Navigation Menu

Authored by Parag Murali

Planning a solo jaunt across the land? If this is your first time planning a solo adventure abroad, I understand completely how excited and nervous you are. We were all once in your shoes. How to be a good solo traveler.

But before you slap on your backpack and march out that door, here’s a small checklist of things you might want to go through to ensure a smoother trip.

Research, Research, Research

Never underestimate the power of research. It doesn’t matter if you’re headed into uncharted territory or a bustling metropolis, it helps you greatly if you already know what to expect when you set foot in your destination. There’s nothing worse than experiencing culture shock – that alien feeling of the unfamiliar, so much so that a new environment becomes stressful and completely disorientating. So do some research to minimize this risk.

A quick google search should give you enough information on things like the local culture, geography, weather and political climate to start with. And don’t forget to check out the local laws and acceptable standards of behavior, those both written and unwritten. What should I research for travel planning?

Travelers find themselves in trouble almost daily for using the wrong gesture or for looking the wrong person in the eye. For instance did you also know that shaking your head can be interpreted as ‘yes’ in India?

“Hi, would you like to buy some drugs?

– Nervously shakes head –

“Great! Here’s two kilograms of cocaine!”

Kuh-Myoo-Nick-Ashion

Learn a few words and phrases from the local language and the appropriate situations to use them in. You would be surprised at how much a ‘Yallah’ or a ‘Habibi’ will make people to warm up to you in the Middle East.

You may only be passing through a country in transit, but that’s the day you will find yourself stuck in a foreign airport wondering what to do next!

Smartphone translation apps are a fantastic help, however also carry a small notebook to list phrases and notes about the places you are visiting. When compiling your list of phrases, remember to write them out phonetically. For instance writing ‘спасибо’ in Russian is absolutely no help if you cannot read Cryillic. Instead write ‘spa-see-ba’ (hello).  Those feeling particularly adventurous should consider writing out sentences in full.

Don’t be scared to try, or to ask a local for help with pronunciation.  Locals are much more impressed by those who make the attempt to speak their language than by those who don’t try at all.

Who Ya’ Gonna Call?

It’s very useful to have a list of contacts on hand that you can get in touch with if, (knock on wood) you should ever find yourself in trouble.

Make a list of numbers for your home country’s Embassy/Consulate (stolen passports are a thing in some countries you know?), local emergency numbers, and leave a copy of your itinerary at home with someone you trust. If you have friends or relatives in the country/area, make sure you have their numbers as well, and carry a card with the details of your travel health insurance provider.

There’s no telling what kind of emergency you might encounter on the road.

Hitch-hiking for free transport

Link up With Other Travelers and Locals!

This is for many people, the single greatest reward of solo travel – meeting new people. There’s so much you discover from engaging with people from different cultures and backgrounds. And so much to be gained from interacting with those who share the same interests and passion for adventure as you.

Being alive in the internet age has its perks. A slew of apps and websites have made it that much easier for travelers to get in touch with people at their destinations. It doesn’t matter if you’re just hanging out with your host from ‘AirBnB’ or finding fellow travelers to share in your adventure from apps like ‘Penroads’, you’re guaranteed to meet some cool people on your journey.

As a matter of fact, Penroads is the best way for you to connect with international travellers coming in from all over the world, so it’s definitely a useful tool to have.

Stay Healthy

Last but not least, take care of your body. Stay hydrated. It’s no good if your mind yells “Onward!” and your body groans “Hell no!”. Find out if you need to get vaccinated before setting off. Carry a basic travel first aid kit, especially if you’re venturing into the wilderness. Learn about how to prevent altitude sickness if traveling to destinations which are well above sea level.

On occasion you might have to be careful about where and what you eat as well. Talk to someone who has traveled to India and you just might hear the story about how the delicious chicken Tikka from a street vendor gave them a bad case of ‘Delhi Belly’.

So if you’re worried about the food and tap water, ensure that you have completed your research and consulted the locals or your hotel concierge before chowing down or taking a sip.

INSPIRED? PIN THIS TO YOUR TRAVEL PINTEREST BOARDS ↓

Hear about new posts on Facebook: Please click “like”!

Parag Murali is the Marketing & Happiness Manager at penroads.com. He combines his love for travelling and people into a daily passion for bringing travellers together.

You can contact him at parag@penroads.com for just about anything, so feel free!

Photo credits: Greek Guide by Jay Bergesen, Consulting a Greek local by Gabriel Rodríguez.

    20 Comments

  1. Love those, I might have to try Penroads!
    It’s always nice to be able to connect with other travellers once on the road!

    I think having the numbers of your consulate/embassy is important but you should also contact them, they keep a list of people in the country you visit so if something happens they know you are there and they act accordingly.

    And I can only agree with the part about health! And for altitude sickness… that is really something to take seriously! We ended up in Tagong, pretty high up, and my other half got altitude sickness. we weren’t prepared at all and had to go back down!

    • Great tip Marie re contacting your embassy/consulate before you travel overseas. AUstrlia has a website where travelers can register where they’re traveling, and this really does help when it comes to locating you during the event of a natural disaster or other tragedy. I actully often forget to register myself so I need to be more proactive with that.

      And absolutely on the altitude sicnkess – it’s not something people often consider before they leave but when it hits, it hits hard, and it’s so important to get to a lower level of elevation if it gets worse.

      Happy travels! Definitely check out Penroads if you get the chance :)

  2. Definitely great suggestions — I think people who are about to set off on a solo trip can often get overexcited about the opportunity and forget that safety is just as important as sightseeing!

    Thanks for sharing this list though — I think I’ll hang onto it for the next time someone asks me about solo travel :)

    (Also, love the photo of the barefoot woman on the street… What! :-D )

    • Absolutely Valerie. And it’s totally understandable to overlook important aspects when it’s your first time traveling and you’re dealing with emotions of being both nervous and excited at the same time.

      Haha and that barefoot woman in the street is actually me lol. We were driving through Olympic National Park up in Washington in the States and decded it was the perfect spot to pull over and stage an impromptu photo shoot. Though the shot worked so much better without my sneakers lol they totally threw off the balance of the photo :D

  3. These are great, especially for solo travelers. But they apply to all travelers. It might as well be entitled, “How to Make the Most out of Travel.” My husband and I value all these tips.

    • Glad you enjoyed them Carol – though I agree – each tip can absolutely be taken and applied to all travelers in general. Glad we could set you up with some tips!

  4. Great advice and definitely applies not just to solo travellers but to all travellers for sensible and pratical travel planning and backup plans for emergency! I love doing the research and learning phrases in foreign language, gets me all excited about the destination and travelling there :-)

    • I agree – each of these tips can absolutely be taken and applied to travel in general, even for the most frequent of travelers out there. I also really enjoy learning different phrases for each new country I visit. Really adds a whole new dimension to your experience and it feels so much more immersive when you’re actually there :)

      Travel safe! X

  5. Thank you for a very informative guide. You are very right about learning a few words of the local language. I always do that and it has helped me a lot of time and its also a great way to start a conversation with the locals.

    • You’re welcome Vedante – so glad to hear you’re also of the approach to take up a few words in the local language. It really does work wonders, usually locals don’t even mind if you butcher the language lol it’s all about making the effort to at least try :)

  6. Great tips – learning a few phrases of the local language can go a long way and researching the destination to avoid culture shock and confusion is very helpful in adjusting!

    • Absolutely Mary – especially if you end up needing to approach someone for help or directions etc, sign language is great, but learning a few of the language basics will really go so far :)

  7. No matter how much I try to note down phrases, locals never tend to understand what I really mean. So i agree learning pronunciations are a must. It’s like English, my friend once butchered the word Twilight from Tw’ee’light to Tw’a’light. :D.. and no one else except him knew what that meant.
    I use these tips even if I am travelling alone or with somebody, especially the research part and finding spots where the locals hang out.

    • I’m the same :D So I always write down the pronunciations; I do usually write down the actual work in the foreign language as it is spelled too though because it does come in handy if you end up just showing them your notes and they can read what you’re trying to say, but pronunciations help so much!!

      And you’re totally right, you can easily apply these tips to when you’re traveling with someone too – fairly general advice which everyone can take onboard regardless of if they’re traveling solo :)

      Happy travels Shilpa!

  8. haha you made me laugh at the head shaking! So true though. When I moved to Dubai I never knew if the Indian people at most shops were agreeing with my requests or saying no. I quickly realized that their head shaking was often just acknowledgement and not agreement! I can’t agree more with the local part. It has always been best for me to connect with locals when traveling solo. Not just for the genuine chance to experience a place but for the safety and language barrier. Of course, I go to lots of places nobody goes to and where women don’t step foot alone so this is even more relevant

    • Haha it’s always a bit difficult at first interacting when there’s so much of a language barrier there, not only by way of the actual language but also in the customs and gestures people use to communicate. Normally I’ve found it ends up just being a humorous misunderstanding, but could definitely cause offence in some cases if we’re not aware of how our actions are interpreted.

      And good point re connecting with locals being a good idea for safety when you’re traveling alone. I’ve found from my own experiences that the locals are very protective of travelers and always happy to help if it means ensuring a better experience for you in their hometown.

  9. Learning a few phrases of the local language is always a great help and not only a way of building a bridge with the locals but also a way of showing appreciation of the local culture and environment.

    • Absolutely Michela – I’ve found it really does get you so much farther just making the effort. As you said, it’s a sign of respect for the locals of the country your visiting, to show appreciation for their culture and ways. Even if you totally butcher the language or make no sense, I’ve found they appreciate the effort you’ve made :)

  10. This is a good summary. Staying in hostels and talking with strangers would also help you meet with locals and travelers. I used this trick in my last trip to Spain (Voted best country for solo travelers by Travel+Leisure) I and had a map in my hand asked people on the street I felt like connecting with about directions, most of the time the conversation carries forward and you get to meet a local for drinks later that evening :) Or also asking them to take a picture of you (cause selfies are ugly) would work.

    Also If you like traveling but not a big fan of going solo, here’s an awesome free resource: https://www.tripolette.com/

    Tripolette helps you find other travelers with similar plans. Lots of travelers are already connecting and sharing trips together. Join the community! Never start a trip cold. Always have company!

    • Thanks for the tips Babak! Such a fabulous icebreaker idea with the map and the selfie – asking people to take photos of you is my preferred preference too – really hate the selfie sticks which are taking over the world right now!

      Thanks for the tip on Tripolette – will be sure to check it out on my next solo trip :)

Post a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Share96
Tweet79
Pin159
Flip
Share4