How to organize an independent trip
Traveling solo or without a travel group/agency often sounds scary. Still, once you try it, you will realize it is challenging and adventurous. Here are some valuable tips for successfully planning your trip and keeping yourself safe while traveling.
START YOUR PLANNING – FIRST STEPS
- Check your finances and plan a trip you can afford.
- Do some research to make the most of your money. Compare prices before booking and look for deals.
- Make a checklist with everything you need to do before your trip (book flight tickets, book accommodation, apply for a visa, make an itinerary…).
When planning a trip, starting with a realistic budget is essential. You need to clearly understand what you can afford and how much you’re willing to spend. Remember, traveling solo doesn’t necessarily mean you have to break the bank. There are many ways to travel on a budget, from staying in hostels and guesthouses to taking public transport and eating at local food markets.
Before you book anything, research to compare prices and look for deals that can save you money, check out different airlines, hotel websites, and third-party booking sites like Expedia or Booking.com, you can also find great deals on travel packages, including flights, accommodation, and tours.
Creating a checklist is also crucial when planning a solo trip. This helps you stay organized and ensures that you remember everything important. Write down everything you need to do before your trip, including booking flights and accommodations, applying for visas, and creating an itinerary. Break each task into smaller, manageable steps and give yourself ample time to complete them.
It’s important to remember that unexpected expenses can arise while traveling, so it’s a good idea to set aside some extra money for emergencies. You can also get a travel credit card with rewards and cashback for your purchases.
Finally, consider the cost of activities and attractions at your destination. Some places may have expensive entrance fees, so it’s worth researching to find free or low-cost options beforehand. You can also save money using public transport instead of hiring a taxi or renting a car. Planning ahead and being mindful of your spending can ensure a memorable trip without breaking the bank.
Get informed about the places of your interest, check suggested itineraries, and make a list of things you want to see and things you want to do. Print a small map to get an idea of the location of places you plan to visit. There are also many websites where you can download travel guides and blogs with handy information for any destination. Knowing the country using various sources will help you understand what to expect on your trip. It will make you more confident, comfortable, and less scared once you leave your comfort zone.
Another great way to get informed about your destination is by talking to other travelers who have been there before. You can read different blogs and join online travel communities or forums to ask for advice or recommendations from experienced travelers. You can also find travel bloggers or vloggers who have documented their experiences in the place you want to visit.
It’s also essential to be aware of the cultural customs and social norms of the country you are traveling to. Some countries have specific customs regarding dress, behavior, and social interactions. Learning about these customs beforehand can help avoid unintentionally offending locals or breaking laws.
Researching the local language and learning some basic phrases is also a good idea. This can help you communicate with locals and make your trip more enjoyable. You can find language learning apps or websites that can teach you basic phrases, or you can take a language course before your trip.
Finally, it’s important to be aware of any potential safety concerns in the country you are visiting. Travel advisories and safety tips can be found on government websites or travel forums. It’s also good to research the local emergency services number and keep it handy in an emergency. You can stay safe and make the most of your trip by being informed.
There are some concerns when traveling to a country you need to learn more about. Among a few significant problems is safety, so always check out if there is any conflict or health issue on chosen destinations.
In addition to checking for conflicts and health issues, you should take several other safety precautions when traveling solo. Here are some tips:
- Always be aware of your surroundings and stay alert. Trust your instincts and remove yourself from the situation if something feels off.
- Keep your valuables safe and secure at all times. This includes your passport, money, credit cards, and electronics. Consider carrying a money belt or using a theft-proof backpack.
- Avoid traveling alone at night, especially in unfamiliar areas. Stick to well-lit and populated areas.
- Research the local customs and culture to avoid offending anyone or unintentionally breaking any laws.
- Stay in touch with friends and family back home, and tell them your itinerary and where you’ll be staying.
- Carry a charged phone with you always and have emergency numbers programmed in.
- Only carry small amounts of cash; use a credit card whenever possible.
- If you feel uncomfortable or threatened, seek help from authorities or other locals. Don’t hesitate to ask for assistance.
Taking these precautions allows you to have a safe and enjoyable trip, even when traveling solo.
Money and credit cards
Call your credit card company before a trip to a foreign country. Sometimes, your purchases in some countries abroad freeze your account. It is because your bank believes you have been a victim of fraud. No matter whether you are going to use a credit card abroad, take some cash with you. Some shops or hostels don’t accept cards. If you do use your credit card, check the online statement on a daily or weekly basis. Keep all your receipts and compare the amounts charged. When you exchange money, keep your receipts until you’ve left the country because, occasionally, someone at the airport might ask you to see proof of all your foreign exchanges.
Another tip for money and credit cards is to avoid using ATMs in unsafe or sketchy areas. Use ATMs inside reputable banks or hotels to reduce the risk of theft or fraud. Also, try to carry small bills and change with you for small purchases, such as street food or souvenirs.
It’s also good to inform your bank of your travel plans so they don’t flag your transactions as fraudulent. Some banks also offer travel notifications you can set up through their website or mobile app.
When exchanging currency, it’s best to do so at reputable exchange offices or banks. Avoid exchanging money on the street or with individuals, as you may end up with counterfeit bills or getting ripped off.
Lastly, always keep your money and credit cards secure, such as a money belt or a hidden pocket in your backpack. Wait to carry all your money, and avoid flashing large amounts of cash in public places.
It is essential to check your destination’s vaccination requirements well before your trip. Some vaccines must be administered several weeks or months before your departure to ensure they are fully effective. You can check the vaccination requirements for your destination on the website of your country’s health department or the World Health Organization.
In addition to required vaccines, some destinations may also recommend other vaccinations based on the risk of certain diseases in the area. For example, if you travel to a country where malaria is prevalent, your doctor may recommend taking anti-malarial medication.
Make sure to bring a copy of your vaccination records with you when you travel. Some countries may require proof of vaccination upon entry, and having a copy of your documents can help you avoid any issues at the border.
Pack some medicals. I always carry pain relief medicine, cold and flu tablets, cough medicine, tablets for bites and stings, antiseptic, bandages, and sticking plasters in my hand luggage.
In addition to those items, it’s also a good idea to pack any prescription medication you need to take regularly, along with a copy of the prescription or a note from your doctor explaining why you need it. It’s also a good idea to research medical facilities in the area you’ll be traveling to, just in case you need medical attention while you’re there. Make sure you have travel insurance that covers any potential medical expenses you may incur while abroad.
Always give your friends and family your hotel and telephone number in an emergency. Write down the number of emergencies and your embassy details.
In addition to sharing your contact information with your friends and family, staying connected while traveling is also a good idea. You can purchase a local SIM card for your phone or activate an international roaming plan with your service provider to make and receive calls and access the internet. Alternatively, you can use public Wi-Fi networks, but be cautious about the security of your personal information when using these networks.
Another option is messaging apps like WhatsApp or Telegram, which allow you to make voice and video calls and send messages over Wi-Fi or mobile data. This can be a more cost-effective way to stay in touch with your loved ones while traveling internationally.
Lastly, consider downloading offline maps and translation apps to help you navigate and communicate in the country you’re visiting, especially if you need to speak the local language. These can be invaluable tools in unfamiliar territory.
My advice is always to travel light. All the essentials (cameras, laptops, travel guides, printed travel itineraries, documents, medicals, addresses, money) carry with you in your hand luggage.
In addition to carrying essential items in your hand luggage, packing light can make your travels more enjoyable and stress-free. It’s necessary to pack versatile clothing items that can be worn multiple times and in different ways, reducing the need to bring lots of different outfits. It’s also important to consider the climate and the activities you’ll be doing when packing. For example, pack comfortable and durable footwear if you plan to go hiking.
Another tip is to use packing cubes or compression bags to organize and compress your clothes, allowing you to fit more into your luggage. And remember to leave some space in your luggage for souvenirs or items you might pick up during your travels. Finally, check the baggage restrictions for your airline before you pack to avoid any surprises at the airport.
PLAN YOUR TRIP
- Book your flights – book your travel a few months in advance (flight tickets, trains, buses). Select the cheapest flight using a flight comparison tool. My favorite and the only one I use is Skyscanner.
- Book your accommodation (or at least the first few nights) before you go. There are plenty of websites where you can search for the accommodation that suits you the most, from the cheapest to costly ones. I mostly use Booking.com.
- Visa – a visa is required to enter many countries. For some visas, you can apply online; in some countries, you get a visa on arrival; for some visas, you get one in the embassy before your trip. Check your passport validity length. Many countries require passports to be valid for at least six months upon arrival. Many countries require a minimum number of blank pages in the presented passport, generally one or two.
- Travel insurance – only travel anywhere with valid travel insurance.
- Transport – get some information about transportation from/to the airport or arrange a pick up on arrival with a hotel/guest house;
Only hire a taxi from the guys who approach you inside the airport. If you are concerned about safety, take an official taxi. Double-check if a taxi driver knows your final destination (hotel, hostel).
Additional tips on planning your trip
- Research the weather conditions and climate of your destination before packing. This will help you determine what clothes and gear you must bring.
- Check for any local customs or cultural practices you should be aware of. This will help you avoid unintentionally offending locals and respect their way of life.
- Make a rough itinerary but leave some room for spontaneity and unexpected adventures. Only pack a few activities in one day, and allow some time for relaxation.
- Research local restaurants and food specialties in advance to understand what to eat and where to find the best food. This will save you time and allow you to try new things.
- Make copies of important documents such as your passport, visa, and travel insurance policy, and keep them separate from the originals.
- Consider getting a local SIM card or an offline travel app for more accessible communication and navigation.
ONCE YOU GET THERE
When you arrive at your destination, there are a few things to remember to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip. One of the most critical factors is awareness of your eating habits and food quality. Avoid street food that may not be prepared in hygienic conditions, and stick to bottled water to prevent water-borne illnesses.
When traveling to tropical destinations, it’s crucial to take care of your skin by wearing sun-protective clothing and applying sunscreen regularly. In addition, mosquito repellent is a must to protect yourself against mosquito-borne diseases like dengue and malaria.
When visiting religious sites, dressing modestly and covering your shoulders and legs is essential. Pack some clothes that will allow you to dress appropriately for these occasions.
It’s also crucial to be aware of your surroundings and avoid taking offensive pictures. Respect the local culture and religion, and remember you are a guest in their country.
Finally, take good care of your belongings, especially your money and passport. Always keep them close and never leave them unattended. You can have a safe and memorable trip by being cautious and respectful.