Depending on your own travel history and life experiences, traveling alone for the first time can be a little nerve-racking. For me, that’s a big part of why I love traveling alone. I get a little nervous, and then I conquer all of those fears and am able to enjoy a proud little moment of self love and appreciation. Boom! Take that fear.
That being said, whether you’re traveling just one state over, or to a whole new country, there are a few things you can do to travel smart when you’re flyin’ solo. I’ve only ever traveled within the US, so here are a few things that have helped me along the way.
Arrive and depart during the day
Try to fly in and out while it’s still daylight, and give yourself a few hours to spare if possible. That way, if your flight is delayed or there’s an issue with cabs, buses, etc., you aren’t wandering alone at night in an unfamiliar place. If you’ll be walking to your hostel or hotel from the airport or elsewhere, this is especially important.
Write it down
Write down your flight numbers and where you’re staying, including phone and address, and leave this information with someone you trust at home. Make a copy for yourself and keep it in your carry-on. If anything goes wrong, someone at home should have an idea of where you are. Giving them a copy of your information means they might be able to help you later should a problem arise.
When you actually arrive, you can also leave a note that says where you’re going each time you leave. I don’t typically do this since I don’t plan out my day much. I usually keep in touch with a family member via text throughout the day instead.
Call ahead for help
Call the place where you’re staying and see if they recommend a certain form of transportation. Some places work with shuttle services that offer discounts. If you’re staying at a hostel, you should also ask if the hostel closes at all. Yes, some hostels actually close at certain times and will not check anyone in. You don’t want to be stranded.
Be friendly, but not too friendly
If you’re traveling alone, you’re probably going to make friends- one of the best parts! If you meet any locals outside of your hotel or hostel, don’t be so quick to tell them where you’re staying. If you feel uncomfortable, lie and say that you’re staying with a friend or relative. You don’t owe them any information.
This applies to a lot of situations. First of all, be aware of your surroundings if you’re walking alone. You may even consider asking front desk staff if there are areas you should avoid. Ignorance is bliss, so while a new city may look nice and inviting, you could easily be walking around in a bad area alone and not know it.
Second, if you plan on drinking anywhere, keep an eye on your drink at all times. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that if you can’t see it being made, don’t get it. That one is primarily for tha ladies, but I feel like any person should be cautious. I’ve seen some shady things happen, so I stick to my water.
Avoid looking like a tourist when possible
I’m not saying don’t stop for great photo ops, I’m just saying don’t look like you’re lost. Every hostel I’ve stayed at has had maps and I always take one when I leave for the day. If I’m lost and need to look at it, I will sometimes stop in a bathroom. Again, some would say this is overkill but a lost single woman standing on the street is an easy target. Just because you’re a man doesn’t mean you’re that much safer. You can also stop at a nearby store or restaurant if you’re comfortable asking for directions.
Avoid carrying around a purse or backpack when possible. I usually try to carry a bag that goes across my body and is difficult to get into. Something with a zipper that has a flap covering it is great. If I’m stopped somewhere, I’ll usually keep my hand on it too.
Separate your money
If possible, find 2-3 places to keep your money so that if some is lost or stolen, you’re not completely without. Depending on the situation at my hostel, I usually leave some there and bring the rest with me. You could also split money between the shoes you’re wearing and a bag you may be carrying, just in case the bag is stolen or you get pickpocketed.
If you’re preparing for your first solo trip, just be smart and use your brain sooner rather than later. As my grandpa says, “There are always going to be bad people. Don’t let them stop you from being happy. That’s what they want.” If you want to go somewhere, go; and don’t let anyone hold you back.
If you’ve got any other tips to share, I’d love to hear them!