HAPPY People, how do you do?
Me: Guys, that’s it. I’m going to Thailand alone…
Are you nuts? What are you going to do there by yourself? 😯
Won’t you get bored? 😕
Haven’t you seen the movie LUCY? 😐
You’re so weird… 🙄
Are you REAAALLY going alone? You LYYIIIN! 😈
Ladies, travelling solo is possible! It’s exciting, fun and so fulfilling! Probably the best trip you will ever gift yourself. It’s something every lady ought to experience and kick off their bucket list. My first trip solo was to Thailand in beautiful South East Asia. One of the safest regions for solo travel as a woman.
It all began with intense wanderlust and a frustration of conflicting schedules with friends which I didn’t have the patience for – no honestly, my patience is generally very good but sometimes ya’ll, sometimes!!! Well, it later became a journey of self-discovery. A goal, a mission, to prove and remind myself of my strength and resilience. Now I suppose I had the advantage of travelling with friends and family prior to my first trip alone and so the basics of travel were there. Even so, the thought was still just as daunting in the beginning and I still needed the very same tools and knowledge that any beginner ought to have.
What’s to follow is a list of tips on how to travel solo safely, giving you peace of mind and time to really enjoy the true purpose of your trip.
- Research as much as you can!
You’re reading this, so you’re already on the right track. This is the first step to understanding the possible risks of solo travel and how to avoid them. Just because it’s safe doesn’t mean you turn a blind eye and go on your way. You need to learn more about your destination geographically, culturally, and socially. This will not only give you an idea of the location’s way of life, the do’s and don’ts – such as a thumbs up being confused to be negative body language 😯 – it also gives you a mental picture of where you’ll be so as to reduce the ‘element of shock’ especially if you’re a beginner. I know it doesn’t sound as thrilling, but I literally knew how to navigate the Bangkok International Airport prior to arrival, and knew exactly where to go to grab my sim-card! I suppose I had the added effort as my destination was non-english speaking and I really wanted my trip to be as hassle-free as can be. In fact, the occasional “oh, I saw this on YouTube!” became quite entertaining.
- Travel lite. Please travel light.
The best way to decrease the list of things you have to worry about is to pack light. The Minimalists explains this very well in their podcast on travel where they basically advice you on how to stop packing for “JUST IN CASE”. Girls, we know this all too well. We gotta have a pair of shoes for a night out, a day out, a chilled day, the beach, in case it’s cold, hot, not so hot but kinda chilly….YEP!! I KNOW YOU. Pack versatile essentials, essentials can be cute too! Check the weather in your destination (research), and pack accordingly. Make sure you have no more than 2 pieces of luggage to worry about, in fact, one piece would be grand. I think my backpack was not more than 11kgs and my daypack 3kgs. I could write a post just on how to pack. Let me know if you’d like me to 😉
- Increase your conveniences but don’t over do it!
Don’t over plan – Keep an open mind. Depending on the duration of your stay, don’t book EVERYTHING prior to departure. My trip was a couple of weeks long and I only booked accommodation for half of it. This is purely because you will get to know the place once you get there. You’ll probably get so many fun and exciting recommendations from other visitors and locals within a few days of arrival that you’ll be kicking your ass as to why you paid for everything in full with no refund option. I still highly recommend you book your first stay for no less than 3 days, that gives you enough flexibility and breathing time to make further plans. If you feel nervous about this option then maybe opt for those bookings where you don’t pay until arrival, or where you can cancel up to 24hrs prior to arrival (booking.com is great for this), or where you can get majority of your payment back when you decide to cut the duration of your stay.
I booked my flights to other islands in Thailand only once in Bangkok. I did already have an idea of what I was interested in. Research your destination and check the ease of this process that way if too complicated you can plan it all prior. Even though I’m a DIY gal, I understand there are others who will prefer to get a travel agency to take care of all travel details and transits. Personally, doing it on my own is part of the experience, I’m very spontaneous and enjoy planning and changing plans. One of the best advantages of traveling alone is not having to check with and agree with anyone, you can do what you want, when YOU want!
- Connect with people in a safe environment
Before I get into this, you first need to accept that this is a SOLO trip, so the point is to do some things alone and actually enjoy them alone 😀
You are capable and you will actually learn how much you enjoy your own company. Be ready to sit at a bar alone and be open to conversation with the lady next to you or the bartender/barista, whatever have you. The beauty is that no one knows you and so ‘no one’ will judge you…and if they do, who gives a s#it! You will get to understand yourself, your mind, your emotions and reactions to various situations. You should look forward to this, don’t avoid it. Doesn’t it sound like a great pleasure to understand your mind, body and spirit in its entirety? Sure does to me. If not, this ain’t for you honey.
You’re thinking, so Tooleeee, how do I ensure I don’t get too lonely on my trip?!? I found the following to be perfect ways of meeting people, who I bet you wouldn’t have met if travelling with your family or friends because you would be oh so caught up with each other – no seriously, you know this is true. Communal accommodation and tours. Yep, that simple. There are pretty cool hostels for backpackers, for example, one of the places I stayed in in Bangkok, was Lub D Bangkok hostel…it’s young, it’s hip, it’s cool, everything! Before you start trippin’, some hostels also offer private rooms and since they are communal you will still get to meet people in common areas. In such environments, you find a ton other solo travelers looking to learn more about where you come from and what journey you are on. You will also find yourself keen to listen and meet others from the far corners of the world.
Tours are great! Food tours, tourist attraction tours, adventure tours, any tour is awesome. Hotels/hostels normally have a bunch options at the front desk, sign up and do as many as you can. These group activities allow you to meet and interact with others and are a lot of fun. On one of my tours I met someone who graduated from the same university I did in Canada, conversation began and hours later it had been one sick tour! I also met a local on another island tour who I still keep in touch with now. It all started with a simple hello 😀
Okay let’s move onto more specific safety tips…
- When booking accommodation, reviews need to be your best friend. I know it goes without saying but you need to thoroughly read reviews with your eye on location safety, service and comfort. The more reviews the better. Compare different accommodation sites for reviews. This is even more important if you go the Airbnb route. I wouldn’t advise Couchsurfing for your first solo trip.
- Don’t be afraid to ask, but ask the right people! In cases such as when lost, instead of asking a random passer-by, rather walk inside a convenience store and ask the cashier, or a nearby business front desk. Keep your hotel’s number with you, give them a ring if you don’t find someone you’re comfortable asking. I remember there was a time where I felt like the cab to a local airport wasn’t on the route I had seen on my GPS, I asked him to stop at a gas station and confirmed with the cashier that I’m headed in the right direction.
- Be confident (or fake it) & Trust your intuition ladies! You will be relying on your gut feeling a lot, whether it’s someone you just met who invites you for xyz or a decision to walk on street A or B, if it doesn’t feel right, it most probably isn’t right. TRUST THAT INTUITION and follow it.
- Don’t make it obvious when you are lost. You sure as hell will get lost heheh, that’s one of the joys of travel. Just keep walking intently and don’t show everyone your map or GPS. Again, ask the right people.
- Snap landmarks. Sometimes our memory isn’t so good. If you decide to take a random walk, consider taking pictures every so many blocks. Snap license plates, train directions. Don’t obsess over it though lol.
- If someone annoys you or follows you, be stern and say NO confidently. Simple as that. If they don’t stop, walk into a nearby store and ask for help.
- Take your belongings with you EVERYWHERE. Going to the beach alone was tricky, but my anti-theft bag was great for this. I locked it onto the beach chair so a thief would have to take the whole damn chair with them if they tried to snatch it. I highly recommend this bag. Otherwise I left all my other bags at the hotel all locked up. When making your booking, prioritise rooms that have a safety deposit box.
- If asked, always say you are meeting someone even if you are not. Never give/confirm the idea that you are alone (that is ONLY FOR YOU TO KNOW HUNTY).
- Embassies in the destination country actually like it when you tell them you are coming through, so drop them an email with your travel dates and where you will be staying. This adds you to their data-base of people to alert if there is a state of emergency in that destination country.
- Learn a couple of essential words/phrases, that way you don’t seem COMPLETELY new to the area. When you greet in the native tongue and so forth, it seems as if you’ve been around a while longer and increases your street cred 😉 so go on and learn a couple thangs!
- Keep friends and family posted. Share your itinerary with loved ones. Social media is also a great way of essentially showing us you are well. Make it fun and post your beautiful pictures on Facebook or Instagram while on your trip.
- Travel Insurance. In case shit happens. Get it. Trust me.
- Electronic copies of all your visas and identity documents. Make a couple of copies and keep them in different places in case you lose your originals.
- Keep money in different bag locations and accounts. Again, shit happens. You may need back-up.
- Pepper spray/Whistle. Sounds lame but honestly you never know hehe. Look, you may not need to take any of these measures, but better safe than sorry. Following these tips also just leaves you a LOT MORE WORRY-FREE.
- Avoid standing out too much. I mean I was almost always the only black person wherever I was, to a point where I was a tourist attraction myself and would be asked for selfies, side-eye. But uhhh, don’t dress fancy, keep it casual.
- Research common scams. For example, I read that as I visit temples, I would most probably be approached by someone saying the temple is closed, offering to take me on a personal tour. Guess what, it happened! Because of my research, I ignored them and headed straight to the temple entrance to find it was actually open for visits 😯
- You might want to avoid drinking for your first trip. Buuuut if you know how to handle your ssshhtuff tried and tested 100% then DO YOU BOO. I still will say, please do it in moderation.
Altogether, I can sincerely assure you that solo trips are amazing, safe and some of the best fun you’ll ever have! If you keep all this in mind, you are good to go! Don’t be paranoid, but be alert! Just as you probably already are in your home city. If you have any tips that I didn’t mention that you’d like others to know, please leave them in the comments.
HAPPY TRAVELS LADIES 😎