I've been traveling a lot for work in the past few years which allowed me to add in a weekend here and there around business trips, and evidently I'd be alone!
Often there has always been someone I know in the city I'm visiting but I happened to have to rely completely on myself twice in Cape Town and my recent visit to Budapest. So here are some tips that could help you should you decide to travel on your own:
- Be healthy: an evident one, but make sure you get a good breakfast and keep yourself hydrated, also carry pain killers and protein bars. You're on your own; you can't afford getting sick or dizzy while you're outside, no one can take care of you. On that note, if you ever find yourself getting sick or tired, just find a crowded place and rest there so in case something happens, someone will / should help.
- Accommodation's location: When I was in Cape Town for work, I arrived there 2 days before my work week and stayed for 1 night near Camps Bay because it was more convenient transport and time wise. But when I was in Budapest, I chose a more central place / busy place (thus safer) and close to a metro. This tip might seem obvious, but it surely is worth the extra bucks (which you will save later in transport). Moreover, specially if you're alone, it's good to have your hotel in the middle so you can come back to throughout the day, unload stuff you bought, leave or take your camera, freshen up and you're ready to be out again.
- Accommodation research and reservation: Booking.com and airbnb.com are perfect because of all the reviews you can read, gives you a good sense of what to choose based on your priorities.
- Travel light: A non obvious reason is because no one is there to watch your stuff when you go to the bathroom, so you have to carry your things all the time, it does as well make your journey through airport and security easier. The less items you carry, the less the risk of losing something.
- Avoid checking in your bag: if you can travel with a carry on and a backpack, do it. Most of the times hostels and airbnbs have washing machines, therefore you can pack light. Avoid risk of having your luggage getting lost, this is specially annoying if you're only there for few days, so by the time they locate your bag (if any), and send it, your vacation will be over.
- Offline maps on your phone: a nice trick a friend taught me is to load the directions on google maps. Even when you leave your wifi zone (and we all want to avoid expensive data roaming costs), the map will still be there. You can also download tripadvisor offline city maps available for most major cities.
- Cash or credit card?: don't carry all your credit cards and money with you. Most hotels have a safe, leave your passport, a credit card and some cash there. In case you get robbed, you still have a backup. Also don't put all your money in one pocket. You can also have a photo of your passport ID page and visa to the country you're in on your phone.
- On a budget? Some cities have shuttle services, search and see availability. Pre-plan for public transport, some cities are easy like that (and if you're staying in a central area, you hit two birds in one stone). And finally ask hotels, as some offer shuttle service for cheaper or even free!
- Transport safety: make sure you have uber app on your phone (or local taxi apps), in case you run out of cash or need to get out of some place quickly, uber are pretty reliable and safe (except for India, it's tricky there).
- Phone urgency: keep your phone in your bag, never put it in your backpack, never leave it on a table while street dining (most major cities are famous for their pick-pocket thieves) and have the find my phone app installed!
- Power bank: That's a given. But invest in a small power bank and always make sure it's always recharged and always have it on you.