1. Do your research. Before you leave for your adventure, be sure to plan at least a rough itinerary of all the things you want to do and see in each country. TripAdvisor, Lonely Planet and Wikitravel are all amazing resources to get a feel of what each country is like – their weather, tipping customs, currency, people and culture – and help you form a bucket list for each country.
2. Keep informed on the go. The app Triposo is an amazing travel companion which you can download on your Smartphone. You download the guide for whichever city you are staying in and it gives you the temperature, the currency exchange rates, local’s recommended hotspots, detailed and interesting information on the city and even a basic language guide with pronunciation techniques. In an exciting time for technology, there are plenty of travel apps like this which will keep you informed and may even be a life-saver while you are on the go.
3. Google Maps is your best friend. Never. Look. Lost. That’s one of my most valuable tips I can give to any wanderluster, particularly if you are traveling alone. Whipping out a huge map in the middle of a street and puzzling over its complexity can attract unwanted attention. Instead, use Google Maps to find your way around. You can also use it offline by downloading areas when you have an internet connection.
4. Dress like a local, not like a tourist. This is a common travel tip, but an important one. When you dress like a tourist – fanny pack, huge backpack, camera over your neck – it can attract people who want to take advantage of you. Do be smart about how you dress to blend in with the locals as much as possible. I always dress as I do in New Zealand when I travel and have been mistaken for a local quite a few times.
5. Airbnb. This is the most genius travel invention ever. Airbnb is a accomadation hosting company that allows you to rent an apartment, a room, a bungalow or even a caravan for your travels. The best thing is that it is all hosted by locals. It has many great benefits – it can be cheaper than hotels (and much more personalized), you meet locals who are mostly happy to give you tips about the place you are staying in (and may even give you a personal tour), and it’s so easy to keep within your budget. I have had nothing but amazing experiences with it and have met really great people along the way. Another awesome thing about it is that you can book on the go through the app in just a few steps. Love Airbnb.
6. Prefer a hostel? Book a private room. If it’s not ideal to be sleeping with five other people and sharing one bathroom or if you actually want to sleep, booking a private hostel is the next best thing. While it may be more expensive, it will still be cheap, and the benefits outweigh a shared dorm. You can get a bigger bed & your own bathroom and shower, a good nights undisturbed sleep and the best thing: privacy! However, the downside is not being able to bond with other foreigners, but there are plenty of hostel events to check out if that’s a concern.
7. Keep your friends and family posted consistently. Give them an itinerary (even if it’s really rough) of all the places you will be visiting, but most importantly, keep in regular contact with them. If anything happens to you, God forbid, and you lose sudden and unexpected contact with them, they can alert someone to your attention.
8. Eat like a local. Don’t eat at the restaurants where all the major tourist attractions are. In my experience, they were bland and way over-priced. Instead, find local spots away from the hustle and try street food for cheaper, more authentic food experiences.
A good idea if you are on a budget and have a kitchen available to you is to go grocery shopping and cook at home. Again, it will be much cheaper than eating out.
9. Pack as light as possible. If you are a solo female traveler, this is especially important. Pack as light as possible when you leave to make room for any gifts or shopping you may do. You can always buy things overseas and you don’t want to be lugging heavy or multiple luggage around with you if you are constantly on the go. You may have to sacrifice some things as you travel, and that’s okay!
10. Be super prepared when it comes to money. Don’t keep using your credit card, but make sure you have cash on hand too. My rule of thumb is that anything cheap (food, taxi fares, tipping) I pay with cash, and anything more expensive I pay with my card. When you withdraw from an ATM, draw out a considerable amount as there usually is a fee that comes with it. Make sure that in case of a financial emergency that there is someone back home who can help you out. And my last tip: remember to inform your bank when you leave! This ensures they will not be suspicious and flag your card.
11. Walk everywhere. While it may be a little more expensive, it’s a good idea to get accommodation that is central to everything you want to do. That way, you can walk everywhere. It has many benefits: you get exercise, you can explore and get the feel of a city better, and it’s completely free.
12. Mix tours and individual exploring. It’s fun to do group tours as the tour guide can give you detailed information and answer any questions you may have, and it’s also a great way to meet new people. But don’t be afraid to do a little exploring on your own and walk the off-beaten path too.
13. Use your common sense. Try not to walk alone at night, and if you do stay on streets with a lot of people. Don’t go out and get drunk by yourself in a foreign city (and always keep an eye on on your drink – don’t accept drinks from dodgy strangers). Keep your passport very close to you or hidden away. Don’t keep things in your pockets but securely in your handbag. Lock any room you are staying in before you sleep. But also remember that not everybody is out there to get you, and help is available to you if you ask for it!
14. Don’t be obsessed with social media. It can be easy to get carried away and Instagram or check-in on Facebook constantly. It’s good to go on once in a while, but remember that the whole point of your travel is to disconnect from the internet and reconnect with yourself.
15. Don’t be afraid to try new things. I’m a person who will try anything once and I think that one of the greatest joys in life is experiencing completely new things. Say yes more often. Be open to new experiences and possibilities. The best memories are sometimes the most unexpected and spontaneous.
16. Put yourself out there to meet new people. It is truly the experiences you have with other people that make your trip special. Don’t be afraid to go to pub crawls or make conversation with strangers (providing you feel safe). You will soon realize that there is an army of wanderlusters and explorers just like you to share unforgettable memories with.
17. Remember it’s okay to feel scared. Traveling, especially by yourself, can be overwhelming. I remember on the plane to from Auckland to Dublin I was absolutely petrified. I opened a letter my little sister wrote to me and she said that everything was going to be okay. And I want to let you know that everything will be okay. The first few days will make you feel homesick, and things will go wrong no matter how hard you plan, but in the end you will ask yourself why you never did this earlier. Traveling is the most life-changing experience and a gift waiting for anyone who dares embark on it, and the joy of it far, far outweighs the costs.
18. But remember home is always there for you. No matter where you go in the world or how wrong things go, you will always have a home to come back to. Fresh laundry and your own bed and people you love – they aren’t going anywhere. So travel, travel until your heart is overflowing, knowing that there will be familiar faces to welcome you home at the end of it.