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One of the questions that I get asked all the time is how to become a solo traveller. To be honest, the first time that someone asked me this, I was a bit taken aback. But I came to realize that for many, taking the leap into solo travel can be a scary one, especially as a female. In the United States, I find that it is way less common to solo travel as a female, as opposed to many countries in Europe, Australia, or New Zealand. But don’t worry, this guide will cover everything you need to know about taking your next adventure on your bucket list, traveling all by yourself.
How to Make Travel Friends while Backpacking Alone
The biggest misconception about being a solo traveller is that it is super lonely. It makes sense, you hear the phrase solo travel and immediately you picture yourself eating endless meals alone, visiting the world’s top spots with only your camera to keep you company. However, solo travel is far from a lonely experience. It is actually an incredible way to make new life-long friends. I have been fortunate enough met so many people over the years who have become lifelong travel buddies.I even met my boyfriend while traveling solo and staying at a hostel in South Korea. I’ve outlined a few of my best tips on how to make friends when traveling solo.
Stay at a hostel to make friends as a solo traveller
If you’re looking to make friends while traveling alone, then I recommend staying at a hostel. Truth be told, hostels have gotten a bad reputation over the years, especially among US travelers. However, hostels are amazing for solo travellers, as they offer tons of opportunities to meet new people. However, not all hostels are the same. Make sure to do your research on the hostel beforehand to ensure that you are finding a spot that meets your travel lifestyle.
When possible, I always book female-only dorm. Overall, I find that females tend to be much more respectful, plus the rooms tends to be less rowdy than co-ed dorms. It is also easier to find like-minded solo female travelers this way.
Is it a party hostel?
One of the first questions that I ask myself when booking a hostel, is whether or not it is a party hostel. If you’re looking to make friends while traveling solo, you’ll want to find a social hostel. A social hostel means fun organized events and a common space to meet other travelers. However, this doesn’t mean that it needs to be a party hostel. If you’re looking for a wild travel night, with minimal sleep, a party hostel can be a ton of fun, but otherwise it can make traveling very difficult.
What’s included at the hostel?
When deciding which hostel to stay at, I always check what is included in a night’s stay. A few things to think about is whether or not breakfast is included, and what exactly that breakfast is. Is breakfast a piece of toast with butter, or is there a full breakfast spread with hearty options. The cost of meals can add up when you’re traveling on a budget, so filling up at breakfast is super important. Additionally, these free breakfasts, or happy hours, are great because they are great places to meet other travelers. I’ve even stayed at some hostels that offer an hour of free beer and sangria every evening.
If you’re traveling as a solo female, or really as a solo traveller in general, your safety should always be top of mind in every decision that you make. I always make sure to look for properties that have overnight staff at the front desk, or ones that lock the doors overnight.
Another thing to make sure of is that the hostel dorm rooms have a locker. A small locker is great, but I prefer to books rooms that have a full sized locker, where you can bring your own lock. This allows you to lock up your entire backpack, keeping all of your stuff safe while you’re out exploring.
Lastly the most important thing to consider when booking a hostel is the location. I recommend always picking a hostel that is close to public transportation, whether that’s a train or bus line. If the main sights are within walking distance, even better. You can read my full guide on how to pick the best backpackers hostel for your travel needs here.
Here are a few of my favorite hostels around the world:
- Hostel 7 Santi in Florence, Italy
- The Wallaby House Hostel in Zagreb, Croatia
- Ostello Bello in Bagan, Myanmar
- Greg & Tom Hostel in Krakow, Poland
- Hostel Old Town Kotor in Kotor, Montenegro
- The Farm Hostel in Canggu, Bali
- Kos One Hostel in Canggu Bali
- Once Again Hostel in Bangkok, Thailand
- Haus Hostel in Chiang Mai, Thailand
- Journeys Hostel in Hualien, Taiwan
- Good Morning Lisbon in Lisbon, Portugal
Pick a destination that caters to solo travellers
There are certain destinations, cities and countries, that are considered to be more suitable for solo travellers. Many first-time solo travelers choose to head to Europe for their first solo adventure, but I personally think that Southeast Asia is the best destination for first-time solo travellers. There are so many other solo travelers in these destinations, which makes it super easy to make travel friends.
Lean on the locals
A huge part of making friends as a solo traveller is getting out of your comfort zone. Instead of looking something up online or in a guidebook, talk to the people around you. Ask for directions, restaurant recommendations, the best place to watch the sunset, and anything else you would normally research on your own. This applies for locals and fellow travelers alike. I have exchanged some of my best travel tips in a bar or hostel common room, with fellow travelers.
Dine (or grab a drink) at the bar
One of the easiest ways to make friends when you’re traveling solo is to sit at the bar for meals. It sounds incredibly simple, but it works! Think about it: You’re not likely to approach a stranger when they’re sitting at a table eating, right? On the other hand, something about the casual ambiance of a bar just invites people to strike up conversation. Of course, it is always important to be aware of anyone offering to buy you a drink. When traveling alone as a woman, it is super important to be cognizant of how much you are drinking.
Take a tour
Organized or guided activities are perfectly suited for solo travellers. Chances are, literally everyone except for those leading the tour will also be visiting from somewhere else. Before you even speak to anyone, you’re starting off with some common ground.
Sign up for small group activities like a guided hike, walking food tour around the city, a sunset sail, or a tour of a local landmark. Aside from helping you make friends, this is often an excellent way to learn more about a destination in a unique way. Many hostels will even include free walking tours or cooking classes, which is a great way to meet other people at your accommodation.
Safety Tips for Solo Travellers
Interestingly enough, there are far more women who travel alone than men. Probably because females are way more badass, but hey, that’s just a guess! However, what this also means is that there are usually tons of other solo female travelers to meet when you’re traveling alone. And don’t worry, I have a full guide to smart solo female traveler safety tips to make sure you feel safe, but here are a few of my top tips
Research in Advance
It is super important to research the location you’re planning to visit before arriving. Make sure you understand what you should and shouldn’t wear, specific locations to avoid, and anything else that could negatively impact your safety as you travel. By doing your research ahead of time, you’re setting yourself up for success to keep yourself safe no matter where you go.
It is also important to research the currency of the country that you are visiting. When possible, it is always best to arrive with at least a bit of local cash. You can usually get this from your local bank, or if you are traveling long term you can exchange with other travelers who have leftover cash in a particular currency. If you are unable to arrive with local currency, be sure to at least carry $100 USD. I always keep this cash separate from the rest of my cards/money.
Book the First Night
Before you come at me for this one, yes, one of the best parts of being a solo traveller is spontaneity. However, no one wants to be wandering around a foreign city in the middle of the night because they arrived later than they planned. No matter where you go, you should always book the first night’s accommodation. This way, you can arrive safe and sound, even if you have travel complications. And trust, travel complications will always arise.
Understand Your Limits
As a solo traveller, it is so important to understand your limits. Understanding your limitations can be both physical and emotional. Physically, it would be best if you understood how far you can hike in a day or what level of exertion your body can withstand so that you don’t physically strain yourself during activities. If you participate in alcohol or drug use, you should understand your tolerance levels and your safety limits.
Similarly, if you ever feel uncomfortable, in any way, say no. This applies to new plans, shop vendors, and even new travel friends. This is your trip, and you make all the calls! Meeting new people all of the time can be emotionally draining, it is always okay to say no. Remember, this is your trip!
Tips for Taking Your First Solo Trip
Other than the super important safety tips that we just covered for traveling as a single solo traveller, I’ve also outlined some of my top tips for taking your first trip.
Download offline maps
Offline maps are every solo traveller’s best friend. They are a great tool to help to navigate around your new destination solo. If you’ve already downloaded your maps and routes, you won’t need internet connection to access them once you’re on the road. The maps are already downloaded onto your phone for easy access. Before your trip, make sure to mark down the best lodging, attractions, food, and entertainment options in your new destination.
Go out with people you feel comfortable with
Experiencing the party culture is another solo travel essential but it is important to do responsibly. If you are planning on staying out late, it is key that you find people that you trust to go with you. Make sure you understand where you are going and how to safely get back.
Meet some nice people at a restaurant or on a small group tour earlier? Connect with them and see what they are up to for the rest of their time in the city.
Share your location
Share your location on your phone for friends and family to keep up with your whereabouts. Find My Friends is a great app that always allows you to create a group/family and share your location when on-the-go. Another quick tip is to send family or friends your itinerary of where you are staying during your trip. Doing both can keep you safe during your journey.
Why Everyone Should Experience Solo Travel
If you haven’t already gathered, I truly believe that everyone should experience backpacking alone at least once in their life.
Traveling alone is one of the best ways to really get to know yourself, what you like, and what you don’t like. Often when we’re stuck in a routine, whether that’s a city you don’t love, a job that isn’t fulfilling, or even a relationship that has turned toxic, it can be difficult to see the situation clearly. Taking a solo trip is an awesome way to take a step back from your routine and see everything from a more removed perspective.
Traveling alone also helps you to discover and learn so much more about yourself. As a solo traveller you call all the shots. There is no one telling you which restaurant to eat at or which museum you have to visit. You may find that you enjoy a slower or faster travel pace, or that there are some attractions that you’d rather skip now that you’re solo.
Solo Traveller Freedom
Elaborating on my previous section on getting to know yourself, being a solo traveller gives you so much freedom, in every sense of the word. You create your own schedule, in a way that you wouldn’t be able to if you were traveling with others. For me, this has meant booking a last minute flight (literally hours before) to Taiwan, a country that wasn’t even on my travel itinerary. It has meant rising for sunrise every day of the week and eating at the same gelato stand three times in a single day because I can. Traveling alone offers a freedom that few other experiences in life do.
One of the most stressful parts of travel, especially group travel, is spending more money than you budgeted for. Everyone knows that awkward moment when you’re traveling with a friend, or group of friends, and they recommend a hotel that is above your budget? Or when they choose a restaurant and you cringe at the zeros behind the price of a dish? That is something that never has to happen when solo travelling! As a solo traveller you make all of the travel decisions, so you can choose just how much (or how little) you want to spend. Of course, I always recommend budgeting extra for any emergencies that arise.
Boost Your Ego
Solo traveling is an incredible way to gain confidence. No matter how much you plan, something will always go wrong when you travel. Unfortunately, that is just how travel works sometimes. Being able to navigate those mishaps on your own is such a great way to challenge yourself and gain confidence. Of course, you want to make sure that you set yourself up for success. I’ve put together a list of smart solo female traveler safety travel tips that you’ll want to check out.
Planning Your First Solo Trip
Now that I’ve convinced you that you need to become a solo traveller, and you have all of the resources to do so, here are some thought-starters for planning your next trip:
What is your budget?
Knowing your travel budget is going to play a huge role in the type of trip you’ll be taking. It will also help you to narrow down which countries/cities make the most sense, and how long you are able to travel for.
How much time do you have?
For some people, their budget will play a role in determining how long their trip as a solo traveller can be. However, for others, they may only have a handful of PTO days to accomplish their solo adventure. Knowing how much time you have for your trip will help you to narrow down your bucket list from the list of best places for solo female travelers.
What are you looking for out of the trip as a solo traveller?
Are you dreaming of an island hopping vacation in Southeast Asia or a trip hiking solo to one of the world’s many peaks? Perhaps your solo trip looks a bit more like a city escape with rooftop drinks and tons of dining. You have the freedom to make all of these choices yourself when you are backpacking alone, so really listen to your heart!
Interested in solo female travel? Here are some other articles you should check out: