Tips for Travelling Solo
The Solo Traveler
Solo travelers. We are free-spirits who embrace adventure and are curious enough to explore the unknown. We see that solo travel presents a new way of looking at the world, and we believe that it can be an eye-opening and sometimes even life-changing experience.
As solo travelers, we decide what we want out of our day. No one influences our schedule unless we want them to and we are free to do only what we feel like doing. This spontaneity leaves us open to meeting new people, learning about cultures around us, and experiencing true freedom.
When we travel solo, not only do we learn about the world, we learn about ourselves – and our place in this world.
If I’m Thinking About Travelling Solo, Where Should I Stay?
This depends on several factors. As a starting point, you may to ask yourself the following questions:
- What is your budget like?
- How much privacy do you want?
- How open are you to meeting people?
Option 1: Dorm-style rooms in a hostel
- Most affordable
- No privacy
- Highest chance of meeting people
If you want to meet lots of new people easily and you are comfortable sharing your space with people you don't know, then you may want to look into dorm-style stay in a hostel. This means that rooms can range from a 4-person same-gendered space to a 20-person (or more!) mixed-gendered space. If you choose this option, keep in mind that people will be coming in and out at all hours and privacy is limited. This can also get tiring if you are more introverted and you crave some time away from people. But it is a good way to meet people!
If you are on a tight budget, this is usually the most affordable option. In some countries, you can get a bed for around $10 or less a night. Locals that run and work in the hostel can usually provide recommendations and guidance on what to do in the city. Most hostels even offer organized nights out and trips to sights (for a fee) where other hostel-stayers will also be present.
Option 2: Private room with ensuite bathroom in a hostel
- Less affordable
- More private
- Medium chance of meeting people
If you want the luxury of being able to retreat into your own room – but still want to meet people, then you may want to get a private room with an ensuite bathroom that's in a hostel. This might be the best of both worlds, but it does come with a price! This option will be more expensive than a dorm-style room but in some places, it may still be cheaper than a hotel or Airbnb.
The amount of people you meet will depend on how much you put yourself out there. Every hostel will usually have a lobby or common space where all the other backpackers and travelers hang out. If you bring a book and hang out here, it can be easier than you think to meet people. Hostels will usually provide organized activities for a fee, so if you sign up for the things that interest you, you'll have more opportunities to meet people.
Option 3: Hotels & Airbnb's
- Less affordable
- More private
- Low chance of meeting people
Hotels and Airbnb's are less "solo travel friendly" options. These options are usually considered for more luxury travel, and since there is no one for a solo traveler to split the cost with, hotels and Airbnb's are usually expensive. Couples, families, and friend groups usually choose these options for short-term vacation. Without a common space to encourage mingling, there may be less opportunities to meet other travelers like yourself. On the plus side, with Airbnb's, you can find some cool, unique, and trendy spots!
Things to Do & Consider When Travelling Solo
- Pack light
Packing light means you only bring essentials on your trip. You want to be able to move quickly from destination to destination, if need be. And the less you have, the easier it will be to pack up and move. There is a sense of freedom that comes along with only having a backpack or a carry-on. Plus, this means you most likely won't lose your baggage in transit or have to pay extra costs.
- See the place by foot, bike, or car
The best way to explore a new city is usually by foot or on bike. Moving at a slower pace, you may run into hidden gems located on side streets that you may normally miss. Download maps on your smartphone so you have some sense of direction when you are offline. Then, walk around and take in what the city has to offer.
If you are in a rural area, rent a car or bike and explore the place that way. Consider adding a mobile WiFi hotspot to your rental car. That way you can connect your smartphone to it if you need to use an online map.
- Meet the people
The best way to learn about a new place is to talk to locals that are from there. You will get a feel for the culture and people that live there. You can even practice conversing in a new language! The people that live there will usually know where the best places are to eat, areas to avoid, and places you should consider checking out.
- Eat local food
One of the best things about travelling is getting to try new, different food! Try not to only stick to the type of food you know. Discover new flavours and learn some new recipes to take back home with you. You may also want to consider eating where locals eat. You are usually guaranteed better prices and sometimes even better food. "Touristy" restaurants are often more expensive, as it's thought that tourists can afford it. The food is usually modified to suit North American cuisine and taste buds – it's not the real deal!
- Do things that locals do and enjoy as part of their culture
If you can, attend local festivities and events that are happening in the country you are in. This may also provide more insight and perspective into the culture as a whole. In Belgium, you may want to attend one of several music festivals. If you're in Nicaragua, you may want to go surfing and see a bull fight. When in Thailand, check out a Muay Thai fight!
- Stay true to who you are but explore who you could be
This means weaving your personality and interests into the trip. If you love history and museums, then go explore that! If you love graffiti art and artisan markets, then find an art district and look out for marketplaces! Explore who you could be by stepping outside of your comfort zone and doing at least one thing you've never done before. Whatever you do, add your own element and explore for you!
Things to Know
You should always look into cultural norms when travelling solo to a new place. Some places may have strict rules when it comes to dress and conduct. You don't want to cause unnecessary attention to yourself, be in trouble with the law, or unknowingly show disrespect to a culture. Know what the do's and don'ts are so you can easily immerse yourself.
You should check to see if you need any vaccinations or a visa to enter the country. Check out this travel checklist for more information.
Things to Avoid
- Avoid walking around with a big backpack if you can. This immediately puts you in the "tourist" category amongst burglars and pick-pocketers. Carry only the essentials and keep it to a minimal.
- Avoid arriving in a country in the middle of the night. If you are travelling alone, the last thing you want to do is take a taxi by yourself at night or roam around looking for transportation. It's simply not safe. The same goes for arriving very early in the morning. Shops may not be open and transportation may not have started running. This can leave you stranded or isolated
- Avoid exploring in the middle of the night or going to isolated places. Some places may be safer than others, but for the most part, the safest option for solo travelers is to explore in the middle of the day when and where other people are around. Try to be near a crowd. That way, if you do get lost or you need help, someone will be around.
- Protect your passport, money, credit cards, and valuables. Most hostels have lockers where you can lock these valuable items up so you don't have to carry all of it around with you. Only take out money you think you need for that day. Don't carry your passport around if you don't really need to.
Things to Have
Prepare for the unexpected while you're away. While you are out exploring the world, the last thing you want to worry about is medical emergency expenses if something does happen. We offer travel medical insurance options like the Per Trip Plan and Annual Plan for eligible medical expenses.
- Per Trip Plan: If you are an occasional traveler planning to travel for less than 212* days, the Per Trip Plan might be for you. Review the travel medical insurance page to learn more and get a quote.
- Annual Plan: If you are a frequent traveler, you can take unlimited trips of 9, 17, 30, or 60 days during the year with the Annual Plan. Review the travel medical insurance page to learn more and get a quote.
- Trip Cancellation and Trip Interruption Insurance1
This will help you protect your trip investment. Before you go, we'll cover eligible non-refundable travel expenses like trip deposits and flight change fees, if your trip is cancelled because of a covered cause. While you are on your trip, and your plans change due to an unexpected covered cause, we’ll cover your trip home or to your next destination.
Other Travel Needs to Consider
If you happen to be in the U.S. often as part of your travel, TD can help by making your trip easier to manage.
- With Cross-Border Banking, services like US-based bank accounts can provide convenience
- With a TD U.S. Dollar Visa Card, you can make purchases in U.S. dollars with no U.S. dollar conversion fees
There is so much to see in this world, start exploring now.
1 TD Travel Medical Insurance is underwritten by TD Life Insurance Company. TD Trip Cancellation and Trip Interruption Insurance is underwritten by TD Life Insurance Company (medical covered causes) and TD Home and Auto Insurance Company (non-medical covered causes). Medical and claim assistance, claim payment and administration services under the Policy are provided by our Administrator. Benefits, features and coverages are subject to conditions, limitations and exclusions, including a pre-existing condition exclusion, that are fully described in the Certificate of Insurance which is issued if accepted for enrollment.
* Up to 212 days but not longer than the maximum number of days allowed under your Government Health Insurance Plan (GHIP) for travel outside of Canada.