tips for first-time solo travelers: advice from 5 female experts

I get asked almost daily for advice from people heading out on their first trips solo. I admit, it can be overwhelming, especially if you want to see as much as possible. You’ll be navigating by yourself, eating alone, and making all your decisions by yourself. Fret not! I’ve filled this little corner of the web with plenty or informative guides, travel tips, and stories from my suitcase to help anyone who wants to hit the road; solo or otherwise. And, today, I’ve grabbed lovely ladies with a bunch of experience traveling on their own to share their tips and insights.

Many of my adventures have been journeys I went on my own: studying in {then later moving to} New Zealand, volunteering in {then later moving to} Laos, studying in {then later moving to} Montana, sipping coffee in Paris, backpacking in Cambodia, riding around Cuba, and starting as a writer in Hoi An, Vietnam. The list of exciting solo travels feels endless.

But, if' we’re being totally honest, my most favourite travel memories are those I’ve shared with people, like backpacking through South America with Tash. I also seem to nearly always have a friend, significant other, or family member with me when I go places. So, when asked specifically about solo travel, I don’t think I’m enough of an expert to feel like my advice is masterclass-level, ya know? I want people to be excited about traveling and feel good about at least trying it alone. That’s why I decided to combine the wisdom of five badass ladies in this post, all with incredible solo experiences of their own.


here are tips for first-time solo travelers from women you should know + stories to inspire you


Nam Laugh Travel Eat in Slovenia.

MEET NAM

FROM LAUGH TRAVEL EAT

Hi, my name is Nam and I'm from Hong Kong but studied half my life in the UK. I started traveling when I was little since I have family in Malaysia, but I didn't really fall in love with it until I was 19. I went on a trip with my friends to Paris and it was intoxicating to be in a foreign place, learning and seeing so much (and eating!).

But my first solo trip was a few years later and by accident. Due to poor communication and planning, I had a week free and by myself between my trip in Slovenia with my friends and my volunteering gig in Italy. I could try and start early but instead, I went ahead to Bohinj on my own and hiked, cycled, and kayaked around solo, before Couchsurfing in Austria before heading down to Italy.

FAVOURITE PERK OF TRAVELING SOLO: It's nice to be able to go anywhere I wanted at my own pace! I know it bothers some of my friends (mostly my sister) how long it takes for me to get photos, but when I'm alone I can just hang with my tripod for as long as I want to. It's also good to have your food preference every single meal!

TOP TIP FOR SOLO TRAVELERS: It can feel a bit daunting at first to be alone in a strange place, but one of the most important things I've learned is that you need to project to the world that you know where you are going and what you are doing. I make sure I have data on my phone and if I'm lost, I continue walking as I check because scammers target those who look uncertain or lost. If someone strikes up a conversation with you, be polite and tell them you are meeting a friend later or your boyfriend is waiting. Be firm and polite and most people will listen! I avoid going out at night unless it's a big city, too, but it's a personal preference.

FAVOURITE TRAVEL PRODUCT: For a solo traveler, I think a GoPro or wide-angle small action camera with a three-way mount is pretty much the best thing to do. You can take photos of yourself and your surrounding without your face taking up half the space. The three-way mount also doubles up as a tripod and both are fairly small so it's easy to carry about and inconspicuous. It's the main way I take photos before I decided to get a tripod, which is only worth it if you are very serious about your photos.

YOUR MUST-DOWNLOAD TRAVEL APP: An offline map. I use Google MyMap to mark down all the sights and restaurants on my itinerary and OSMAnd is good for hiking. If I didn't have OSMAnd I would never dare to hike alone in Slovenia (still don’t recommended unless you are an experienced trekker)!

follow nam:

instagram . pinterest . youtube . facebook

Brit from Life of Brit in Vietnam

MEET BRIT

FROM LIFE OF BRIT

Hey! I’m Brit – a travel blogger / English teacher / backpacker who’s been living abroad in Asia for the past two years. Originally from Wisconsin, USA, I grew up taking family road trips across America and spending weekends exploring the hidden gems around my home state. These small little trips sparked my sense of curiosity about the world and essentially was the beginning of my love of travel. Since then, I’ve gone on to live in Denmark, South Korea and now Vietnam for a bit and I’ve had the joy of embarking on solo trips to Banff National Park, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia and more.

Solo travel hasn’t always been my favorite mode of travel. It’s daunting and scary! But I quickly learned that not everyone has the same desire to spend all of their time and money on exploring the world as I do. If I want to visit the off-the-beaten-track locations I continually add to my bucket list, I can’t wait for a friend to decide to join me or it might never happen. That’s what I love most about solo travel! The fact that the entire experience is decided by me. The dates, budget, itinerary, destination, everything – it’s my perfect vacation because I’m the only person I have to make happy.

FAVOURITE PERK OF TRAVELING SOLO: Because of solo travel, I’ve also grown tremendously. I’ve become a much more empowered, independent and confident young woman from the shy and anxious gal I was when I first moved abroad. I feel more comfortable in my skin and have a better sense of what makes me most happy, because I’ve spent the time with myself seeking out exactly what that is to me. I know solo travel isn’t for everyone, and sometimes having a companion with you is much more fun. But if you have the opportunity to travel solo – you should take it! You’ll come out stronger because of it.

TOP TIP FOR SOLO TRAVELERS: Expect the unexpected. Having the mindset that sometimes things don’t work out as planned or challenges will arise, can really help ease the stress and anxiety of tackling these challenges when you’re abroad and alone. Try your best to remain calm, you are SO capable and strong, even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time.

FAVOURITE TRAVEL PRODUCT: LifeStraw/filtered water bottle. Travel is a wonderful thing but it can be very hard on the environment – especially when it comes to plastic water bottles. Having a water filter that allows me to drink straight from the tap and ensure good health has changed my travel for the better.
YOUR MUST-DOWNLOAD TRAVEL APP: Trail Wallet. Most of my trips are taken on a budget and Trail Wallet has really helped me continue to do so! I can enter all my spending straight into the app and categorize it to see what I’m actually spending my money on. It keeps me alert when I’ve had a day of too much spending. Highly recommend for other budget travelers.

follow brit:

instagram . pinterest . facebook

LolaMendez-PhotographersWithoutBorders.jpg

MEET LOLA

FROM miss filatelista

I'm a freelance travel journalist who has been traveling full-time for over 4 years with a focus on mindful and eco-friendly tourism. My travels started in 2015 in what I thought would be a short-term sabbatical to start a passion project but has led me to be a world traveler. Previously, I was a fashion publicist at a strategic branding agency in NYC. By the end of August, I will have visited 60 countries—some for up to 8 months at a time as I prefer to travel slowly.

My first solo trip was in 2011. It was monumental as it was to Spain, where some of my ancestors are from. I'd never traveled alone stateside so going all the way to Europe alone was daunting at 21. I graduated college a semester early and had already started my full-time job at a fashion PR agency in NYC. 

My graduation ceremony was over Memorial Day weekend so, rather than walk across a stage to get a piece of paper six months after I finished my education, I decided to use my vacation days to travel to Spain for 11 days. It truly feels like a pivotal moment for me. It's a trip I look back on fondly and it honestly makes me laugh thinking about how naive I was at 21. I made so many rookie travel fails on that first trip from checking out of my hostel in Barcelona to catch my train to Valencia a day early and drinking a few too many chupitos (shots) on a night where I ended up losing my camera's memory card, but luckily, not the camera. Visiting Valencia and Barcelona was life changing for me and set in motion the desire to move to Spain, which I did exactly four years later in 2015! Now, almost four years after moving to Europe I'm fully location independent. I spent the majority of my time solo in Southeast Asia but have just returned to my homeland, Latin America.

FAVOURITE PERK OF TRAVELING SOLO: I've been living on my own for a decade and am unapologetically independent so I naturally thrive in the full-time traveler lifestyle of being constantly on the move. I love change. Routine makes me feel sick and stuck. Nothing matters to me more in life than freedom. This benefits me as I don't often feel lonely on the road or get too caught up in nightlife while I’m traveling. I quite like only having to consider my own desires for the day—what time to wake up, where to go, what to eat. I have to really enjoy someone's company to want to consider their wants and needs. I do try to make friends as I solo travel when I have the energy to do so.

TOP TIP FOR SOLO TRAVELERS: Solo travel isn’t as scary as people make it out to be—but it isn’t always pretty. What gets me through the occasional turmoil while traveling solo is the pure excitement of the unknown, an unquenchable thirst to continue learning, the fact that home is wherever I make it, and that my loved ones will always be just a plane ride away, no matter where in the world I go.

FAVOURITE TRAVEL PRODUCT: The one thing I’m always glad that I have in my bag is my Wander Wet Bag. The zipper pouch is made of an eco-friendly fabric that keeps any moisture, dirt, or other filth inside. The coating doesn't allow anything to leak into your bag which is just brilliant. I've gone straight from the beach to a long distance bus and put my soaking wet swimsuit inside. 12-hours later when I was unpacking my bag everything was nice and dry as the Wander Wet Bag had prevented my wet swimsuit from leaking on the rest of my belongings. When I’m just setting off on a trip I use the bag as a sort of packing cube to keep my dry clean swimwear and lingerie organized. A few days into the trip I start to use the bag to store dirty clothes inside when I am in transit from one destination to the next. The bag keeps the dirty clothes separate from the clean ones and doesn't let my backpack get stinky. It can also, of course, be used to store sweaty clothes after yoga or muddy clothes after an epic hike. The possible uses for these bags really go on and on. I often use it as a clutch purse, too.

YOUR MUST-DOWNLOAD TRAVEL APP: Google Translate is really handy to have as it’s important to always try to converse in the local dialect to the best of your abilities so that you’re inclusive and show respect for the place you’re visiting. I always use SkyScanner to check best which flights have the best times, prices, shortest layovers, etc. In my opinion, the prices are always lower here than Google Flights. However, I only book through SkyScanner when there is the option to purchase directly through the carrier's web page. I never book through third party booking sites for flights as there are often hidden fees and questionable customer service except for Kiwi which has always worked well for me. Otherwise, I will book directly through the airline's website once I have found a suitable flight on SkyScanner. Usually, the price is the same or reasonably close in cost. Some budget airlines like Southwest don’t show up on SkyScanner searches though.

follow lola:

instagram . pinterest . facebook

Where Goes Rose

MEET rose

where goes rose

Hi, I’m Rose. I started travelling solo through necessity: I was desperate to take a big trip around Asia but none of my friends could take a whole year off work. Solo travel was initially a second choice for me but it didn’t stay that way for long. My first solo trip was in Myanmar in 2015. There weren’t many hostels open at this time so the experience threw me in the deep end: I couldn’t easily meet people in dorms like I would have been able to in neighbouring countries. I think this was actually a good thing as I couldn’t fall back and rely on other people! 

FAVOURITE PERK OF TRAVELING SOLO: My favourite thing about solo travelling is having total independence and freedom. I still love travelling with friends, too - it can be a lot of fun. But nothing else quite compares to being totally in charge of your itinerary and plans; being able to change them at the last minute without running it by anyone. 

FAVOURITE TRAVEL PRODUCT: A tripod! This totally depends on you. You might hate the weight of carrying one around or you might not mind asking strangers to help out taking a snap. For me, I’m a perfectionist about photos and find strangers never get them right. I love my tripod.

TOP TIP FOR SOLO TRAVELERS: My tip for solo female travelers is probably to think about what kinds of accommodation you stay in. In the past, I’ve booked AirBnBs but found they can be a bit isolating as a solo traveller. I like to mix up AirBnBs and hostels, staying in my own room when I want to chill and embrace being solo, and staying in hostels if I start to feel lonely. Finding balance as a solo traveller can be tricky, but you get used to it. 

YOUR MUST-DOWNLOAD TRAVEL APP: A currency app like XE can be so helpful, especially if you’re travelling fast and changing between currencies. I’m not financially minded and, as a solo traveller, I’m the only one in charge of managing my money. I couldn’t live without this!

follow rose:

instagram . pinterest . youtube . facebook

Grace in the World in Athens, Greece

MEET grace

FROM grace in the world

I’m Grace, I’m 28 years old and I’ve been to around 40 countries in the last ten years and often journey alone. At 18, I traveled to Colombia with a small group of friends and a year later my second international trip—or my first solo trip— happened by accident. I was planning to tour Eastern Europe with a friend. When she canceled at the last minute, I decided to go on my own. I was nervous and after a few glasses of wine on the flights over, I found myself in Budapest sometime around midnight. It was dark and I realized that I was a tiny bit tipsy. I managed to figure out the train to the city center then wandered around seeking my hostel for a while. The snow blew in circles, melting on my face, mixing with tears of frustration as I struggled to find where I needed to go. Finally, I walked into a 20+ bed hostel dorm which was completely empty (I should note that it was January/not exactly high tourist season). I ate a chocolate bar then slept with my passport and money inside my sports bra. I questioned whether this trip would be worth it but managed to sleep.

In the morning everything changed. As I was heading out to get something to eat, I heard someone speaking English down the hall! Desperate for a companion, I rushed to introduce myself and made a new friend that day who even took the train to Prague with me (we're still friends today). My favorite thing about traveling solo is the incentive to meet new people. All travelers get lost, have to squeeze into a tiny bathroom which won't fit their bags or have stories to tell another person. We need other people and when you don't have an immediate companion to turn to you are forced to introduce yourself to strangers. If you're like me then this is going to be intimidating at first. But finding people at hostels or in train stations who come from worlds vastly different than yours yet are sharing unique and memorable moments with you is worth the struggle. The people I’ve met traveling have become my lifelong friends. These friendships continue to enrich my life.

FAVOURITE PERK OF TRAVELING SOLO: Through traveling alone I've learned how strong I am (both physically and mentally). I've had to punch a robber, push a molester and carry luggage that weighs more than half as much as me! I've sat through 12-hour flights that bring one to the edge of sanity and survived some disgusting stomach rebellions. I've witnessed riots and bathed in the Mediterranean/Caribbean/Arabian Sea. I'm still learning how to accept and embrace being different (both on the road and back "home") and (this is a big one for me) how to ask for and accept help from others. Solo travel has made me who I am today and gifted me with many friends and memories. Traveling nurtures fearlessness. Solo travel is a luxury. Be brave, take the journey alone!

FAVOURITE TRAVEL PRODUCT: Dry skin solution! I coat my face with a generous layer of Weleda Skin Food before long flights. VIM&VIGR compression socks are also a must.

YOUR MUST-DOWNLOAD TRAVEL APP: I don't use many apps apart from Google Maps and Spotify...

follow grace:

instagram


other solo-travel experts you might like to follow {i know i do}…

Frances- so the adventure begins

brooke- world of wanderlust

nicola- polkadot passport

aileen- i am aileen

Leave the links to your favourite female solo travelers! I’d love to support them + follow along!


LIKED THIS POST? PIN IT!

Top tips for first-time solo-travelers: advice from 5 women who do it regularly
tips for first-time solo travelers: advice from 5 women who do it regularly
tips for first-time solo travelers: advice from 5 women who do it regularly