This blog post was updated on September 5, 2018.
Solo travel has numerous benefits, but one of the downsides of going it alone comes with the actual travel aspect, the navigating to hostels, the driving on the wrong side of the road in some countries, the wandering aimlessly with no one else to blame but yourself for getting lost.
Solo travel navigating can be exhausting because you don’t have anyone to turn to going in your same direction.
While driving around Ireland alone, I faced the challenges that come to the solo traveler in terms of navigating.
When you don’t have anyone to blame or to look at the map while you cruise, you can easily get lost and frustrated with solo travel as a whole. To ensure you don’t wind up in Tampa when you are trying to get to Fort Lauderdale, here are a few tips for navigating as a solo traveler.
Always Pick Up Paper Maps—Perhaps this is not very green of me with a wealth of travel apps out there with downloadable maps, but nothing gives you a clearer picture of a place than a good, old fashioned paper map. Even if you pack a GPS for driving, you may still need a map of your destination to ensure you are on the right track when on foot. Don’t put all of your trust in devices, for they do fail the solo traveler on occasion. Not just city maps, but also maps of metro systems can be extremely helpful when you are traveling alone and don’t exactly know which stop is your stop.
Be Vocal with Locals—I circled around the smallest town in Ireland, trying to find my relative’s home from memory. After being unsuccessful in finding the house for over an hour, I stopped in the one shop open to ask for directions. As a solo traveler, you can sometimes get caught up with yourself and not want to ask for directions. Don’t be afraid to do so as this could even lead to a social experience for the traveler alone.
A GPS Can Save Hours When Renting a Car—If you are renting a car on your solo travels, you might want to invest in your own GPS for your rented wheels. While walking around a city you are not a hazard to those around you if you look at a map, but if you have no idea where you are going and you are trying to drive while looking at a map, chances are you might sideswipe a parked car or spend hours on the side of the road trying to find your destination. Hands-free, verbal instructions can be a lifesaver to the solo traveler. Name your GPS squawking at you so if it does tell you to go down that one-way street, you can blame Jody, as I call my GPS.
Research All Controllable Variables Before Taking Off—If you have a big travel day ahead of making connections, taking buses and trains, you will want to have all of your bases covered. On a solo trip up to Milan from Florence, I made sure to research train times, bus schedules and my hotel location. It can be disconcerting to the solo traveler when aspects to your actual travel days catch you off guard. While you can’t be prepared for every hiccup that might come your way, if you research ahead of time on those big travel days, you are less likely to get lost, miss a connection, or overpay for a 5 minute taxi ride.
Utilize Free Walking Tours—Many cities offer free walking tours, especially throughout Europe. If you are a new to a city, you can get your bearings on these tours. You should organize these for your first days in certain destinations that you fear might be too overwhelming. You might pick up a new friend and in the process have a better sense of where you are and how you are going to get there.
Flickr: the bbp
Solo travelers, how do you navigate all by your lonesome?