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First time travelling solo? Here’s what you need to know

Article by Charlie Reid

Charlie Reid

Posted: November 7, 2022

4 min read

Travelling alone is a daunting concept when you’re considering your first solo trip. However, the rewards are worth every moment you spent feeling nervous or anxious before your trip. There are a multitude of reasons why you should consider travelling or volunteering alone, and I’m going to tell you about them.

My first experience of solo travel was when I was 16. I was itching to get out of England and see more of the world. Being under 18 made this a lot more difficult, so I had to find a loophole. Many companies (such as GVI) offer travel experiences and volunteering programs for under 18s. This is a great first way to travel solo. Going alone, you’re thrown into a volunteer house/hostel and meet amazing new people with similar interests. I found myself volunteering on a game reserve in South Africa for two weeks – an experience that has stuck with me ever since and inspired my travel-orientated life.

At first, I was nervous, but once the 12-hour flight to South Africa was over and I was on my way to the game reserve to volunteer, all my fears evaporated. 

GVI makes all the necessary organisation for your trip easy. There is 24/7 in-country support as well as online support before your trip commences. They can help you book and find the best flights, arrange transport to and from your program destination, and point you in the right direction when figuring out visa and vaccination requirements in the country you plan to visit. For first time solo travellers, this is a foolproof way to do it. Going with a company like GVI provides a sense of comfort and support, which relieves your pre-travel anxiety and worries.

 

When considering travelling alone for the first time, most people say, “why don’t you go with a friend instead of going alone?”. You can always opt to travel with friends from school or university, but there are so many reasons why solo travelling is so special. I’ve travelled with friends, in groups as large as five people, and with just one other friend. I’ve also travelled alone, and there are certain differences that became apparent between the two travel styles. While travelling with a large group of friends, or just with one other friend, you’re less likely to put yourself out there and meet new people. While travelling alone and staying in hostels, you are exposed to meeting as many new people as you would like. I have been lucky enough to meet a huge array of different individuals through solo travelling, many of which I still speak to years on and think of as close friends. 

A waterfall tour to Chorros De La Calera in Juayua, El Salvador with my friend Indy. Watching the sunset at the beach in El Tunco, El Salvador with friends I made at the hostel.

Another benefit to solo travel is you don’t have to compromise for what other people want to do! As you only have yourself and your route to follow, you can go, stay, do whatever you want and not have to make compromises as you most likely would have to if you’d chosen to travel with friends. Now this isn’t meant to put you off the idea of travelling with friends, rather to highlight the benefits of choosing to travel alone.

When preparing for your first solo trip away, there are many steps I recommend taking before deciding on where and when to go. First and foremost, COVID-19 requirements. In this post-COVID-19 era, the restrictions and requirements for travel abroad are shrinking. But it’s still beneficial to know the current restrictions and requirements in the country you plan to visit, especially regarding quarantine, testing and vaccination requirements. The second thing to consider is the visa and passport requirements. For example, with Brexit, British citizens are now allowed up to 90 days visa free in the EU before they need to leave. Similarly, countries such as Thailand allow 45 days visa free, and Vietnam only 15 days. Therefore, it’s imperative to be up to date with the requirements for each country before arrival. Another factor to consider is the expiration date of your passport. A lot of countries require a certain amount of time on your passport before it expires for it to be valid. For example, Belize requires six months of validity on your passport before it expires to enter the country, and Montenegro requires three. Every country has their own set of rules regarding passport validity upon entry.

Deciding on where to go when preparing for your solo trip is honestly my favourite part of the process. My biggest piece of advice is pretty simple – research! Make use of online blog articles (like this one) written by people who have previously travelled the country you are looking to go to, or volunteered with a company such as GVI, so you can learn the ins and outs from the perspective of a previous volunteer. Similarly, YouTube has an abundance of travel bloggers and digital nomads who document their travels in countries across the globe, which are great to watch for recommendations and inspiration. 

Having a relaxed day over the cliff

Road tripping through Bahia Concepcion, Baja California Sur, Mexico with two friends I met in a hostel a week earlier.

Many articles and videos also have important information regarding budgeting, getting around using local transport, where to stay, where to avoid etc. By putting in the time to plan and research your trip thoroughly, you’ll be far more prepared, and your nerves will be eased. If you have a certain travel style which you think is different to other travellers, finding articles or videos from a traveller who has a similar travel style will help you best prepare for your trip. For example, if you want to avoid party hostels, and prefer a more laid-back hostel, you can find brilliant advice on where to (and not to) stay online.

Lastly, if you would like any more advice or to talk about planning a trip, or just want to look at some photos of my travels for photographic inspiration, please feel free to check out my website or reach out to me on Instagram!

Article by Charlie Reid

By Charlie Reid

Based in Newcastle upon Tyne, England, Charlie Reid is a university student and freelance travel writer and photographer. He is passionate about animal conservation and started solo travelling/volunteering in countries such as South Africa, Mexico and Indonesia from as young as 16 years old. Charlie has a keen interest in travel writing and writes regularly for his university newspaper, GVI and his personal blog charliesfilm.co.uk.
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