As a woman, this question came across my mind several times. I never ventured out of city on my own, ever. Even, I tend to get lost in the Mumbai, a very “nervous wreck” Soul! But, since I started travelling Solo, I am best of friends with Google Map (sometimes, it does go wrong, but still saves most of the time)!
I have been travelling with friends for more than 5 years (almost 2-3 big trips and some 5-6 mini trips in a year). It took me two more years to come out of my comfort zone, of planning every trip with company of either 2-3 or 4 friends.
Having few people accompany me for a Trip meant – Safety, Shared Expense for Travel, Food and Accommodation. Therefore, the final expense would reduce to approximately 1/3rd of everything incurred in the trip. It was the biggest + point, because of which I never bothered to go out Solo.
Like many others, I earn, use my salary for usual monthly expenditure and try to manage to travel, which is my Stress buster. Let me be real here, I cannot think of leaving my Job and travel, especially, when I don’t have financial backbone support to fall back on. Job is where, I get my money to fund my travelling, hence, I do it diligently. People often ask me “How do you manage your Office leaves, money & all arrangements for travelling”.
Office leaves can be adjusted by planning prior, my planning starts as soon as I get the holiday list in January. I chalk out the long weekends and fit in the places I need to visit. Combining Saturday-Sunday offs with Public Holiday and adding further 1 or 2 days extra, you can actually have 4-5 days altogether. Keeping the travel to destination at night time by booking Train Ticket, I utilize the days to the maximum. We, in India, are blessed with ample festivals. Instead of staying at home, I prefer to travel. Some may find it hard to travel this way. But then, each to his own!
I never compromise on food & accommodation because I believe in “Good Food & Good Sleep”.
After travelling for so many years with my friends, I realized, I need to break free of dependence & travel solo to explore on my own, offcourse with little more burden of budget to carry.
I asked few of them who travelled solo, read some experiences; my mind was still not ready with their answers, because our curious mind prefers to learn by burning our finger in fire.
Finally in 2018, I got out for Solo Travel during Diwali.
I do not like to stay at Home during Diwali, all the years, have stayed at home. Now, I prefer to experience it in other cities.
It was a long weekend + Diwali leaves. I asked few of my friends, no one could commit to travel. There I was, with leaves, saved money but no one to accompany. I always start planning 4 months in advance, because of the tickets. Well, I planned & left, came back with incredible experience to share regarding my amazing trip. I know now, I can, so can others!
Things I took care while planning & travelling was as follows:
- Pre-plan about Travel to destination- First get the plan ready, Find out different ways to travel from your hometown to place of Interest. Check availability of train tickets. Travelling alone means safety regarding yourself & luggage. I prefer booking 3 AC rather than Sleeper Coach and prefer booking upper Berth. Safely tuck the bag at topmost corner or use chain to lock my luggage below the seat (if the haversack is big one). I do carry my small bag with Camera, Cash and other valuables wherever I go. I never leave them back. I never trust anyone, maybe that’s how I am, but I feel it better that way. I usually befriend any lady in other seat to look after my luggage during washroom break. Generally, found people more polite and caring. I don’t leave my place and luggage unattended while the train is at Station, usually go for breaks only while train is in motion.
- Once tickets are booked, start researching about the Place. List out places to visit in that particular City from Main important ones to optional. Put on the Map of that place on Google. Check the distance from each other. If clustered together, then you can schedule it before lunch for maximum cover. Divide the city in half or Quarters depending on Monuments. Accordingly, make it a day or two days plan.
- Accommodation – You can either book it online or check it upfront and book offline. I usually check online, check reviews, sometimes the reviews are good but the location is not favorable, Better to select hotel from where the travel to another city is favorable like Bus Stand or Train Station or stay closer to bigger cluster of monuments. This way, you can save on internal travel and walk throughout. I generally go through hotel’s website for tariff and compare with the online website offer, if there is not much difference and you find many of the hotel are going full, I book it online. If it is remote area, better to book it after checking it out and charges are also less compared to online sites. Usually, I check 2 weeks prior to travel. Price fluctuate within 1 or 2 days depending on or off offseason, other than that it remains stable.
- I always take Auto / Rickshaw compared to Car, because I like the flow of breeze while travelling, unless it is mid summer, mid day (Still I don’t mind)! Also, it is cheaper. Auto are better than buses, because they can be used to go right next to the monuments, thereby saving the walking time. If the distance is greater and between cities, I prefer Bus or Train, whichever frequency is better. For within city travel, Rickshaws are best.
- I carry Knife, which is within Carabinar 2 in 1 kind, attached to my camera bag, for cutting fruits or to safeguard oneself during any untoward incident.
- I keep my tripod with me (To hit, if provoked. LOL)
- I keep my face covered with Scarf while travelling, it keeps the interest of onlookers as well as dust away from skin and hair.
- Dressing conservatively means not attention catching. Since, most of the places visited are remote, prefer to dress conservatively. (Helps to keep tan off too, since, most of the sightseeing happens between 10-5 bracket)
- Food – Being alone means you can eat or skip or just have snacks, I always have heavy dinner, because I prefer to let my body heal during night (each with his/her own type). Mine works this way. During day I have good breakfast, enough for 1 person. I sometimes prefer to have thali, they are cheap & mostly local food, I do not eat Chinese in South or Dosas in North. As simple as that. Eat local drink local. I don’t go for Bisleri or Packaged water most of the times, I carry water from Hotel by refilling the existing bottle. I check with a sip, if it is potable enough to drink, if not, then only, opt for Packaged water. In the afternoon, I have coconut water or lime juice or Cucumber to keep myself hydrated innumerable times, maybe more cucumber, more hydration, more happiness, otherwise body might go in withdrawal syndrome after coming back home.
- Packing: I prefer light, packing as in 3 T-shirts /Tops to one Pant/Jeans ratio. I wash it, if staying at one place for two days. Wash it as soon as you check in and let it dry for next two days. Carry hair dryer, incase if it is Rainy or Cold region.
- Powerbank & Multiplug – Powerbank might be heavy but I prefer carrying it. I leave it in room and use it while onward or return long journey. Multiplug is useful in case, if only one or 2 sockets is there for charging and you have Phone, Camera, Powerbank etc to charge. I disconnect the TV and use that socket too in case I forget the multiplug.
- Always carry small bag for day sightseeing to carry water bottle, some snacks, wallet, phone and other valuables. Keep another foldable carry bag in case of shopping.
- Carry Water bottle & fill it rather than buying new one every time and adding to the landfill. Railway Stations have clean water stops. Depending on litres, one can pay and refill the bottle.
- Finance: If the trip has a budget of 10k. I prefer to pay Hotel and restaurants by Card. Transports needs cash, also sometimes hotel need the same. Prefer to divide the cash in 5k and further divide it in 2k2k1k in different pockets & places. Offcourse, you have to remember, where you have kept it.
- Location sharing: I always keep the location of my phone on. In case I am going to the remotest area, I inform my friend and share the location. And yes, they do keep track of me 🙂
- Clicking Photos and getting selfies in abundance, that’s what one does while Solo travelling. Sometimes, I ask someone else to click a snap for me, I tell them what I need in frame, most of the time photos do come good, sometimes have to manage with a selfie or ask the person for another click.
Till now, I have not faced any issue anywhere, people were helpful & guided me nicely. Important is if you are polite and kind, you will receive the same. I carry my book or download some Series or Movie to watch it during travel. No eye contact, so no one will try to talk. I don’t indulge in small talk with anyone in train. If I am travelling in group, I inform them about not sharing your details or location to other travelers in train. I follow same while solo. Keeping “none of your business” attitude is important.
Body language is very important & dressing style. I won’t dress in Shorts in remote village, unnecessary attention is not required when your whole purpose is to explore. Respect the locality and dress accordingly. Offcourse, there can be some unwanted attention (happens everywhere), but that shouldn’t deter you from keeping your head high and move ahead.
We usually travel for a break and mental peace, so visit, come back & share, keep it simple.
P.S. All above concerns are for travelling solo and my opinion, because while travelling in groups, we co-ordinate our dresses & flaunt in style.