Ahhh, I remember my first ever international solo trip back in 2009. I used to travel for work then so I had done quite a bit of solo travel within the country but never internationally. It had been a stressful month and I needed to get away from everything and everyone so I decided to find a beach destination. Psshhh if only I could exchange what I thought was stress then for today haha!
Anyway, back then Orbitz had a ‘last minute weekend’ feature where you could just put in your weekend dates up to 3 weeks away and it would give you some trip options. I found a 4-day round trip fare to Nassau, Bahamas for less than $175 and so I was like ‘bet’ and booked it! Later on, I would come to find out that while getting to the Bahamas is cheap, staying there is a whole other story! I almost didn’t go when I started looking at hotel prices and taxes lol, but Hotwire came through in the clutch! Below I’m sharing my experience woven in with 7 tips for a successful solo trip.
1. Take media ”scare tactics” with a grain of salt
I read an article recently that just had me shaking my head. It listed 10 countries to avoid because they’re unsafe. “Don’t visit Mexico” it said because there’s gang violence. Avoid Africa because the crime rate is extremely high. And on and on it went. Wow! We’re just gonna take whole, entire countries and a continents and put a big, large red ‘X’ on them? Mmkay then. It’s like saying “don’t visit the US because people are out with their guns shooting everywhere”. Of course there are bad things going on in cities all around the world, just be sure to do your own research. And yes, you can travel to Cuba as a US citizen and should.
2. Join a solo travel group on Facebook
Now groups weren’t a thing (I don’t think) back when I took my trip but I recently joined a few groups specifically for women who travel, and I’ve found a wealth of information in them. You get first-hand advice from people who have taken similar trips or even the same trip you are considering. You get tips and tricks, travel hacks, and might even meet new travel buddies. Also, you might find people who’ll be in the same destination at the same time as you, and you can meet up if you are okay with that. The key is to find a group with members you can relate to, and where you feel comfortable.
3. Connect with other travelers at your destination
No easier way to really connect with other travelers than when you’re by yourself. Of course this can also happen when you travel with someone/other people, but you always have them as a fall back. Plus you generally have a schedule of activities and it’s hard to switch it up on the fly. Some of the best travel connections I’ve made were when I was traveling alone. I met so many fellow travelers on my Bahamas trip that I lost count. It’s also a popular cruise destination so there were loads of people from the cruise ship exploring for the day.
On a different solo trip a couple years ago, I met this family on a day trip to Capri and they “adopted” me and took great care of me. Unfortunately my phone ate their contact information and I wasn’t able to keep in touch :(. I met a lady on the same trip who was from Dallas (I was considering moving there at the time) and she shared some job contacts with me. I’ve been in situations where I completely switched up my plan and joined someone else/another group because their plans sounded more fun than mine haha. I could go on and on about this one but you get the point.
4. Interact with the locals, but keep your wits about you
The locals are invaluable when it comes to exploring the authentic, non-touristy parts of your destination. On my first day in Nassau, I met some locals as I was walking around exploring, and they ended the conversation with “see you at fish fry“. After I met their comment with the blankest of stares, they insisted that it would be sacrilegious if I left the island without indulging in the ultimate Bahamian experience. Later that evening, I came to learn all about conch and the different ways to enjoy it, and it was all on the house!
On a different note, let me tell you about ‘cousin’. I was in line waiting to pay for a boat tour, and he approached me with an offer to help me purchase my $6 ticket. See I already knew the fare was actually $3 and he was trying to dupe me to pay for him. Nah bruh, I’m Nigerian and my spidey sense is always on when it comes to things like this. Well, $3 isn’t that much I thought, so I cut a deal with him instead after calling him out. I would pay his fare, he would get me out of the line and also become my photographer. We shook hands and made the deal, and I had a photographer for the day lol. I just made sure we never strayed from places with a lot of people.
5. Research cultural differences/laws you might need to be aware of
I think this is also where the solo travel Facebook groups come in handy because you can get some first-hand advice, but Google is also your friend. Are you going to a country where the dressing is a little more modest than you’re used to? Well, this might be a trip to leave your short shorts at home. Will you be in a country where your credit card won’t work? Bring all the cash you’ll need. Are you going to a country where you need to bring your own toilet paper to use the bathrooms? Carry enough disposable wipes to last you for the trip. Side note, I always carry all kinds of disposable wipes on my trips. My friends laugh when we travel together, but they thank me in the end.
6. Book group tours/excursions
Let’s be real, while solo travel is great and adventurous, there are times when you might get lonely depending on where you are. That’s where group tours come in. I didn’t do any on my Bahamas trip because the way my bank account was set up, my travel budget was gone after I booked my hotels. The $3 boat tour was my only real excursion, but on subsequent trips, I’ve always tried to fit in a group excursion or two. The family I mentioned above, and the lady from Dallas were all people I met on group tours.
7. Finally, just do it!
I love traveling with my friends as I love being around people but sometimes, I really really want to go somewhere that they all have zero interest in going. Why let that hold me back? If I hadn’t bought that ticket to Nassau on the spot, I might never have taken that trip. In the end, it turned out to be one of my most memorable trips ever! Just be sure to let someone know where you’re going and how they can reach you if needed.
So book that ticket, have an open mind, be safe, and have loads of fun.
If you need some destination inspiration for solo travel, here’s a list from Forbes. I really like that it includes some ‘not so usual’ destinations. As always, do your own research before you commit to it.
What’s your experience with solo travel? Is it something you’re into or do you always travel with people? I always love reading your comments so let me know!
Thanks so much as always and have a fantastic weekend! xx.