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Travel Tips

Solo Travel Tips: Advice for Traveling Smartly and Safely on Your Own

Scott Keyes
By 
Scott Keyes
Founder & Chief Flight Expert (CFE)
7 min read
Last updated 
July 9, 2019

Solo travel can be daunting, especially if it’s your first time setting out on your own. Your parents or friends may have been wringing their hands and questioning your safety. You’ve might have even begun questioning your own decisions. Beyond safety, will you be lonely or bored with all that time alone?  

Thankfully, the 90,000+ members of Scott’s Cheap Flights Travel Community on Facebook are no strangers to exploring the world with or without a travel partner, and they agree: solo travel can be one of the most liberating experiences you’ll ever have. You’ll see the world on your own terms, and you’ll learn something about yourself in the process. Plus, you'll no longer need to worry about coordinating schedules and waiting for other people to jump on an amazing cheap flight deal with you.

To give you a little encouragement, we’ve rounded up some of their best tips for solo travel. Here are 14 pointers to make your first—or fiftieth—solo trip a great one. 

1. Stay in hostels for some built-in company 

Staying in hostels is an excellent way to make new friends, and it doesn’t have to mean staying in a communal dorm if that’s not your style, as many hostels also have private rooms. Look for hostels with organized events and activities, or with large common areas. The social vibe in these places makes it easy to meet fellow travelers. 

“I almost always stay in hostels when traveling solo. As a 29-year old professional, I try to get a private room or small dorm, but the common areas are the best way to meet people—especially when they have parties or cultural events.” - Christopher B.

“I try to stay in small dorm rooms because I find it’s harder to meet people in larger 12-18 bed dorms for some reason. Common areas in hostels are also an awesome way to meet people. I’m introverted and I even find it easier to talk to other travelers in hostels while solo.” - Kayla A.

2. But know when to take time out for yourself.

Don’t feel pressured to surround yourself with people all the time. Learning to love your aloneness is one of the best things you can do for yourself on the road. 

“I think there's something to having a private space where you can crash and just 100% be yourself. When you're traveling solo (especially as a female) and sometimes have to look a certain way or almost "perform" in a sense to try and blend in and not stick out, it's nice to have somewhere you can relax, feel comfortable, and know is totally yours and that you have complete control over.” - Sydney N.

“If I'm staying in a specific place for a while, I'll stay one night in a hostel while I scout the town for a good Airbnb (unless the hostel turns out to be great). It's good to meet people at the hostel to start, but I appreciate having my own space after I've made friends.” - Mike T.

3. Sign up for group tours.

Tours are not only a great way to get acquainted with a place, but you’ll also have the opportunity to meet some new people from all over the world—and we’re not just talking about bar crawls. Even free walking tours give you the chance to meet like-minded travelers. 

“Sign up for a quick walking tour or a boat tour. I made friends in Amsterdam that way! When the tour was over, we all had dinner together and then went out for drinks. We’re friends today, and that was four years ago.” - Meg M.B.

“Go on a free walking tour in the city the second you land, if possible. I dropped my luggage off at my Airbnb and went immediately into Copenhagen and took an English-speaking walking tour. Immediately made two friends whom I later met up with multiple times and introduced me to their other friends traveling. Still friends with them all!!” - Stacie E.

“My new favorite thing is to sign up for a food walking tour. I've done them in Madrid and in Montreal. Great way to bond with fellow travelers, if only for a few hours. With my Madrid food tour, I ended up hanging around with two of my fellow solo travelers for several hours after the tour ended. We went back through the neighborhood, found live music, sat on sunny patios, and explored fun shops. Highlight of my trip.” - Dawn T.

4. Practice being alone before your trip.

Getting comfortable with being alone can have its own unique set of challenges. You might find it strange to dine out alone or visit a museum on your own. Remember: it’s all in your head. No one is actually looking at you funny. Bring a book, if it makes you feel more at ease, and take a few practice runs on familiar turf so you can learn to enjoy the chance to do things at your own pace without being affected by someone else’s schedule. 

“Don't make your first solo trip the first time you've spent time on your own. Try going to a movie, museum, cafe, favorite lunch spot, wherever on your own in your current hometown first so it's not a new or foreign feeling on top of adjusting to a new spot! I go into it with a good attitude and a "why not" mood, and almost always enjoy each experience!” - Sydney N.

5. Find destinations that will fit your budget.

Going solo means there’s no one to share the price of things like accommodation or transport, which can increase costs if you’re not careful. To cut down on costs, head to cheaper destinations where your dollars go further, and don’t stretch yourself beyond your means. It’s your trip—you don’t need the extra stress of analyzing your bank account every morning.

“I actively choose destinations where the US dollar is stronger, hence why I have yet to set foot in Europe. “- Kwasi C.

On the flip side, if you’ve got more cash to spend, this means you’re not beholden to anyone else’s budgetary limitations so you can spend where and when you want. 

6. Don’t be a target for pickpockets. 

Don’t flash around expensive jewelry or gadgets and don’t travel with anything you can’t afford to lose; leave the important stuff in your hotel safe or hostel locker. 

“I always pack my camera as one never knows where the next photo subject could come from, but I leave the rest of my devices back in the hotel.” - Oswald P.

“I try my best not to dress like a tourist. When I’m going to/from the airport I have my bags touching me at all times. I carry a crossbody bag around the city.” - Quinn H.

“I keep my money and passport in a locked money belt, but I don't appear as a tourist. I don't stand in the middle of the street taking a ton of photos! If you are distracted by touristy sites get a money belt. I've never had one problem in any country because I'm vigilant and I pay attention to my surroundings.”  - Eva S.

7. Get to know the locals.

Making friends with the locals is an excellent way to get some insider information on your destination, and thankfully, plenty of apps and services make it easier than ever to do so. 

“I recommend the EatWith app to have a meal in a local’s home (best experience ever) and meetup.com.” - Quinn H.

“I suggest putting out the call on social media for friends of friends: i.e., "I'm heading to Cape Town; if you have friends there, let's meet up!" It's a good way to meet people where you'll be and, if they're friends of friends (actual friends) the element of sketchiness is lessened.” - Katie C.

8. Keep a phone with you.

Being able to make contact with someone if you’re in danger (or just lonely) is incredibly valuable. Pick up a SIM card in your destination so you can stay connected without racking up your data charges. 

“I pick up a SIM card in the airport (or use GoogleFi service) so I can call if I need to.” - Christina L.

9. Use maps to your advantage.

Handy mapping software like Google Maps lets you stay oriented in a new place, but the data costs can add up fast. The Maps.me app was developed specifically for travelers and allows you to download maps to use offline so you can navigate without eating up all your data. 

“I download maps.me ahead of time so I’ll always have a way to find my way back. (Drop pin in hostel/hotel).” - Stacy K.

“I always Google Map the hotel to get a good idea of surroundings before I arrive. Location is important for transportation.” - Eva S.

“I do a literal scope-out using Google street view when choosing a place to stay, to see the proximity of public transport.”  - Travel Community member Eva SF. Renee BB.

>> Read our list of the best travel apps.

10. Share your itinerary with someone.

Make sure your loved ones know where you’ll be, where you’re staying, and when you’re in transit. If you’re flying by the seat of your pants, this can be challenging, but simply check in with your family or friends when you’re able.

“I share an itinerary via email so someone always knows where I am and I have it electronically (along with scanned passport).”  - Stacy K.

11. Stay alert, and trust your instincts.

It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of a new destination, but always be aware of your surroundings. We tend to relax when we’ve been on the road for so long, but being vigilant is crucial. Don’t ignore any bad feelings. If it feels wrong, don’t do it. If someone you’ve just met is giving off weird vibes, excuse yourself politely and move along.

“If I need navigation, I’ll put on my maps from Siri and pop one AirPod in. This way no one sees a headphone cord hanging down and I can just walk confidently down the street while hearing directions.” - Stacy K.

“The only way to stay safe is by paying attention to your surroundings always. If you get a bad feeling don't do it. Don't try to talk yourself out of it. Don't do it period. There is a reason your intuition says no.” - Karen O.

12. Do your research before you leave.

There’s nothing worse than showing up in a new destination completely unprepared. Even the most experienced solo travelers prepare and do their research well in advance, even if it’s simply just figuring out the best way to get from the airport to your hotel. 

“I do a lot of research on my destination before going, and that gives me more confidence when I travel solo. I try to get familiar with the neighborhoods and landmarks that I'll be visiting. I print lists, download maps on my phone, etc.”  - Dawn T.

“Research, research, research. This is how I stay safe whether I'm in a group or solo traveling. I use groups like this, Google, TripAdvisor, etc. to gather information about safe areas, common scams, and other habits to keep myself safe. For example, when I did my solo trip to Turkey last year, I knew to never take taxis in Istanbul, not to take Uber from the airport, dress conservatively, and stay in a hotel away from Sultanahmet.“- Nicki B.

>> Find out how to be a more responsible traveler.

13. Pack light but smart. 

Both overpacking or being unprepared can seriously take the fun out of your solo travel. While your list might vary, most frequent solo travelers have tried-and-true items they never leave home without. 

“I have a pre-packed bag with electrical adapters and chargers. I only use it for travel, so it’s ready to go and I don’t forget anything, especially for international travel. I also always pack a small flashlight with batteries. Sometimes I’ve been out at night and just need a little more light. I prefer not to use my phone for that in case I need to make a call.” - Travel Community member Jackie M.

“I always pack a battery pack, clothesline, ear plugs, and sleep mask.” - Travel Community member Brittany T.

“I bring a rubber doorstop ($3 on Amazon) for Airbnb accommodations.” - Travel Community member Christina LY.

“My can't-leave-without-it item is my Kindle, as it's great for time on public transportation or just relaxing. I love hardcopy books and they're great conversation starters in hostel common rooms so I usually take one as well. For trips with long flights or longer trips, I bring my iPad Pro, which makes researching destinations and activities easier, and also lets me veg out on Netflix every now and then.” - Christopher B.

>> Get tips for packing light.

14. Start small and build your confidence. 

If you’re still hesitant to try solo travel, ease yourself into it. Start with a place that won’t be too challenging for you. There’s no shame in taking it slow.

“Do a few solo trips in your home country, then progress to countries with similar culture or language so that at least language is not a barrier. Build up your confidence and then the world is yours to explore!” - Wendy T.

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Last Updated 
July 9, 2019
Solo Travel Tips: Advice for Traveling Smartly and Safely on Your Own
Scott Keyes
Founder & Chief Flight Expert (CFE)

Scott has traveled to 46 countries (and 46 states!), living in California, to Oaxaca, to Oregon. He’s left-handed, drinks five cups of tea daily, and holds a vendetta against the “Happy Birthday” song. On a dare, he once ate 13 hot dogs (and a bowl of Dippin’ Dots) at the ballpark. He grew up in Ohio and founded Scott’s Cheap Flights in a Denver coffee shop. Favorite airport: PDX.

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