Before booking your hotel, check out your destination to find out which areas are the safest to stay alone. You might choose somewhere in a peaceful part of town, or a busy area where you feel safer to explore at night. Find out if it’s near local public transport so you don’t have to rely on taxis.
People travelling alone are more likely to stand out. Find out in advance what the locals wear, which gives you a good idea of what’s the most practical. This is especially important for women, who often have to cover hair, shoulders and legs. Men shouldn’t wear shorts or go bare chested in the street. If in doubt, err on the side of conservative – better than causing offence.
It’s commonplace for single travellers to pay more per head than couples or groups. Try and look for hotels that offer double rooms at a single price, which probably give you better value than one priced per room. If you’re arriving at a hotel without a reservation, try bargaining the price down for a ‘single’ price.
Look out for walking tours with a local guide, common in popular cities. This is a great way of discovering the sights along with other visitors. They might be basic sightseeing, or a special interest tour - check at the main tourist office for information.
Your trip will be more rewarding if you make the effort to respect the local culture. Take a phrase book to help communicate with locals, essential for making friends. Be aware of cultural sensibilities. These might include taking shoes off when entering places of worship, or how to eat.
Most places on the planet have Internet cafes, so it’s easy for an email home. A local sim card for your mobile phone is probably cheaper than your roaming charges, and easier for making local calls and texting home. Check your phone is unlocked before you travel.
If you’re planning to hire a car, it’s worth paying extra for a sat nav – it’s easier and safer than stopping to read the map. Check in advance that it has your required language.
Whether it’s a rucksack or suitcase, never carry more than you can handle. Don’t leave bags unattended, even for a moment, and make use of left-luggage lockers in stations. Some trains might have loops to chain and padlock bags – use them to minimise theft. Decline offers from strangers to carry your bag.
Ask for recommendations for a good local restaurant, but don’t get fobbed off with a bad table by the kitchen. Bring postcards or your journal to sit in friendly cafés, or perch up at the bar and chat to bar staff. Sample the local drink, but be aware of alcohol levels. Find out about cultural events like opera, sports or festivals.
Be friendly and use common sense. Get to know about the local sports scene and its biggest stars – always guaranteed to get conversations flowing. If a new ‘friend’ wants to take you to a bar and you feel unsure, trust your instincts. Women shouldn’t be too dazzled by flattery from local Romeos…