating and costly to solo travellers.
- Plan ahead and research where you are going, even if you don’t have a fixed itinerary you should at least book your first nights’ accommodation and do some background reading. Check out guidebooks from publishers Luxury Backpackers or Lonely Planet.
- Keep to your itinerary and leave a copy of it at home with a trusted friend or family member. Also a good idea is to download it along with emergency contacts and copies of your visa etc to www.mytravelcompanion.com.
- Wear or carry something that might be a conversation starter – like a funny t-shirt. This can be a great way to meet new people and other like-minded travellers.
- Smile and look confident.
- Stay out of dark alleys and remote areas – take an official tour guide with you where you can.
- Don’t wear anything that spells out ‘I’m a tourist – mug me’ like bling jewellery, expensive designer stuff – keep anything like that at home and always keep things locked in a safe in your hotel.
- Dress modestly, stick to local codes of dressing, i.e. don’t wear beach shorts and a vest around main cities/airports, this just attracts a lot of unwanted attention. Wear a fake wedding band if you want to pretend, it stops guys chatting you up.
- Be wary of new-found ‘friends’. Don’t tell strangers where you are staying or give out too many details about your travel plans.
- Leave details of your plans with your hotel or guesthouse. Make sure when you go out you know how to get back. Some guesthouses can give you cards that show you how to get back, this is especially needed if you are in Japan where language can pose a problem.
- Never accept car rides from strangers or hitchhike. Ask the local guesthouse to recommend a taxi firm and, when possible, try to double up with someone you know when travelling by taxi.
- Alcohol can affect your judgement and your ability to react. Be careful with how much you consume, and be watchful of strangers offering you free food & drink, which could be ‘spiked’ check-out the Drink Spike Detector
- Take a journal and record all your travel experiences – you can always share this with people back home
- Learn a few extra local phrases –like ‘Leave me alone!’ ‘My husband or partner will be here in a minute!’ and ‘Go away!’
- Stay in regular touch with people back home. Set up a web-based email account or use social connection websites such as ‘myspace’ or ‘facebook’ – but again be careful with how much personal information you post on these sites, as they could be used to target your home while you are away.
Meet the locals? If you have planned to participate in learning to surf or scuba dive, then you can meet locals on these activities.
Meeting other fellow travellers? Book a short day trip, that is activity based, such as an organised cooking classes, wine tasting, walking or a longer trip like 3 days sailing or island hopping.
Take a pack of cards; sit near friendly looking people, if the hotel hosts a ‘welcome drink party’. Then join in.
Avoid romantic places! Eating at dimly lit places full of couples will make you feel more alone than ever.
Look for places that are quite busy and more importantly where other people are dining alone.
A good place to go is a bar or a pub because you can then dine at the bar and engage is conversation with the staff or better still with other travellers. Sushi bars / entertainment restaurants where you all sit together and are engaged by the chef are also fun or night markets and bazaars in Asia, where crowds of travellers hang-out together.
Take a good book or magazine or your travel journal.