Most people prefer to travel with a companion. Sometimes, however, by choice or circumstance, travelers journey alone. There are advantages to independent travel. You see and do what you want, when you want, through your eyes alone, without regard to the sentiments or preferences of a companion. You are also free to meet others along your journey, sometimes making lifelong friendships.
Traveling solo can be a safe and rewarding experience. To help you have the best possible experience, we have compiled a list of tips that should get you on your way.
Sit At The Bar. Sitting at a bar is less embarrassing than sitting at an empty table, and you can meet other singles at the bar – just be careful not to send the wrong signals. Bartenders can also be good company.
Become A Regular. When you find a place you like, talk to the staff so they will remember you and return the next day. Once you are recognized as a "regular" the staff will make you feel more comfortable.
Avoid Glamorous Restaurants. They tend to have the quiet, romantic atmosphere that attracts couples.
Stay Busy. Bring a book, or your travel journal, or writing paper to keep busy during those awkward, idle moments – at least appear occupied. If you are near a university, you can certainly find a café with students who are eating or studying, often alone.
Skip Dinner. Enjoy a large lunch, and in the evening grab a snack on your way to a show.
Guard Your Room Key. If you are staying in a place where the custom is to leave your room key at the front desk when you go out, always make sure that someone takes the key and puts it away.
Use A Concierge. Ask the concierge about the safety of mass transit at night, the safety of any area you plan to visit, and for restaurant recommendations, particularly for solo travelers. When it’s time for you to move on, ask the concierge to confirm your next reservation. If you don’t have a reservation, ask for help getting one. You will always be better off with the concierge’s help.
Pick A Central Location. It will be easier to get around and safer in a big city.
Home Base. If possible, stay at one place and take day trips to see the surrounding sites. It's easier and safer than moving from place to place.
Be Smart. Don’t announce that you need a single room so others can hear you; be discrete. Request a room near the elevator. Don't hang room service tags from the doorknob that specify a breakfast for one.
Carry The Hotel's Business Card. When you check in, request several business cards with the hotel’s name and address. If you are in a foreign country, ask the front desk to write the name and address in the local language on the back of the card. These cards can help you find your way back to your hotel or help you give directions to a cab driver.
Stop Early In The Day. Arrive in the next city by mid afternoon in order to find your way around and to get a room before dark. Don’t arrive late in a strange locale without a place to sleep.
Plan To Wash Your Clothes. This helps you pack light. You will be safer if you avoid the hotel’s laundry and outside laundromats by washing your clothes in your room with Woolite.
Lock Up Your Valuables. Use luggage with locks. Always lock your valuables inside your luggage when you leave your room.
Buy Sturdy Luggage. Look for heavy-duty wheels, a strong handle, stability, and durability.
Meet Friends Of Your Friends. Ask your friends to contact their friends to let them know that you might be calling on them when you are in the area. As soon as you arrive, call them to schedule a visit. Suggest meeting in the evening and offer to pick up the tab. If they insist on paying for dinner, bring a small gift for them. If you are staying with them, bring them a nice gift.
Take A Tour. Sightseeing tours help you see the sites, and you will meet other travelers. Tour guides are usually very friendly, and they can be very helpful to solo travelers.
Help Other Tourists. If you have the opportunity, offer help to other tourists; they can become great traveling companions.
Be Friendly. Everyone appreciates a little friendliness. Be careful, however; you don’t want to send the wrong message. You might be inadvertently encouraging the wrong behavior, and that could be dangerous. If you make a new friend, always meet in a public place, and never go to your new friend’s room.
Be Smart. Avoid empty bars and any places that have a seedy reputation. If you enter a place that makes you feel uncomfortable, leave immediately. Trust your instincts.
Look Married. Wear a wedding ring.
Walk With Confidence. If you appear to know where you're going, people are less likely to bother you.
Wear Sunglasses. People can't make eye contact with you, causing them to look away.
A Whistle And A Phone. A cell phone is invaluable, especially for summoning help. A whistle is invaluable for chasing away trouble.
Don’t Be A Tourist. Take photos discretely and in moderation. If you wear a backpack, wear it on your back and secure the flap. Don’t wear it on the front side of your body. Don’t look at maps in public. Study them at breakfast or in your hotel room. Sketch a rough map of major streets on notepaper and write down the address and directions for places you plan to visit.
Don't Wear Headphones. In public, wearing headphones enables someone to catch you unaware. Of course, in the comfort of your room, a little familiar music is good company.
Don't Talk To Jerks. If you encounter an unsavory person, ignore him (or her) and keep walking.
Traveling By Auto. Always lock your doors, even though the area appears safe. Never leave anything that appears of value in plain sight. Some destinations contain open roads with beautiful scenery but few safe places to stop and enjoy it. You will be tempted to stop to look at the view. This is dangerous.
Carry I.D. Keep your passport with you at all times. If your hotel asks to keep your passport, allow them to photocopy it, but insist that they return it. Better yet, have photocopies of your passport for them. Have photocopies of all your travel documents – it greatly facilitates the process of replacing them if they are lost. If you are visiting remote countries, carry a phone list of the local embassies, and leave a copy of the list and your itinerary with friends. Notify each embassy when you arrive there.
Phone Home. Give friends at home your itinerary with hotel phone numbers. Also give them a copy of your embassy phone list. Tell friends when to expect your calls and call them.
Money Belts. Where do you carry money in public? A thief can quickly snatch a purse or fanny pack. Your best bet for spending money is your front pocket. Some women prefer a small pouch that clips under their blouse. If you carry a purse or bag, make sure it has a zipper and fits close to you with the zipper in front. A money belt is OK for stashing extra cash, but you should not retrieve any money from it in public – it will surely attract attention, and it lets everyone know where you are hiding the big bucks.
For Women Only. If you see women around, especially women with children, you've got less to worry about - especially at night. If all you see is men, get out of there. When walking the streets, try walking close to a woman with children; it quickly ends any staring. On a bus, sit next to an older woman or a couple to avoid rude passes. When traveling by rail, select a first class car. If you must sit alone, don’t return an unwelcome gaze or smile.
© 2009 Garris Travel Service