I have no idea where to start planning my trip!
Perhaps the most difficult part about doing your first solo trip is to make de decision to do it,
and when you decide you’re going to do it then it comes to your mind all those details – small and bigger ones – that begin to overwhelm your head.
Yeah, I’ve been there too! I remember my first solo trip to South America…lonely and long hours, days and weeks of planning. At that time there was not too much information available as today, were the times of the early internet boom (yes, that old I am!) and a very few blogs about South America speaking about travel, telling personal experiences and sharing travel tips, less about solo women traveling alone!
One was my first trip outside Chile was to Peru and Ecuador, I traveled for a month and has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life. After that trip I discovered that one of my great passions in life is travel, I discovered that it was possible and wanted to continue traveling the world.
Today, planning a trip is still a pleasure – and even more and enjoying the enormous amount of information available – when looking information about the destination I want to travel. It is something I do for those who ask me for help and do not know how to organize themselves (not free) and that I love to do!
It has always been my favorite traveling alone.
Perhaps because my personality type, I can organize myself and be very comfortable with doing solo travel, I can decide where I go, what I want to eat (and when), or I want to do without asking anybody.
I am one of those that does not complicate with going alone for a movie or to have dinner if that is what I want to do, or to sit for hours in a coffee shop to write, read or people watch (yes, am one of those thick clients that are settled for hours in coffee shops, but I drink LOTS of coffee)
I love to walk the streets of a city I go for first time, knowing that I am a complete stranger, not knowing what awaits me around the corner. In my recent trips I often leave the first hours or days at a destination to go without seeking a specific place, but just walking and feeling the vibes of the place.
So, how do I organize my first solo trip?
The first thing you should put on your to-do list would choose the destination, even as silly as it sounds, it is important to know a bit about where you want to go, so you can find out in advance if there are special things to prepare or know about that destination.
Passport or ID Card
Perhaps the first thing you should consider when planning a trip to a different country is to make your passport request OR if you already have yours you’ll might check that this has a minimum of 6 months expiring date after you enter the destination.
There are countries among which you can travel only with an identity card – as it is for residents of South America – and for others you’ll need your passport and even a special tourist visa.
I always like to travel with my passport because (in addition to the stamp) is the record of your entrance dates and specially in South America you’ll not just have the piece of paper they give you at international police that is very easy to lose and can cost a large fine.
Always keep a digitized copy of all important documents on your email
Visa and permission to stay
Definitely not something you should leave to the last-minute is the Visa topic.
There are countries you must apply with long time in advance from your departure and to follow the procedure to apply for permits to stay as a tourist can take longer that you think for some countries.
Buying your tickets is certainly often the largest cost you will have for your trip. Depending on the route, your destination and origin, I always recommend searching and checking many options before deciding to buy your tickets.
There are destinations that need you to have an exit ticket to get your Visa, but there are others who accept to enter the country with a one-way ticket.
Prices can change a lot from one airline to another, and from one destination to another, also you’ll want to take a look to the low-cost airlines that exist in various areas such as Europe, Asia and Brazil.
Look very carefully where ever you buy your tickets and go with any reliable agency or directly with the airlines, which is where I’ve usually found the best prices.
You can use search engines to syndicate several airlines and compare prices, but when buying my ticket I always prefer to do it with the airline with which I will travel.
How to know what should I pack?
The time of year is essential to help you decide what items will go with you.
Weather strongly influences what you need on your trip, e.g. a trip to a warm weather destination is much easier to organize in terms as you will probably wear very light and few clothes!
And here the second major dilemma: Suitcase or backpack? (I’ll talk more on this in a future article!). What to choose it largely depends on whether you will go to a city or a beach, if you feel more comfortable dragging your suitcase or carrying your backpack. If you have any health problems that keep you from bearing weight, we are clear.
Either if you carry backpack or a suitcase the most important advice I can give you is: Think 10 times if you really need each item you wanna take with you!
Probably you will not need it…and if in doubt, you don’t really need it anyway.
Plagues & Diseases
It is extremely important to know whether the destination ask for specific vaccines before you go, there are certain countries that ask you for your vaccination certificate to enter, or if you come from a country with an active vector carrying a disease they may also ask for it when checking your passport.
If you go to a destination where you know there is an active virus transmitted by a mosquito, you should take care to apply yourself repellent if you do not want to spend part of your trip sick or at the hospital.
Meds and Health Insurance
It is very important to travel with health insurance, if you become sick in a foreign country can be very expensive if you do not have a proper one. Always carry your prescriptions of any drugs plus a carry a scanned copy just in case you lose it or need to buy some more.
Hotel or Hostel?
Choose in advance whether you want to stay in a Hostel or a Hotel (might want to stay in a Poshtel? Check more about them here). Perhaps the main difference is that in a hostel is much easier to meet other travelers who are also willing to make new friends, go around the city together or simply sharing dinner with someone else.
A Hostel is usually cheaper than a Hotel, and there are even shared dormitories for 4 or more people.
Always carry one or more locks to use in your backpack and lockers to store your valuables, especially if you sleep in a dormitory.
There are also communities where travelers can contact others who want to share the road with you, organize events in the city or even to stay for free in their home, as it is Couchsurfing. (Here I tell you more about how it is to travel through Couchsurfing)
Your safety is ALWAYS first
I can assure you that what you will hear the first if you’ve never traveled alone is things like: Are you sure you will travel alone?But it’s so dangerous! Why not better take an organized tour?
I heard that kind of phrases so many times, but if you are convinced about you really want to do this trip do not listen to those who try to dissuade you from your idea. You are the one who knows what you need to do and the reasons to do it more than anyone else.
However, always be careful and please try to avoid bad experiences you’ll never forget. While I have the conviction that there is much more good than bad people in the world, scams and similar issues happens and travelers as well as anybody in the world are exposed to dangerous situations to avoid.
By example, my rule #1 when I’m traveling is NEVER get drunk if I’m solo traveling.
Chances are you will meet many other travelers who are in the same path, fulfilling the dream of getting to that magic place. Travelers also go with an open mind, willing to listen and meet others so it’s easy to meet people on the road but always follow your intuition.
For example, thanks to these meetings with fellow travelers, when I went to Dharamsala in India I met a nun and found out that the Dalai Lama will be giving a lecture the next day … and he even was taking his time for pictures with the attendees! Pure magic!
One of the most important things to keep you safe while traveling is to trust your instincts
If you notice a bad vibe or think something is wrong or could be, that plan to party that night does not sound too safe, you can always kindly say no and nothing will happen! To the case, you’re the wiser as to your person and your safety.