People often share their desire of travelling solo with me and I always get so excited for them because I know how amazing it can be. Travelling with friends and loved ones is great as you can share memories, but you may find yourself in a predicament where you want to travel and but you have no one to go with! Or even simply, you want to have different travel experience that is based solely on your interests. I found solo travel to be freeing and allowed me to meet people & experience things that I may not necessarily have had the opportunity to have if I was travelling with someone else.
My solo travel experience began whilst I was living in South Korea. During my first vacation, I travelled to Malaysia and Singapore with a friend, however when winter vacation came round, I knew I would be moving back home and Thailand was one of the places I had always wanted to visit. My friends all had different ideas for their winter vacation so I knew that this meant I had to go alone! You can read more about my trip to Thailand here. Since then, I have travelled to Japan, Busan, South Korea and Copenhagen alone.
Living in Korea, allowed me to meet different expats, so by then I had met a number of different people that had travelled solo (and were still alive!) so the concept of solo travelling was quite familiar to me. Deciding to move to another side of the world where English was not the first language was a bold move so I think I was also mentally better prepared than perhaps 2 years before.
Before I ventured out by myself, I did a ton of research! I thought I would put together 5 tips that I think you may find helpful if you are planning to go away alone.
1. Blend in as much as possible.
Look like you know what you are doing & where you are going! This is especially true in certain parts of Asia (and I’m sure many other places that I have not yet ventured to) where petty theft & scams are common. Generally, whilst travelling solo you don’t want to draw the wrong type of attention as unfortunately there are people out there that prey on foreigners. Always carry a map and If you know that you won’t have internet access take screenshots of your travel routes. If you are lost, look for the nearest coffee shop/places with WiFi where you can figure out your way. There will be times when this is not possible so just be aware of your surroundings if you are lost and stop to figure where you are. I sometimes prefer to ask locals that look trustworthy (I trust my intuition in these instances!).
2. Plan and make prior arrangements
This especially for those that are still new to the whole solo travelling thing and for some us that feel more comfortable knowing they they have a place to stay. There are some people out there that opt for flexibility and are happy travelling from place to place without planning where they’ll be staying. This doesn’t work for me as I am very particular about accommodation and like to read reviews (although this isn’t always reliable – like the time we ended up staying in what we think was a sex hotel – we kept hearing weird sounds in the night and even found hand prints on the shower screen!).
In Thailand, I knew that I would be arriving in the evening and I knew that public transport in Phuket was not very frequent. Knowing this, I decided that the best thing for me was to arrange with the hostel for a driver to pick me up. I felt comfortable knowing that. Travelling to Bangkok was different as I found that I could take public transportation and with Chiang Mai I knew that there was a set taxi fare from the airport.
3. Make someone aware of your whereabouts
I would recommend sending your flight itinerary to a friend/family member so that if they don’t hear from you for a while, they are at least aware of where you should be.
4. Stay in a hostel
Prior to living in Korea, I thought hostels were dirty and the idea of sharing with other strangers was strange to me. However, I have come to realise that hostels are actually essential for any solo trip as you will find many other solo travellers there that you can travel with (and make your friend!). I have stayed in a few very nice and clean hostels (I do a lot of research). There are quite a few options when it comes to room types as some hostels offer separate rooms as well as rooms of 4, 6, 8 or even 12 people. The biggest room I have stayed in was at the Oak Hostel Zen which had 12 bunks and I have also had a private double room at a hostel in Phuket. Surprisingly, the 12 bunk room was very quiet and each bunk felt like your own private space as it was surrounded by curtains. I’ll probably write another blog post on what to look out for in hostels but generally I would recommend that females stay in female dorms if possible.
5. Be open to meeting new people
For many, the whole point of you travelling alone is so that you can explore a new place and meet new people. So therefore, be approachable. Hang out in the common areas, start conversations with people and see where it takes you. If you don’t feel comfortable with a particular person then keep it moving. I remember having a conversion with a guy in the hostel I was staying at in Bangkok. He seemed alright but not in the I-want-to-spend-the-whole-evening-with-you kind of way. Fast forward a few hours, I went to Khoa San road (by myself) and I ended up bumping into this same guy! I was already not having the greatest time on Khoa San Road and although its slightly harsh to say, I did not particularly enjoy his company. We were unable to find something to eat as he ended up being fussy so in the end I told him that I wanted to head back. He ended up becoming impatient as we waited for the bus and so he left me and decided to “find another method of getting back to the hostel” (thankfully).
The next day however, I met two girls (one was German and the other was American) in the bathroom who were planning on visiting the Skybar. The asked me to join them, I went and we had such a fun evening! The German girl even invited me to go with her and her Thai friend to a place outside of Bangkok that I had wanted to visit (but I needed to go in a group) the next day. Moral of the story – being open to new people can bring about new travel experiences.
I hope you found the tip useful and if you are planning a solo trip, stay safe and happy travels!