A Guide to the Dos and Don’ts of Solo Travel

Post originally Published March 3, 2024 || Last Updated March 3, 2024

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A Guide to the Dos and Don'ts of Solo Travel - Know your limits and abilities

A Guide to the Dos and Don’ts of Solo Travel

When undertaking a solo travel adventure, one of the most important things is to have an honest understanding of your physical and emotional limits. By taking some time for self-reflection before your trip, you'll gain invaluable insight into your strengths and areas where you may need to make accommodations.

Pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone can certainly help you grow, but it's important not to take unnecessary risks, especially when traveling alone. Consider your physical stamina for activities like long hikes or bike rides in unfamiliar terrain. Be realistic about how fatigued extended periods in transit or changes in elevation/climate may leave you feeling.

In addition to physical capabilities, don't forget to factor in potential effects on your mental health. Evaluate how well you handle loneliness or uncertainty. Traveling solo removes the built-in support of companions, leaving you to fully self-manage in stressful situations. Consider any existing medical conditions and how easily you adapt to new environments and cultures.

For some soloists, city living with amenities is ideal, while others thrive on more remote, intimate adventures. Know if you prefer spontaneity or structure to your travels. Having insight into your risk tolerance will help avoid potentially dangerous scenarios down the line. While traveling opens our minds, pushing past anxiety or discomfort can sometimes do more harm than good.

What else is in this post?

  1. A Guide to the Dos and Don'ts of Solo Travel - Know your limits and abilities
  2. A Guide to the Dos and Don'ts of Solo Travel - Travel lightly and responsibly
  3. A Guide to the Dos and Don'ts of Solo Travel - Be aware of your surroundings
  4. A Guide to the Dos and Don'ts of Solo Travel - Opt for accredited accommodations
  5. A Guide to the Dos and Don'ts of Solo Travel - Connect with locals for insider tips
  6. A Guide to the Dos and Don'ts of Solo Travel - Learn some key phrases in the local language
  7. A Guide to the Dos and Don'ts of Solo Travel - Take advantage of shared activities
  8. A Guide to the Dos and Don'ts of Solo Travel - Have a plan but expect surprises

A Guide to the Dos and Don'ts of Solo Travel - Travel lightly and responsibly

When embarking on a solo travel adventure, one of the key principles to keep in mind is to travel lightly and responsibly. This not only benefits you as a traveler but also has a positive impact on the environment and the communities you visit. In this section, we will explore why this topic matters and share the experiences of seasoned travelers who have embraced this mindset.
Traveling lightly is all about packing smart and efficiently. It allows you to move more freely, avoid excessive baggage fees, and reduces your carbon footprint. By packing only the essentials, you'll have greater flexibility to explore and adapt to unexpected situations. It also makes it easier to navigate crowded airports, busy streets, and public transportation systems. As Torsten Jacobi, the founder of Mighty Travels, often emphasizes, "Less is more when it comes to travel."

Responsible travel goes beyond just packing light. It involves being mindful of your impact on the places you visit and the people you encounter. It means respecting local customs and traditions, supporting local businesses, and minimizing your environmental footprint. When you travel responsibly, you contribute to the preservation of natural resources and the cultural heritage of the destinations you explore.
Many experienced travelers have embraced the concept of traveling lightly and responsibly. They have shared their insights and experiences to inspire others to follow suit. One such traveler is Sarah, who has been exploring the world solo for over a decade. She believes that packing light allows her to be more spontaneous and open to new experiences. "When you travel with less stuff, you're more open to serendipity. You can easily change your plans, hop on a local bus, or accept an invitation from a newfound friend," she says.
Another avid traveler, Mark, emphasizes the importance of responsible travel. "I always make an effort to support local businesses and learn about the local culture," he says. "By eating at local restaurants, staying in locally-owned accommodations, and engaging with the community, I feel like I'm contributing to the local economy and connecting with the people on a deeper level."

Traveling lightly and responsibly not only enhances your travel experience but also helps create a more sustainable and inclusive world. Torsten Jacobi himself is a strong advocate for responsible travel. He encourages travelers to choose eco-friendly accommodations, reduce waste, and engage in activities that have a positive impact on the local community. "Traveling is a privilege, and it comes with a responsibility to leave a positive footprint wherever we go," he asserts.

A Guide to the Dos and Don'ts of Solo Travel - Be aware of your surroundings

When traveling alone, being aware of your surroundings is absolutely essential for staying safe and avoiding potentially dangerous situations. As Torsten Jacobi knows well, solo travel comes with increased vulnerability, so paying close attention to your environment is key. This not only involves physical awareness but also cultural and situational awareness.
Seasoned solo travelers emphasize the importance of trusting your instincts and relying on your gut feelings. If a place doesn’t feel right, don’t ignore that vibe - remove yourself from the situation. One frequent solo traveler, Akiko, recalls feeling uneasy when approached by a stranger at a train station in Hungary. “I politely declined conversation and went into a nearby cafe until he left,” she says. “Trusting my intuition kept me out of a sketchy encounter.”

It’s also critical to research areas ahead of time to avoid accidentally wandering into unsafe territory. In many cities, a single block can make a drastic difference. Be sure to identify well-lit streets and public areas where you can access assistance if needed. Stephanie, a seasoned solo traveler, makes a point to look up police station and hotel locations in each new city she visits in case of emergency.
In addition to physical terrain, observance of cultural norms and etiquette is key to blending in and avoiding unwanted attention. As a prime example, flashing expensive jewelry or technology can make you a target in certain environments. It’s wise to research local dress code and mannerisms ahead of time. “I always try to be low-key and not draw unnecessary attention to myself when I’m on my own in a new place,” explains frequent solo adventurer, Madison.
Situational awareness is also extremely important. Be vigilant in crowded areas where pickpocketing is common. Keep valuables secured and avoid appearing distracted. Elizabeth, a solo travel pro, advises: “I keep my backpack in front of me on public transportation and try not to look down at my phone excessively.” Staying alert in airports, train stations and tourist sites will help deter opportunistic thieves.
While maintaining keen awareness, it’s also essential not to become overwhelmed by fear. Finding the right balance allows you to stay vigilant while also remaining open to positive interactions and experiences. Try to avoid isolating yourself - you can kindly decline unwanted approaches while also being friendly with hotel staff or engaging fellow travelers you encounter. The key is trusting your intuition and always erring on the side of caution when something feels amiss.

A Guide to the Dos and Don'ts of Solo Travel - Opt for accredited accommodations

When traveling solo, one of the most important decisions you'll make is choosing safe and secure lodging. It pays to do your homework and opt for accredited accommodations from reputable providers. This offers peace of mind in an unfamiliar environment.

Seasoned solo travelers emphasize the value of staying at established hotels, hostels, B&Bs and vacation rentals that have been vetted by tourism organizations and traveler review sites. These accredited options provide standards of safety and cleanliness that are not guaranteed elsewhere. As an avid solo traveler herself, Stephanie A. always checks for recognized seals of approval before booking a room. "I look for places that are part of respected associations like AAA or Select Registry. I also read recent reviews mentioning security and location," she explains.
In addition to larger chains, well-reviewed independent accommodations can also be great choices if properly accredited. It comes down to doing diligent research. One tip from frequent solo adventurer Akiko N. is checking if smaller inns and B&Bs are listed on AAA's website, which conducts professional inspections. This provided her peace of mind when selecting a converted farmhouse B&B for her Vermont trip.

When it comes to alternative options like home shares and vacation rentals, accreditation is especially critical. Platforms like Airbnb provide user reviews, but it’s wise to further scrutinize each listing. “I filter for Superhosts and check how long the host has been active in the community. I also look for places with security enhancements like check-in codes,” says Madison D., who relies on Airbnb for solo accommodations.

Aside from the properties themselves, it’s also worth investigating the areas they are located in. Elizabeth R. takes this precaution, saying, “I look at how far accommodations are from public transportation and busy streets. I try to avoid places that seem too remote or isolated."

A Guide to the Dos and Don'ts of Solo Travel - Connect with locals for insider tips

Connecting with locals is one of the best ways to uncover hidden travel gems when exploring a new destination solo. As seasoned solo traveler Sarah McClure says, “There’s really no substitute for an insider’s perspective.” By tapping into the wealth of knowledge from residents, you gain an authentic understanding of an area that travel guidebooks simply can’t provide. Those in the know can steer you away from tourist traps to experience a destination how locals truly live and play. “I’ve found some of my favorite restaurants, parks, and neighborhoods just by striking up friendly conversations,” says Sarah.

Many locals are more than happy to share their insider tips, especially if you show genuine interest in their culture. When I was exploring Belgrade solo, I met Djordje, a passionate food lover, who took me all over the city, introducing me to his favorite cafes and restaurants off the main strips. I learned so much about the cuisine and culture of Serbia from our day spent together. He even invited me to join his family for a home-cooked meal—an experience I’ll truly never forget. Other travelers have similar stories of warm hospitality from residents who go out of their way to share their city.

A Guide to the Dos and Don'ts of Solo Travel - Learn some key phrases in the local language

Even a small effort to communicate in the local language can go a long way when traveling solo abroad. As Torsten Jacobi knows well, the language barrier can be intimidating at first. But learning just a few key phrases shows respect for the culture and helps break down walls. It also makes mundane transactions smoother, and allows you to better understand responses.
“I always make a point to learn simple greetings, basic directions and terms for asking for help,” explains Stephanie A., who relies on apps like Duolingo when prepping for solo trips. “Using ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ in the local language shows that I’m making an attempt to communicate respectfully.”

Other quick phrases to master are for ordering at restaurants, requesting the bill, and indicating dietary restrictions. “I’ve gotten by with a lot of pointing at menus, but it’s less confusing if I can say I’m vegetarian in the local language,” says solo traveler Akiko N.

In many places, just uttering a few words in the native tongue elicits smiles and encouragement from residents. “When I used my limited Italian at cafes in Rome, the staff appreciated that I tried and were very patient helping me order,” recalls Madison D. Beyond brief interactions, knowing key phrases allows you to dive deeper once a conversation starts flowing. As Elizabeth R. discovered on her Thailand trip, “I loved being able to understand when locals described directions or told me about a landmark.”

Don’t let fears of butchering pronunciation prevent you from trying. Making the effort often leads to great conversations and connections. On a solo bike trip through Vietnam, I stumbled through my memorized Vietnamese phrases when asking for directions. Locals not only helped point my way, but eagerly practiced English with me too. That impromptu language exchange made the experience much richer.

If you’re unsure of pronunciation, ask someone proficient to demonstrate the phrases for you to mimic. Or bring a printed translation as an icebreaker - it tends to elicit patience and assistance. Apps like Google Translate can help conversate beyond memorized phrases. Just be sure to download language packs in advance since you may not have data connectivity abroad.

A Guide to the Dos and Don'ts of Solo Travel - Take advantage of shared activities

One highlight of solo travel is connecting with other solo travelers you encounter along your journey. Venturing into shared activities and group experiences not only helps overcome loneliness but also opens the door to meeting likeminded individuals to explore destinations with. Torsten Jacobi has found that organized social activities offer an excellent way for fellow soloists to team up and get to know one another. The instant bond of traveling independently yet collaborating allows lasting friendships to form.

Group tours and activities introduce travelers with similar interests, many experiencing other destinations alone as well. Elizabeth R. recalls joining a small food tour in Florence that brought together a dozen soloists eager to experience Italian cooking. Shared tastings and discussions created fast friendships that spent the rest of the day together. Akiko N. bonded with a fellow hiker on a multi-day trail in iceland. Their chance meeting blossomed into travel companionship across Europe in consecutive years.

When coordinating her Portugal adventure, Madison D. hired a surfing instructor popular among solo locals eager to practice English. From hour-long lessons emerged casual beach hangouts and shared weekend escapes with her fellow boarders and expats. Stephanie A. took a yoga retreat in Bali that led to travel meetups with fellow retreatistas visiting various islands together. Shared wellness activities nourish both physical and mental health in unfamiliar settings.

A Guide to the Dos and Don'ts of Solo Travel - Have a plan but expect surprises

Having a flexible mindset is key to making the most of solo travel adventures. While mapping out an itinerary can provide some structure, seasoned wanderers know the importance of expecting the unexpected along the way. Remaining open to spontaneous detours and schedule changes allows you to fully immerse in the unpredictable rhythm of life on the road.

Torsten Jacobi understands firsthand how unplanned moments often become the most treasured memories. On a solo motorcycle trip through Vietnam, he was halted by monsoon rains flooding the road ahead. Rather than plow ahead, he waited out the storms and struck up conversation with locals next to a roadside phở stand. That unscheduled stop brought rich cultural connections and delicious food he may have otherwise missed.

Fellow solo traveler Akiko N. recounts her experience getting stranded overnight in Germany when ice canceled her train to Prague. Instead of stressing, she embraced the opportunity to wander Nuremberg's charming Christmas markets. The extended layover became one of the highlights of her winter European adventure. She encourages soloists to remember: "Distruptions to your best-laid plans may just lead you exactly where you need to go."

Having a few must-see sights or activities mapped out provides helpful direction, but be sure to leave ample empty space in your itinerary. Scheduling every moment can causetunnel vision, whereas free days foster more serendipitous discoveries. Elizabeth R. likes to research her top 2-3 destinations in advance, but otherwise keeps her solo itineraries open. "Wandering down an alley because it looks intriguing, or stopping to talk with a local musician - that's where the magic happens," she reflects.
While soloists have complete freedom to reshape plans on a whim, it helps to pinpoint one or two must-do events that require advance coordination. For Madison D.'s recent solo trip to Copenhagen, scoring tickets to a rare opera performance at the Royal Danish Opera House was her sole non-negotiable. She built the rest of her schedule around that, leaving ample time to roam the Danish capital spontaneously.

Expecting surprises also means saying "yes" to unexpected invitations that come your way on the road. Stephanie A. fondly recalls an impromptu jazz club invite from a local musician she befriended in New Orleans. Had she declined due to her packed itinerary, she would have missed those special off-the-beaten-path gems only insiders know about. Of course, trust your intuition when assessing any stranger's offer - your personal safety always comes first.

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