It has been a week since I have came back from my first ever solo trip overseas. However, being always on the go, I frequently receive questions about travelling like which places to visit, how do I plan my itinerary, how to communicate with the locals etc; Well, this blog post is dedicated to all your questions & they are all based on real life experiences. Of course, 10 tips is just a starter, but we all need somewhere to begin right?
1. Things will NEVER go as planned
Yup, you heard that right. Things will NEVER go as planned, no matter how prepared you are. You can never be prepared for this because you will never know when things are going to go haywire. During my solo trip to Australia, I planned for a Sydney Greeter (amazing service btw) to help me on my first day but guess what? My Singapore Airlines flight got severely delayed to the point whereby the greeter could only ensure my safe arrival at the hotel. I was left clueless, tired & lost in a foreign place with nobody on my very first day. It is things like this that are so uncontrollable and unpredictable. However, do not let these things get to you. Your trip can only be amazing if you want it to be. As for me, I basically made my way to Circular Quay and had the time of my life taking unlimited ferry rides to admire the Sydney Harbour view at the price of AUD$2.50 (it was a weekend).
2. Get a local SIM card with a sizeable data plan
This may sound stupid but you will thank me later. In this tech-savvy age, the internet is basically a wonderland for solo travellers (and everyone else, duh). However, not many places offer free wifi. My hotels in Australia only offered a sad 100mb of free data. I exceeded the data limit just by opening ONE website. Getting a SIM card with a good data plan not only helps you in avoiding awkward conversations with weird people (trust me there are many of them out there), it can also provide you a little sanity in case you are feeling homesick. Go ahead, send your family and friends tons of awesome pictures, let them know you are safe & well.
4. Google Maps App is your saviour
Enough said, this app literally saved my life. I am serious, it saved my life when I totally lost my way and took a bus too far out of Sydney because I had night blindness. I was stuck in an housing estate with zero street lamps. Yup, all alone in the dark with nothing but my iPhone. Google Maps was my knight in shining armour, leading me back to the safe haven of my hotel. It is simple, all you need to do is scan your current location then input your destination and BAM! Full on routes be it if you're driving, taking a public transport or even walking! BEST. APP. EVER!
4. Bring a portable charger
I always carry around my trusty Xiao Mi charger whenever I travel because I am basically married to my phone. My Xiao Mi baby might be slightly on the heavy side but it packs a punch. When fully charged, it provides up to 4 full charges for my iPhone 6. For only SGD$20, this is probably the best travel investment you'll ever make.
5. Speak Up
If you're lost, ASK. If you need recommendations, ASK. If you spot someone cute, go ahead and strike up a conversation! Speaking up is the best thing I have ever learnt this trip. I came to know the best restaurants, the best beaches and even made tons of friends just by coming out of my shell and speaking up. If you are interested in solo travelling, the number one thing you need to conquer is the fear of speaking to strangers. Solo travelling will open up a whole new world of communicating with strangers and trust me, it is an extremely pleasant experience. You are not immersing yourself in a country's culture unless you have spoken to a local.
6. Stay Safe
Pretty much self explanatory. A tip to stay safe is to always let your hotel management know where you will be heading for the day. Let them know that you are a solo traveller (and treat them nice). They are probably your only "family" members in the foreign country. Always keep a log of important numbers such as the local police, ambulance etc; And DON'T EVER ACCEPT FREE DRINKS from a stranger. Omg I sound totally like your mom but you know, it is always better to be safe than sorry. Try to find backpacking groups and join them for the day. An easy trick is to head out to the nearest backpackers hostel and you will probably find company in a blink of an eye. It is always safer to travel in groups than alone and plus, you get to make new friends from around the world too. Score!!
7. Eating Alone
Solo travelling comes hand in hand with dining alone. Face it, you are definitely going to have meals all by yourself. There are many people that fear dining alone, but dining alone is actually a really refreshing experience. You can start conversations with locals & your servers and be in sync with your surroundings. If you are nice to people, people will be twice as nice back to you, especially when you are alone. (I have actually received tons of free food because of this). Also, you can eat whatever you want and whenever you want without having to feel bad about it. It is nice to be a little selfish for once, no?
8. Duolingo / Translator Apps
If you are in a foreign country and you cannot speak their language, Duolingo/translator apps will save your day! Duolingo is a free app that teaches you basic communication skills in the chosen language. There are exercises & tests, basically an app whereby you can learn a new language for FREE! If you are not interested in learning a new language, basic translator apps will do as they usually come with common vocabulary that you will use on a daily basis (e.g.; toilet, directions, food, time)
9. Have a backup plan
I know this contradicts point 1 but hear me out.. Point 1 is to prepare you for the worst, it is an anchor to bring you back to reality. But that does not mean you do not plan at all. You definitely do not want to waste precious time wandering around being lost. Before your trip, plan the places that you wish to go, check up on the weather and do rain checks, research research research! However, try to only plan about 2 activities a day and just freestyle afterwards. You will feel more relaxed doing this instead of rushing to complete everything in a day. For me, I noted the places that I wish to visit and every night, I will check up on the weather and plan my activity for the next day. It is kinda like striking while the iron is hot, I have what I need but I am just waiting for the right time. Also, you should always trust your instincts and opt for plan B if necessary.
10. Let Go & Embrace Yourself
Solo travelling comes with lots of worries & dangers, however, it is not something that should be shunned. If you have made the decision to travel alone, embrace it! Take this take to indulge in yourself, let go of the reigns and embrace what is in stored for you. It can be scary, but do not let the fear get the better of you and stop you from enjoying yourself. Immerse yourself in the culture, breathe deeply and let down your walls. Be independent & be strong, you will come out of it feeling fulfilled & thirsting for more. May the wanderlust in us be free.
Thank you for making it this far! Have a magical & memorable trip!