Over the last two years, I’ve traveled almost 30 countries alone. And I’ve learned so much along the way about how to plan a kickass solo trip. Solo travel has become My Thing – I’m known for it, my life revolves around it, I literally get paid to do it now. This is my jam.
And I’m here to help you take the leap into traveling alone too! If you’ve thought about planning your first solo trip but don’t know where to start, I GOT YOU. Today’s post is all about travelling alone for the first time – getting over your nerves, the best destinations for first time solo travelers, + all the planning/logistics to stay safe and have an awesome time.
If this is your first time solo traveling, don’t worry! At the end of this post you’ll have all the resources and confidence you need to get exploring. 🙂
First Things First – It’s Ok to Be Scared!!
That’s TOTALLY OKAY, and it doesn’t mean you aren’t cut out for solo travel. I promise you every single “confident solo traveler” you see started out terrified too – I sometimes still get nervous about trips!
Being brave does NOT mean being fearless. It means being afraid but not letting that stop you.
So if you’re scared, you shouldn’t be ashamed, you should be PROUD. A lot of people turn around and run away from things that scare them, and instead you’re pushing through. That is amazing!!! I promise afterwards you’ll be so proud that you were scared and went anyway.
How to Be Less Afraid of Travelling Alone for the First Time
So that pep talk is well & good but here’s a few things to keep in mind too 🙂
Solo travel RARELY stays solo. You will make friends quickly and have people to eat and explore with in no time! Don’t worry that you won’t meet people. You will.
Research the HELL out of your destination beforehand. The more prepared you are, the more confident you’ll feel going in.
Warm up by doing more things alone! Eat lunch/dinner at a restaurant alone, see a movie alone, explore a city alone. Get used to being by yourself in a comfortable environment first.
You might also like to read: The Most Common Travel Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
How to Pick a First Time Solo Travel Destination
There’s a learning curve to traveling solo, and picking a “beginner” first destination will help you ease into it! If you’re travelling alone for the first time, the last thing you want is to feel unsafe or overwhelmed.
Pick a country that’s safe, English-friendly, popular with tourists, and easy to navigate. Here’s a few of my favorite “easy” destinations:
- Amsterdam, Netherlands ($$$) – beautiful streets, museums, great food, fun smoke shops if that’s your thing, literally everyone is fluent in English
- Chiang Mai, Thailand ($) – temples, elephant sanctuaries, and amazing food! + Phi Phi/Krabi, Thailand ($) – beaches, fun bars, island-hopping, crazy beach parties
- Sydney, Australia ($$) – super laid-back, incredible beaches, great food and café culture
- Bali, Indonesia ($) – infinite beach clubs, island-hopping, waterfall hikes, temples, & shops!
- Barcelona, Spain ($$) – THE BEST FOOD, unbelievable architecture, beautiful beaches, super easy to meet people
- Berlin, Germany ($$) – laid-back social scene, beer gardens, crazyyy club scene, tons of culture
MUST-HAVES for travelling alone for the first time: a padlock for your hostel locker, travel insurance, a backup credit card + some cash to exchange to local currency, an international phone plan OR unlocked phone
How to Find the Perfect Accommodation When Traveling Solo
I always recommend hostels to first-time solo travelers! Unless you’re a crazy light sleeper or really need personal space/time alone, I think they’re the best option for price, convenience, and meeting people. Sleeping in a room with other people is not as weird as it sounds and you will make so many friends.
To pick the right hostel/hotel, research the city beforehand and find some main attractions you want to visit. Then pick a centrally located hotel, so that it’s easy for you to wander around and explore. I personally only stay in busy areas because I feel safer coming/going at night.
Booking.com has a great map feature which I use to find accommodation in the right area. I only book through them because they give 15% off a lot of hotels through their Genius program, you rarely have to prepay, and they usually have free cancellations! It’s the most user-friendly platform I’ve found.
For HostelWorld, I like to read the ratings and make sure people mention things like “great atmosphere” or “easy to make friends”. Some hostels are more social than others so I always make sure that other travelers have had a good experience there.
For more information on how I plan my trips, check out my Travel Resources page!
How to Make Friends Travelling Alone for the First Time
In my experience, it’s easier to make friends travelling alone than with other people!! I promise if you’re on a solo trip, you’ll only be alone if you want to be alone. I’m usually swatting potential friends away half the time, lol.
Staying at a hostel is the single easiest way to make friends when travelling alone. It’s pretty much impossible not to make friends, but some quick tips:
- Post up at the hostel bar if there is one
- Take part in organised events like walking tours and bar crawls
- Introduce yourself to your roommates – ask if they know anything fun to do nearby, make conversation. I make most of my friends this way!
- Smile 🙂 I have major resting bitch face and have noticed NO ONE approaches me when I have my Face on lol. When I’m relaxed, people always come talk to me
If you’re not at a hostel, here’s a few things that have worked for me:
- Going on a local walking tour or food tour is usually a fool-proof way to meet people
- Sitting at a bar (bar-bar OR restaurant bar) and making conversation with people
- Chatting up people you see alone at tourist attractions
- Taking a cooking class or doing some other fun activity!
- Posting on FB groups like GoWonder
You might also like to read: How to Take Amazing Photos When Traveling Alone
How to Actually Plan a Fun Trip Alone
If you want to enjoy travelling alone for the first time, you need to know what to do! I LOVE reading blogs for this – it’s one of the reasons I got into blogging! Some tips for finding fun and/or must-do activities, restaurants to eat at, etc:
Google “best things to do in ___” or “unique things to do in ___” and skim a few blogs. Travel bloggers know what’s up, and tbh I trust their reqs more than TripAdvisor etc.
Use Instagram! I usually skim a city’s geotag for cool photos – once I find a good one, I stalk that person’s Instagram to see where else they went. Once I find a cool attraction or restaurant, I click into that geotag & stalk other people to see where they went. And so on, until I have a huge bank of interesting places to visit!
Go in with a list of things to do & see. I like to always have a must-visit list so that I’m not twiddling my thumbs wondering how to fill my time.
Plot everything in Google Maps. Once all your activities are plotted by location, it’s easy to plan out your itinerary. I map out everything and then hit all the attractions in one area on the same day – I rarely have to backtrack this way, and it saves me time + transport money!
Don’t plan TOO much. I always leave a full day of my trip free because inevitably I hear about something cool to do, or meet people I want to hang out with more.
How to Navigate a Foreign Country Alone Stress-Free
I always recommend saving some essential info offline in case you have any problems with your phone. Make sure you screenshot or write down your hotel info BEFORE you land, so that you still have all the info you need to get to your hotel. Also download the offline Google map of cities beforehand so that you can navigate without data if you have to.
Always do some research on transport both within and between cites, too. Some basics to read up on beforehand:
- Is there a train between cities or will you have to fly? How far apart are the cities you want to visit?
- Is there Uber? If not, is there a comparable service like Grab (used in Asia)?
- Is there a metro or tourist card that will get you discounted transport?
- How much should a typical taxi ride cost (don’t get ripped off!)? What are the reputable taxi companies in that area and which should you avoid?
Figure this shit out BEFORE you get there! You don’t want to spend your first solo trip stressed out trying to sort out transportation.
Last note: always carry some cash with you. Lots of taxis won’t accept card, and it will make your life much easier if you arrive with cash instead of scrambling to find an ATM.
You might also like to read: How to Survive Eating at a Restaurant Alone
How to Stay Safe When Traveling Alone
Nobody is looking out for you when you travel alone. You’re responsible for your own safety, and that means you need to be more vigilant than usual. My personal rule is to have fun but always err on the side of caution.
My main tips for staying safe:
Don’t get too drunk. It’s too easy to make poor choices or run into someone who’s looking to take advantage. I never, ever get properly wasted if I’m traveling alone, unless I’m out with a hostel crew who’s looking out for each other.
Even if your intuition is good, don’t put yourself in a position where you can’t afford to be wrong. If a “friendly local” wants to meet at your hotel, take you hiking, or starts leading you somewhere quiet and secluded – it’s a hard pass.
Let people know where you’re going! Whether it’s hostel staff or your mom back home, make sure somebody knows your plans, just in case.
Blend in with locals. Walk confidently and look like you belong, and people won’t bother you. Research local dress codes and customs, and pack accordingly.
Don’t bring anything expensive or flashy. Keep an eye on your belongings at all times, and lock up your valuables when you’re out.
How to Feed Yourself When Traveling Solo
One of the best parts of visiting a new country is the food. But finding – and eating – food alone can be really daunting!! My best tips for feeding yourself on a solo trip:
Remember that literally nobody cares if you are eating alone. They are too self-absorbed. I won’t lie, you will feel awkward as hell the first time, but it’s truly all in your head and I promise you’ll get over it.
Track down local food! A great rule of thumb is if you’re walking around and see a line of locals out the door, EAT THERE. This is how I found my fave noodle spot of all time – I was the only non-Thai person there and I ordered by pointing at the menu, lol.
Take a cooking class. These are a great way to kill time, meet people, and eat some bomb food!
Visit street markets to eat for cheap (but be careful). I personally love street food and eat it everywhere I go. It’s a huge part of my travel experience. THAT SAID. You can also get really sick from improperly prepared/stored food. Always:
- make sure they cook the food in front of you/ don’t eat street food that’s been sitting out
- make sure it’s cooked through & served SEARING HOT
Avoid tap water, ice, raw veggies, and fruits without a peel. These might contain bacteria that can make you really sick.
If you’re on a budget, hang at your hostel. Many hostels will do cheap organised dinners or have an on-site restaurant. A lot of them have kitchens, too – I save money by cooking some meals there. This also doubles as a great way to make friends because there’s always people hanging around.
PHEW. I think that’s everything!
I hope this helped some of you start planning your first solo trips 🙂 Please let me know if you have any other questions about travelling alone for the first time!! And don’t forget to PIN this post if you liked it 🙂