Solo Travelling: Things I Learnt, & the Do’s & Don’ts
For anyone planning a gap year, or a trip abroad alone, read Jess’s helpful tips on solo travelling. She shares things she learned on her recent travels, to help you prepare well, stay safe and stick to your budget.
The world has finally opened up again and, in most cases, is completely restriction free, so there is really no better time to travel! Everyone is desperate for the sense of relaxation and the experience to learn about a new culture, see new sights and meet new people, especially after being couped up for the last couple years.
I had planned to travel the East Coast of Australia in 2020, like so many people I met doing the same thing, and we managed to get there 3 years later. These are things I learnt about solo travelling from my 5-week experience – the do’s and don’ts, things I wish I’d known, and would do differently next time.
Photo: Fraser Island
Budget ahead of time
It would also be sensible to have a backup pot of emergency money. I used Monzo whilst travelling, as you do not get charged for transactions whilst abroad. Also, on this app, you can set up separate pots to help you divide up your finances. For the five weeks abroad, I budgeted £50 per day.
Take out travel insurance
It goes without saying that having travel insurance is super important and is generally only valid when purchased ahead of your trip. Make sure you declare all pre-existing medical issues, to avoid losing a claim should anything happen.
When choosing your cover, make sure you read the T’s & C’s and check that it suits your needs. In particular, pay attention to the length of trip you are covered for (even annual multi-trip cover often only covers you for a maximum of 31 days for each trip), the countries covered (many policies won’t cover you for Mexico, the USA, or the Caribbean, for example) and activities that are or aren’t covered such as watersports and winter sports, quad biking or volunteering.
Secure your items
Often whilst travelling, you’ll be sharing a room with lots of people who are coming and going; therefore security is limited, as you can’t be sure who will be in your room. Take a padlock so you can safely secure your bag in the lockers provided by your hostel. It’s important to note that some contents insurance won’t be valid without this precaution while you’re travelling.
Keep a photocopy of your passport and driving license separate from the original documents, in case of emergencies, and in case these items are lost.
Don’t take unnecessary items – pack smarter
Don’t pack larger bottles of your products as this will massively weigh down your case and take up unnecessary space. Instead, decant into travel bottles if there some products (e.g., skincare) that are very important to you. Most of the time you can purchase shampoo, shower gel, and other essentials when you arrive at your destination. Packing cubes are also a must for maximising space and keeping your belongings organised.
Storing your items
Don’t keep all of your money in one place in your bag in case something happens to your wallet. Spread it around in secure places.
Worry about not fitting in
Don’t compare or stress about being solo. When moving accommodation, it often feels like you have to ‘start again’ in terms of the whole friend-making spiel. This can feel a bit tedious, especially if you have just left a city where you made some great friends. Most of the time everyone is too busy worrying about themselves, and travellers are typically likeminded people, so try not to worry about what others think of you. It can be awkward when you move into somewhere new, and everyone is already sat in groups. I found the best way to make friends was either in the kitchen during mealtimes, with the people you are sharing a room with, or by attending the hostel’s social events.
Stress over drinking & staying out late
Don’t stress about having to drink all the time. Yes, a lot of the activities revolve around alcohol, but you are in complete control of how much you drink, so try not to feel peer pressured into drinking loads when you don’t want to, or worry that you won’t make friends otherwise. There is so much to do during the day, and alcohol is really expensive, so budget wisely and do whatever makes you happy!
Things I learnt:
It can get lonely at time
Not that many people talk about this, because generally when they look back on their travels, only the good memories remain clear. But travelling alone can sometimes be very challenging. The highs can be great, but it is not all sunshine and rainbows. There were definitely moments where I wanted to come home; especially when feeling homesick, or having to haul my heavy bag around when changing accommodation in 35-degree heat! Definitely start up a conversation with another solo traveller if you are finding things hard, and maintain contact with loved ones back home when you’re feeling low.
Hostels get easier
Staying in a hostel is an interesting experience, and the first ever one will feel very strange. You will soon become accustomed to the noisy, messy kitchen, and busy bedrooms you sleep in! Take a pack of ear plugs and an eye mask and you should be just fine!
Sometimes solo travelling is better
Lots of people travelling in groups often said ‘I wish I was doing this alone’. You don’t ever have to compromise on your plans – you can do whatever you please each day!
You have to push yourself out of your comfort zone
This is one of the best ways to make friends when solo travelling – and you’ll feel very proud of yourself when you come back home!
Consider booking a private room in a hostel every couple of weeks
I wish I had done this more. I would consider myself more introverted than extroverted, and often being around 8-10 people every night felt overwhelming. For most hostels, a private room is only an extra £10 per night, and this could really help you enjoy the rest of your trip, with a guaranteed quieter night’s sleep, and more space to relax!
Find out more:
Tips for Solo travelling
Another female solo traveller gives tips & tricks for planning a trip, to help you know what to expect from staying in hostels, to how much you might spend on a budget!
11 Tips for Travellers: What to Pack, What Not to Pack & How to Save Money
The “bag packing thought” often gets ignored & you can end up wasting money & packing pointless things. Avoid mistakes, read this blog.