If this is your first visit to my blog – welcome! I’m Brooke and I have been travelling the world solo for the past seven years. Over the years I have made many mistakes, booked last minute flights out of bad situations and met so many fellow solo travellers along the way. With the help of my fellow solo travel friends, I’ve put together the best tips for your first time travelling solo.
How to Travel Solo for the First Time
Book your accommodation via ratings
There are so many hotels I have checked in to and realised they look nothing like the photos. The safest bet I have found is to check the rating overall as well as considering how many people have placed a review. If the hotel has a 5 star rating but only one person thinks so, you might wish to reconsider!
Make an effort to meet other travellers
When I first started travelling solo at twenty years of age, I would often find myself becoming more and more introverted. I found that over time conversation became easier, flowed more naturally and I soon realised I was facing the same questions from new friends: Where are you traveling from? Where are you traveling next? What are your favourite places so far? These small conversation starters can quickly form friendships and before you know it your solo dinner for one became a fun adventure with someone new.
Start your day early
I’m often asked how I manage to get photos at national monuments like the Eiffel Tower without any other travellers in the frame and the truth is to wake up for sunrise! Waking up at sunrise means less crowds, no lines, beautiful morning light and the chance to see a place almost all to yourself.
Buy travel insurance
One of the non-negotiables when I travel is buying travel insurance. When you travel alone you don’t have anyone looking out for you so for peace of mind, I always book travel insurance in case anything goes wrong. This extends to flight delays and cancellations and having travel insurance in these situations causes less stress because you know you won’t be the one footing the bill.
Something I learned early on in my travel career was to pack a light suitcase or backpack and relish in the rewards of lugging less weight up a flight of stairs! There have been so many instances where I have found myself at the bottom of 100+ stairs leading out of a subway suitcase in tow, that I have learned it is always better to pack less.
Travel alone but not lonely
Early on in my love affair with travel I realised how easy it is to make friends abroad. We are lucky to live in the age of social media and globalisation where it is possible to meet people to show their city to you before you even arrive! Smiling at locals, learning a few words of the local language and hitting up local coffee spots is a great way to meet people.
Visit Local coffee shops
Speaking of local coffee shops, they are a great place to meet interesting people or even just sit for a while and people watch. Often we get caught up in “seeing the sights” of a new city and forget to pause to take it all in. These moments are often where I have had some of my best ideas, met people I still keep in touch with today or just taken time for myself to consider my surrounds.
Travel with a book
Often when you travel alone you will find yourself with free time on your hands. This could come whilst standing in a line, waiting between courses at a restaurant or on long bus rides. I find it best to always travel with a book to immerse myself in and never feel lonely whilst accompanied by my favourite characters.
Stay sober if exploring at night
This one is subjective but it is a travel rule I have unknowingly implemented for myself. While I love a glass or two of wine with dinner, I love feeling safe more. I will only ever have a glass of wine if I plan to walk around a city by myself at night because I’d rather have my wits about me and feel safe. There are a few situations I have found myself in over the years where I have been thankful for being sober so I can make a quick escape. There is nothing worse than feeling as if you are being followed or watched when you are walking alone so be sure to get yourself out of any situation you feel uncomfortable in.
Catch public transport
Although it can sometimes be daunting using a new public transport system, it is always the cheapest and often best way to see a city. There is no better way to feel like a local than to learn your local stops and make use of the subway.
Pick your destination(s) wisely
Let’s face it: some destinations are safer than others. I’ve written before about the safest destinations for solo travellers and I stand by these as some of my favourite places I have been alone.
Go your own way
One of the most common options for solo travellers is to join a group trip but from experiencing both, I much prefer to travel on my own accord. Group trips have a way of feeling rushed and focus heavily on the main attractions, so much so that you often don’t get a feel for the place you are visiting.
Give yourself challenges
A great way to see a city is to challenge yourself to achieve a certain amount of walking each day or a visit a certain set of places each day. Sometimes I embark on a day of coffee tasting and make my way to 10-20 of the cities’ most popular coffee shops. Other times I will depart on a day of vintage shopping and dart my way all over the city in search of treasures.
See what you are capable of
One of my favourite solo travel memories and equally one of my worst was when I took a mountain bike down Death Road in Bolivia. It was the experience that sparked my interest in mountain bike riding and because of this, I found out what I was capable of.
Take your time
One of my favourite travel hacks over the years has been to slow myself down and notice more beyond the obvious. I can spend countless hours inside museums noticing the most minute details and before I know it, I’m knee deep in researching a particular artist or genre.
As much as I love my planned days with a set itinerary of what I would like to achieve, I also love getting lost and having no plan at all. I find this option is best for cities you have never discovered before as it prompts you to form an opinion without expectations. Cities I have loved getting lost in include Antwerp, Stockholm and Tallinn.
Ask locals for advice
Often the coolest cafes or concept stores I have discovered are small hole-in-the-wall finds that I never would have found without the advice of a local. I’m always asking waiters, bus drivers and baristas where I should explore and blindly travelling on their recommendations.
Consider a cruise
I know, I know: you can’t believe you are reading this. But I mean it when I say cruising has become one of my favourite ways to travel having explored the Middle East and Asia by cruise ships. This is a great way to take the stress out of travel because once you’ve checked in to your cabin, you never have to move your luggage again. You wake up every day in a new port, explore, eat, sleep, and do it all again! I would definitely recommend cruising for solo travellers who would prefer less stress and a more relaxed way to travel.
Learn a new skill
Every year I travel to Paris to learn a new skill in pastry making. Through travel, desserts and pastry have become a really strong passion of mine – so much so that I even opened my own bakery three years ago! Learning a new skill like pastry classes, wine pairing, language lessons or even art appreciation is a great way to immerse yourself into a culture completely.
Embrace the complete freedom of solo travel
Whenever a person asks me how I gained the confidence to travel solo, I often go into a long tangent about how great it is not just to spend time alone but to love time alone. The complete freedom of solo travel gives you time to learn more about yourself, explore your interests and become a truer version of yourself.