It’s a great big world and it’s there to be discovered! Female? Solo? Want to travel? No problem. Life made easier with a few top tips for embarking on an adventure of a lifetime.
This cannot be emphasised more. And no, it does not take the fun out of exploring, it does however ensure your safety, keeps you updated on must-see attractions and equips you with a greater understanding of the country, people, food, culture and entertainment. And it’s ok to lie to make a stranger bothering you go away, there is no shame in wanting to stay safe at all costs. If you’re not a frequent flier, don’t stress, just make sure to check flight prices, as they skyrocket at certain times.
How are you going to get around? What is public transportation like in your destination? Do you need to rent a car? Does the situation change at night?
– Adventurous Kate
Some say the best time to buy tickets is on Tuesdays or 24 weeks before your trip. Make copies of your passport, ID, ticket numbers, phone numbers and reservations as backup incase something gets lost.
When you sense something doesn’t feel right, it’s often for good reason.
The number one question always on one’s mind, ‘is it safe?’ The key is to adapt to a particular situation – its just like being at home, but not quite home. Your environment might be different, but the same rules apply, with a little bit more recon and research.
You know not to engage with strangers when a situation seems dodgy and you know that you should be careful of street alleyways and dark corners, and you certainly need to know to have confidence and not to look scared. Travelling for long periods of time can blur your ability of keeping track of time, don’t wait for nightfall before arriving at your accommodation. Visit a travel clinic beforehand and talk to a doctor or nurse about where you’re going.
‘Safety should always be at the top of your mind, but the ways to combat this fear is to be prepared, to be aware, and to be smart. You have survived on the earth this long because you have figured out how to keep yourself out of deadly situations. Keep doing that when you travel,’ explains Kristin Addis from Be My Travel Muse.
It means you should pay extra money to take a taxi home at night if you don’t feel comfortable walking through the neighbourhood on your own. It means paying more to stay in a central neighbourhood with lots of lively activity instead of a cheaper, quiet residential area where you feel isolated.
– Adventurous Kate
Don’t feel like a loner
Solo travellers tend to find each other, are more open to communication and it can only lead to new places, an exchange of information is inevitable. Apart from being in total control and having all the freedom, problem solving will come down to you and you alone, but that is part of the joyride. Sign up for new things, because you can, you can do whatever you want, whenever you want. Trust, but don’t trust, make friends, but be your own watch dog.
Travel more on the road less travelled
At some point in our lives, we all feel like we’re a walking GPS, navigating through life as we please, but alas, there are some places we simply can’t get to or get out of. Nevertheless, go old school, carry a map. Batteries die and technology can leave us stranded, invest in a readable map of the area you are visiting and keep it nearby. Carry your hotel or hostel’s business card with you when travelling or using transport, so drivers know where to go.
If you do enjoy using your phone, definitely make sure your GPS/ maps app is up to date and that you understand it. Put your Nikes on and start walking darling. Go off the grid, go crazy, and make sure you have travel insurance.
Pick ‘em good. Hostel, Airbnb or hotel?
Jetlag is a real thing, and when on your feet for the better part of the day, don’t skimp on your sleep. Book affordable, but good accommodation, ask travellers who have been there or used a certain hotel or hostel. Budget travel is good yes, but now and again, spoil yourself to a good night’s rest. Hostels/backpackers are famous for countless travellers, stories and memories, depending on how you want to travel and what your budget allows. Again, do a lot of research.
‘If you’re not familiar, Airbnb is a website where you can rent a place to stay from a host. You can select to have the entire place all to yourself, to rent just a room in someone’s home,’ Kelly Purkey explains what’s easiest when travelling alone. Make time to search hotels on Booking.com or Tripadvisor and be assured of getting something good.
Plan your days, sight see the tourist attractions, and allow yourself a day or two off. Wander the streets and discover photo worthy nooks, whether you sit and enjoy a cup of tea at a café or lounge around the pool or park nearby.
Immerse yourself completely in the culture, whether it is trying local food, using the buses or trains provided or sparking a conversation with a café owner about the weather.
You will end up in uncomfortable situations from time to time, ‘but the internet said…’, avoid getting into tricky situations of having ‘nowhere to go’ by having a plan B, C and D. Keep your options open, and veer off the path once in a while.
Learn a few words and need-to-know sentences. It will always come in handy, and you might just score points with the locals. They tend to love travellers who try. It’s considered more polite to ask if someone speaks English in their own language.
Stay connected by disconnecting
We all travel with our phones for obvious reasons, and stay connected now and then by posting here and there, so the family won’t send out a rescue team when they don’t hear from you after a week. But, try to stay off social media as it may take up a lot of your ‘travelling time’. Pack a couple of international phone cards with you, you will end up needing them.
Pack a book, hardcover or digital. Life is busy and finishing a book is not high on the list when you have a million other things happening in your life. A good book makes an excellent dinner date.
To avoid running out of money and overspending on an already tight budget, eat out locally (not your typical Western fast food joints) or make use of grocery stores. Don’t drink water unless it is bottled or you are sure it’s safe, no one likes a sick day on a trip. Don’t forget, you have great resources around you, the concierge, local store or attraction employees, and fellow hotel guests. Seek and you shall find.
Be sure to stay hydrated as well. The pressure change will feel twice as annoying if you already have a dehydration headache.
– Zina Harrington of Peanut Blossom
Ask, ask and ask around
When in doubt, trust your gut and ask local shop owners or people you feel you can trust, use your transgression on this one, but locals do know best in the end. Communication happens with more than just words, always be mindful of others around you. How about medical assistance? Register with the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travellers, IAMAT. Befriend female hotel or hostel employees and ask them where and where not to go.
Get right to writing
Document every idea, taste, smell and sight you come across, collect moments and put them down on paper. Needless to say, take enough film or batteries for your camera, avoid missing great moments of your adventure. A notebook will come in handy for many things.
What to pack
Aside from the clothes and necessities, always pack a small towel, for some reason you will always need one, maybe not for the obvious intended purpose, it’s a lifesaver.
Make sure to pack an extra set of cables and chargers, a small pouch of vanity essentials to have on hand at all times, dark clothing won’t show dirt easily, make use of plastic Ziploc bags, it always come in handy. Pack a scarf, whether hot or cold outside. Tissues or wet wipes are useful when they’re in close reach.
Before entering an airport, know what’s in your bag, where it is and if it is allowed to go on this trip with you. Airport security can be a nightmare if you need to unpack or repack. Be organised.
Let’s talk money
Know the exchange rate, how it works and keep track of your expenses, since it will always feel like you don’t have enough with you. Don’t keep all of it in one place. Keep some cash and a card on your person and some in your bag and some back at your hotel. Ask the hotel or hostel if they have safes ahead of time.
As Eric Klinenberg, Sociologist at NYU and author of the book Going Solo, says, “There’s so much cultural anxiety about isolation in our country that we often fail to appreciate the benefits of solitude.”
Embrace the moment
You can’t prepare for everything and also don’t plan everything, suss out situations, your gut will generally be right. Don’t forget to stop once in a while and to breathe.
Ready to pack your bags?
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