For a long time, you’ve fantasized about traveling on your own in a foreign country.
But how do you plan a solo trip?
You don’t know where to begin, what to do, how to budget and other things that come with it. It’s all about to change after you read this post.
After exploring more than 10 countries and countless cities on my own, I use a specific mental framework for planning, which anyone can use too.
By the end of this article, you’ll have a clear direction on how to plan a solo trip, step-by-step, without feeling overwhelmed.
1. Do basic research on travel destinations.
Before you travel, do research. Mainly, you want to figure out the following 3 things:
- What type of place do you want to see? Temples, beaches, mountains, day-time adventurous – the more clarity you have, the easier it will be to find the ideal destination for the trip.
For example – If you want to relax on the beach, a place like Bali might be a good fit.
- Assess safety.
- Assess the convenience: How easy is it to reach the place? Should you book flights, take a train or bus? I usually prefer places that are easily accessible by flight.
2. Know your purpose
Are you going to explore the region? Or do you want to set a base and work remotely as a digital nomad? How long can you stay?
The answer to the above questions influences the environment you live in, how you will spend money and many other factors.
To give a simple example – If you wish to disconnect and relax, you can go to places where the internet connection is poor.
But to work remotely, it becomes critical to find a location that offers good internet.
Also, budgeting for a 2-week fun-filled trip is different than staying at a place for 3 months.
The two steps, doing research and knowing your purpose, will help you save time, money and give you clarity on where you want to travel.
3. Check the visa requirements.
Visa is an invitation from a foreign country to enter and stay on their land.
For instance – With my Indian passport, I need to apply for a stamped visa from the respective country’s embassy in most cases.
On the other hand, my American cousin has traveled to at least 15+ countries. She doesn’t know what’s a Visa. (The only thing that comes to her mind is the card network 😀 :D)
So yeah depending on the passport, some countries are easier to travel to while others are tougher.
If you’re coming from a developing country, checking the visa requirements is extremely important.
But even if you’re coming from a developed nation, this is a key thing to check. For instance, with a US passport, it might be hard to travel to certain middle-eastern and Asian countries.
A budget will give you an idea of how much and where to spend. But more importantly, it will clearly answer the question – “Can I afford the trip?”
For this, open a spreadsheet and create 3 columns – Expenses, Estimated Actual as shown below:
|Flight, Bus, Train|
Most expenses will be from either of the above categories. You could add more items too.
In the estimated column, put some rough cost estimations based on the research in step 1.
This should give a fair idea of whether financially it makes sense to take the trip. And if you do, how much and where you’ll spend.
The next few steps will give a physical existence to your solo trip…
5. Book travel tickets
The earlier you book, the cheaper it gets.
Ideally, booking 2 months before the travel date, be it bus, trains or flight is better. It’s this step that often gets the ball rolling.
Once you know you’re flying to a particular destination, you’ll automatically start looking for places to stay, budget, and do things that prepare you for the trip.
6. Do a little research before booking your stay.
Apart from travel tickets, booking your stay is another fixed expense you’ll incur. I would suggest finding a sweet spot between convenience and cost while not compromising on health or safety.
Hostels or couch surfing will be the cheapest option if you’re staying for short durations. If you’re staying for long durations, and need to work remotely, consider booking an apartment via Airbnb.
I once got a luxurious apartment in the heart of the city for less than $7/day – the perfect blend of cost and convenience.
Be alert to such opportunities.
Also remember, like travel tickets, a stay is a fixed expense. So look for deals that save you money. Booking apps or credit cards can help you do the same.
7. Apply for a visa
If you come from a developing country, like India, in most cases, you’ll require a stamped visa before crossing borders.
For that, you need to fill out the visa form and submit the respective documents to the local embassy of the foreign country.
Along with your passport and the visa form, the following documents are what you’ll need to submit in most cases:
- Bank statement for the last 6 months (with a minimum balance above a specific amount)
- Confirmed travel bookings.
- Confirmed stay bookings
- Tax reports (As an Indian, I attach my ITR)
- Photographs (specifications differ from country to country)
On the other hand, citizens of a developed country, like the US, UK, or Australia, can often get visas on arrival after they land at the destination.
A quick note – It’s unfair that someone from a developing country must go through more hassles while traveling. But that’s just the way it is. All you can do is hope that your country develops good relations and the strength of your passport increases 🙂
8. Buy Insurance
Insurance is important. And for traveling to certain countries, like in the Europe, the UK and some Asian countries, it’s a must. Without it, you might not be allowed to enter.
In case of any medical emergency, hospitalization could become a huge expense, draining all your cash. You don’t want that to happen. A good insurance policy will cover that. Also, it’s super cheap – in $10-20 for a month, you get a decent cover.
World Nomads is a popular choice when it comes to buying travel insurance.
9. Convert and carry cash from your country of origin.
The best place to convert local to foreign currency is anywhere but the airport.
Please avoid exchanging money at the airport. Because, like with other things, conversion rates here are expensive.
You’ll find many forex shops that offer better exchange rates on either side of the borders.
Another question you might have is – “How much cash to carry?”
There’s no fixed answer.
But it should be between 30-60% of the total trip’s budget. For the rest, use cards. I’ll explain why in the next section.
Ideally, use cash for emergencies and in places where paying with a card isn’t an option.
Remember – Cash is king. Treat it like one 🙂
10. Get a forex travel card
Pay using cards wherever possible, and conserve your cash. The reason is simple – It’s expensive to withdraw cash from ATMs – you end up paying bank charges and ATM withdrawal fees.
So the lesser trips to the ATM you make to withdraw cash, the better it is.
Also, getting a card means you don’t carry the entire trip’s budget in cash.
I use a prepaid travel forex card. It automatically converts the local currency I deposit into a foreign one, and that too at a fixed rate. So if I decide on converting Rs.10,000, I get at the currency exchange rate for that day.
11. Pack light
A heavy luggage slows down the pace. When you’re fit, everything’s good. But what if you fall sick and start losing energy?
The last thing you want is to carry around heavy bags. Injuries could happen if you carry heavy items.
And also, you want to keep some space for the gifts you’ll bring, wouldn’t you?
Often while traveling, you won’t be using many items that you use in your everyday life.
For what to pack, you can check out the packing guide for male solo travelers.
12. Keep a digital and paper copy of your bookings.
For the following documents, keep a digital and a physical copy:
- Proof of Stay with Address
- Flight Tickets
At airports, you’ll be asked to show either of these travel documents.
So just create a separate folder on your phone for these documents. Also, keep physical copies as a backup in case your phone battery dies (hey, you never know).
Also, in a foreign country, you’ll be asked for identity proof for things like renting a bike. You might be required to submit a printed copy of your passport so it’s better to carry one.
13. Make sure you have the 3Ps before starting the journey
Passport. Pennies. Phone – These are the 3 things you need to conquer the world on your own.
A passport takes care of the legal formalities.
Pennies, as you know, buy options.
A phone with an internet connection can help you map out the next steps of your journey.
And these 3 things fit easily in your pant’s pocket.
14. Test with nearby destinations before taking a cross-border trip.
With this, you can find out if traveling alone suits you. I know some of my friends get bored when they’re on their own. Some start to feel lonely. Remember, solo travel isn’t for everybody.
That’s why it’s better to test with a place near your home.
15. More than confidence, taking action is what you need.
Many will tell you to trust your gut and believe in yourself before taking a trip. It’s a cliche to say these things and I’m personally not a fan of it.
Instead, what you really need to focus on is your actions. Because every small action builds confidence.
Book that flight and apartment. Apply for the visa. Take the trip. Speak to new people. These are the things that will ‘move the needle’. The good thing is you control them. Put your focus on the actions.
Go ahead – Plan Your Solo Trip Now!
I wish you good luck planning for your next solo travel trip! Use the tips you learned from this blog. As you complete more trips, you’ll make these decisions instinctively. I’m also attaching a checklist for your reference.
We also have good solo travel destination recommendations for you. They’re based on various factors like safety, budget and ease of travel.