Solo travel has been gathering momentum in recent months, as travellers forgo waiting for companions to join them, and rather head out when it suits them and to the destinations they feel like travelling to.
In fact, data from travel search engine Cheapflights.co.za shows that there has been around a 172% increase in flight searches for solo passengers over this Christmas and New Year period, compared to the equivalent search period in pre-pandemic 2019.
Insights into who’s travelling solo
Millennials are automatically thought of as the epicentre of this burst of growth in the solo travel trend. But Boomers seem to be taking up the solo travel momentum too, and there is a notable surge in Boomers travelling solo as well.
While Millennials represent the larger portion of the solo travel pool, mature globetrotters are closing the gap. Boomers had the equivalent experiences during lockdown periods, so are in the same position as Millennials with regards to their views on travel, and maximising their life experiences. “Baby Boomers are either looking towards retirement, or are already in this life stage. For the portion of the population that has invested in retirement savings, this means that they will have both time and income to put towards travelling to the places they’ve always wanted to visit,” suggests Tony Mallam MD of upnup, Africa’s first passive micro-saving and investing platform.
Women Accelerate Solo Travel
While solo travel as a whole is seeing ballooning interest, an increasing number of sources are indicating that women are important drivers of this trend.
The flexibility of the remote work culture, women being financially independent, and the desire and confidence of women to travel where and when they want to, have dropped the constraints holding them back. “Women are more empowered now than ever before. They are using this sense of empowerment to embrace life and experience different countries and cultures around the world. There is no reliance on anyone – just themselves – and women are taking their travels into their own hands, to experience the best that the world has to offer,” comments Nicol Carelse, Guest Relations Manager at Radisson Blu Hotel Waterfront.
For those taking up the solo adventure, here are some top tips to help you enjoy your travels to the max, while keeping safety in mind.
Closely explore destinations
With so many wonderful and popular destinations for solo travellers to explore, choosing a destination (or destinations) that offers a great travel experience and has a high safety ranking is a good place to start. Here are the top 10 countries with the highest safety rankings according to the Numbeo Safety Index Mid-Year 2022 – and there may even be a few that you didn’t think of as a potential destination before!
Qatar (safety ranking 85.85)
United Arab Emirates (safety ranking 85.13)
Taiwan (safety ranking 83.85)
Isle Of Man (safety ranking 81.72)
Oman (safety ranking 80.28)
Hong Kong (safety ranking 78.38)
Armenia (safety ranking 78.25)
Switzerland (safety ranking 77.88)
Japan (safety ranking 77.76)
Slovenia (safety ranking 76.83)
Do your research
Make sure to research your destination thoroughly before your trip. Look at what the best neighbourhoods are (and which ones aren’t); whether there are certain transport services that you should avoid (see what reviews are written up about taxi and bus services); and read up reviews on the accommodation facility you intend to stay at.
Also make a note of emergency contact numbers, medical centres in the locale, and find good travel insurance that will keep you covered.
Pay attention to the details
If you are an introvert, solo travel is possibly the best option for you. This can include a plethora of outdoor and indoor activities, and interesting destinations.
Head of Marketing and Communications at online booking platform Jurni, Tshepo Matlou says: “Solo travel is one of the best ways to unwind and recalibrate as you’ll spend time with, and on, yourself.
“Some of the favourite activities for solo travellers include backpacking, bungee jumping and sightseeing. If solo travel suits your ideals, go over the security detail of where you’ll be going, pack some medicines and a first-aid pack, have cash in case of emergencies, have some food and fluids ready, but above all – make sure that you travel light, and don’t don’t overpack.”
Get advice from other solo travellers
Planning a solo trip can be as daunting as it is exciting. Having so many choices for where to go and what to do is incredibly empowering, but one can sometimes get lost in all the options while trying to navigate itineraries, time and money.
Getting advice from other solo travellers can be very valuable, especially if they’ve been to a destination that you are considering visiting. There are also travel agencies that offer tours or suggest itineraries for solo travellers, who will be able to give good advice to those venturing out alone.
Post smartly on social media
We all love sharing the amazing experiences that we are having when we travel, but it’s prudent to be careful about the details you post – where you are staying, where you are going, and when you are going. Be careful of posting in real-time, and keep exact locations out of your posts – unless you have private accounts. You don’t know who may be following you and know exactly where you are and when you’re away from your hotel room.
Be extra-cautious at night
This one may seem like a no-brainer but, when night falls, criminals generally get more active. Be hyper-aware of your surroundings – see what’s around you, what buildings are open in case you need to step inside if you’re feeling concerned, and take note of the people in your surroundings, along with any odd behaviour.
Keep valuables on you – but hidden
While many accommodation facilities offer lock-up facilities for your valuables, it’s generally safer to keep valuables close when you leave your room. Keep money zipped up in a place that’s not easily accessible to outsiders; if you wear jewellery, try to make sure it can’t be seen as snatches do happen; and try to use high-value items like mobile phones or tablets as little as possible while you’re out in public. It’s also advisable to not keep them in a general backpack that can be snatched off you while you’re out and about – if using a backpack, try to get one that has body straps so it can’t easily be removed.
For those who want to enjoy a glass of wine against the backdrop of a glorious sunset, be careful to moderate your alcohol intake. Alcohol lowers your awareness and reaction time and, if you’re travelling solo, it’s important to always be alert and aware.
While all of these tips will help to keep you and your belongings safe, and give some guidance on “best practice” when travelling solo, the most important thing is to have fun! Travelling solo means that you can do everything that you want to do, see the things that you want to see, and tick off some of those bucket list experiences that you’ve been eyeing for years.