Guide in traveling solo for beginners
Benefits of traveling solo
Traveling solo can be exhausting and challenging for beginners, especially when you get used of having a travel companion who helps you to tell stories of places you’ve been to, and who assist you whenever things get awry.
However, traveling alone can also be therapeutic as it will make you become more aware of your surroundings and will help you to appreciate even the smallest of things. It will give you a rewarding experience once you have achieved and tick places on your bucket list one at a time, and cross out those activities that you have been wanting to do all along.
Here are 5 tips for traveling solo I compiled based on my Southeast Asian experience. If you have anything else to add, please do leave a comment down below.
It always pays to know things first. Research your destination and your trip as a whole way ahead of your date of departure. Whenever I travel to an unfamiliar place, I always make sure I have done my research first. Two of the most popular travel sites I always rely on to are Wikitravel and Lonely Planet.
However, you can explore the places yourself without relying on travel sites, too. Not knowing where to go gives a much more of a thrilling adventure since discovering a place that is yet to be discovered can happen in the most unexpected time sometimes.
Just a reminder especially if you’re a first-time solo traveler though; not doing your research before your trip can be a little inconvenient. The time you spent in knowing places of interest and whatnot because you didn’t do your homework prior to your arrival could have been utilized into something more productive, and you’re probably out somewhere already enjoying the view
2. LEARN: Study the basic language of non-English speaking countries and know their culture. During my first trip to Singapore, I didn’t have difficulty talking with the locals as most of them speak good English. The grammar is a bit off but at least we speak the same language. The only thing I find a little challenging is their accent. I sometimes have to ask them to speak slowly as I’m not familiar with a Singaporean accent.
It pays to know their laws too. Singapore is very strict in implementing its laws. Police officers are very visible almost everywhere. If police are not around, you will still feel safe because cameras are installed throughout the city. No wonder why Singaporeans are very well-disciplined. They respect the law. Thanks to the legacy of Lee Kuan Yew.
The Buddhist country of Thailand, on the other hand, is very strict about their law particularly if it involves the Royal Family. Insulting, defaming, or threatening the Royal Family is against the law. The late King Bhumibol was viewed as a unifying figure in some of Thailand’s darkest moments. He had done so much for Thailand, and that’s why he will be loved forever by his people.
Moving forward, my first few days in Thailand weren’t rainbows and cupcakes since English is not widely spoken here compared to the Philippines or Singapore. There were times that even asking for directions seemed to be a difficult exam for the locals to answer. You might sweat out whilst doing everything just to get the message across but it could still result to nothing. I became really frustrated and almost burst out one time when I went inside an internet cafe and asked the lady manning the cafe how much the rate per hour was. It was really unfortunate that even a question that requires a yes or a no for an answer was still beyond her capabilities.
I later learned to embrace the fact that not all locals are proficient in English. I guess I’m lucky because I can speak the de facto language of the world. Whenever the need to ask a question to local arises though, I normally approach professional and smart-looking individuals. Not that I look down on those that don’t dress nicely. I just assume that those who dress well are more confident to answer questions from foreigners.
Oh, another bunch of people whom you can also ask are tuktuk drivers. These people deal with tourists on a daily basis so it’s quite expected that they can somehow speak English. Beware though of any unscrupulous services and items they offer as there are some who rip people off. Just politely say “mai pen rai” – meaning “it’s okay, no worries” – that you don’t need one at the moment.
3. ALWAYS HAVE A GUIDE
Utilize Google maps as it is very helpful. It can guide you to almost all the places you want to go to. But I suggest not to depend on it entirely because it makes mistakes too.
If digital isn’t working we can always switch back and go traditional. A paper map can still work wonders when Google is not acting up normally, or your internet service provider is having technical issues. Don’t be shy to ask locals or maybe foreigners who are already familiar with the place. Some of them can be really helpful.
I remember a year ago when going to the northeast (which was at the time very unfamiliar to me), I always make sure to top up my Dtac mobile account. I tend to be sleepy especially on long trips, and I certainly don’t want to get past where I want to go. So to avoid that, I would just stare at Google maps; checking frequently as to where I was exactly and how far I was to my destination.
There was this one incident in Bangkok, where I went back from Ladprao to the main city. I took a bus and I forgot what the number was. When I woke up, I was not at a bus terminal for passengers but a place where all the buses were.
4. BE PREPARED:
That doesn’t mean you have to stuff in your baggage all the things you like. Bring only the things that you need. Added baggage is a big no-no for travelers.
When I travel I always bring comfortable, thin clothes especially if it’s a road trip along with skin repellent, tissues or wet wipes, sunglasses for sunny weather and umbrella for sunny and rainy weather (I learned that Korean travelers always bring an umbrella with them so I might as well try it next time). Keep biscuits or snacks for longer travel and always bring 2 bottles of water with you always. Whenever I’m in Thailand I always have a bottle of water handy.
Lastly, particularly for health conscious, bring medicine for headache and colds. They can happen anytime. And for those who have sensitive stomachs like me, bring loperamide.
Remember the moment when you said YES to embark on a solo trip. If you have the guts to travel solo, have the guts to ask for help too. Just because you’re going solo doesn’t mean you won’t need help from anyone anymore. Don’t be afraid to ask locals and travelers alike. Be friendly to them. You may be surprised how far friendliness can take you. I was a shy guy back then, but after all the solo travels I’ve done, it changed me a lot. I don’t feel shy about asking questions anymore. Traveling solo is definitely an absolute boost to my self-esteem.
Just so you know, I used to check things first on the internet about stuff and all that. But after I’ve hopped from one hostel to another, it made me realize that other travelers can be a good source of information. I get to gain new friends at the same time, too.
The beauty in traveling solo is an experience that can never be taken away from you. It’s a rewarding one. It increases and improves the level of your maturity. It makes you more independent and self-sufficient. Enjoy the journey, never look back, travel when you still can. As what Michael Palin has said…
“Once the travel bug bites there is no known antidote. And I know that I shall be happily infected until the end of my life”