Traveling solo shouldn’t have to translate to being alone, especially in the information age. These days it seems as if anywhere and anyone is accessible with a few clicks of a keyboard. Leaning on this fact alongside my personal experience as a solo female backpacker, I’ve decided to share a few obvious (but maybe not so obvious) facts about how one can travel solo, but not really.
There are a handful of ways solo travels (like myself) can adopt when the novelties of planning logistics, budgeting for solo accommodations or being selective with destinations strictly because they’re affordable wears out. Here are three tried and true tips to traveling solo, while not so solo at all.
When used the correct way, social media outlets such as Facebook or Instagram serve as primo starting points for making travel connections. Network groups are available by the dozen, some even specific to a destination. When planning to piggyback on a friend’s birthday trip to Taiwan I reached out to a Facebook network group specifically for travelers (expats) in Taiwan. I was elated to find five other women traveling through the country at similar times and we successfully arranged more than one meet up and even day trips.
If you’re new to social media or unaware where to start, try these:
Outside of social media, word-of-mouth serves as a default networking tactic that still packs a solid punch. While visiting Poland with some Macedonian friends I mentioned my future travel plans to Portugal during casual conversation. One of the members of our entourage had a friend (met in college years earlier) born and raised in Lisbon that they could connect me with. Hospitable people are my favorite kind of people. Not only was this person a gem, inviting me to her home for lunch with her family (originally from Africa), but she also selflessly showed me around town on her downtime. These connections are truly priceless to me.
Arranged tours take the hassle out of planning every detail of your adventure. As a solo traveler, I’ve joined at least a dozen group tours during my travels. Considering the fact that most people reserve these tours in sets of two or three, as a solo traveler I’m often the odd woman out. That considered, I was often gifted my own room without needing to pay the additional solo charges linked to such journeys. More often than not, however, I am assigned a roommate (of the same gender). Not all roommates are created equal, and admittedly, I’m not always a cake walk myself, but the majority of them I befriend instantly. These connections are priceless in more ways than one; traveling alone makes executing decisions quick and easy, but experiencing a culture with someone creates a bond like no other. Further, these connections can serve as an opportunity for future travel with like-minded people and/or open the door to new destinations where you now have a buddy and, depending on the circumstances, a place to crash when you do.
A great place to begin when considering planned tours is Tourradar. Compare tours by cost per day, destination or by the length of stay. I’ve made countless good friends on adventure tours like those featured on this site.
Hostels have a bad wrap, but as a solo traveler on a budget, these types of accommodations are next to impossible to avoid. I’ve both lived and heard many of the horror stories (bedbugs, theft, sexual assault) but overall my experiences have been quite pleasant. In fact, the friends I’ve made from hostel stays go on to become consistent travel companions not to mention the money I’ve saved sharing transport costs or piggybacking on to day tours. Hostels nowadays can be tricky, especially for the more “experienced” individual. Placing age limitations (certain hostels have begun to prohibit guests over the ages of 30-35, depending) along with the implementation of night minimums during reservations can make it tricky to navigate. Always be sure to read the fine print, the devil really is hiding in those details.
Booking accommodations can be easy when using comparing websites such as booking.com. Take your travel plans the extra step towards humanitarianism by using that same platform via Hotels That Help. This volunteer-run organization partners with companies like booking.com to help stamp out homelessness. You were going to reserve a room anyway, why not allow ten percent of that cost to go towards helping someone in need. Vacation and/or solo travel with a purpose.