Hitchhiker’s guide to travelling solo

Do your research

Grabbing your backpack and stepping onto the next train that comes by may sound like an exciting proposition. It could even be one of the best trips you have. But, doing your research about the destination is very crucial if you plan to go the solitary way. Acquiring accurate knowledge is the mark of a great traveller. Okay, I just made that up. Still, it holds true. Read up all you can find online or in books about the destination you want to visit. Talking to friends or friends of friends who have been to that destination are also great sources of information. There are several travel-related websites, forums and personal blogs online that provide first-hand experiences giving you valuable insights on what to expect from a certain place.

Gain cultural awareness

Every country follows different customs, thoughts and views, and in order to enjoy their traditions, you must know about them, or else you may end up unknowingly stirring sentiments. Your awareness will not only prove helpful to you while navigating the place, but it will also aid you to bond with the locals thereby opening the window to their lives. More so, there are basics about every country that you must learn about. For example, in India women wearing skimpy clothing invites unnecessary attention from the men; whereas men in a country like Bangkok are more open-minded in this respect and don’t resort to wolf whistles or catcalling unlike in India.

Find like-minded people or groups

Okay, since you set out alone I know that you surely enjoy your own company. But you’re going to get bored at some point, right? Oh well, take my word for it then. Making new friends comprises the fun part of a memorable journey. However, this doesn’t mean that you need to go on the typical bus tours with a varied mix of people you may not even like. Every city has its share of adventure enthusiasts’ clubs or a biker’s club, so you can find like-minded people or groups online to hang out with in the city you’re visiting.

To go or not to go

Leyla Giray, owner of the website Women on the Road, lists down places she’s known to be the safest and some that drew her towards caution. This list can’t guarantee your safety, it does however point you towards places many Leyla and women travellers across the world consider as safe as possible.

Safest destinations:

* Northern Europe (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden)
* Some Western European countries (Malta, Monaco, Switzerland, small towns in most countries)
* Canada and USA (unsafe in parts)
* Australia and New Zealand (unsafe in parts)
* Cuba (one of the safest countries)
* Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and China
* India and Bhutan
* Bahrain
* Panama

Least safe or most daunting destination:

* Any region at war or in conflict, such as Afghanistan, Darfur or Iraq—no ifs or buts, just stay away.
* Countries facing a natural disaster – Aceh in Indonesia right after the tsunami, Bangladesh during floods
* Burundi, Central Africa, the Niger River Delta, Zimbabwe
* Sudan, Somalia
* Large African mega-cities like Lagos, Nairobi, Johannesburg
* Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Yemen
* Pakistan
* North Korea

“Most cities, though, are as safe as you make them! Remember that pickpockets live everywhere, as do overly affectionate men. Take basic precautions, such as avoiding walking alone at night, and always keep your valuables in a safe place.” – Leyla Giray.

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