As many of you know by now (especially if you’ve been following my blog over the last few years), it’s no secret that I am a huge solo travel advocate. I love doing it, I think everyone should try it in their life at least once and I promise you that once you do muster up the courage, book the ticket and step foot off a plane in an unknown country and make it through your trip unscathed, you’ll wonder why you haven’t travelled solo before and you may become addicted to it. It’s okay though…that’s one addiction I can fully support you guys having. 😉
Solo travel isn’t all just sunshine and rainbows. It can be filled with awkward moments, scary moments and confusing moments. I’ve been there, done that, bought the postcard and wrote the blog posts about it.
The pros will always outweigh the cons with me though, hence why I keep travelling solo and enjoying it, despite having had many hiccups along the way. Mistakes are inevitable and can and will happen to even the most seasoned solo traveller.
I’ve compiled a list of (mostly preventable) mistakes that first time solo travellers tend to make during their adventures, so sit back, relax, have a read through and hopefully your journey is that of self growth and exciting times, rather than a time from the depths of hell. Enjoy!
Read more: Why I love solo travel
Being Too Flashy
Displaying your expensive watch, jewellery, or other expensive items just makes you a walking target for unnecessary attention. Being discreet with your pricey possessions is better than putting them out on display and flashing them to everyone passing by. Leave the expensive brand name items at home if you can. Of course, every country, city and location is different, but your goal while travelling, especially solo, is to blend in as much as possible, not stick out like a tourist because to many people, tourist = money!
Not Trusting People
Most first time solo travellers have this preconceived notion that everyone is bad in every other country except their own. And they couldn’t be more wrong! I strongly believe that there are more good than bad people out there in the world and allowing yourself to trust other people whether it be fellow travellers, or local people in the city you’re travelling in, may allow you to be more open and social and you may even make a travel buddy for an afternoon. Gasp! The horror! 😉
Trusting People Too Much
Ok, this point may seem counteractive to the point above, but hear me out. Although trusting people is important to open yourself up to be more social while solo, it’s also important to NOT trust people too much. Remember how I said that there are more good people in the world than bad people? Well, if you are too trusting, you may be opening yourself up to be scammed, robbed, or worse by those baddies out there. Exercise trust with caution. Simple as that. 🙂
Read more: How to stay safe as a solo traveller
Not Sharing Travel Plans
This is one of every first time solo travellers biggest faux pas. Regardless of the country you are going to, or the length of time you’re away for, you should always, always, always share your travel plans with a close relative, or a close friend back home. Even if your plans change slightly, just a quick email saying you’ll be staying the night in this Amsterdam hotel tomorrow rather than that London hotel, could be valuable information. If something were to happen to you overseas, it’d be a lot less nerve wracking trying to figure out your whereabouts if someone knew your city and hotel location on a certain date, rather than just the country you are visiting.
Read more: How to Create the Perfect Travel Itinerary
Not Being Assertive Enough
Nobody wants to be pegged as that “bitch” or “asshole” rude tourist, but you need to know when to be assertive when faced with a rather uncomfortable situation. If you are being hassled on the street by a vendor once you’ve repeatedly said no thank you, then it’s time to raise your voice, look them in the eye with your best resting bitch face and say NO. In a lot of countries, tourists are seen as easy targets, so the best way to drive home that no means no, is to raise your voice a little bit. It’ll work and you don’t need to be mean about it, just assertive. There’s a difference. 🙂
Read more: 5 Solo Travel Myths That Need To Be Debunked
Being “Too” Solo
Solo travel isn’t only about keeping to yourself, not talking to others and just staying a mime for weeks on end. Humans are by nature social creatures, so we need to interact with other people after a certain amount of time, yes…even us solo travellers do too. The best way to do this is join a tour group with other travellers and do something really fun and cool together, like riding ATV’s through the island of Gozo Malta. I met some really cool people on that tour, got to rip an ATV and see awesome corners of the country. Win-Win!
Not Researching Local Customs
Save yourself an embarrassing, or slightly offensive moment by researching local customs. Most churches around the world require women to cover their shoulders and knees and men to cover their knees out of respect. In places like Thailand, one must never enter a temple with shoes on their feet, or point the bottoms of their feet toward a Buddha figure. Doing a bit of research regarding locals customs won’t only make you a more respectful traveller, but it’ll also provide you with experiencing things just as locals would do.
Read more: What Solo Travel Has Taught Me
Not Protecting Your Bag/Purse While Out Exploring
Petty theft is one of the highest form of crimes to tourists, no matter what country you’re in. While in crowded areas, always be aware of your belongings and if you can, invest in buying a cross body bag/purse. Having a bag that goes across your body rather than hanging behind you, or off one shoulder, makes it that much harder for you to get ripped off by pickpocket artists. I call them artists because they have absolutely perfected their craft; the craft of stealing from unbeknownst tourists. Don’t be that tourist. All it takes is a team of petty thieves to distract you, while the other rips you off without you even having the slightest clue until it’s too late. Keep you eyes on your bags/purses at all times.
Not Being Aware Of Your Surroundings
To me, this is one of THE most important points you’ll read on this list. Not being aware of your surrounding could potentially ruin your vacation, or worse. I NEVER walk around strange cities with headphones in because I want to be able to hear everything around me. The most recent example I can give you is when I was in Maastricht, Netherlands (one of the safest countries in the world) and I was followed all throughout the city one evening by a man who I thought was going to rob me, or worse. He was watching me from a distance for some time, but I noticed him. I tried to lose him and he kept following me, getting closer, faster and I was scared. I was able to seek refuge in a coffee shop that some girls were closing down and I pretended to know them. He then went down an alley and waited for me along the side of the building. Once he noticed us noticing him, he threw his hands in the air and stormed away. It was a terrifying moment, especially being alone, but because I am always watching other people more than they should be watching me, I was able to realize what was happening and think quick.
I like to go out and enjoy a drink, or two while out for a meal just as much as the next person. Yes, I may even get a little tipsy. Travelling solo won’t stop me from having a good time, but I NEVER get wasted drunk while travelling solo. It’s just asking for trouble, especially being in an unfamiliar city and country with nobody to help you out of a sticky situation. You’re on your own; YOU need to look out for YOU! Have fun, but don’t put yourself in a vulnerable situation.
Ignoring Your Instincts
While travelling solo you must remember that you are the only person looking out for you. If you find yourself in a situation that just doesn’t seem right, whether it’s while walking through an area of town that doesn’t look the best, or like my situation being followed by that man, you must always trust your instincts while alone. There is a real term called traveller’s gut and let me tell you, when you feel it, you’ll know. It’s an uneasy feeling in the pit of your stomach that tells you that something just isn’t right. When you feel that sensation, it’s best to not ignore it.
Not Trying The Local Cuisine
Now, I don’t know why, but a lot of people when they travel solo, are afraid to try the local foods and tend stick to familiar Westernized restaurants/chains. Perhaps it’s a fear of dining alone surrounded by locals that might freak them out a bit, but I say go for it. Go to the local haunts, try the street foods owned by mom and pop and indulge in amazing local cuisine. I mean, who goes to Germany and doesn’t eat the delicious pretzels, juicy sausages and drink cold crisp German beer? You’re on vacation in a country you may never visit again, stay out of the McDonalds and eat local.
Not Researching Hotel Location
As a solo traveller, I tend to always research the area in which I want to book my hotel in. Not only am I looking for proximity to attractions that I want to see, but I’m also looking at reviews to check to make sure that the hotel isn’t in a seedy, or sketchy neighbourhood. You’re not going to know unless you look into it, so do yourself a favour and read hotel reviews as they tend to be bluntly honest.
Arriving In The Dark
When I’m heading to a new destination, I always look for flights that arrive in the morning or mid-afternoon, never in the evening. Nothing is worse than trying to navigate a new city in the dark and plus you’ll lose an entire day of exploring as well. Always try to get the most out of your first day, even if it means arriving very early in the morning. You may not be able to check into your hotel, but you’ll be able to drop your luggage off, enjoy less crowded streets and wander around the city before checking in.
Not Researching Enough
I personally like to research how I’m getting from the airport to my first hotel before anything else. When you’re fresh off an international flight, on barely any sleep and it’s early in the morning at your new location; all you really want to do is get the fuck out of the airport, check in and flop down on that comfy hotel bed before getting ready to hit the streets. Nothing is more annoying in my opinion, than having to figure out how to get from the airport into the city centre while you are half asleep and groggy. Finding out if you can take a bus, train, or cab into the city will relieve the stressful situation of having to figure it all out on your arrival. Plus, you’ll feel like a total solo travel boss by already knowing where to go once you land.
Read more: Tips for travelling within Europe
Not Travelling With Travel Insurance
No matter where I go, whether it’s a day trip hiking in The U.S., or two weeks in Europe, I NEVER travel without travel insurance. I’m fortunate that my work covers me for travel (to a certain extent). My philosophy is, if I’m leaving the country in which I live in, I will ALWAYS make sure I’m covered. No matter what! Having a piece of mind knowing that I’ll be covered if I break my leg is better than not being covered and breaking my bank account. Got it? Good!
Not Telling Your Bank That You’re Travelling
I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve heard stories about people’s card being declined overseas, or bank cards that have been frozen during their travels. It’s enough to cause a slight panic attack especially when you’re trying to pay for your dinner and the server is less than pleased that you’ve been declined, or you’re trying to buy a train ticket and your card won’t work. This can all be avoided by simply giving your bank a quick call (or carry cash like I always do) to mention that you’ll be travelling to such and such a country during such and such dates, so when they see your card being charged in Thailand, they won’t freak out and freeze your accounts. Most banks nowadays say that they don’t need any heads up, but that’s bullshit…still call them to save yourself the hassle. You’ll be glad you did when you aren’t stuck having to wash dishes in an Irish pub somewhere in Dublin because you couldn’t pay.
Not Going At All
The biggest mistake that first time solo travellers make? Not going at all. Yes, it may be scary going out on your own for the first time ever; travelling to an unknown country with unfamiliar faces, foreign languages and transit systems that seem harder to navigate than NYC’s subway system. All the pros will outweigh the cons with travelling solo, I promise you. You’ll learn so much about yourself, other cultures and learn to truly enjoy some precious alone time and make you wonder why you haven’t gone solo sooner.
Have any of you guys ever travelled solo before? If so, what was your first solo destination and did you have any fears before heading off on your own? If you had any fears, how did you get over them? If you haven’t travelled solo, but want to, what’s stopping you? Let me know in the comments below! xo