Traveling alone for the first time, or even the 100th time, can feel overwhelming! I was so nervous about my first solo trip to Ireland, but I went anyway, and it changed my life forever.
Flash forward 15 years, I’m now a resident and homeowner in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico – something I would have never imagined possible, and it’s all thanks to the courage I learned through solo travel.
But my solo travel journey was not without mistakes through the years. In this guide, I’m sharing twenty tips for a solo trip to help you prepare.
1. Pack light
Even for a globetrotter, this can be daunting when planning for an unfamiliar region. But seriously, take half the clothes you think you will need.
You will be carrying everything, which can become cumbersome if you move around a lot.
On my year-long backpacking trip, I took a 75-lb bag that was completely jam-packed. It was the bane of my existence because it became the size of me and was impossible to carry. I switched to a carry-on after that, and it made life so much easier.
Be selective and pack only the necessities. A good rule of thumb is a week’s worth of clothes. Laundry is available everywhere. So is everything else you need.
2. Arrive early in the day
It can be overwhelming arriving in a foreign country alone, let alone at night time. It’s easier to get a sense of your bearings, arrange transportation, and stay safe during the day.
Try to ensure your flight gets in before night, and pre-arrange how you plan to get from the airport to your hotel.
I don’t recommend trying to navigate public transport if it’s your first trip; this can add a lot of unnecessary stress.
Ask your accommodation if they can arrange pick-up at the airport. Trust me, you will be so happy not to have to navigate after getting off an international flight.
3. Get vaccinated
This is another essential tip to add to your pre-journey routine. There is no fun in falling prey to a disease or illness in a foreign country. As Benjamin Franklin said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound a cure.”
Exotic destinations are beautiful, but they often have risks. Thankfully, many are preventable with vaccines. You can check on the CDC website to get an idea of what vaccines you might need, or visit your family doctor or travel clinic to get advice before you go.
4. Protect yourself with travel insurance
The truth is, anything could happen when you go out on a trip. Everyone figures they won’t catch any disease or illness or become ill during a trip, but it happens. It’s happened to me a lot. From getting robbed in Iceland to dengue fever in Barbados.
Travel insurance gives you that good sense of safety and leaves you feeling safe and calm during the trip.
It protects you financially if you get sick or hurt while abroad. It can even cover the cost of someone from your home coming to be with you in the hospital, which you may want if you are traveling alone.
Travel insurance can also protect you from unexpected events that disrupt your trip, theft, lost belongings, travel delays, and more.
5. Make copies of your passport
Make extra copies of your passport and important travel documents before you leave. Keep these somewhere separate from the original.
Send copies to your e-mail as well. It will make your life a million times easier should your passport get stolen. This happened to me in Budapest on my first backpacking trip!
6. Take extra cards and emergency cash
Take an extra bank or credit card with you. It can be challenging to get them replaced overseas, so this will help in case they get lost or stolen.
It’s also a good idea to take some emergency cash as sometimes ATMs don’t work or are hard to find. USD is widely accepted around the world.
7. Lock it up
When you get to your accommodation, lock up your valuables. Most hostels will have lockers, but you usually need your own lock. Hotels typically have safes in the room.
8. Conceal your valuables
If you’re out for the day, keep your valuables well concealed in pockets or bags that are not easily accessible to pickpockets.
It’s okay to take your camera out to take photos, but use your judgment of where you are. Avoid showing off valuables/electronics if you’re walking in a street alone. I actually had my iPhone snatched out of my hand while walking down the street in Quito, Ecuador!
9. Don’t be afraid to haggle
Exploring local markets in Sri Lanka
When I first started traveling, I was nervous about haggling, leading to me constantly getting ripped off. Negotiating is completely normal and expected in many countries.
When locals see that you are a tourist, they will likely charge you double the price. Don’t be afraid to negotiate back; the worst they can say is no. In my experience, walking away almost always guarantees you get the price you want.
Now living in Mexico, haggling has become part of my daily life living here and helps me keep my cost of living in Puerto Vallarta low.
10. Utilize technology
There is nothing wrong with using your phone in times of need. Some of my favorite travel apps are Offline Google Maps (directions), Google Translate (language barrier), and XE Currency (instant currency converter).
With that spend, don’t spend all day looking at your phone! Use it when needed; otherwise, soak in your fabulous new surroundings.
11. Avoid taxis
Taxis are expensive, especially if you’re covering the cost alone. They are also notorious for ripping tourists off in many countries. If you can, use a ride-sharing app such as Uber so the price is known beforehand.
If you do need to get a taxi, negotiate the price before getting in or ask them to use the meter so there are no surprises at the end.
12. Try social accommodation
Hostels aren’t scary – they are some of the most beautiful places I’ve stayed!
Hostels are one of the easiest ways to meet people as a solo traveler. They usually host day tours, pub crawls, family-style dinners, and other events to create a social atmosphere.
I use Hostelworld, where you can easily find the highest-rated hostel and read real reviews.
13. Use meet-up groups
If you don’t want to stay in hostels, there are plenty of other ways to meet others. Facebook groups are a great place to find local meet-ups. Just type in the destination you’re in + solo female traveler or digital nomad to find groups relevant to that destination.
14. Take a free walking tour or join a group tour
On a free walking tour in Riga
Most cities offer free walking tours. These are a great way to get your bearings and meet other travelers. Ask reception or Google free walking tour of the city you are in. These are especially common in European cities and a great way to discover good photo spots!
You can also pay to join a group tour if there’s no free walking tour. It doesn’t have to be a one-week commitment; you can just join a day tour.
This is a great way to meet other people, as the tour will naturally bond guests.
15. Do your own thing
One of the joys of solo travel is having the freedom to do exactly what you want. If you’re unsure of what that is, now is the perfect time to discover. If you hate museums, don’t go just because someone else tells you it’s a must-do. Embrace your freedom!
Solo travel in Argentina
16. Don’t over plan
Over-planning can be as bad as a lack of planning. If it’s your first solo trip, plan the first few days so you don’t feel overwhelmed.
Book your accommodation, schedule your airport pickup, arrange a few hours, and take the necessary steps to make things easy on yourself in the beginning.
After that, plan a few ‘must-do’ activities, but leave room for spontaneity! You’ll never know what opportunities will come your way.
17. Bring earplugs and a sleeping mask
Earplugs and a sleeping mask are essential if you are sleeping in shared dorms. You never know what noise you might encounter.
These accessories are also great for sleeping on planes and trains; I always have them in my bag.
18. Take lots of photos
Don’t be afraid to look like a tourist by taking photos. You will want the memories to look back on, and you may even discover a passion for photography!
19. Take time to rest
It’s okay to take time to rest while you’re traveling. It’s normal to start to feel tired and even become sick of sightseeing.
This is especially true if you are on a long trip. You will burn yourself out if you force yourself to see everything when you don’t want to go out.
If you’re feeling drained, stay in bed and watch movies, go to a cafe and read a book, or visit a spa. Do something that makes you feel relaxed and re-energized.
20. Let go of expectations
Things don’t always go as planned when you travel. It’s essential to let go of expectations and go with the flow. Keeping a positive mindset is crucial, even when things go wrong.
Thoughts on Traveling Solo
Smile and be proud of yourself! Going on your first solo trip is a huge accomplishment and you should feel super proud of yourself for having the initiative to do it.
You may feel scared or unsure at times, but this is entirely normal. Keep smiling and stay open to new opportunities. You’re about to go on a life-changing experience!
Featured Image Credit: marvent/Shutterstock
Lora is a full-time digital nomad on a quest to visit every country and pet as many dogs as possible. Over the last 15 years, she has traveled solo to 70+ countries and six continents. She currently calls Puerto Vallarta, Mexico home, where she runs the website Take Me To Puerto Vallarta.