I get asked very frequently about my solo travel experiences, and before getting deep into solo travel tips, ideas, budgets, etc. I normally summarise the concept of solo travel with two quotes of my own making:
Travelling solo is not for everyone, but everyone should try it at least once.
When travelling solo, you’re anything but solo.
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I say that everyone should try travelling alone at least once because you end up discovering a lot about yourself, you question and bring down barriers imposed by society and see life under different perspectives which ends up opening a sense of empathy towards other cultures when you realise there are many different ways of living life on this wonderful planet we call home.
And with the second quote, when you travel solo you’re more approachable by the locals and you also push yourself to approach them as well. You can have your time for yourself if you need it, but I can tell you after travelling solo around many countries in the world, to make friends is the easiest part of the travelling experience!
Now, there are many ways to travel the world and that’s a personal choice for each of us, I always prefer travelling low-cost for two reasons, the obvious one is that I’m not rich and can’t afford to waste money but the second one is almost equally important as well as when you stay at the cheapest hostel you can find that’s where you will meet most people. I have been in fancy hotels a few times in my life so I know that in those places you never interact with any other guests, while in a hostel that’s one of the most exciting parts of the stay.
You can find either party hostels or more relaxing environments but in all you’re almost guaranteed to meet lots of people. Granted, many will be random strangers that you meet one day and perhaps will never see again in your life even if you had a nice conversation. But some of those strangers you will meet will also become friends for life, I have been fortunate enough to meet quite a few of those special people in many countries and that would not have happened if I didn’t decide to knock down any tiny insecurities and go out as a solo traveller to explore the world.
I’ve written a few posts about travel tips on a budget but here goes a few things I get asked and no-one ever told me but I think my younger self would have appreciated:
Is it difficult to travel the world alone?
No. It can certainly feel daunting if you have never done a solo trip, but it’s not different than spending a day walking all over your city on your own.
If you think it’s difficult because it could be dangerous, or you need a lot of money, or because of your gender, or any other thing that society made you believe just keep reading and hopefully you will see that the only single thing stopping you of going out there and experience the world may be yourself.
Is solo travel safe?
YES! It’s not different to your own city no matter where you live. I’ve lived in London for a few years and I always tell to everyone that London is much more dangerous than most of the world and no one seems to be afraid when travelling there, and they shouldn’t! That’s my point, that as long as you have some common sense then you should be fine.
Of course things can happen, and you do need to be aware of your surroundings in some countries but I can tell you that I’m much more relaxed in chaotic cities like Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur than in Barcelona with all their pickpockets!
No matter if you’re a man or woman, always read the environment, for example:
If you think the street or area you are looks a bit dodgy just don’t take your fancy camera or phone to take photos.
Don’t carry all your cash in your wallet but spread it across pockets. If you take a lot of cash to not pay ATM fees several times, this is very important. Also, don’t leave any cash in your hostel unless you have a good padlock for a locker.
Can women go travelling solo?
A big fat YES! I have been told sooo many times by girls that it’s much easier for a man to travel solo but -respectfully- that’s wrong, and I say this because I’ve met a huge amount of solo female travellers that have been backpacking all over the world, if you don’t believe me just google: solo travel female blog and you will find lots and lots of them!
To continue with the argument of the previous question, in many “developed” cities in the western world can be pretty dangerous for solo girls to be on their own at night. I’m not trying to say that the rest of the world is a paradise as sexual harassment is a sad reality in many countries but my point is that the same conditions are already in your city and travelling solo will not increase the danger.
How can I travel in a country that I don’t speak their language?
I always have one rule when visiting any country: learn how to say hello and thank you in the local language. And always go with a smile!
That will open all the doors of this planet! The locals always appreciate that you make an effort in learning something about their cultures and even if you can’t have a conversation, we humans always manage to communicate with signals, sounds, gestures, etc.
I have had countless experiences in very remote areas where even not talking the language I’ve been treated by locals like their own family. This is one of the things that makes me optimistic against all the negative things we have in the world. There’s a lot more good people out there than bad people, the bad ones are very loud and get the headlines, but the good ones are the vast majority.
Is travel insurance needed for solo travel?
That’s completely up to you, your medical history and your destination. I have sometimes taken insurance but I may have been covered for about 25% of all my trips, thankfully nothing ever happened to me but I have met a few people and friends that if it was not because of their travel insurances, the accidents they had while travelling could have ended up very badly. I wrote a post about my experience with travel insurance if you would like to read more on that topic.
How much money do I need to solo travel the world?
Again, that’s depending on how you decide to travel. I personally travelled the world for 1000 days with US$20/day, that included several flights, visas, mostly eating out, a few “experiences”, etc. I travelled on a budget but definitely treated myself to a few luxuries every now and then.
Can it be done for less? Oh yes! I’ve met people travelling the world with a US$5 budget per day, which I reckon is a bit more extreme of course it’s all about what you want out of the travels, is it only visiting places and meeting people or do you want to treat yourself to some more expensive experiences such as scuba diving, desert tours, etc?
This doesn’t mean at all that you need thousands of $$$ to be able to travel. That budget I had was flexible, in some countries I’d spend more and in some less. In more expensive countries I’d find a workaway, in countries like Japan is super easy and very safe to hitchhike which is a bless as the transport in Japan is prohibitively expensive for a backpacker. Platforms like couchsurfing also allow you to save a lot of money in expensive places and at the same time you meet lovely locals, every single one of my couchsurfing hosts has been an incredible person and I can’t thank them enough for having opened their home to me and many other solo travellers out there, with most of them I’m still in contact after several years!
There are lots of organisations that you can apply to go volunteering with. Just make sure you know the difference between volunteering and voluntourism as there are many agencies out there charging lots of money to go volunteering and they tend to do more harm than good, not just to the travellers but the communities they’re trying to help.
I worked hard for my career, won’t it be affected if I go solo travelling for a long time?
It’s only for you to decide what are your life priorities, I don’t intend to tell anyone what to do with their lives but just to share my experiences.
I was in a similar position when I decided to quit my job to go travelling, I had worked for a few years to grow professionally but instead of being afraid of losing what I had achieved I saw it from the perspective that “if I made it to this point, I’ll be able to do it again” and it exactly happened that way in my case.
If something I can tell from my experience is that it’s never too late to go backpacking, I have met backpackers of all ages, some could be my grandparents and they’re giving it all out there living life, so please do not think that backpacking is for 20-somethings!
Whether you take a couple of months or a couple of years off work, your professional experience either will stay or you will find a new passion in life in between, allow to surprise yourself!
Can I work while travelling the world?
With the rise of remote working it’s also much easier now to find jobs that allow you to travel the world, almost regardless of your talents as even if your current job can’t be done remotely it doesn’t mean you cannot transfer your skills to do something else while solo travelling the world.
As mentioned above, you can also volunteer a couple hours per day in exchange of accommodation and food with platforms like workaway or woof, and if you find yourself in a city without a hostel reservation and everything is fully booked you can always ask in any hostel if they need help, that’s pretty much code for saying “do you need any volunteers?”
There are hundreds of posts out there with the best jobs to get while travelling so I won’t dig into that but to reassure you, it is easy to find jobs remotely and in different countries, once you’re out there these opportunities will almost come without even asking for them!
What was the best destination to go solo travelling?
This is normally one of the first questions I get asked by pretty much everyone and it always puzzles me how we’re all obsessed by knowing what’s “the best” of everything, and I have no idea how to define that.
For example, how can you rank the mind-blowing nature in China or Hawaii with the exhilarating pace of life in Kuala Lumpur or Tokyo? the peacefulness of the Nepalese Himalayas versus the environmental values of Costa Rica? The romantic old towns of Europe against the incredibles hikes in Patagonia? And I could go on and on with these examples as every country has something beautiful to show to the world and that’s why I don’t believe in ranking places as we all like different things.
So, without trying to sound cliche, the beauty of going out on solo travel adventures is not the destination but the journey. The people you meet, the friends you make, the places you visit, the food you eat, the smells, the colours, the sounds, the laughs, the scares, the crowds, the solitudes. Life. It is only one life.
If you’re considering going on a solo travel adventure and for some reason can’t fully make up your mind just drop a comment below, I’ll be more than happy to continue sharing any experiences and if I can then to answer any questions you may have! Thanks for reading!