Backpacking Alone – 5 Down To Earth Tips For Anyone Travelling Alone For The First Time
Everyone’s first solo travel experience can be a tiny bit daunting. It’s absolutely ok to be nervous or even straight up terrified – but the important thing is that you’re doing it!! Travelling solo is the best experience in the world – and I think everyone should do it at least once!
All those doubts you’re having? Well, you have the world pretty literally at your fingertips – the internet is a marvellous thing, if you can’t find an answer on a blog then there are people who you can ask.
I was thinking back to the things I wish I had known before I took off to travel for the first time and thought I’d share them with you now.
This article may contain affiliate links – this just means if you choose to purchase something (at NO extra cost to you) through one of our links we earn from this – read more about this here
Tip 1 – Pack Light – you don’t need as much as you think you do
If you are travelling for three months you do not need 84 pairs of underwear. I know this sounds like a joke but I met a girl in Greece who had brought a pair for every day. I realise that doing laundry in a country you’ve never been in before sounds hard but it’s way easier than carrying around dirty underwear for three months.
Most places have super accessible laundrettes, hostels either have washing machines or have a friendly local laundry connection.
Think about combination and duplication. A simple skirt paired with a singlet and flip flops is totally casual and chilled out – pair the same skirt and singlet with a cardigan and cute boots – bam you got a dinner outfit. You don’t need four plain simple skirts and four tops – you need two of each in different colours.
If you’re going somewhere that can get chilly then layering is your answer, not necessarily bulky jackets.
If you want a more detailed run down on exactly how to pack light then you can get a free how to guide when you to our newsletter – don’t worry we look after your information and you can unsubscribe at any time!
Tip 2 – Language Barrier – How to communicate when you don’t know the local language
The first part of this tips is – don’t be a jerk (even unintentionally).
You are at work, it is a nice day. Someone comes in and says something you don’t understand.
You apologise, saying you didn’t understand them. So they say the same thing again, looking at you like you’re an idiot. Again, you apologise but all this does is make them raise their voice and repeat themselves. They turn to other customers and start speaking incredibly quickly, gesturing at you and speaking even louder than before! Everyone’s day is ruined.
Don’t be that person – saying English louder does not magically translate it into whatever language you’re not speaking.There are options.
You can learn one sentence in the other persons language: I’m sorry, I don’t speak ________ can you help me?
If you wanted to you could also learn some ways of being polite in the local language (hello, please, thank you, goodbye). If you’re too nervous to try speaking the language, which is understandable, you can communicate via text or technology.We are launching a service whereby you indicate to us some sentences you feel are vital – and we print them up for you. This can include food allergies, emergency explanations, or just explaining that you don’t speak the language and asks them if they speak English. If you would be interested in this, please drop us a message!
You could take this into your own hands with technology such as downloading Google Translate and making your target language available offline. This way you can get a rough translation of your sentence and they can write back to you, no yelling no days ruined.
But the other thing is that a lot of people, in a lot of places, speak English. Not that you should rely on this as a method of communicating, but generally speaking there will be a local in the vicinity who speaks English.
Tip 3 – Safety and [not] being robbed
When you’re planning your first solo travel it is easy to become scared to travel alone, to start thinking that you will only go to the safest possible places. Well, unfortunately, there is crime and danger … everywhere. KEEP READING! When everything is on sale, nothing is on sale. From the United Kingdom to the United States and from France to Fez – there are risks. You can’t escape crime or scams, and you can’t stay home because the world is dangerous or you’ll end up hiding in your bedroom because of all those nasty kitchen deaths you’ve been hearing about.
All we can do is be sensible and take adequate precautions, minimise yourself as a target, and be situationally aware.
Don’t be flashy – especially in developing countries or places where poverty is the norm, discussing loudly how much your phone cost or how much cash you have on you currently isn’t a great idea. This sounds silly but I literally had this conversation with a girl in Nepal, she had brought over $3000 USD for three weeks. The average salary in Nepal is just over $9,000 USD a year. She was carrying four months’ salary, in cash, in her side bag, and was asking me in a crowded market place if I thought it would be enough for three weeks.
Know The Scams That Are Common – everyone has stories of friendship bracelets being tied around their wrist forcibly, or gold rings allegedly dropped, of petitions offered while others pickpocket you. There are good resources online as well as forums where you can ask for people’s experiences. Travel Intuition comes into play here – as you travel you’ll start to get a gut feeling about situations and be able to deal with it from there. You can read about what travel intuition is and how you get it right here.
Common Sense if you wouldn’t walk down a dark creepy ally at home, don’t do it while travelling. Walking home alone steaming drunk is rarely a good idea, even less so when you are in unfamiliar places and you don’t know the streets like the back of your hand. If something seems too good to be true – it probably is.
Get Travel Insurance in my honest opinion, if you can’t afford the insurance you can’t afford the trip. It’s usually cheap, less than you would spend on a dinner or night out. Your camera is stolen? Travel insurance. The airline loses your bag? Travel insurance. You fall down some stairs and break your leg and the hospital costs + flight modifications would normally cost a proverbial arm and a leg? Travel insurance. I have had a really good experience with World Nomads, you can read my review here and why I think travel insurance is is good idea here. Or you can click below and get a quote for your trip.
Remember, you can do all the right things and still have some jerk on a mo-ped snatch your bag off your shoulder (try to walk close to the buildings in places where this is common) or have your locker broken into while you’re out seeing the city (don’t keep all your money in the same place). The bottom line here is – be aware, but don’t be scared of travelling alone. I am NOT in the business of victim shaming, for any crime, the hideous fact is that things happen and all we can do is be prepared and protect ourselves as best we can.
Tip 4 – Loneliness – When you’re travelling alone, you don’t have to be lonely
“But won’t I be lonely backpacking alone?”
Maybe, until you do something about it! Stay in hostels – pick the right one and you’ll have the exact level of social interaction you like. Are you looking to party? There are party hostels that run free pub crawls, very cheap drinking tours, dance parties, or just have bars in the premises. Or maybe you’re looking for some chill activities and relax? There are hostels that aren’t so strongly party-party focussed – I met one of my best friends by striking up a conversation about noisy children while she worked. There is lid for every pot and a hostel for every taste!
If you haven’t been able to find people you’re staying with to do a specific activity with you and you really don’t want to go alone – you can book day tours! There is NOTHING wrong with booking tours to make your trip more enjoyable, despite what some pretentious so-and-so’s will sniff at you.
Additionally, this is one of the best things about travelling alone – you learn to be alone without being lonely. The thought of going to a restaurant alone terrify you? Not after travelling solo. What about going to a concert on your own? Not after backpacking alone.
Which leads me to…
Tip 5 – Don’t Forget Why You’re Doing This! –
There are so many amazing reasons why travelling alone is awesome. Your independence and your confidence SOARS because you’ve done it – done what you thought you couldn’t.
You might be contemplating travelling alone because your friends don’t prioritise travel the way you do, or just can’t make it this time because of life reasons! You might be backpacking alone because you have to – but you might be doing it because you want to!
I honestly think the confidence and self-reliance is the most valuable. you can read about how travel and travelling alone has improved my ability to deal with challenges – including the story of how my first time travelling alone was basically a disaster but was probably the most beneficial thing to have happened to me!
Additionally there are health benefits to becoming more self-confident – see travel is health!
What are your concerns about travelling alone for the first time? Are you about to go on your first solo travel experience?
If this was useful for you please share, or use our Pinterest friendly images to save it for later!