The prospect of travelling alone for the first time can be very daunting, but the experience can also be a very rewarding. You get to travel where you want, when you want – without struggling to juggle the various (and often conflicting) wishes of travel companions!
You'll find it easier to meet new travel buddies - and locals - bringing you new friendships and experiences. Independent travellers recognise one another, and in many popular destinations there are well-known meeting places ranging from hostels and backpacker cafés to book shops. And if you're shy but you'd like some company along the way, you can always join the odd group tour or excursion.
Women travellers will probably have some additional worries about travelling alone, from the type of clothing that will be appropriate, to avoiding unwanted male attention.
Tiredness, jet lag and foreign surroundings can combine to make even the most experienced of travellers feel a bit on edge, so here are our top tips for travelling solo and keeping safe.
Pre-book your first night's accommodation
When you arrive, the chances are you will be tired after your journey, and a bit overwhelmed by your new, foreign surroundings. If you have your first night's accommodation booked in advance, at least you can head straight there rather than wear yourself out searching for a place to stay. You can have a rest before you venture out, and then take some time to get your bearings without having to drag your backpack around with you. You might even meet some fellow travellers who you can hook up with to explore if you're staying somewhere sociable like a hostel.
Avoid unwanted attention
Solo female travellers may well experience unwanted male attention during their trip, but there are several tactics you can use to help prevent any advances. First of all, dress conservatively to avoid drawing attention to yourself. Look at the local women: if they tend to cover up most of their flesh, follow suit and you will find you blend in easier.
Avoid walking alone in isolated places or after dark, and avoid drink-spiking by buying your own drinks and never leaving them unattended.
If you are pestered by someone, avoid eye contact, and quickly move away from the person. You could divert into a shop if you feel uneasy, and they're unlikely to follow you in off the street. If you feel threatened, ask for help. Dive into a shop or hotel and ask staff to call the police or help you get rid of the person who is bothering you.
Connect with locals
While female travellers may be keen to avoid unwanted male attention, this doesn't mean they should avoid contact with all local people! Some of the most memorable travel experiences result from connecting with local people and gaining an insight into their lives and culture.
If you're a female traveller, you may feel safer communicating with local women, children and older folk – and learning just a few words of the language will instantly endear you to them.
Avoid being mugged
To avoid being mugged, try to look as though you have nothing much worth stealing – so don't wear expensive watches or jewellery; don't flash your cash; and avoid showing off valuable personal belongings such as cameras (any more than you need to).
If someone tries to snatch your bag, shout out for help but just let it go rather than risk getting hurt by trying to hold on to it, or by fighting back. You could use a body wallet
to carry more valuable items or notes of cash, then if they grab your bag they won't have taken everything you're carrying.
If you feel unsafe in your accommodation, you could use the Howsar Quick Door Lock
to secure your room while you're asleep.
Avoid 'hapless traveller' scams
By researching known scams at your destinations, you can arrive armed with a lot of knowledge to help keep you out of trouble, and you can also ask fellow travellers along the way of any scams they've experienced or heard about.
If someone offers you a product or service that seems too good to be true, go away and think about it rather than making any split second decisions – otherwise you could become victim to a scam.
And when you're strolling through the streets on your own, always stride along with purpose – acting as if you know where you're going (even if you don't!).