Travelling Alone For the First Time – Tips & Tricks

travelling alone for first time

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So you’re thinking of travelling alone for the first time? I got you! It seems like only yesterday I departed on my first solo trip but, actually, it was in 2015 so almost a decade ago!

Since then, I’ve got up my confidence and visited more challenging places for solo female travel such as India and South Africa. But I never forget how it felt starting out when I had all the normal concerns that most first time solo travellers do.

In this guide, I aim to reassure you and provide tips and insights from my 10 years of solo travel to help guide you along the way!

Tips for travelling alone for the first time

There are probably a million questions running through your head! But I suspect that solo female travel safety, meeting other people, reassuring loved ones, overcoming anxiety and knowing what to pack are some of the main topics.

I’m covering all these and throwing in some general tips, too, relating to things I wish I’d known before my first solo trip! Let’s start with WHERE…

Read next: 101 solo female travel tips

Pick your destination carefully

Perhaps you’ve already picked your destination and you’re just looking for tips for travelling alone. But, if not, here are my favourite beginner-level places to go!

Best Europe destinations for a first solo trip

Some of the best places to travel solo in Europe include…

Portugal solo travel – I especially recommend Lisbon, Porto and places in the Algarve like Lagos and Faro. They’re perfectly safe (Portugal was even voted the 5th safest place in Europe) with great public transport and amazing hostels. There’s even one in Lisbon specifically designed for solo travellers! A perk of Portugal travel is that you can combine incredible cities with beaches on the same trip.

Croatia solo travel – this is a fun place for a sociable first solo trip because there’s amazing nightlife in summer (and it’s easy to meet others to experience it with) plus loads to keep you busy from hikes to island hopping and visiting waterfalls. There’s virtually no crime. The only caveat? It’s very busy and expensive in summer and deserted in winter so you should aim for shoulder season.

For more safe places like Italy, Spain, Slovenia, the Netherlands and Greece, see my guide to solo female travel in Europe

Want to ease in with a city break rather than a whole country? I recommend Budapest and Prague as fun cities with a great mix of culture, history, nightlife, activities and more. Quality hostels and tours are affordable.

Best Asia destinations for travelling solo for the first time

Some of the best places to travel alone in Southeast Asia are…

Thailand solo travel: the holy grail of backpacking! The hostels here are world class, the islands are paradise, the locals are friendly, the prices are low and the food is phenomenal! Go, go, go. See all my Thailand blogs.

Vietnam solo travel: with low prices, a clear backpacker route down the coast and lots of great hostels and tours, it’s logistically easy to see all the incredible places in Vietnam from mountains to bays and megacities. See all my Vietnam blogs.

Bali solo travel: on this Indonesian island, it can be hard to break off the tourist trail and see local culture so it depends on what you want from your first solo trip. But if it’s amazing brunches inc. vegan food, beautiful rice fields, sociable hostels, spectacular waterfalls and gorgeous temples… Well, you’ve come to the right place! See all my Bali blogs.

Malaysia solo travel: a culture lover’s dream with a blend of Malay, Indian and Chinese culture, history and food. It has a shining safety record and friendly locals who speak great English. Things are a little cleaner and more ordered than in Thailand and Vietnam so it’s an easy place to begin travelling alone. See all my Malaysia blogs.

If you’re a foodie, you can’t go wrong with any of the above places in Asia. Thai, Vietnamese and Malay are some of my favourite cuisines, plus Bali is great for veggies and vegans. Aside from Spain and Italy which obviously have amazing food, I prefer Asia to Europe as a foodie!

Read next: 101 backpacking Asia travel tips

Many blogs will tell you to consider the language barrier and while I don’t think this is bad advice per se, it’s not the be-all and end-all. Many places in Asia and Europe where English isn’t the first language are fine for English speakers because locals working in tourism speak it. Brush up on the basics and download Google Translate. It’ll be ok!

Australia and New Zealand

Australia first time solo travelling

If it’s a budget trip you want, then these places don’t really fit the bill. But for super safe destionations with plenty of opportunities to meet others, plus a mix of cities and nature, both Australia (especially the East Coast) and New Zealand are great options.

There’s no language barrier for English speakers and both countries offer work visas for young travellers from various countries.

I’m not saying you absolutely can’t travel solo for the first time in Latin America (certain places in Mexico are great for solo travel) but it does pose safety risks that Europe and Southeast Asia generally don’t, plus it’s a lot harder than these destinations if you only speak English.

Book key things – but don’t over plan!

The main mistake I made when travelling alone for the first time in 2015 was overplanning but specifically overbooking. I booked flights in advance across the first six months of my trip which, as I later realised, meant I couldn’t be flexible if I liked or disliked a place and wanted to spend more or less time there, or change my plans to travel with people I met.

Yes, booking flights in advance can save you money but, in regions like Europe and Asia, there are fantastic budget airlines that have good deals right up to the last minute. I use Skyscanner‘s ‘search by whole month’ tool to find the cheapest dates.

Nowadays, I do a lot of research before a trip to save myself time when on said trip, but the planning doesn’t extend to booking things that will tie me down later. Unless it’s Western Europe in July or August, I rarely book hostels more than a few days in advance.

Extra tip – try to book things that are refundable. Lots of GetYourGuide and Viator excursions have a 24-hour cancellation policy and so do most hostels on Hostelworld (which is why I rarely book directly with the hostel).

Know how to meet others

Solo travelling doesn’t mean being alone constantly. To me, it means being in complete control of your trip but spending a lot of time in-destination with other travellers. Other benefits of travel solo include having no obligations and being able to shake off people you don’t want to spend time with.

It’s up to you when you want to socialise vs do your own thing.

making friends abroad

Before travelling alone for the first time, it can be overwhelming. You might assume you’ll get lonely or struggle to make friends… but I don’t think this will be the case.

  • Facebook groups – there are lots of groups like Girls Love Travel where you can connect with other female travellers. You can also search for groups relating to your destination.
  • Stay in hostels – this will always be the numero uno way to meet people travelling. If you feel overwhelmed initially, book a 4-bed girls’ dorm or even a private room. It’s easy to get a feel for the vibe of a hostel (for example if it’s a party hostel or not) by looking at photos and reviews on Hostelworld.
  • Hostelworld’s new feature – I notice that Hostelworld has a new feature where you can chat with other travellers who have booked the same hostel as you.
  • Greether – this is a new website where you book an arrival meet-up with a local female host who’ll show you around and be available by text if you need her.
  • Volunteering – staying longer in a place is a great way to build stronger connections and meet like-minded folk. Workaway and Worldpackers are great for short-term volunteer projects around the world. Read my guide to getting started as a Workaway volunteer.

Read next: more ways to meet people as a solo traveller

Prioritise safety, always

When it comes to spending money, the thing I prioritise above all else is safety (margaritas are a close second, naturally!). This means paying extra for flights that arrive in new places in daylight. Getting a taxi home in the dark rather than walking. Leaving accommodation that feels sketchy even if I won’t get my money back. That kind of thing.

You’ll make the money back. Feeling safe is always worth it!

korea first time travelling alone

When solo travelling for the first time, you’ll find your comfort zone. There are some things other websites suggest that I believe are complete overkill, for example wearing a fake wedding ring and travelling with a security doorstop to lock out intruders. I have never done either during 10 years of travelling alone, nor have I needed to!

Reassuring your loved ones

Chances are it’s not just you feeling nervous about your first solo trip! If you don’t have older siblings or cousins who have paved the way, your family may be alarmed when you tell them you’re travelling alone for the first time.

If friends and families aren’t instantly supportive, try not to be annoyed. They’re probably just worried. Show them your fave Instagrams, websites and YouTube channels run by people like you. Take the time to sit down and talk through their concerns (but don’t let them project fears onto you!).

Show them you have a sensible plan in place… They may end up getting excited for you pretty quickly!

canada first solo trip
Show them my solo female travel blog!

Build yourself up

If you’re feeling nervous about committing to that first solo trip, I suggest doing the following:

  • Start small – go to a cafe alone, then maybe a casual restaurant for an early dinner. Get comfortable in this environment and you’ll soon stop wondering if people are thinking you’re weird (or whatever your concern may be… Spoiler, they’re not!)
  • Take a mini solo trip – why not spend a weekend in a city in your home country where you don’t know anyone? Stay in a hotel or hostel and get in the habit of sightseeing solo and booking your accommodation/activities etc alone.

See these things as preschool and high school… Now you’ve graduated into the world of solo travel!

Tackle nerves and anxiety

I find being well prepared is a great tactic before your trip so you’re not stressing at the last minute. Writing a to-do list and ticking things off can be cathartic.

But you also need to distract yourself! Set aside time for travel planning, then outside of this, try to think about travel as little as possible and do other fun things you enjoy like seeing friends or playing sports.

Identify what stresses you most and have a clear solution even if it involves splashing a little extra cash to start your trip. For example, if you’re nervous about landing alone and getting to your accommodation, book an airport pickup. If you’re stressed about hostel life, get a private room to start.

Also, practise some self-care and mindfulness techniques for example meditation and deep breathing. You got this!

guatemala travelling solo first time
Travelling solo for the first time is gunna be fine… promise!

Do your research

The better prepared you are, the less will go wrong and the safer you will be. Consider the following before departing:

  • Do I need a visa for my destination(s)?
  • Is it going to be easy to eat vegan/gluten-free/nut-free (if you have dietary requirements)?
  • What’s the weather going to be like?
  • Is it safe to walk at night and, if not, how will I get around (for example, is Uber available)?
  • How am I going to get from the airport to my accommodation?

Things to purchase before travelling alone for the first time

  • Travel insurance – for European travellers (inc UK), you can’t get better than True Traveller. I pay around £30 a month and they’ve paid out within days when I’ve claimed. For other nationalities, Hey Mundo is comparable.
  • Stay connected online with an Airalo e-SIM – download in advance so you’re connected as soon as you land. Browse 200+ regions or opt for their Euro or Asia cards.
  • Hostel essentials like ear plugs, eye mask and a padlock for lockers.
  • Bank cards – the cards I travel with that charge no or minimal cash withdrawal fees include Monzo, Starling (for UK travellers), Wise and Revolut (for various nationalities). Having several cards is useful if ever one is lost or stolen.
  • The right apps – Uber, Skyscanner, Rome2Rio, Hotelworld, Booking.com, Airbnb and transport apps for your destination (such as Flixbus and Trainline in Europe).
  • VPN – when using the internet abroad and inputting secure information such as your credit card details, stay safe online by using a VPN. I’ve had my details copied before and it was a nightmare to sort out! Nord is my provider of choice; their plans start from $3 a month.
  • Secure day bag – something that goes around your waist or chest that can’t easily be snatched is ideal. Then, I usually carry a tote bag for my non-valuables like water and sunscreen.
 travel europe
In this pic, you can just about see the kind of cross-body bag I wear

General tips

  • Plan B – have an alternative solution in mind for situations that could go wrong. For example, have Uber downloaded in case your airport taxi doesn’t show.
  • Trust your intuition – this may sound a bit hippie but I’ve learnt time and time again, it’s always right. If a situation feels off, just leave. No need to be polite.
  • Stay in touch with friends and family – sharing your whereabouts keeps you safer, but keeping in touch also reduces homesickness… And will likely make people more supportive of your future solo trips!

Consider a work exchange or tour

On my first solo trip in 2015 (which I anticipated being six months but nearly ended up being a year), I booked a few things throughout the trip so I had some structure and things to look forward to. These included a 2-week tour in Cambodia, volunteering for a month in a school in Hanoi, and doing a Workaway at a hostel in the Philippines.

Hanoi
I fell in love with Hanoi while working there!

The downsides of travelling alone include getting tired when you’re on the move every few days and constantly meeting new people. So these experiences were nice breaks from the relentless backpacking!

Volunteering with Workaway or Worldpackers offers the chance to help with community projects and meet locals and other travellers in exchange for free accommodation and sometimes food. There are projects from hostel work to gardening, teaching English, working with animals and loads more. Usually, there’s a 2-week minimum.

If you decide to sign up, use my discount codes for Workaway and Worldpackers to get money off the memberships.

Learn how to get in your own photos

first time solo travel tips

I used to struggle with this but then I levelled up and wrote this guide to getting in your own photos travelling!

At a glance…

  • Ask the right kind of stranger – ideally, Gen Z-aged girls who know how to take a flattering pic!
  • Invest in a tripod for your phone or camera
  • Become master of the self-timer!
  • Visit places early or late in the day (golden hour is gorge) so there are FEWER people to spoil your pics!

Thanks for reading!

I hope you have a better idea of how to prepare for your first solo trip! I know it feels scary and daunting now but it’s going to be a valuable, memorable experience whether it remains the only solo trip you do, or becomes a big part of your lifestyle.

Solo travel equips you with new skills, gives you new perspectives, and introduces you to wonderful new people and places. It’s so SO worth it. Maybe see you out there!

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