Single travel can be exhilarating, exhausting and even scary at times. Whether you plan on going to the other side of the world or staying within your country, solo travel will expose you to life (and its challenges) in a way only it can.
Many of the people I have met along the way have taken the decision to travel alone as a way to evolve. By doing something they know can make them feel uncomfortable, they aim to become a stronger version of themselves and shed some of their fears.
I have met some of the most inspiring people on my travels, experienced incredible highs, and learned some hard life lessons. I had traveled alone before heading to Asia, but not for this long or this far away from my friends and family.
In this post I’m going to share 7 tips for traveling alone, you may not have been told.
How to Start Traveling Alone
"You don’t need to be great to get started, but you need to get started to be great" - Les Brown
To start traveling alone you, just need to need to buy a ticket. Ok so it isn’t that simple… But it isn’t that difficult either.
I’m Traveling by Myself for the First Time
If you have never traveled alone before, plan a short break (a long weekend, or week away) to somewhere you have always wanted to go. This can break down any fears you may have:
What if something goes wrong?
What if I don’t meet anybody?
Will I get lonely?
Where will I stay?
What if I don’t enjoy it?
There are plenty of reasons we can tell ourselves not to head out, and the longer we hold it off, the more reasons we will give ourselves.
There are a lot of great location guides and solo travel blogs out there, that provide good advice and inspiration for those starting out. From how to stay safe, what you should pack, and how to meet people.
You’re not alone, all solo travelers will have gone through the same thoughts and fears at the beginning.
I’m Thinking About Taking a Solo Trip for a Few Months… Or Even Years
If you’re itching to get out on the road for a few months, or even years, it will take a bit more planning and preparation.
One of the biggest barriers people face when dreaming about traveling the world is funding a life of travel. If you have savings you’ve worked hard for, the idea of running out can seem scary.
It has become more possible now than ever before to turn that dream into a reality. The rise of online jobs has made living a nomadic life and traveling the world full-time a realistic goal.
Like any major goal in life, it is not one that comes easy. The nomadic lifestyle is a thing of beauty, sprinkled with constant challenges and instability. Check out my article ‘11 Essential Skills to Live a Nomadic Life’ to read more about sustaining a life on the road.
If you have the time and resources to take a few months out to travel, and the desire to do so, don’t think twice, do some research and book that ticket. The world is a wonderful teacher, waiting to guide you.
Whether you are just starting out, going on holiday, or heading out for an extended period, I’m going to share 7 solo travel trips which I have picked up, which I hope help you out.
7 Solo Travel Tips You May Not Have Been Told
These tips are based on my experiences traveling solo over the last five years, which has been a mix of holidays, working abroad, and becoming a digital nomad.
1. It Will Probably Be A Rough Landing
I don’t mean you actual landing, but arriving in new surroundings can be quite overwhelming to being with.
The pictures you see of people having fun, amazing scenery and incredible adventures can give a false sense of expectation. That is waiting for you as you travel, but it is very rarely what you are greeted with.
When you first arrive in a new place, you will probably be tired and a little nervous. The first time I landed in Nepal, I was bombarded with taxi drivers trying to get me in their cars, hotel representatives trying to sell me a room, and all I wanted was some fresh air.
It’s not uncommon to feel a bit scared, once you make it to your accommodation, heading out alone to do something as simple as getting food can seem like a daunting task. The streets are very different, you don’t know your way round, and you may not even know how or what to order.
The first couple of days can seem like too much, just give it a little time. If you’re staying at a hostel, people will be around that have been in the same situation, strike up a conversation. Give yourself time to rest, grab a notebook and write how you are feeling, this can be great to reflect on later.
Everything will work out, you will meet people to head out with, you will figure your way round the area, and you will have some great adventures.
2. Don’t Always Trust A Friendly Smile
If you are traveling from a Western country to a country which may not be as strong economically, it’s important to have a certain level of awareness.
One of the most common examples are taxi drivers at the airport. They will be your best friend, have the widest smile, even offer you cigarettes, then can try and charge you $50+ for a five mile journey.
This is no exaggeration either, last week I met a first time traveler that landed in Bali and paid $60 for a 20 minute ride to her hostel. It helps to be aware, otherwise your trip could be cut a lot shorter than you hoped.
It is an unfortunate situation which is much larger than a solo traveler. Wherever you travel to it’s important to stay safe, be smart, and save money to enjoy the adventure.
3. Learn to Travel By Yourself
One of the main concerns I regularly hear about traveling alone… is being alone. I have been asked many times if I ever get lonely. The answer yes, at first it made me uncomfortable, now I have learned to really enjoy my own company.
I read a lot of tips on how to meet people, the truth is meeting new people is one of the easiest aspects of traveling alone.
When you are in a new place and meet your first group of friends, it becomes very easy to stay together. I have met some amazing people on my trips, made some really close friendships and have very fond group travel memories.
However the reason I decided to travel solo, was to overcome fears that I had and grow as a person. It will be different for everybody who heads out alone, but learning to travel by yourself is one of the most liberating experiences you can have.
Taking public transport in a new country, or heading to remote countrysides and immersing with the local people can open up a whole new world.
Traveling by yourself can:
Give you renewed strength and confidence in your decisions.
Give you time to get to know yourself without the distractions
Lead to some of the most unexpected adventures.
4. It Won’t Go Exactly As Planned… And That’s A Good Thing
Something will go wrong, and it will probably be for the best, even if it doesn’t seem that way immediately. I decided to name my blog (Mis)Adventures Abroad for that very reason.
Traveling alone can expose you to uncertainty, with so many new situations to deal with something will go wrong. You may miss a bus, end up in the wrong place, lose your phone or overstay your visa. OK I’m talking about some of my own experiences here, but for each mishap I have always been fine, learned a lesson (usually a financial one), and gone on to have some memorable experiences as a result.
Solo travel has the ability to teach us how to let go of worries and the need to control everything, leading to a healthier mindset. It can help show us that life can be fruitful when our plans don’t quite work out.
5. Long-Term Travel Isn’t an Escape From ‘Reality’ Or Responsibilities
Long-term travel can add more responsibility into life and it is not an escape from the stresses and worries either.
If you are hoping to maintain a life of travel by working online, the ‘passive income’ dream that we are sold is not the reality. For many working online it means longer hours and demanding clients. Your income, amount of security, and lifestyle is down to how hard you are willing to work.
Travelling solo throughout the past five years has been rewarding, liberating, and much easier to do than I let myself believe…For many years.
Before travelling I spent a lot of my free time following inspirational solo travel blogs like Nomadic Matt, The Blonde Abroad and Dan Flying Solo. I also spent a lot of time wishing I could be brave enough to travel solo myself.
That was 23 (and counting) countries ago, since biting the bullet and heading out on my first solo trip to Austria, the adventure just keeps growing.
I realized that travelling solo is not that scary, not impossible and doesn’t need to begin with a far-flung trip to the other side of the world.
In this article I’ll share 5 reasons travelling solo might be easier than you let yourself believe.
Why Should I Travel Solo?
If there is any part of you that has the urge to go out there and travel solo, you have probably already imagined yourself heading out to many different places.
I know I did, I even had a map in my room with all the places I would like to visit and experience first-hand.
But I was too anxious to even head out to the cinema on my own, how was I ever going to visit a new place on my own?
I was always waiting for the time to be ‘right’, I was just starting my career and I didn’t have the time or money to be travelling alone.
I was worried about meeting new people, or being alone in foreign countries and the danger that would bring.
Feeling the traditions, cultures and vibrance of new places, relying on yourself and finding new strengths are just some experiences solo travel can bring. Travelling alone can really enhance your personal growth and change your life.
The First Solo Trip
The first solo trip is one you will never forget and can be a gateway to a lot more adventure in your life.
Booking that first one can seem like a real leap, and take you way out of your comfort zone, but the nerves quickly turn to unparalleled excitement.
Whether you are planning to head out for 2 weeks or 2 months, the first one is sure to give you lifelong memories and multiple reasons to head out on your own again.
I grew up in Europe and always dreamed of experiencing the Alpine mountain range. My first trip was to Austria, for three weeks. It turned into an incredible adventure, which lasted six weeks and ended in Switzerland.
I will never forget that first trip, it showed me that I can travel to new countries, I can make new friends, I can rely on myself and most importantly that I can travel to places I once only dreamed about.
If you don’t have the time to take a trip to a new country there will be plenty of hidden gems to discover in your own country. Take a short trip and take the first steps to opening up a whole new world.
5 Reasons Travelling Solo is Easier Than You Think
Travelling solo is easier now than ever before. You will find solo travellers everywhere, the internet has almost limitless resources or advice, and the world has never been as connected.
1. Flights are Affordable and go Everywhere
Budget airlines exist almost everywhere, international airlines are always adding new destinations and there are an abundance of special offers out there.
It is no longer necessary, or cheaper to book flights months in advance, thanks to websites such as Skyscanner and Kayak great flight deals can be found at your fingertips.
You may also discover somewhere completely new…
I had never heard of East-Timor when I booked a flight there, and I discovered an almost untouched slice of paradise thanks to a great deal.
2. Communication is Easy
Keeping in touch with family and friends is really easy. Wi-Fi exists almost everywhere. I actually speak to my Mom more regularly now that I am in a different continent than when we lived closer to each other.
Thanks to apps such as Skype, Whatsapp, Zoom, and social media it is easy to stay in touch with loved ones.
If you are planning on heading out to a foreign country, learning a few phrases helps. You may be surprised at how many people speak English.
The connections that can be made can leave a lasting impact on your self-confidence, ability to approach new people and new situations.
3. You are Often not Alone
Travelling alone can be extremely social, solo travelers are everywhere and always looking to meet new people.
With a lots of different hostels to choose from through sites like Booking.com and Hosteworld, you are likely to meet plenty of like-minded people.
Common areas are great for bringing people together, you could end up trying your hand at circus skills, enjoying random dance parties or even end up singing along to some karaoke.
You may even find group yoga sessions, led by other hostel guests, groups of people to explore your new area with and a travel buddy for a few days/weeks.
If you are not too keen on sharing your sleeping space with other people to start with, booking onto tours is another great way to meet people, explore the area and have a great time.
4. Many Places are Safe
There are so many horror stories out there, it is far too easy to get wrapped up in them and convince yourself the world is a scary place.
Staying safe is important, and can be just as true where you currently live as it is in a foreign country. I have found through my travels that locals are mostly excited to meet new people, help and share their cultures.
I used to believe that Eastern Europe was unsafe for me to travel through and avoided it for many years. Once I had decided to let go of the fear I discovered some of the most beautiful landscapes, enriching experiences and incredible people.
Travelling through Asia was one of the most fascinating, eye-opening and safest experiences I could have asked for. Through every country I visited I became captivated by the overwhelming sense of open friendliness which greeted me.
There have definitely been moments where I have been caught up in ‘sticky’ situations, but those have been mostly my own doing and could happen anywhere.
It showed me how safe many places around the world can be.
5. You can Earn While Travelling
For those that want to travel for a few months or even years, you don’t have to save up an entire fortune.
There are jobs across many different disciplines which has opened up long-term travel for more and more people.
Teaching English is one of the most popular ways people sustain their travelling. English teachers are needed all over the world, which allows you to travel, earn money and meet new people.
TEFL qualifications are very accessible and well worth getting hold of, if you are looking for a way to travel long term. Contracts are usually between 8-12 months, and depending on where you teach the pay can be very lucrative (South Korea can pay $2,000 – $5,000 per month)
Summer camps are an awesome way to travel to a new country, have great fun and earn a little money, I spent two years on and off, working with a company called Village Camps in Austria and Switzerland. They also have locations across more countries in Europe and the U.S.
Working online is one of the most potentially lucrative and sustainable ways to live a life of travel.
Personal growth is possibly one of the most rewarding, and difficult experiences we all consistently face.
Whether we strive to be less anxious, have more confidence in our decision making or have the ability to set and reach our goals, personal development always comes with a measure of discomfort.
During my late teens early 20’s I was riddled with anxiety, depression and loneliness, finding it very difficult to embrace my days and therefore my life, it was as if I was on autopilot.
I always felt like I wasn’t good enough – whether that was for another job, for a partner, for my parents or most importantly for myself.
In this post I’m going to share with you 7 amazing impacts solo travel can have on your personal development.
What is Personal Development?
Personal development can be somewhat of an ambiguous term, even though you have probably heard it regularly during school, university or work.
You have quite likely been on some sort of personal development course or training session, designed to help you have more confident body language, articulate your ideas better or have stronger personal relationships.
These are important lessons which greatly increase your self-worth and understanding, allowing you to feel much happier in your own skin.
Solo travel puts you in situations where you always have to get out of your comfort zone and work on your fears to embrace the ever-changing world around you.
From people to places your environment is constantly shifting, the only way to navigate this discomfort successfully is to put yourself out there. You will find yourself moving beyond the fears we all too easily carry with us.
Personal development is never ending, and needs to be practiced just like any other skill. Traveling solo doesn’t give you a choice, it will force you to move beyond your fears… That is the beauty of personal growth.
Importance of Personal Development
Personal development is crucial if we are to live the life we desire, reach our goals and overcome whatever is holding us back.
The fear of not being good enough would stop me from setting goals, having dreams and feeling a sense of accomplishment. I was afraid of what others thought of me, and most consequently I was afraid of failure.
Eventually there came a moment when I cracked and felt as though I had reached my own personal rock bottom.
I decided enough was enough, and there was much more to life, and it was up to only myself whether I was going to live or continue to exist and let time fly by.
I picked up my first book for over a decade, ‘The Chimp Paradox’ and this became a complete game changer for my thinking.
The Chimp Paradox: Mind Management Tool For Happiness And Success By Steve Peters - YouTube
Traveling opens you up to a world of adventure, difficulties and discomfort, the only option is to embrace it, learn from it and try to understand it.
How Does Travel Help Personal Development Goals?
Whether you plan on traveling for 3 weeks, 3 months or 3 years, you will face some struggle or discomfort at some point.
You will have to reach out and speak to strangers if you are to make friends and have an active social experience, dating can be even more awkward. You may just find yourself being able to speak to anybody in any situation, without the fear of rejection.
You will need to ask for help from people, whether for directions, advice or support, something we can all struggle with. You may be asking people who don’t speak your language, in places completely alien to you, but you will find a way of making it work.
Asking for help from locals in foreign countries can be a lot of fun, and lead to some incredible adventures and friendships which were not expected.
If you want to sustain long-term travel, setting and achieving goals may be the only way to make it work. The fears and worries that were stopping you before no longer apply as you leave the comfortable surroundings you were once familiar with.
There have been some real rocky situations during my time in Asia, I have had my foot run over by a truck, been chased by a crocodile, found myself in prison for 3 weeks and ran out of money due to difficult clients.
It is during these moments I have to remember the lessons, keep mindful and let go of the immense amount of fear that my mind screams out at me.
7 Amazing Impacts Solo Travel can Have on Your Personal Growth
Traveling the world alone can push your personal development rapidly, and bring changes which could positively impact many areas of your life.
1. Increase Your Confidence
When you set out to travel alone, especially for the first time, it can make you feel very nervous.
You hear stories of the scary world out there, you can feel worried about meeting new people and you are entering unknown surroundings.
By getting on that plane and heading out, your nerves usually turn to excitement at the possibilities coming your way, and rightly so.
Arriving in an unfamiliar environment, it is down to you to make your way to your accommodation through the new streets. Once there you now have to introduce yourself to new people, something which we seem to have been better at as children.
You can feel a real sense of confidence in yourself as you meet new people, make some great friends and navigate your way round new countries using their public transport system.
Learning little phrases in the local language can really connect you with the local people, and make you feel confident in your own abilities and your new surroundings.
This confidence can remain when you return home and little things your were once nervous about seem insignificant and easy to overcome.
2. Being Comfortable Alone
The idea of going out for a meal or to the cinemas alone can seem daunting, I used to be terrified of the idea.
When you are out on the road alone, eating alone will become as normal brushing your teeth in the morning.
Going to a bar alone can change from be daunting to being an exciting opportunity to meet new people or a great night in your own company.
I have found that it is sometimes hard to find the time to be alone as you meet fellow travelers in hostels constantly, the time to yourself can often be a blessing.
You may just get to know yourself better than you thought, and really enjoy your own company.
3. Expand Your Comfort Zone
When you are constantly moving into new environments, new adventures and new situations, your comfort zone expands.
Things you may once have avoided can now be embraced and you may find yourself trying new things as you discover new limits.
Traveling forces us to expand our comfort zone, as everything is always new and we are always stepping outside of what is comfortable to embrace the experiences ahead of us.
Traveling is not an escape from life, it throws you into life as there is nowhere to hide, none of the normal comforts to retreat into and only yourself to face.
The ability to step out of your comfort zone with relative ease is powerful, and can make a real difference to your life as you lean into discomfort rather than try to avoid it.
4. Better Decision Making
You know that internal dialog we can have when it comes to making a decision:
What if it doesn’t work out?
Have I made a mistake?
There is no way I can do that
Even small decisions like where to go and eat can become a stressful experience. The pressure of making decisions can feel overwhelming at times.
When you are out traveling alone, deciding which new country to go to can become an exciting, and relatively..
The nomadic life seems like the perfect dream life, constantly traveling to exotic new locations. You’ve seen the many pictures of people working from glorious sandy beaches, in never-ending tropical weather.
The office 9-5 is a thing of the past, as is having a boss, the digital nomad seemingly lives with complete freedom. A freedom which can be both appealing and misleading.
Sure, the most common choice I make is which beautiful country I will visit next.
The sacrifice, perseverance and skills that I had to build up for this freedom has taken years.
The nomadic lifestyle is a thing of pure beauty, sprinkled with constant challenges and instability.
In this post I am going to share the 11 essential skills required to sustain a life of travel.
What Does 'Nomadic Life' Mean?
You can’t avoid the term, a quick Google search, your Facebook feed or YouTube and you will come across the term ‘Nomad’ or ‘Digital Nomad’.
You hear the story everywhere, “We quit our 9-5 to become digital nomads and live a life of freedom”.
What exactly does living nomadically mean?
In the early days it was common for communities to live nomadically as tribes go in search of more fertile soil, grazing lands for animals or abundant crops.
In the modern world, most of us have our basic needs met. We don’t need to go out and search new lands for our survival needs.
Roaming about from place to place aimlessly, frequently, or without a fixed pattern of movement.
For many this is what the search now entails, the idea of roaming from place to place is embraced, providing us with freedom, independence and a sense of adventure.
What Best Describes a Nomadic Lifestyle?
A modern nomadic lifestyle is almost impossible to give a single description to. It can and does mean anything and everything you want it to be.
For some having the freedom of working from home, not the office, is a nomadic life. For others vagabonding your way around the world is the only way to be nomadic.
The truth is there is no single definition which will describe the subjective nature of what ‘nomadic’ means to you.
Growing up my fathers job would make us move to a new town every 3-4 years. By definition I was moving from place to place, living a nomadic life.
During my time studying at university, I would find ways to travel and work abroad during my breaks. I found seasonal work in Austria and Switzerland which allowed me to move from place to place and feel nomadic.
In 2017 I quit my job in London, bought a one-way ticket to Asia and learned how to create an income online. Now I am being called a ‘Digital Nomad’ a term I didn’t know existed just a few years ago and now symbolises the freedom I live.
Since leaving my job in London I have lived in seven countries, ranging from five months to two weeks. It has been a rollercoaster as I get accustomed to the instability, challenges and vast changes the nomadic lifestyle provides.
I have always wanted to find ways to travel the world, immerse into new cultures, experience new adventures and live free from the traditional model of work/life we are exposed to.
For me being nomadic is having the freedom to choose the terms of my existence. There are a lot of things that we are not told about living and maintaining a nomadic life.
Here are 11 essential skills needed to sustain a life of travel and adventure.
11 Essential Nomadic Life Skills
To sustain a nomadic life is not easy, this should be clearly understood. Quitting your job and letting go to the adventure is enticing, but it is not an escape to an easier way of living, it is one of the greatest challenges you can face.
It requires preparation, perseverance and commitment. Here are 11 skills which have helped me turn this pipedream into a lifestyle.
1. Relentless Optimism
If your general mindset is not positive, staying at home may be the best way to go. The nomadic life is inherently ever-changing, that’s the only guaranteed constant.
You will encounter numerous surprises, taking the bad with gratitude and a smile is vital.
My leg was in a pot for two months after an accident, instead of being a victim, I learned how to navigate the hectic streets of Kathmandu and do some sweet tricks on my crutches (while picking up new clients with the extra time I now had to focus on work).
If you actively work to avoid change in your current daily life, this lifestyle will be filled with frustration, anger and fear before buying your ticket back home.
You will always be in a new situation, meeting new people and changing your plans.
With a positive mindset you will seek out the new opportunities and learning you are presented with. You will embrace the changes and capitalize on the setbacks when they come your way.
2. Strong Intuition & Decision Making
You will constantly be faced with decisions to make and mostly in entirely new environments. You will need to have a strong intuition in order to make the best decisions possible about situations and people.
You’ll have to trust other people and be open to strangers as sources of advice, support and companionship. ‘Big’ decisions will become familiar territory as you constantly navigate your way through without all the information.
While I lived in London, going to a new area in the city could make me feel nervous. Today choosing which country to visit next seems as simple as where to go for breakfast.
Finding solutions due to bad decision making is more difficult when you’re on the road. Having the ability to trust your intuition and make decisions will keep you safe and happy.
Once you have practiced the art of following your intuition and making good decisions, you want to be able to make quick decisions.
Nomadic life will invariable force you to make quick decisions without seeing the full picture. This is when you want to be able to feel confident in making decisions quickly, giving you the trust to fully embrace the freedom.
3. Preparation & Planning
Being able to make good, quick calls is important, with good preparation and planning you can save time and money.
The nomadic lifestyle involves traveling to various new countries, sometimes on very short notice. Having a basic process of preparation in place gives you the flexibility and freedom to embrace the unknown.
Before heading to a new country, have a checklist of 10 or less things you must take care of. You want to consider such things as:
The official currency exchange rate
Cheapest mode of transport from the airport to city/accommodation
How to get a sim card
Visa requirements (return tickets, bank statements etc)
Gathering information is relevant to all aspects of a nomadic life, even if planning (like me) is not your strongest point, investing in building this skill will free up your time and deepen your pockets.
Traveling the world alone can be one of the most liberating… And daunting experiences we can have in life.
Think about going to a busy restaurant alone, it can seem a little scary. Now replace the restaurant with a country and it can be terrifying.
Whether you are heading out for a two week or two year trip, to travel solo requires trust, a thirst for adventure, embracing the unknown and a certain level of bravado.
It also opens up a new world of experiences and people that can widen your perspective, deliver euphoric highs and accelerate your personal growth.
13 months ago I bought a one way ticket to Nepal, traveling solo throughout Asia has seen me hit with some of the most difficult challenges and blessed with complete abundance.
Here I’ll share 13 solo travel tips I have learned during the last 13 months.
Should I Travel Alone?
The world is accessible, safe and many destinations cater for solo travelers. Travel to the other side of the world and hostels will still play your favorite songs and fellow travelers will quickly make you feel at home.
From the moment you set off on your journey you will feel a real buzz from the nerves and excitement of the unknown adventure ahead of you.
Traveling solo gives you the freedom to choose where and when you go, what you do and who you spend your time with. It provides you with the opportunity to open up to the local community with ease and really immerse into your travel experience
I have to get a little spiritual
Travel also brings us detachment, we have to detach from the comfort of old friends around us, from past fears and insecurities, from expectation and from control. As you make your way across new towns, cities and countries you will grow confidence in your character and embrace the adventure.
Finally you will learn, a lot... You’ll learn about yourself, with time away from the seemingly endless pressures of life, your thoughts will become clearer.
You will have more time to read or listen to podcasts. You will be in foreign places with locals that live a way of life you may not have experienced first-hand, these are the most treasured exchanges.
How to Travel Yourself
The most important thing is that you let go of being comfortable and embrace what comes your way.
There is definitely some research which can save you time and money when you fly into a new land.
Check for transport from the airport to you accommodation. Most places will have taxi drivers greeting you and asking you where you are going and offering their services. Public transport, Grab and other methods of transport will be your cheapest option.
Know the currency exchange rate. Misreading or misinterpreting the pricing could cost you more than necessary. Having an understanding of the local economy will also help you negotiate and save.
Take a chance, buy your ticket and enjoy the freedom.
13 Solo Travel Tips
Solo travel brings a lot of uncertainty. You will be faced with of loneliness, self-doubt and fear, these are merely fleeting moments you will overcome. You will be greeted with new people, experiences, activities, cultures, smells, sights and sounds, that will remain with you for a lifetime.
Here are 13 solo travel tips I have picked up along the way to help you have an unforgettable trip.
1. Stay in Hostels
Staying in hostels gives you a great chance of being surrounded by other solo travelers. Common areas bring people together, you can find yourself chilling, trying your hand at circus skills and enjoying dance parties on a whim (yes one of my hostels included frequent, random dance parties)
You may find group yoga sessions, led by other hostel guests, groups of people to explore your new area with and a travel buddy for a few days/weeks.
Working at hostels is one of the best ways to reduce costs, immerse into a community and have a great time.
If your hostel sucks…no worries there are plenty others to choose from it’s part of travelling. Sites like Hostel World and Booking.com have an abundance of hostels to choose from around the world.
I have stayed in hostels across the world from Prague to Kathmandu, and have overwhelmingly been surrounded by wonderful people who, like you will be on a journey of exploration.
2. Be Patient
When you get somewhere new, be patient. It may take a few hours to meet somebody, you may have to take a walk around and enjoy a coffee or just unwind and relax.
Don’t expect to always immediately jump straight into an epic adventure, take the time to immerse into your new surroundings and appreciate where you are.
Don’t let the fear have a voice, instead of seeking the comforts of your smartphone, seek the opportunity to be at ease in the unfamiliar and immerse into it.
3. Pack Light
Two weeks, two months or two years, your backpack can become heavy very quickly. Pack light and only what is essential.
A big part of solo travel is letting go of things which may weigh us down…. Baggage which we are still holding onto, what better way to start than with your literal baggage.
There is a freedom which comes with lessening our need for ‘stuff’. You will have much less to lose or break and best of all carry around with you, as you are faced with unexpectedly long walks.
Solo Traveler have produced a neat little article on ‘Bare Minimum Packing’ which can serve as a guide.
4. Be Proactive
It may seem contradictory to being patient, but you will also need to be proactive throughout your trip.
If there are people in a common area, go and introduce yourself and get involved. If you fancy going to see some sights, ask people if they would like to join you. There will always be walking tours and activities you can jump on and meet people while discovering the area.
Solo travel is the perfect opportunity for you to break out from the shackles of mental emancipation.
5. Learn a few Words
Learning how to say a few words in the local language immediately brings barriers down. You effort in learning their language is always appreciated and can save you money when negotiating.
As you travel around and explore more, the further you go from the beaten path the less English is spoken. Learn the basics:
How are you?
My name is… What’s your name?
Even a small list like this will help endear you to the locals and immerse yourself a little more into their culture.
6. Go off the Beaten Track
This is why you are going out to travel solo right? You are heading out to explore new possibilities, environments and cultures.
The last thing you want to do is stay within the same bubble of comforts you are used to or visit only tourist attractions.
Sure they are beautiful and you will meet other tourists, but you will miss out on the true essence of solo travel.
Driving in Asia is unlike anywhere else in the world having driven through the chaos of Paris, the beauty of Valencia and mountain roads of Switzerland, nothing could prepare me for what Asia has to offer.
Nepal provided the most challenging roads imaginable, India the most insanely frantic traffic, Thailand’s landscape is the stuff of dreams and Indonesia is a wonderful mix of it all. I would highly recommend it for those seeking the independence and adventure of driving on Asian roads.
Travelling has teaches many life lessons. In this post I will share the distinctive beauty of driving in this remarkable continent and four first-hand tips to ensure you fully enjoy the experience.
Do I Need an International Driving License?
The short answer is yes, it is a legal requirement to carry an international driving license on you, if you get caught by the local traffic police without one expect to pay a fine ($5-$20 depending on the country and police officer).
The slightly longer answer is you shouldhave one. I have been driving through Asia for over 12 months and I have been stopped by the police once (in Bali) and paid a fine of 500,000 IDR roughly $5. I read multiple stories about the dread of the police and corruption, from my experience they couldn’t be further from the truth. I have had multiple pleasant experiences with the local police, enjoying a range of conversations including; where I’m from, what I love about their country and appreciation for my motorbike (Royal Enfields get a lot of love).
It is a legal requirement to obtain and carry an international driving license, which I would recommend to anybody planning to drive in Asia, but the traffic police are not a mafia trying to intimidate every dollar they can from tourists. As long as you show you’re safe and able to ride the bike without being a liability to yourself and others on the road, you will be just fine.
Renting a Bike
Renting a bike is a fairly similar process across Asia, but don’t always expect a well established storefront or rental company like Enterprise or Hertz. You may end up renting from a local burger shop, an old lady’s home or a coffee shop, there are no shortage of bike rental options across Asia.
Most of the time they will not ask you for an international license or license at all, they are happy to receive your money. If you have never been on a scooter or motorbike before and you are determined to ride one (this is a frequent occurrence) I would highly recommend spending an hour or so in a quiet area getting comfortable with it. The roads and traffic are much easier (and safer) to navigate when you’re not paralyzed with fear.
You will either be asked to leave you passport or cash as a deposit, I have had no issues leaving my passport with rental services, it is a very common practice.
Prices will vary depending on country, rental place and bike, but you may be surprised at how cheap it can be with a bit of negotiation.
My best prices were:
Royal Enfield (India) – $15 per day
Honda Unicorn (Nepal) – $10 per day
Scooter (Thailand) – $5 per day
Scooter (Bali) – $50 per month
Driving in Nepal
Nepal was my first introduction to Asian roads, and Kathmandu is completely different to anything Europe has to offer. The traffic seems chaotic at first, bikes would be zooming in and out of cars from every angle, horns were blaring and the congestion is overwhelming.
Once you acclimatize to the traffic, the roads are the next challenge, Nepal struggles with infrastructure, but delivers some of the most majestic scenery imaginable. Take a ride out of the city and you will be greeted with a backdrop of the Himalayan mountain range, take a ride through these twisty roads and you will be rewarded with an abundance of natural beauty.
My First Accident
The roads got the better of me in Nepal, and I would advise extreme caution, some of the potholes remind you of moon craters. The resilience of your back, neck and ass will be tested on the longer rides.
While returning to Kathmandu, a combination of loose rocks and wet gravel caused me to stumble off my bike at very low speeds. The accident itself was harmless and there was no damage to my bike or myself…for about 10 seconds until a truck ran clean over my foot.
The locals were immediately present to ensure my safety and offered to call an ambulance. I was very fortunate that there was no permanent damage and after a couple months in a cast I was back on my feet. This was a good reminder that accidents happen and caution is of the utmost importance.
If you are planning on taking a trip to Nepal I would highly recommend driving the Kathmandu – Pokhara route.
This 6-8 hour journey through the Himalayan mountains and has some of the most picturesque scenery for you to enjoy. Stop for a coffee and embrace the fresh mountain air and take in the majestic Himalayas.
Driving in India
India is unique in every sense, not just from the rest of the world, but within India no two places are the same. Driving through this glorious and testing country is a memory you will treasure for a lifetime and gives you skills you didn’t know you had.
The horns never stop, the cars are very dangerous and the traffic is mayhem. I truly believe that if you can drive in India you can drive anywhere in the world. It will give you Himalayan passes, remote villages, chaotic cities and glorious beaches, India truly has it all.
My favourite area was Goa, it is a relatively relaxed, beach filled area spreading almost 2,500 miles. Here you will find some of the most glorious landscapes as you cruise through and take a moment to enjoy a relaxing India.
Take the coastline from the south up to the north and simply enjoy.
Driving in Bali
Bali is often called paradise, and rightly so. A small Indonesian island, Bali has everything. Volcanoes, beaches, rice fields, cities and remote villages, and it is a pure dream to drive around. The roads are mostly in perfect condition, the traffic is much calmer than India or Nepal and there is no legal speed limit (some of your faces just lit up).
My Second Accident
Bali was also home to my second accident, and it was entirely my fault. When it rains it pours, driving back to my hostel one evening I was caught out by the rain and slipped horribly on the wet surface. My head, body and bike scraping along the floor.
This blog will be full of my travel stories, tips I’ve learned along the way and the disasters that have helped shape my experiences, all to provide you with solid travel insights. It’s a new blog, the best way to introduce myself is by sharing some of my personal life with you.
Here are 14 random facts about my life.
I love to have fun, I love traveling to new places and I love meeting new people. Everytime I go into new situations I am extremely uncomfortable. I will be one of the first on the dance floor, and one of the most free spirited in a group, yet every time I go to introduce myself to somebody new or ask for advice/help in a new country my whole body clams up.
I'm a Late Bloomer
This is in every sense. I started university at 23, graduated at 27. I went on my first solo adventure when I was 25. I learned to drive when I was 22, I still haven’t bought my own first car yet. I was raised in Europe and didn’t leave the continent until I was 29. I had my first true relationship at 26, I’m still waiting for my second.
I’m the Luckiest Unlucky Person Ever
I managed to find myself in prison on my first trip to Asia, but I was released earlier than anybody expect. I once flew off my mountain bike over the edge of a cliff, and landed safely in some bushes, breaking only my glasses. My insurance had expired just days before my foot was run over by a truck in Nepal, I was given free medical care and my foot healed within two months.
I Love Public Speaking
Although I am shy in personal situations, when it comes to public speaking I adore the stage. I don’t fully understand why, but I am so comfortable doing this. I have presented at TEDx conferences, in five different countries, in front of kids, teenagers and adults. I have delivered talks for top business professionals, some of the most esteemed members of society and in front of friends (always the hardest), nothing makes me feel more at home.
I’m a Qualified Basketball Coach
I love basketball, playing the game helped me get my life back on track and gave me some of my fondest best memories. It’s a sport which is played with respect and teaches a lot of life skills. I gained my coaching qualifications while living in London and used to coach a university basketball team.
I’m Deeply Spiritual and Deeply Rebellious
I believe deeply in the power of spirituality, presence, subconscious and conscious. I try to practice something to help my spiritual growth everyday and bring as much good to the world around me as possible. I am also rebellious, I break many rules, push many boundaries and ride my luck.
I Was Once Chased by a Crocodile
In only flip flops and in complete darkness, I once stumbled into a swap in India thinking it was a shortcut back to my room, not the best idea at 2am. Hearing the growl of a crocodile mere meters in front of you is not a heartwarming feeling. It was surprising just how quickly I was able to run in those conditions.
I Don’t Have a Solid Plan
I get asked if I am going to travel forever, if I’ll ever settle down and where I consider home. The answer is I don’t know. I’ll probably slow down one day, but I am so fixated on the present moment I have no desire to plan my roots.
I Hope to Teach
Although I don’t have a solid plan on where I want to be, I know exactly what I want to be. I want to be teaching people skills in countries across the world that they can use to generate their own income, help their own businesses and increase their independence.
I Have Worked With Children for Over 10 Years
Whether basketball, teaching, adventure camps or mentoring, whichever phase of my life I was in I always found a way to work with children. They have the most amazing open minds, loving hearts and abundance of energy. I love how individual they are and I love nurturing their minds to reach new heights.
I love Nepal
Nepal is my favourite country, the people, the food, the scenery, the mountains, the adventure. Nepal is the most magical place I have ever been and I look forward to going back everytime, it should be near the top of everybody’s travel bucket list
I always have been and I always will be. I say the wrong things, my body likes to make weird noises at inappropriate times. I’ll be the first to trip up over something, spill my food and I love it, life is much more amusing.
I’m an Adrenaline Junky
Hopelessly addicted to it, if it involves danger sign me up. Downhill mountain biking, motorbikes, skating, jet-skis, go-karts, rock climbing, abseiling, surfing, I love them and I am always excited to try something new.
I Love Learning
Everything from books, people, experiences, courses, myself, I just love learning something new and travel has taught me more about life than I could ever imagine.
When the travel bug bites, it bites real hard. Do you find the thought of travel creeping into your thoughts daily? If only there was a way you could afford to travel the world or even better, travel for free.
I know these thoughts all too well, thinking I would be able to travel once I’ve saved $1,000, $3,000 or even $5,000, which takes a really long time. I would see people post their stories, videos and pictures of the most amazing adventures and believe that I was never going to be able to get there.
That was my first dire mistake, I was stuck with the ‘I’m too poor mentality’. The travel advice I was reading was for those that had the security and finances, not for me. My second mistake was allowing this mindset to dictate my actions (or lack thereof). My final mistake was waiting until the perfect time, which is a complete myth.
In 2014 I let go of my doubts, packed my bag and went on my first adventure to Austria, as a very poor student, by 2018 the bug has taken me to 23 different countries and counting. I have not had an financial windfall come my way, instead I have worked, hitchhiked and stumbled my way through. Here I will answer how to travel the world for free with six methods that have helped keep the adventure alive, and even paid me.
How to Travel the World for Free
It is possible to travel the world with very little money in your back pocket. If you are willing to sacrifice time and some of the usual comforts, you can have the greatest adventure of your life. Here are six ways I have been able to do just that.
Teach a Language
This is one of the most common ways to travel, and rightly so. English is one of the most sought after languages in the world, and it is a skill which can take you around the world. Teaching experience isn’t always required, the right attitude can get you far.
TEFL qualifications are very accessible and well worth getting hold of, if you are looking for a way to travel long term this is your ticket. Contracts are usually between 8-12 months, and depending on where you teach the pay can be very lucrative (South Korea can pay $2,000 – $5,000 per month).
English teachers are needed all over the world this can allow you to travel to extraordinary places, earn money, meet great people and provide the funds for further adventures.
My first trip to Austria was supported by teaching German, a decision I look back on fondly as it was the catalyst for my current travel lifestyle.
Summer camps are an awesome way to travel to a new country, have great fun and earn a little money. Held during the Summer months, camps are a great way for students or those with spare time to travel to somewhere new and do something new.
It is common to have your accommodation and meals paid for on top of your wage, oh and you may just end up doing some white water rafting, mountain biking, hiking, rock climbing or an abundance of awesome activities.
I spent two years on and off, working with Village Camps in Austria and Switzerland. They have locations across Europe and America, if you are a student looking for a way to earn some extra cash during those long Summer breaks, why not travel and have a blast while doing so.
Work at a Hostel
Hostels are always looking for staff to work their reception, take guests on tours or design some incredible art. Working at a hostel can last for days, weeks or even months, and give you a real sense of community.
Hostels often exchange a few hours work a day for a free bed and food, although you are not likely to be making money, you will definitely be saving it. If you are a creative soul many hostels are looking to have their walls come to life, I have known many people that have painted beautiful murals in exchange for a bed (and sometimes get paid).
Hostels are filled with some of the most creative travelers and working at a hostel is one of the best ways to immerse in the community and make great friends. I spent 2 ½ months working at a hostel in Nepal, aside from meeting awesome people I saved a lot of money on accommodation.
Worldpackers is a great resource for finding hostel and other work exchange opportunities.
Live With Locals
Living with locals is a awesome way to get insights into the place you are staying, you may even end up seeing some truly hidden gems. Couchsurfing allows travelers to stay with locals all over the world for free as they open up their home to you.
Couchsurfing meetups even allow you to meet with hosts if you are less comfortable going straight to their homes. This really does offer more than just free accommodation, I have frequently used Couchsurfing all over the world and it has exposed me to some of the most beautiful cultural exchanges.
Hitchhiking is safe, that’s the first thing I want to make clear. Yes there are horror stories out there, but hitchhiking can be done safely and millions of people do so every year.
Hitchhiking is not only a great way to save money, it is a genuine method of transport used around the world. It doesn’t only benefit you, the driver could also do with the company and you may end up having some great conversations, share music and learn something new.
I have used hitchhiking wherever possible as a preferred method of transport for years, meeting some of the most interesting and awesome people along the way. Hitchhiking from the Netherlands to Croatia a few years back to attend a festival is one of my fondest memories and greatest adventures.
Working online is by far the most difficult method on this list, and also the most fruitful. There are an abundance of ways to make money online and if you are able to tap into them, the only restriction to your travels will be Wi-Fi.
If you have skills in online design, web services, programming or anything tech, services like UpWork can help you find work. There is a lot of competition, spend a bit of time building up a profile and you can find a constant stream of work. If you don’t have a background in tech there are virtual assistant and research based jobs which you can get hold of with a bit of effort.
Fiverr, Freelancer and PeoplePerHour are just some of a host of freelancing websites out there. Working online has given me the freedom to travel anywhere and funds my desire to do so.
Alan Howard, CEO of Sacha Agency describes in this live experiment video how to get find a job on UpWork in 24hrs, with no previous online experience or presence.
How to Get Your First Freelance Job Online in 24 Hrs (Live Experiment) - YouTube
Traveling the world is not reserved for those with big trust funds, complete security or highly specialized skills, if the desire is there, so are the means.
These are six ways I have been able to save and earn money and travel to over 20 countries in the last three years, I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon. If you have any thoughts about anything on the list, or ways you fund your travels leave me a comment below. If you want to find out more about how I started to make money online, get in touch today.
Traveling teaches tough lessons, especially long-term travel. You will face moments of insecurity, moments of adversity and a hell of a lot of unknowns. Travel will force us to place our trust in strangers and in life in general, control is but a far-fetched idea.
I was definitely one of those people those people that used to hold onto everything, and then internalize it deep within. If somebody had hurt me, I wouldn’t just hold onto it, I would put the blame upon myself.
You know that feeling when you get rejected from a job (I sure do, over 130 rejections still sit in my inbox), when your idea gets shot down or when somebody breaks up with you. Wow life sure does suck sometimes right?
These moments can be devastating, especially when we take these hits personally, the loss of enthusiasm, self-belief and willingness to get back up can cripple us. I am sure 99% of the you can also relate to at least one of those situations.
I will also boldly predict that over 90% of people will try everything to control life in order to avoid going through them again. I know I did and by trying to keep control of the roller coaster that is life I was derailing myself from my happiness, potential and success.
Here I will share five powerful techniques which have helped shape my mind, happiness and lifestyle.
What does this have to do with control and letting go? Everything.
Many of us attach our value to…something or somebody, which immediately means we are giving it away. I felt great when I got my first job in London, my job title sounded sweet and I could walk around chest puffed out, with the authority and privileges it gave to me. On the flip side my manager regularly criticized my work and methods, I would question myself and my abilities, regardless of my results.
I also felt a tinge more confident approaching girls, because I now had a good job which elevated my value, and yet when I was rejected I would automatically believe that there was something wrong with me.
Hugely detrimental to our health is staying in unhealthy relationships because we have placed our worth there and we can’t face being alone (I know this).
When we don’t value ourselves, we can try to hold onto whatever it is that we have placed our value in, and letting go can seem like the scariest thing to do, even if deep within our hearts we know we should.
Follow My Heart...That's Just a Fantasy
In the past, when I was still considered young and naive, I would constantly preach about following your heart. I still do make all of my major decision with that principle.
However I was regularly told that living this way is good while I’m young but eventually I will enter the ‘real world’ and have real responsibilities. I didn’t believe this then, and I definitely don’t now. Don’t get me wrong, I have and love responsibility, I work long days and love self-discipline, but I don’t like the notion that living your dreams is an unattainable desire and the real world will destroy my fantasies.
Instead I am bringing my fantasy life into the real world and exploring as many corners of it as I can. The heart is present in so many aspect of our lives. When we fall in love, we feel our heart flutter and leap for joy. When we’re rejected, our heart breaks. We are called heart-less or cold hearted when we show no care, and big hearted when we extend our love and concern. We ‘take things to heart’ or talk ‘heart-heart’ on personal issues. When we love, we love from the bottom of our heart and when we don’t care we are half-hearted. We experience the heart as the center of our feelings, so it is only natural to follow it.
Our minds are fantastic, they hold brilliance and beauty, we can understand and learn the most complicated things and find creative solutions to problems. The mind can also get caught up in the trivia and nonsense of everyday life, and bound by our insecurities and fears.
Our mind is the content of who we are, our heart is the essence not limited by fear instead propelled by love and joy.
Through travel, there is nowhere to hide, no job title, no material wealth (it would be far to heavy), and definitely no control. Through natural disasters, night buses in India (phew) and real local cuisine, there is no option but to let go.
5 Powerful Ways to Let Go and Live
You don’t need to travel to the other side of the world to let go of the baggage that is waying you down. One of my major goals has always been to travel the world, these techniques help me have the mindset to work towards my goals and live with confidence, happiness and freedom.
1. Talk to Strangers
I cannot recommend this enough, the differences it makes and connections you build are incredible. Whether it’s the person next to you on the bus, coach or train (yup even in London), the person in the queue behind you or somebody who looks interesting to you. Talk to strangers, make it a daily habit to speak to at least one stanger to start with and see the results after only 21 days.
I usually use something called the happiness chart when I travel, in my notebook I will ask the person I’m with to draw a line graph representing their ideal life in terms of happiness and sadness. This immediately opens up a human connection, and also brings some fascinating conversations.
By speaking with strangers you are breaking down any preconceptions and fear that builds up in your mind, and you will be rewarded with growth, connections and new opportunities.
2. Let Go of Expectation
In terms of traveling this brings about the best adventures, stories and experiences. The moment I go into a new country, I have no expectations, I am present to the moment and embrace anything which comes my way. I found that when I held expectation I was either disappointed, or they were met and I didn’t strive for more.
Within relationships it is easy to bring past relationship experiences into new ones, or expect your partner to behave in ways that align with your thoughts and actions. This can close off the opportunity to learn about your partner, appreciate who they are and grow together.
In my professional life I have found myself able to remove any personal value from my work, if it’s criticized, I have something to learn, I have new ideas to form and new skills to build.
One of the most life changing books I have read is ‘The Power of Now’ by Eckhart Tolle, it details brilliantly how and why this will change your life.
To put this simply, the past has been, the future is yet to come. The past has shaped who we are today, but does not control us, our future will be shaped by the thoughts and actions we take today.
In each moment there is a gift, lesson or experience we can take something from and react to. How often do we allow our thoughts to drift to something that has pissed us off yesterday or we are stressed out by facing tomorrow. These thoughts genuinely take us away from enjoy the present moment, which takes us away from ourselves and the opportunities.
4. Embrace the Difficulties
Yup life is hard…noted, doesn;t matter who you are or where you are, life will be hard at some point. We cannot control that and instead we should embrace it. Adversity is a teacher, even if all it teaches us is what we don’t like, well then we know. Adversity shows us how strong we are, and we all go through it.
Pain should be felt with all the embrace as we do with happiness, it is just as temporary and significant. We will all have a bad day, week, month or even year, during these times we may as well be kind to ourselves, understand what is bringing us pain, why it hurts and allow ourselves to come through the otherside…we always will.
5. Meditate and Visualize
Meditation is phenomenal. Our lives are filled with so many stresses, responsibilities, insecurities, worries, fears and pressures it is overwhelming. By meditating we center ourselves, bring our thoughts back to clarity and refocus ourselves. Begin with just five minutes a day and tell me how you feel after 21 days.
This 15 minute guided gratitude meditation is a personal favourite and has worked wonders for me.
‘Visa run’ two words that will mean very little to most and bring a shiver up the spine of most travelers. The visa run is a short term (anywhere from a few hours to a few days) trip into another country, only to be allowed to come back and remain in the original country for longer. Bureaucracy working at its finest.
Travelling through Asia for the first eight months I had not stayed in a country long enough to require a visa run. I was always on my way to another beautiful location before my 30, 60 or 90 days were up (depending on the country). Then Bali happened, and five months later I have become an expert in both the visa runs and visa extensions in Bali, mostly because I got it oh so wrong to begin with.
Bali is one of many countries which allows visa free entry for passport holders from 169 countries, this allows 30 days stay, which is great for holiday makers, it costs nothing (but time, it can be a crazy queue) and allows you to come and enjoy paradise. For the long-term traveller Bali is a magical haven and can easily suck you in.
There is the option to pay $35 for a visa on arrival, which will allow you to extend your stay by a further 30 days, but even after 60 days Bali can steal your heart, so the visa run will be your only option (outside of social visas and kitas, but they need a separate blog post to explain), to stay for longer.
Dino Maiolo explains in this detailed blog post just how to extend your tourist visa in Bali.
What is A Visa?
Put simply a visa is a stamp or sticker which gets popped into your passport, allowing you to enter and remain in a country for the determined amount of time. The length of time you can stay in a country (and cost) of a visa varies depending on:
The country you are visiting
The passport you hold
The type of visa you require (tourist, student, business)
Visa requirements and information for different countries is readily available with a quick Google search, they are generally easy to get hold of (passport dependent) and quite straightforward to understand (all of the mistakes in this post are my own doing).
Visa requirements and information for different countries is readily available with a quick Google search, they are generally easy to get hold of (passport dependent) and quite straightforward to understand (all of the mistakes in this post are my own doing).
The Visa Run
The visa run has long been a pain for many tourists, spending hours travelling across the border into another country just to come back and get a fresh stamp. The stress of catching fights, the boredom of waiting at an airport for hours or the lengthy and uncomfortable bus journeys just to come back. They are not usually high on the ‘why I love travelling’ lists, they can leave you exhausted, poorer and cursing out the bureaucratic system you are still tied to following.
They are not all bad however, my top tip would be to make it a few days long, this allows you to go and explore a new country which you may not even have heard of (Timor-Leste anybody?), and for a traveller seeking the unknown it can open up a new possibilities for adventure. I have met some of the most interesting people and discovered some of the most beautiful scenery while taking a few days away to renew my visa.
However I have also got my visa run and visa extensions very wrong during my time in Bali, and I am going to share with you four mishaps which could have been totally avoided, in the hope that you avoid the same mistakes I made (and save a lot of money!)
4 Visa Mistakes (I Learned the Hard Way)
1. Missing Your Flight
OK so this one isn’t rocket science, but it is definitely worth a mention. I have been travelling on and off for the past five years, and during this time never missed a flight, so it was bound to happen sooner or later.
I had a flight at 10 o’clock in the morning, so the sensible thing to do would have been go to sleep early and wake up early to get to the airport. This was my plan, until I had a heated disagreement with my girlfriend at the time, sensibility quickly went out the window. Instead a lot of arak (local Balinese homemade alcohol), irrational emotional thinking and a very drunken night out ensued.
Needless to say that was not the best choice I ever made, getting back to my hostel at 3am barely able to walk, I was convince I could stay awake until 7am and drive myself the 90 minute drive to the airport. I couldn’t, the only thing I could do was pass out in the hostel common area.
Visa’s do not care about your personal problems (rude I know), or lack of ability to be sensible, they have a date and that is that. My flight was booked on the last day of my visa validity (I could have put book a flight a few days before your visa expires on this list, but that wasn’t the issue or reason here), so I was now going to have to pay overstay as well.
I booked a flight for the next day, which as you can imagine wasn’t the cheapest, and then went on to nurse my hangover and spend the day cursing out my inability to grow up.
At the airport the next day I had to not only pay extra for overstaying my visa by a day, I then had to explain to the immigration officers why I missed my flight, which they had a great laugh about (luckily). All in all the experience cost me over $200, as a traveler that is a hell of a lot of money, probably one of the most expensive arguments I ever had.
This 'experience' cost me over $200, as a traveler that is a hell of a lot of money, it's probably the most expensive argument I've ever had.
2. Being Unaware of Local Holidays
Returning from my first Bali visa run, I opted to purchase the $35 visa on arrival, in anticipation of extending my stay to 60 days, and therefore instead of spending $140-180 on return flights, I could just spend another $35 extending my visa when the time comes.
For 15 days before my visa expired Indonesia was celebrating quite possibly its largest holiday of the year. Public offices were shut, outside of tourism most of the industries halted, and the immigration offices were also closed.
I had no idea, and I wasn’t the only traveler to be caught out by this. I tried emailing the official services, seeking help from tourist offices (that were still open) and asking anybody that may know a way to still extend my visa before it expired. The answer was a resounding no, I should have begun the extension process before the holiday, the only other option I had was to fly out and come back in.
Great exactly what I tried to avoid, during this period money wasn’t exactly flowing and it was mere days before my visa expired, I could not afford the $200 (cheapest I could find) round trip. My only other option was to go to the immigration office the morning it reopened and explain why I had overstayed by three days.
There was no sympathy, nor did I expect any, I ended up paying over $100 in late fines extending my visa.
Be aware of local holidays and anything that may affect immigration opening hours, a simple Google search would have told me what I didn’t know and I could have begun my extension process early enough and saved a lot of money.
3. Losing Official Reciepts and Appointment Reminders
As with the first point, again this isn’t rocket science, but it can happen very easily. When you buy the visa on arrival at the airport, you are given a payment receipt, it’s not crucial to hang onto this, but it shows a level of organization which the immigration office appreciates.
What they do not appreciate is losing the appointment letter they give you in between visits. It causes them a lot of extra work digging out your file, it shows a level of disorganization and minor disrespect towards their work. If they give you something this important they expect you to look after it and rightly so. They made sure I knew their displeasure with condescending remarks and quite possibly the longest wait they could have given me (over two hours just to ‘find’ my file), I deserved this.
Don’t lose the appointments they give you, not only does it show your time, it holds the information they require to quickly retrieve your file and move you through the process smoothly (I only lost this one, and learned my lesson).
4. Choosing the Same Destination for Your Visa Run
This one does not really affect your visa in any way, however it is a personal nugget I picked up. The visa run cannot be avoided if you are staying in Bali for over two months. Instead of it being a drain, it can be an perfect excuse for a new adventure.
My first visa run was a sprint to Kuala Lumpur, and back within the day, the airport was boring and I felt myself wishing I gave myself the time to explore. When the time came again I spent a week in Kuala Lumpur, made some amazing friends, and explored a pretty wonderful city.
The next time round I spent time in Timor-Leste, a country I didn’t know existed until I had to do my visa run, and a true hidden gem. Golden beaches, amazing food and with tourism still new, an amazing amount of intrigue and warmth from the local population. Within hours of arriving I was having lunch at a family home and had been invited to a local celebration.
The visa run needn’t be a drain and if you avoid the dire mistakes I made above it can be a pleasant opportunity to explore new worlds.
The visa extension process in Bali is actually quite straightforward, and if you give yourself ample time there is truly nothing to stress about.
Bali is a wonderful island, I was planning on being there for 30 days and five months later I was finally on my way (Thailand bound). It has taught me a lot about the visa process and I feel adequately equipped to handle them in the future with relative ease.
I hope my (mostly self-induced) errors give you some tips to avoid the same mistakes and at the very least a good laugh. If you have any questions (or anecdotes of your own) please leave me your comments below.