The resources for safe, affordable solo travel are growing as more people experience and share its benefits. These can include mental, emotional, and physical energies while discovering a new place and reconnecting with yourself. However, many people still think that solo travel on a budget means choosing riskier transportation, accommodation, and activity options. But it doesn’t have to! Thousands of travel bloggers and industry specialists share tips each year on how to experience the benefits of solo travel—while staying safe—for a range of budgets. We’ve collected a few of them here for you.
Before diving into specifics, let’s review the basic principles of safe travel that apply to all travelers.
- Set yourself up for safety by planning ahead and thinking in terms of prevention, i.e. secure way to carry your cash and passport, phone to use abroad, etc.
- Have prior knowledge of the culture and maps of the area you’ll be traveling to make yourself aware of your surroundings
- Send your itinerary to a family member or close friend at home and arrange check in times
- Understand basic costs for things like taxi rides so you’re not left alone at night in unfamiliar areas
- Remember that knowledge protects you from misinformation, scam artists, or unknowingly ending up in an unsafe area
- If traveling for an extended period in a foreign country, consider registering with the U.S. government as a citizen traveling abroad.
Research solo traveler–friendly destinations
If you’re a native English speaker, then destinations where English is the native language will be some of the best and easiest to travel through alone. Tour castles in Ireland or try sea kayaking in New Zealand! Here are some other national and international destinations that solo travel bloggers have vetted as some of their favorites:
Portugal — Popular western Europe can be pricey, but Portugal is often overlooked by the crowds, which helps keep it a more affordable destination. Portugal has low crime rates, is easy to navigate, and doesn’t attract the large number of street scammers that other touristy locations do. You’ll find a lively food scene with more reasonable prices than London or Paris.
Minneapolis, MN — Don’t overlook U.S. destinations! Towns like Minneapolis are blossoming (or fully in bloom!) foodie and microbrew locales. The twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul have the added bonus of having a large airline hub, which means flights are frequent and less expensive.
Greenville, SC — Greenville has culinary adventures, affordable museums, free natural attractions, and views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Other popular solo traveler locations include Nashville, TN; Montreal, Can.; Key West, FL; and Vancouver, Can.
A final criterion to consider if you’re considering a foreign destination is the currency exchange rate. The stronger the U.S. dollar to the native currency, the more you’ll get for your money.
Save money getting there
The first rule of saving the most money on airfare is staying flexible, both on travel dates and the destination. Consider setting your budget first and then seeing what itineraries you can afford. If you have limited flexibility on your travel dates, aim for off season trips to save you the most money across airfare, hotel, and tours.
When you have an idea of possible dates and locations, set airfare alerts through a travel app or Google Flights. They’ll send you a notification when the prices drop. Check out AirfareWatchDog.com or SecretFlying.com.
In addition to the traditional hotels, hostels, and AirBnB options for accommodations, solo travelers have access to “upscale” hostels, communal living, and home sharing options that still reduce the price tag but come with added security. You can even confirm who will be staying with you. More hotels are now offering women-only floors, which is nice for solo women business and leisure travelers!
If possible, schedule your arrival before dark. This allows you to see the type of neighborhood you’re in, to find the location more easily, and the time to make other arrangements if you arrive and feel uncomfortable or are unhappy with your lodging.
To save money at hotels, ask if there’s a discount for a single-sleeper room and skip the breakfast—often that bland buffet adds $20 a day to your rate, so see if you can opt out of it.
Researching and planning your transportation ahead of time is the single best thing you can do for your wallet and your safety. If you know the approximate distance and price for getting to your planned activities, hotels, etc., you’re less likely to fall for a scam, be overcharged by a taxi, or opt for public transportation when it would be safer to pony up and pay for a taxi. Understand local tipping customs and carry a map or app on your phone so you can always identify where you are and where you need to get to.
Save on activities
Traveling solo doesn’t mean being alone! Consider group tours to more remote locations or for challenging nature hikes. You can find group tours based on age, sex, and interests. If you enjoy a busy vacation schedule, be careful not to overextend yourself and become sleep deprived, as this impairs your decision-making ability. Be sure to schedule downtime by the pool or a relaxed activity like a cooking class.
Believe it or not, Groupon offers deals for more locations than just the U.S.! Explore the Getaways section for discounted package tours.
Finally, educate yourself on the typical con games of the destination. There are unscrupulous individuals and groups who will offer too-good-to-be-true last-minute tour deals—walk away from the temptation to save money! Also be vigilant when someone approaches you offering something for free; it’s often a way to guilt you into giving away money.
Research, saving, and flexibility go a long way when planning a solo travel adventure. Where will you go and discover a whole new you?