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Solo Travel

How to Travel Alone for the First-Time

Last Updated on September 12, 2020 by queenie mak

I still remember when I contemplated if solo travelling is for me. At the time, I was 26 and didn’t even know travelling solo is a thing. I stumbled upon it when my friend moved abroad and suggested that I should visit him. And that’s how I started travelling on my own.

And it is a big deal to go on your first solo trip! Chances are, you found this blog and you are wondering if you should go on a trip as a first time solo traveller.

And planning a solo trip is not as daunting as it seems. Perhaps the idea itself is a bit scary, but with proper planning, some guidance and encouragement, you can totally travel on your own!

I’ve been travelling solo for more than 18 years, and I’ve loved every experience. I didn’t know a lot at the beginning, but it is through experience that I figured a lot of stuff out. I want to share all my best tips so you can have a great start to your journey as a solo traveller. Sharing knowledge is the reason why I started this blog.

So here we go! Here are my best tips for travelling abroad for first time.

Related Post – Best places to travel alone for the first time

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Tips for travelling abroad the first time

  • Passport must be valid for six months and has a few empty pages for stamps
  • Scan a copy of your passport and other relevant documents (like credit cards and ATM cards) and email it to yourself 
  • Check if you need a visa for the places you are visiting 
  • Bring a smartphone for communication, navigation and taking photos. I love my Samsung Note 8 because the camera is super sharp!
  • Buy a local SIM card if you want to have data at all times
  • Use WhatsApp to text and call family and friends
  • Download MAPSME on your smartphone – you can use the maps even if you do not have data/wifi 
  • Use Google map on your smartphone instead of a big ol’ map
  • Carry some USD cash – just in case you cannot access an ATM at your destination, you can most likely exchange for some local currency with USD 
  • Bring two ATM cards – just in case one doesn’t work or is compromised
  • Bring two credit cards – same as above
  • Let friends and family know your itinerary (if you have one)
  • Have a go-to person who you can check in with all the time – it’s just for peace of mind 
  • Book your return ticket – some airlines require this information when you check-in at the airport
  • Get travel insurance before you leave
  • Use a refillable water bottle – you can fill up your bottle wherever you go. This is especially good for the flight. After you go through security, fill up your water bottle so you can save money by buying an expensive one in the terminal. And you will be helping the environment as well. I like the squeeze water bottle because I double it as a neti pot (yeah I know, kind of gross, but it works!)
  • transfer all your liquids to 100ml bottles in a small ziplock bag – airport security is stringent on this one

How to stay safe as a first time solo traveller

  • Walk with confidence – walk at a steady pace (even if you are lost), so at least it looks like you know where you are going and there are fewer chances of someone disturbing you
  • Don’t listen to music with your headphones when you are wandering in a city – you want to aware and alert at all times. Plus you can listen to the city and nature (or wherever you are at) 
  • Don’t go wandering into dark alleys at night – I think this is self-explanatory
  • If you don’t do certain things in your hometown, don’t do it in a foreign city 
  • Don’t drink too much – you can have fun and enjoy a glass or two. But don’t drink too much as you may appear to be a target
  • Don’t wear any flashy jewellery – you don’t want to attract any unwanted attention
  • Arrive at your destination during the day – I always like to arrive at a new place during the day when I can see where I am going. It seems a little less daunting
  • If you have to arrive at night, pre-arrange a ride from your hotel – it might be more expensive to pre-arrange a ride from your hotel, but you will have the peace of mind that you will arrive at your hotel safely
  • Stay alert at all times (but not paranoid) – if you are travelling solo, you will have to be alert at all times. But don’t be too paranoid about things that can potentially happen. There is a delicate balance between the two.

Related Post – biggest life lessons: when sh*t hits the fan, be strong and stay focused

How to pack your bag for your first time abroad

  • Use a backpack instead of luggage – you will find that it is so much easier to move around
  • Use a pack that is large enough for your belongings but small enough for airplane overhead cabin – you will save money from checking in luggage, and save time from waiting for your luggage when you arrive at your destination. And you will never lose your bag! But check the size and weight restrictions for carry-on luggage to avoid additional fees. I’ve used my Osprey Talon 33L for more than seven years, and I love it!
  • Don’t overpack, bring only 3 to 4 sets of clothing – but chances are, you will still overpack.
  • Bring 3 – 4 sets of clothing that is easy to mix and match
  • Roll your clothes into packing cubes – not only does this save space and also keeps your backpack super organized. I use three small size packing cubes for all my clothes
  • Use a hanging toiletry bag that has compartments and a hook – I always travel with this since it keeps all my toiletries organized. And if there’s no counter space, I can still hook it somewhere (like a towel rod, shower curtain rail, etc.)
  • Bring a space saver bag – I like to use this for my laundry. It saves a lot of space and keeps all the stinkiness inside! Ha!
  • Bring few ziplock bags in various sizes because you never know when you will need them. They are very handy when it comes to travelling
  • Use a universal adaptor – lightweight and has dual USB ports
  • Bring your must-have items – medicine, vitamins, jumping rope, straightening iron (yes, I bring a travel-size iron!), etc

Related Post – a comprehensive guide to choosing the best backpack

How and where to book your accommodations

  • Research the accommodation and areas before you book – it helps to know the places you are going to is safe or not
  • If you are unsure of your travel plans, book accommodations with a good cancellation policy – sometimes it helps to give yourself some room for flexibility even though the accommodation may seem more expensive at the time. But if you do change it, you can get your money back.
  • Shared accommodation is cheaper and is fun! But if you want your own space, you can book a private room in a hostel and still don’t have to pay a lot.
  • Book at least one night of accommodation – it is a good idea to at least have one night of accommodation booked. You may want to book all your accommodation for your entire trip, but that depends on how much research and planning you do before your trip.
  • Try to book all your accommodation on the same website to earn loyalty points – I use Agoda to book hotels and hostels all over the world. Their prices are very competitive. And if you sign up with Agoda, book your accommodation, and give your accommodation a rating at the end of your trip, they will give you some money back as a rebate. You can use this money for future bookings
  • Airbnb accommodation is excellent for long-term travel because it might be more affordable than hotels, you have access to a kitchen where you can cook some simple meals, and you can experience how it feels to live like a local. And remember to claim your $35 Airbnb discount here
  • Join Facebook groups to find alternative accommodations – if you are travelling long term, it might be worth the time to look for Facebook groups for your destination and find accommodation through the group

Related Post – how to save money by booking Airbnb

Sort out your finances

  • Save money for your trip – as soon as you know you are travelling, start saving! In fact, it is never too early to start saving because there might be a last-minute trip you want to take!
  • Create and stick to your budget – you don’t want to be in debt after a trip. As amazing as a trip can be, being in debt is much worse. Everyone’s budget is different so work according to yours
  • Don’t exchange your money at home – the exchange rate may not be worth your trouble especially if you are exchanging a currency that is not as popular
  • Take local cash from local ATMs – the rates are pretty competitive. I always get cash when I arrive at my destination (usually at the airport)
  • Let your bank and credit card company know you are travelling, so they don’t stop all your transaction overseas
  • Be creative when it comes to transportation – between public transit and walking, you can save a bit of money. And for long-distance travel, research and see if there are alternate modes of transportation. i.e. is it cheaper to take the train or bus or…? 
  • Cook your meals – you will save a bit of money by buying food from grocery stores or farmers market. And you will be much healthier. 
  • Take advantage of youth prices – if you are a student or youth, there are specific train passes for youth only (in Europe). Perhaps other places/countries will give youth and student a discount on transportation or other activities like museums and galleries

And finally…

  • Don’t worry about not planning your whole trip because that is nearly impossible. Sometimes going with the flow is just as great
  • Listen to your intuition – women are really good at listening to their gut feelings. If you feel you shouldn’t be going on a specific path, listen to your intuition. It will never steer you wrong!
  • Enjoy your own time – it is not lonely to travel solo. In fact, solitude can be amazing and very nurturing for the soul. Spend your alone time however you like and just remember to enjoy it
  • You are never too old to travel solo – travelling is for all ages. As long as you have the curiosity, the ability and the desire to travel, you can travel to anywhere!
  • Don’t let fear stop you from travelling – so many of us (including me) have concerns. But don’t let it stop you from doing the things you want in life.
  • Stay healthy – you don’t want to be sick on your solo trip! It is never fun to be sick alone! Eat healthy, and exercise (by walking and doing any touristy things)
  • Stay positive – travelling solo is not as scary as it seems. So stay positive and good things will happen
  • Have fun – don’t forget to have fun! You finally decided to take your first solo trip, so the least you can do is to enjoy it! You will make a ton of amazing memories, meet many friendly people along the way and remember this trip forever!

Did I miss anything? What is your best tip for the first time travelling solo? There are so many things you can do to prepare yourself for your first solo trip. Let me know in the comment section on your best tips!

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About Author

Hi, my name is Queenie, and I've been a solo traveller for 18+ years and currently based in Hong Kong. Follow me on my adventures through Instagram and my blog!

4 Comments

  • Nicky
    May 5, 2018 at 11:30 pm

    Great tips!! I also did my first solo trip by visiting a friend who lived abroad – I think it’s an ideal way to take the first steps into solo travel. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    Reply
    • queenie mak
      May 7, 2018 at 3:53 am

      It totally is the ideal way! That was my first solo trip too!

      Reply
  • Cat
    May 6, 2018 at 1:18 pm

    wonderful post. My absolute fave is you are never too old, and don’t let fear stop you. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Reply
    • queenie mak
      May 7, 2018 at 3:54 am

      Thank you for your comment! Travelling keeps us young and fearless! 🙂

      Reply

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