Travelling alone for the first time may seem daunting for most people, and it was no different for me. I’ve been travelling alone for over five years and, while it can be a little intimidating at first, I have never looked back.
There are so many benefits of travelling alone to look forward to: you find a confidence you never knew existed, you’re more open to meeting new people, and, my favourite, you can choose your itinerary and change it up whenever you like.
My first solo trip was to the UAE. I was flying alone for the first time, booking a hotel room just for me and wondering if I would even like exploring on my own. Two months after that trip, I moved there, so suffice to say it went well!
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Knowing how to plan properly will go a long way when planning your first solo trip. Some people love to travel on a whim, with no preparation. Others need to have every detail planned out. For someone who is travelling alone for the first time, I recommend planning ahead as much as you can. Especially if you’re feeling anxious about your solo trip. You can always change things up once you’re there if you feel more comfortable.
What you need to know about travelling alone for the first time:
Table of Contents
Choose the right destination
Choosing the right destination may be the most important thing to do before you embark on first time solo travel. Why? Because unfortunately there are some places that just aren’t safe to travel to alone. And (even though I hate to say it) this is especially applicable to female travellers.
Travelling alone for the first time, choose somewhere where they speak the same language as you so you don’t hit a language barrier. If this is English, consider Ireland, UK, Australia, New Zealand, US, Canada. There are of course other countries where English is widely spoken and with a bit of research you can find these easily too.
How to get hotel and flight deals
First time solo travellers aren’t always aware of how to get the best deals when it comes to booking trips. Here are my go to sites for getting the best deals:
Activities: Get Your Guide
As a general rule, booking direct through an airline or hotel is more expensive, although they do offer more flexibility. If flexibility is important for your trip, make sure you check the terms and conditions when booking. Booking.com have an option to select ‘free cancellation’ so you can always book and cancel at a later date.
To give those at home (and you) peace of mind, share your destination, flight and hotel information with someone before you leave. In case of any emergency, they’ll be able to reach you quicker.
Sign up below for a free 18 page travel planner (usually $3.99) which you can share with your family and friends.
Up your budget
When you’re travelling alone for the first time, don’t let a small budget lead you to feeling uncomfortable in cheaper, less unknown parts of town. Once you’re more comfortable with solo travel, you can definitely look into the budget options but for now, book yourself into a known hotel with good reviews in a safe, easy to get around, area of town.
Make room in your budget for transport to and from your hotel. A lot of first time solo travellers get caught out by rogue taxi drivers who overcharge tourists.
Make sure you have room in your budget for any emergencies that may happen. Or a credit card for these circumstances. This isn’t something that happens often, I’ve only ever needed this once – after missing a connection and having to purchase another flight ticket – but it’s worth planning ahead for.
Join group tours
Group tours are an excellent way to not feel alone when travelling alone. You get to meet new people and even make new friends.
Don’t be afraid to talk to those on tours, even if you’re the only solo traveller. Just be mindful not to give out too much personal information / your hotel details, etc.
Don't draw attention to yourself
Obviously you’re not always going to blend in with the locals, but when travelling, especially when travelling alone, it’s best not to draw too much attention to yourself.
Before your trip, research the destination’s laws and dress code. For example, in Singapore, chewing gum is illegal, so don’t arrive into the country munching on gum! And in certain middle eastern countries, it is required for women to cover their shoulders and knees so be sure to pack accordingly.
Yes, just like a girl scout! Being prepared when you’re travelling alone for the first time can result in a more relaxed, comfortable trip.
If it’s not too expensive, pick up a sim card at the airport on arrival so that you can keep connected if needs be, Keep important phone numbers saved in your phone, such as your hotel, airline and embassy. Download taxi apps onto your phone so that you always have a way to get back to your hotel.
Plan to arrive to your hotel before dark so you can check out the local area. Don’t plan too much for day one as you’ll be tired after travelling and it will give you time to familiarize yourself with your surroundings.
Keep a photocopy of your passport and identification on you at all times. This is just a precautionary measure in case anything happens to your original passport. Also keep a copy on your phone.
If possible, try to not carry too much cash with you and use cards instead. If carrying cash, keep it in different pockets and leave some behind in the hotel safe. If shopping in busy markets, keep money in your pocket so you don’t have to keep taking your purse out of your bag. When you run out of the money in your pocket, find a quiet place where you can safely replenish it.
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Get travel insurance
Travelling abroad, especially if you’re travelling alone for the first time, you need to cater for all eventualities. Yes, sometimes things go wrong when travelling, and if it happens to you when you’re on your own, you’ll feel much more comfortable and safe if you have a good travel insurance provider.
Get a quote for travel insurance with World Nomads.
Check if you need a visa or vaccinations
With everything else that needs planning, these can sometimes be left to fall by the wayside. But without checking these first, you might find yourself not able to board your flight!
Some countries allow certain nationalities to get a visa on arrival, others you need to apply some weeks / months before you fly.
Most countries require you to have at least 6 months on your passport before travelling so make sure your passport is up to date.
Make an appointment with your doctor to see what vaccinations they recommend for the country you’re visiting. Some countries require a vaccination certificate before you can enter.
What if you're unsure about travelling alone?
Hopefully the above information has convinced you that, while it may seem a little daunting, travelling alone for the first time doesn’t have to be scary.
If you’re still not 100% sure about hopping on a plane and going it alone, why not try one of these methods first:
Try a staycation close to home to get used to being on your own in a hotel, eating alone in restaurants, etc. You can see how you fair heading out for the day alone, with the knowledge that you’re still close to home, should you feel uncomfortable.
If you feel like you’re ready for an international solo travel trip but worried that you might feel lonely and would like some company, look into booking a trip with either Intrepid Travel or G Adventures. Both offer small group tours and many of those on the tours are solo travellers, or even travelling alone for the first time. Plus you won’t have to worry about a lot of the planning as they arrange the itinerary with hotels and activities. You just need to book your flights and travel insurance!