A good traveller is one who knows how to travel with the mind,”- Michael Bassey Johnson
Truer words have never been spoken. Travelling shouldn’t be a pain. It should be reminiscent of happy memories. Solo travel is fun and enriching but it poses lot of questions which must be answered before you embark on your maiden solo trip and trips thereafter. Speaking from my personal experience, here are 11 Tips for Solo Travellers:
- Adhere to ‘Plan A’ but keep ‘Plan B’ ready. Golden rule of travelling – always keep alternate itineraries ready. Plans and punctuality are the biggest casualties while travelling. Remain patient and cool headed when your plans go haywire. Before heading out on a trip do your homework: spend time on online traveller forums and blogs to get the real picture of the place you are visiting. Unlike travel agencies, they provide in-depth information about various personal experiences, safety and culture and address your questions or concerns in an unbiased I always download offline travel guides on my mobile phone to have a backup plan ready.
- 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 update your Facebook profile? Unfortunately travel is now more about ‘showing off’ rather than exploring the universe. Updating a Facebook status that reads “At the Eiffel Tower” is more important than watching the sunset at iconic monument. Give your shutter box a break. Absorb the beauty around you. Live the moment. Don’t just capture it; understand the culture of the place you are visiting.
- Stay connected, no matter what: Always keep your family and friends updated about your whereabouts and itinerary. Before starting your journey, share your local contact numbers with your family and reconfirm the same after reaching your destination. Buy a local SIM or connect via Skype, Viber, WhatsApp or whatever is easily accessible. Before making calls make sure you have checked the call rates. For example, in Philippines local call rates are as high as Rs. 15/min therefore texting and IMs work out to be cheaper options.
- Travel light but travel smart: Carry all of your essentials in your carry bag in case your luggage gets lost. That means clothes for hot, cold, and wet weather, comfortable pair of shoes, medication, hand sanitiser, 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 place. 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. Decathlon in India is a good option for value for money travel gear.
- Be confident and stay away from the limelight. Dress appropriately and stay sublime. Respect the local culture and their sentiments. Avoid dressing up like an obvious “tourist” and don’t flash cash, expensive gadgets or jewellery. Dress for comfort. Dump your skinny jeans, skirts and ballerinas. Live and breathe in track pants and wear comfortable shoes. Stay cautious of your surroundings and stick to well-lit areas and main roads.
- Don’t stay aloof. Make friends: Travelling solo doesn’t mean not interacting with people. If you do so, you miss out on lots of experiences. 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 unsavoury locations. Talk to people. Make friends.
- Get off the road. Discover off-the-map destinations: The best part about travelling 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 chaiwalas, taxiwalas, villagers and hotel staff to discover hidden delights. Be an explorer. During my trip to Pondicherry, thanks to a local’s advice I ended up seeing a beautiful haven for nature lovers and bird watchers – Pichavaram, with the world’s second largest Mangrove forest on one side and the stunning virgin Pichavarm beach on the other side.
- Travel Smart with a smartphone: Save offline maps, local sightseeing details, and important local contact details. Download offline travel guides and apps like tripadvisor, triposo, holidify etc to discover untouristy places. 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; it helps you document your trip later. 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. Also, dress it in a case to avoid screen breakage.
- Stay empowered by Power Bank: Thanks to Power banks, you no more have to hunt for charging points everywhere. 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. Restrict background data when on Mobile Internet. Also, putting your phone on Aeroplane Mode and using Wi-Fi saves lot of battery. When traveling in colder places like Ladakh carry spare batteries and keep them tucked in your jackets.
- Use local or shared transport instead of a personal taxi: Money saved is money earned. It’s prudent to use 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. When traveling abroad look for travel cards. It is not just cheaper but convenient too. Thanks to the amazing public transport of Singapore I ended up seeing Pulau Ubin, the last island in the North East of Singapore, of which even my local friends in Singapore had no idea about.
- 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 travellers love to be infected with this virus for life. Follow these simple tips and stay infected forever.
Keep Travelling. Keep seeing. Keep Writing.
Archana Singh is currently associated with Starcom MediaVest Group, Philippines as Connections Director on Coca-Cola. She has previously served as the Business Director of the McCann Worldgroup. She is passionate about solo travel.