Tracey and I travel in very different ways and for some time now we've talked about traveling solo to the same destination and sharing the very different ways we enjoy it.
That opportunity has arrived.
In July we're both going to Nova Scotia, Canada for five days and yes, we'll be going at different times, have very different plans and will have very different stories to share.
But the idea of this trip prompted another. Since we travel solo differently we figure we have different solo travel tips to offer. So we sat down and brainstormed and have come up with our best solo travel advice. Check out what we each have to say. And click on the links in each tip to get more details.
Janice's Best Solo Travel Advice
- Try something new. I have discovered many new interests and likes as I've traveled solo. The big one is hiking. I never hiked before I started traveling solo. It just wasn't part of my big city upbringing. Then I went to the Lake District followed by Patagonia and more. And now it's part of my life at home but more importantly it motivates me to exercise more regularly so that I have the stamina to hike when I'm away. Read Hiking: Canada, Chile, Austria and the UK , Another Hiking Humiliation and Then… Redemption and Beyond Sydney: Bushwalking in the Blue Mountains.
- Meet locals. I love meeting locals as I travel. Global Greeters is a network of volunteer greeters who will take you around their neighborhood or their city. Meetup.com is an international website where you can connect with locals who share an interest you have. In Hong Kong I went hiking with a local Meetup group. Read Travel Deeper: How to Connect with Locals and How to Travel Alone Without Being Lonely: 10 tips & 5 posts
- Sink into your destination. The first moments in a new destination can be a bit of challenge. I like to start with either a walking tour or a hop-on-hop-off bus. They both give you an overview and point out places where you'll want to spend more time. And find out what the locals do. Use their local arts newspaper like Time Out which is published in major cities around the world. Is it a center for the arts? Take in the theater or galleries. Find a music festival. Go into the neighborhoods.
- Best saving money advice. I like to travel on the cheap so that I can travel more. Accommodation can take a big bite out of your travel budget. But you can save lots if you consider hostels. They're a great way to meet people and save a lot of money. Read Sleeping with Strangers: The Hostel Experience. You don't have to stay in a hostel every night. In Kauai I varied my accommodation from cheap to expensive to get a taste of the good life while stretching my budget. Read Budget Accommodation in Kauai: Four Ways to Stay. Also check in every Tuesday for our regulars Travel Money posts that share a different way to save money on travel every week.
- Stay safe. I had one dangerous situation in Paris in my twenties so I know that safety is important first hand. My number one rule is to stay in public when with new people. Read
Solo Travel Danger Part II: Caught in a Con Game and this post that I wrote in the very first year of the blog Solo Travel Safety: 5 principles.
Tracey's Best Solo Travel Advice
- Get around a big city safely. I am a very frequent Uber user, both at home and away. Now that I have used it in four different countries, I feel I can recommend it without reservation. Here’s why:
- Don’t speak the language? No worries. As you enter the address directly in the app on your phone, there are no misunderstandings about where you want to go.
- Left something in the car? No problem – you have the name of the driver and his licence number in your phone.
- Don’t know your way around? Worried that you’ll be taken the long way to a nearby destination? Don’t be. It’s all tracked-you can see the route on your phone, the driver can see it on his or hers, and Uber monitors it all. I have awakened in the morning to an unsolicited refund from the company when a driver took longer than they thought reasonable, given my start and end point.
- Nervous about getting in a car with a stranger? Normally, we would absolutely advise against it. But in this case, before the car ever arrives, you receive the driver’s name and photo, the make, model, and licence number of the car, and the driver’s rating according to all previous customers. Details of the trip, including a receipt are emailed to you as you exit the car, making follow-up a breeze. As a solo traveler, I feel very safe with Uber.
The rates vary depending on the city, and also on the destination: sometimes local regulations govern who can deliver to or pick up from airports. In Toronto, for instance, an airport taxi from my home to Pearson International runs about $70. Uber charges approximately $40. But in Milan, I found the price for both services was the same. Uber fares around the city in Toronto are roughly 40% less than taxis, but this may be different in, say, New York, where taxi fares are already much lower than in Toronto. Either way, it definitely pays to check it out, because Uber will give you an estimate of the cost of your trip before you order the car. If you want to give it a try, use my referral code to get your first trip free.
- Travel slow. Given the option, I would almost always opt to take a train rather than fly. Flying may get you there faster, but I find the experience much more pleasant and satisfying on a train. Some trains offer single seats, for those times when you want to get lost in your own thoughts while watching the landscape unfold, and some have dining or bar cars for times when you’re feeling more social. Check out my experience taking trains in Germany and France.
- Be flexible. Things don’t always go according to plan, and when you’re traveling solo, all of the problem-solving and re-jigging is up to you. Flexibility is key. Being able to see opportunity in situations where things go wrong is also a huge benefit. I took a trip last year where nothing—and I mean nothing—worked out as I had planned. Here’s what I learned by adapting to changing circumstances, letting go of some cherished plans, and opening myself up to unexpected options.
- Ask lots of questions. When I first started traveling solo, I was afraid to ask questions. I worried that I would sound stupid. I didn’t want to admit that I was lost, or couldn’t figure out the transit schedule, or didn’t understand how things worked. I would hang back, observe what others around me were doing (sometimes for very long periods of time), pretend that I was just casually hanging out. Not anymore! Now I ask questions of everyone I encounter. For one thing, it’s the best way to find out where the locals eat, what they enjoy doing, and the best way to get around their city. For another, I have found that generally, people love to tell you about their home, and are happy to help.
- Take a class. For me, it’s cooking classes that appeal; for you, it may be something else. You will find that you will gain much more than a new skill. In Prague, I learned some universal truths without even speaking the language. In Barcelona, I met travelers from around the world, and picked up lots of tips about local food and culture from a Michelin star chef. And in both cases, I had a great meal and came home with new recipes so I could recreate the experience. For great ideas on creative travel, check out these tips from our friend Elena.