Solo travel may seem daunting at first. People fear solo dining, and worry about personal safety. Get some advice from an experienced solo traveller.
Note: I wrote this article several years ago with overseas travel in mind, but many of the tips can also apply if you are visiting Ontario. For those that don't, just ignore them.
Personal Safety Precautions for Solo Travel
1. Public transit in Ontario is safe, for the most part, but if you want to take extra precautions, you can avoid public transit late at night and take a taxi to your accommodation instead. When you're planning where to stay, it's good to take the distance from major attractions into consideration. You may pay more but the convenience and your peace of mind may be worth it.
2. Personally I am not worried about this but if you're anxious about money, hide your money in multiple spots. If you want, you can buy a money belt that you can wear under your clothes, tuck some bills in your bra or a tight sock, leave some money and credit cards in the safe at your accommodation. On the beach, store your cash and cards in a waterproof plastic container that you hang around your neck.
3. Make photocopies of your bank and credit cards and passport and keep them in a safe place, separate from the originals. In case of theft, you’ll have all the information you need to get replacements.
4. Carry some cash. Automatic teller machines (ATMs) are great for giving you the cash you need in the proper currency, BUT they do break down sometimes. So don’t wait until you’re broke to withdraw. You may want to inform your bank before you leave that you’ll be withdrawing from abroad, and perhaps even increase your weekly withdrawal limit. Take a major credit card so you can borrow cash if necessary.
5. Leave your jewelry and other valuables at home and hide your camera in a bag or pocket when you’re not using it.
I once saw a sign that said, “Never eat more than you can lift”. That’s good advice for packing, too, especially for solo travel. YOU’RE carrying the bags, remember.
6. Limit your luggage to one small suitcase and a backpack. That’s all you’ll want to carry, especially when the escalator or elevator breaks down or doesn’t exist (the escalators in the Toronto subway are notorious for being "under repair").
7. Carry an emergency kit and more than enough prescription drugs to last your trip. Tissues and some quick-drying hand-cleaners come in handy when the washroom facilities aren't quite up to par (most are, but you'll always find those exceptions). If you're allergic to perfumes, you might want to keep non-perfumed hand-cleaners with you as well, as some public washrooms use scented soaps.
Since most hotels charge by the room and not per person, solo travellers pay more in accommodation than those traveling with companions. But here are some ways to save money.
8. First trip to a new country? Consult a travel agent to find accommodation or do your own thorough search online. Tripadvisor.com is a great place to get reviews.
9. Be cautious about using third-party hotel booking agencies. If there are any problems, both parties (the hotel and the booking agency) may try to pass the buck. (I learned this the hard way.) If you can't book directly with the hotel then using one of the bigger, better-known sites like hotels.com or booking.com is a safer route.
10. Find out what the cancellation fee is. Make sure there’s an affordable way out of your booking. Get it in writing.
Finding your way & Transportation
11. Learn as much as you can about your solo travel destination. Choose a wide variety of sources. If you're travelling with your smart phone, prepare ahead and download the apps you'll been needing. If you're going the print route, stick your information in a duo tang. If you need to look up some information on the street, a duo tang doesn’t shout “TOURIST” the way a travel guide does.
12. Plan ahead and cluster activities by neighborhood to save travel time and energy. Balance the day with active and non-strenuous activities -- i.e. walking around a museum vs sitting in a theatre.
13. Get some maps! If you're not bringing a smart phone, go old-school and use paper. Get a detailed street map. Split the map up into sections and photocopy the sections you plan to visit each day. On a street corner, it’s easier to consult a small map than it is to unfold a large unwieldy one—and less conspicuous.
14. Double-check your information. Public transit can be especially tricky. What time do the buses run? Ask several people for directions and you may get several answers! Call or check the website of the transit company.
15. If your spoken language in the country you're visiting is a bit rusty, you can overcome
language barriers by carrying a picture or brochure of the day’s
destination with you. That way people can recognize the place and point
you in the right direction. If you have no picture and can’t draw, write
the name and address down, so you won’t have to worry about
16. Ask about local holidays that can affect bus schedules, hours of opening for attractions, etc.
17. Join a local guided day tour (usually by bus) if you prefer to leave the transportation issues to someone else. Join a hiking day trip in one of the conservation areas. A little socializing can provide a nice break from solo travel and give you some in-depth insight into the place.
18. Expect some glitches. Travel has taught me how to accept the limits of my control – sometimes even gracefully!
For many of us, dining solo in public is uncomfortable, but there are ways to enjoy the experience.
19. Use the time to read some local literature or history, a local newspaper, or your travel guide. Plan your next day. Write in your travel log or journal (or blog). Write emails, postcards or letters to those at home. Digest the experiences of the day.
20. Find a room with a view. Contemplate a lakefront view or a lively street scene while you eat.
Enjoy Solo Travel!
21. Please yourself. Tailor your activities to your own interests. Spend three days in that museum if you wish, instead of the ridiculous 30 minutes that some tour groups allot.
22. Treasure your freedom and flexibility. Remember: You’re not on a tour group schedule. If it’s raining, skip the zoo, and visit the museum instead.
And most of all, Have Fun!
Ontario Travel Secrets > Solo Travel