“A good traveller is one who knows how to travel with the mind.” ― Michael Bassey Johnson
Truer words have never been spoken. Traveling shouldn’t be a pain. It should be reminiscent of happy memories. It shouldn't give you nightmares. Solo travel is fun and enriching but poses a lot of questions which must be answered before you embark on your solo trip. Speaking from my personal experiences, here are my 11 Tips for Solo Travelers:
Adhere to ‘Plan A’ but be ‘Plan B’ ready
The Golden rule of traveling - always keep alternate itineraries ready. Plans and punctuality are the biggest casualties while traveling. Be patient and stay cool-headed when your plans go haywire. Before heading out on a trip do your homework. Spend time on online traveler forums and blogs to get the real picture of the place you are visiting. Unlike travel agencies, they provide in-depth information about their personal experiences, safety, and culture and answer your questions and concerns in an unbiased manner.
Absorb the universe. Don't let it become YOUniverse
When you return from a holiday are you more excited to narrate the travel tales or to upload your FB album? Unfortunately, travel is now showing off your ‘YOUniverse’ than exploring the universe. Updating “At Eiffel Tower” FB status is more important than seeing a sunset at Eiffel Tower. Give your shutter box a break. Absorb the beauty around you. Live the moment. Don't just capture it.
Stay connected, no matter what
Always keep your family and friends updated about your whereabouts and ongoing itinerary. Before starting your journey, share your local contact numbers with your family and confirm the same after reaching your destination. Buy a local SIM or connect via skype, WhatsApp or whatever is easily accessible.
Travel light but smart
Carry all of your essentials in your carry bag in case your luggage gets lost. That means clothes for the hot, cold, and wet weather, comfortable pair of shoes, medication, hand sanitizer, torch, your IDs and important gadgets and light snacks like energy bars, dry fruits etc. Don't carry too much cash and never put cash and credit cards in one area. Use ATMs. Don't over pack except for extra pairs of undergarments and socks. Repeating clothes is better than getting stuck with an immovable backpack. Related: The best carry-on luggage
Be confident and stay away from limelight
Dress appropriately and stay sublime. Respect the local culture and their dressing up sentiments. Avoid dressing up like an obvious “tourist” and don't flash cash, expensive gadgets or jewelry. Dress for comfort. Junk your skinny jeans, skirts and ballerinas. Live and breathe in track pants and always have some emergency cash stashed in them. Wear comfortable shoes. Stay cautious of your surroundings and stick to well-lit areas and main roads.
Don't stay aloof. Make friends
Traveling solo doesn't mean you don't mingle with people. If you do so, you miss out on a lot of experiences and might get into unpleasant situations. It’s prudent not to let strangers know you are alone. Little white lies are perfectly acceptable such as letting people think you're waiting to meet someone until you’re sure they are trustworthy. Walk with confidence and try to get attached to a group, if you end up in unsavory locations. Talk to people. Make friends. Learn about different cultures. After all to travel is to learn.
Get off the road. Discover off-the-map destinations
The best part about traveling solo is - you are not bound by others’ itineraries. You can make or amend your plans as per your will. Befriend the locals to explore the unexplored destinations. Talk to chaiwala, taxiwala, villagers and hotel staff to discover hidden delights. Be an explorer.
Travel Smart with a Smartphone
Save offline maps, local sightseeing details, and important local contact details. Use google translate and maps to get instant help (if internet connectivity is not an issue). You can even click a picture of a signboard or menu, and it will translate the text for you. Keep jotting down your experiences in your notes. Helps you document your trip later on. Use ‘draw pattern’ or ‘insert PIN’ instead of swipe feature to lock the screen and install ‘applock’ to avoid data theft in case your phone gets lost. Don't carry your phone in hand, keep it in a travel bag. And dress it in a case to avoid screen breakage.
Stay empowered by Power Bank
Thanks to Power banks, you no more have to look for charging points at every Homo sapiens habitat. When you get on a road trip make sure you are powered by a power bank. To save battery - turn off auto sync, charge on airplane mode and carry USB charger instead of a regular charger.
Use local or shared transport instead of a personal taxi
Money saved is money earned. It’s prudent to use the local or shared transport. It not only saves you from getting a hole burnt in your pocket but also get you up-close to the local authentic culture of the place. However, before firming up travel plans, do check with the local transport hubs as many places have very few and infrequent services.
Bargain. Bargain. Bargain
To get the best deal on your hard earned money don't hesitate to bargain. Seeing a tourist, everyone tries to make a quick buck. Never settle for the price asked for. Quote 30% -40% of the original price. Try at least 3-4 places before making a final purchase decision.
Beautiful travel experiences are like cancer. Once the travel bug bites, there is no antidote, and travelers love to be infected with this virus for life. Follow these simple tips for Solo Travelers and stay infected forever.
And if you are still contemplating on whether to travel solo or not, do read How to plan your first solo travel
Keep Traveling. Keep seeing. Keep Writing.
Here's another interesting article on tips for Solo Travelers by Wanderer of the World