“Mummy, I’m flying in a week.”
“Who you going with?”
“Aiyo! You siao ah! Go alone very dangerous one leh.”
But… I went. Yup, this very dialogue happens the very first time I took my solo trip. It was a last-minute flight booking. Call me a coward first, because I was so afraid to venture out on my own.
The only thing I could do was flight and hotel shopping online all day long but the web page just stayed where it was, never making it to the payment page. The idea of just surviving alone in a foreign land without knowing anyone just scares the hell out of me.
But then, that very night, I decided to just book first and think later. A few clicks after and starting a fire in my bank account, shit got real. The next thing I had to deal with was not just my anxieties but my mum’s.
So I kept it from her until the week before my trip and there goes the conversation you just read a while back.
For those who have serious concerns over being solo in a foreign country, take a look at these 10 tips for ladies (who are planning to) travel alone.
I know of ladies who travel without much planning because #YOLO mah.
But if you’re not so much an advocate of the YOLO concept, then do your thorough read-ups, please. I suggest that you start browsing travel blogs and hear from the people who’ve gone before you.
Since they’ve already stepped on the land and are (definitely) back home in one piece, take heed or bits of advice. Don’t just read up the good stuff. Take in the negative so you know what to expect when you’re there. It’s also about managing expectations.
Join Facebook groups
Join Facebook groups to get you in the loop for the latest stories and happenings.
My favorites are Girls Love Travel & The Solo Female Traveler Network. If you’re a travel enthusiast, you will love the stories and updates those ladies have there.
Do a Facebook search!
Once you’ve got a more or less all-rounded feedback from people all over the world, start researching on your own.
Google and TripAdvisor are my best virtual friends when it comes to fact-finding. Identify the must-see places from TripAdvisor that you want to visit then plan your route around it. By that, I mean your accommodations too.
For example, when I was planning my trip to Langkawi, I wanted to visit the Sky Cab and Sky Bridge. So to give us a little context, the Sky Cab is located at Oriental Village. It’s something like Sentosa but a much further drive in (it’s the plenty-of-lands Malaysia after all).
Here’s the view from the top of the Sky Cab.
I had two options. First, I could stay somewhere out of Oriental Village and then take a cab where the cable car is located. Or second, I could stay near to Oriental Village and then walk over to the attraction.
Ponder over it. The second option is definitely more attractive in all aspects because you’re minimizing the times you have to cab, alone, in a foreign land.
If you’ve picked the first option, then you have to cab from your accommodation to your destination and then back. But if you choose the latter, you only need to cab once to your accommodation, where your must-see attraction is located.
Makes sense? It’s all about connecting the dots.
Go to Google’s ‘street view’
When I was planning my solo trip to Phuket, Google’s ‘street view’ saved me.
Prior to the trip, thank God I searched for the location of the hostel and viewed the street view the night before I flew.
What it gave me was a rough gauge on the turns and obvious ‘landmarks’ so I was able to direct the Grab driver when he couldn’t find my hostel. I felt like a heroine for that 3 seconds. That was enough to feed my ego.
It works for most locations because Google’s cool like that. So, start searching for the street views and teleport yourself to your dream destination at the comfort of your home!
I swear this is one of the things that gives me the confidence that I can survive (almost) anywhere with Google, my love. You can take screenshots for future references during your trip.
Book your Wi-Fi router or get a SIM card
Whenever I travel alone, there’s a 98% chance I’ll book a Wi-Fi router. No, it’s not for the ‘gram, it’s for connecting with the worried-sick family.
I’m definitely not the sort that’s overly attached and miss home after reaching Changi Airport. But I guess my family members are, so… no choice lor.
My favorite’s got to be the ChangiWiFi router from Changi Recommends. It’s a small little router that’s able to fit in a sling bag that you use to store your passport and valuables.
“But so leh chey leh… carry one thing around.”
If you don’t want to be lugging a small router around, then I suggest getting a prepaid SIM card from Changi Recommends or buy one when you reach your destination. Just make sure you read reviews on what’s the best local telco provider and expected price range to pay.
Download offline Google maps
Wi-Fi access is also my saving grace because I use that for my Uber or Grab trips and to glue my eyes to the map in real time.
But if you prefer to shut the world and your family off, then you can download Google offline maps before you fly.
Google maps help you navigate around on the ground and is perfect if you’re a 路痴 (Translation: can’t-recognize-roads idiot) like me. Or alternatively, smile, open your mouth and ask the locals for direction.
Slow down & breathe
Congratulations on surviving the turbulence and internal turmoil during your flight.
You know the real adventure begins when you walk down the aisle, passing the air stewards and stewardesses and hear this, “Thank you & see you again”.
Yeah, I hope I get to see you again if I survive the trip and make it to catch my return flight back home.
Oh, sorry. I’m sure you will make it. Don’t worry. 😉
As you walk to the immigration to get your stamp of approval to enter the land of paradise you’ve painstakingly read-up on and researched, you realize that you’re really on your own this time.
You may or may not be excited but this one tip works in all situations: slow down and breathe. Don’t be in a rush because that would put more eyeballs on you.
Being calm and collected is the way forward. Go to the toilet, put on that layer of lip tint, then walk out like you own this. You got this, girl!
Mind your clothings
While it varies from country to country and culture to culture, it’s best to pay attention to what you’re wearing.
You may want to stand out at your workplace and shine bright like a diamond at your school’s reunion, but not when you’re overseas, alone.
Save that low neckline, sexy, black dress for another occasion. Ladies, It’s not that you have to be dull, boring or even resort to putting on your granny’s two-piece overall.
The idea is to not direct too much attention to yourself and let the predators prey on you. Blend in with the locals, or as much as you can.
Stay in hotels
You might have come across solo travelers telling you to stay in hostels instead of hotels.
One reason being this: being among people make you feel less lonely. What’s more, it’s a good opportunity to hit up some hunks. Oops, I mean to meet some like-minded friends.
But if you’re traveling solo for the first time, I would suggest that you pick a hotel instead. Not those shady ones with 5.0 rating on Agoda but an average one, say at least 7.5?
It may be my personal preference but I feel much safer in a hotel or guesthouse (private room) than in a hostel. I only tried staying in a hostel during my second solo trip to Phuket but I did not catch a good sleep. It’s probably the unconscious nerves getting to me at night because I forgot my lock.
Yes, please bring a lock or two so you can lock up your essential belongings at night before you hit the sack. Some hostels provide lockers with keys but some don’t… so just you know.
Go on short trips
For a start. If you’re starting out, taking your first solo trip, go for a short trip. It’s up to you to define how ‘short’ is short because we’re all different in our own ways.
Too short and you might think you haven’t seen enough, too long and you will start to be homesick. But then again, not everyone’s homesick THAT easily.
Ultimately, it’s your life – one life – and your rules, so put boring at the end of your to-do list.
Not fully exhaustive
Again, there’s only so much I can write with 10 points as a barrier. We’ve not even gotten to some of the practical tips like keeping some of your money in your shoes or why you should not smile at men while in India.
These 10 tips are based on my solo travel experiences so I’m just sharing it out of goodwill. Know of ladies out there who are yearning to travel solo but know not where to start? Spread the word!
For those you’ve never thought of traveling solo, that’s perfectly fine because you know you can always rely on that one friend who’s never, ever going to take a plane alone.
No matter what you choose, solo, couple or a group, remember that you can’t turn back time. Go make memories while you’re still able to and learn to laugh when things don’t go your way. Yup, even when you’re hanging mid-air, on one arm, and dragged into the ocean like a net while parasailing.
Truly, an unpleasant experience will only make you stronger.
Nothing is impossible!
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