Written by Bridget Eke, University of Leeds, September 2023
So you want to take a trip on your own. Great idea! But first know what to expect.
Whether it’s a long-term break or just a quick weekend getaway, there are ways to maximise your fun and minimise the risk. We’ve gathered some advice and spoken to students who’ve travelled solo, to give you the lowdown on going it alone.
Strike a balance between submerging yourself in the customs of a place and ensuring your own personal safety, which has to be your priority as a solo traveller.
How do you decide where to stay in another country?
Leah, 23: “I’ll always opt for an AirBnB. I find security in knowing the correct channels to reach out through if I have any issues. Landlords have been very welcoming and provide great recommendations. And I like staying in a home away from home.”
Asif, 20: “Cost is usually my number one decision-making factor. If I want to stay in multiple cities, I’ll pick a hostel to save money, and to meet other solo travellers as well.”
Google Maps is a dream tool in any location, of course. Prior research can be vital, though, because some cities will have their own version of Citymapper that’ll help you to plan a route before you arrive. The right app will allow you to compare modes of transport along with prices, so you can jump on a Metro, pre-book an airport transfer, or safely book a car ride in advance. It’s also useful preparation to look at forums for advice, from travellers as well as locals.
Solo travelling can be a life-changing experience, but it’s important to stay alert. Keep some safety practices in mind and you can avoid serious problems on your adventures.
What is your top safety tip for travelling solo?
Leah, 23: "Definitely to secure your valuables. In busy cities, keep an eye out for pickpockets. I like to keep my passport with me when I’m out and about, and if I do stay in hotels, I’ll use the safe."
Hannah, 24: "Always share your location and travel plans with a trusted friend or family member. I love the iPhone app, Find My iPhone, where you text someone your number and it means they can track it."
You don’t need to be a Type A planner to prepare – the freest of free spirits can find the perfect activity in advance with just a little bit of planning. It gives you that buzz of anticipation, too.
What’s the most memorable activity or excursion you’ve undertaken alone?
Asif, 20: “Quad biking in Croatia is up there, for sure. I get why people call me a thrillseeker, because I’m always trying to top my previous experiences.”
Leah, 23: “I love immersing myself in a city’s culture from a local’s perspective. In Portugal, I went on my first walking tour, which are usually free or ‘pay as you feel’. I learnt so much from the local tour guide, while also feeling safe walking in a group.”
This is one of the more ‘adult’ aspects of travelling – a bit of a pain, in other words – but it’s important. I’ll always speak to my GP a few weeks before a trip, to check if I need any vaccinations for my destinations. The NHS: Fit For Travel website is incredibly useful, with lots of advice. Also, when travelling alone, I always feel better for having that extra blanket of security: travel insurance. In the end, having peace of mind makes the trip that much more rewarding.