Congratulations. You want to go traveling alone!
That’s very exciting and very brave of you.
But before you go and have a life-transforming experience, here are a few things you should know before you go because the more prepared you are, the more fun you’ll have.
1. Research the Culture and Respect It
Unfortunately, I’ve seen way too many people land in foreign countries and have zero clues about the local customs.
I’ve seen girls in short shorts and tank tops in places where showing a lot of skin were clearly out of custom. I’ve seen groups of people making disgusted faces at local foods.
I’m not saying you have to be covered from head to toe or like everything you eat but show some respect to the local culture. Ask questions, find out why something is the way it is before you judge it. And please, learn a few phrases in the local language. Even a simple “hello” and “thank you” would go a long way.
2. Know How to Get Out of the Airport
When I was in Vietnam, a girl told me her cab driver charged her $50usd PLUS tips to get from the airport to our hostel. My eyes nearly popped out of my sockets because I took the hostel shuttle for $15.
But unfortunately, her story isn’t that unique because taxi drivers are infamous for scamming jetlagged and disoriented travelers at the airport.
Luckily, there’s an easy way to prevent this. Before you depart, ask your hostel/hotel for exact directions to their place. Which type of transportation you should take and how much it’ll cost you so there will no guesswork on your part.
3. Collect Yourself Before You Go Out
When you finally reach your destination, take some time to collect yourself. Put away all your belongings, drink some water, ask the hostel/hotel staff for a map, ask them to orient you, and find out what is a good spot nearby for food if you’re hungry.
Then when you feel good, start exploring. You’ll be much more grounded, level-headed, and aware of your surroundings. All things that scammers hate.
4. Know that You’re Never Truly Alone
Did you know in 2015, 37 percent of first-time travelers traveled alone? That means you’re not really alone.
One of the biggest apprehensions I hear from people who are afraid to travel alone is that they’re afraid of being lonely, but rest assured, you’ll make more friends than you can count on the road.
Even if you’re not a particularly social person, there are so many types of solo travelers out there that you are bound to meet someone whom you can connect with.
4. Do-It-Yourself or Take a Tour?
Either one is fine. If you’re short on time or if planning overwhelms you, take a tour. You might even make some friends that way.
Once you’re feeling up for it then start exploring on your own. Don’t worry about getting lost because usually, people are more than happy to help you.
Plus, getting lost is just part of the journey and when you do find your way, I promise you, it’ll be one of the greatest feelings in the world.
5. Know the Top Scams
Every country has scams. Read up about them so you know how to avoid them. Some quick tips for you:
- Always count your change
- Be hyper-vigilant of people who come up to talk to you randomly (including kids and the elderly)
- Don’t carelessly give out information (where you’re staying, who you’re with)
- Always negotiate the price of cab rides before climbing in if they do not use meters
- Be careful when withdrawing money (look around)
- Don’t leave drinks unattended
If something doesn’t feel right, walk away. Don’t be rude but be firm.
6. Your Safety Should Always Be Your Priority
Something about being all alone in a foreign country will kick your intuition into high gear. You get these gut feelings about not walking down certain streets or not talking to certain strangers. Listen to them.
But at the same time, don’t become so paranoid that you won’t go out at all.
If you’re worried about getting into unsafe situations, ask the locals where the safest spots are and which places to avoid. Ask them if its safe to walk around alone at night or what time you should try to get back. They live there, they know.
7. Think Through All Emergency Situations and Have A Backup Plan
Again, the more prepared you are, the more fun you can have.
Look up what medical services are available in the country that you’re going to, where other travelers usually go when they get sick, and what are some common illness that travelers get. Bring OTC medications for diarrhea/ headaches/ cramps/ fever.
Find out if there is tourist police in the country, what the local emergency number is, how to say “help” in the local language. Also, print copies of your passport and bring them with you and upload them onto a cloud drive so even if you lose them, you’ll be able to access them somehow.
If you’re from the U.S, sign up for travel advisories and know the number to the local embassy.
Find out what the common natural disasters are in that country and how frequently they happen and where people take shelter.
8. Traveler’s Insurance
This is a highly personal choice but in my opinion, if you are going anywhere for longer than a month, if you have expensive electronics with you, or if you will be partaking in high-risk activities such as scuba diving, bungee jumping, etc., get traveler’s insurance.
It’s not as expensive as you think and they’ll give you a peace of mind. The worse case scenario is you won’t need it and that’s a good thing.
9. Backpack or Rolling Suitcase
I use to be all about the backpack but let’s face it, if you’re going to a fairly modern country and you don’t plan on trekking through the jungle, take the rolling suitcase. It’ll make your life much easier.
Or, take a rolling suitcase that turns into a backpack. Fancy.
10. Know that You Will Get Cold Feet No Matter What!
You will get scared and second guess yourself up to the very moment you leave. But guess what? Once you get on the plane, it’ll start to turn into excitement and then exhilaration.
So gulp and hyperventilate for a bit but don’t change your mind! Think about the amazing time you’ll have, all the exciting new things you’ll see, and the wonderful moment’s you’ll have.
Set yourself a deadline, book your ticket, and start preparing. And before you know it, you’ll be back wishing you can go do it all over again.