Tips for Solo Travel in South East Asia

Solo Travel in South East Asia is no where near as daunting as it sounds. SO many people do it and there are so many companies, hostels and tours that accommodate for Solo Travellers, giving you a platform to meet other like minded travellers en route.

After sharing my ‘Tips On Meeting People When Travelling Solo‘ last week, i noticed quite a few of you found it helpful for planning your own solo travel adventures and so I though i’d run a little serious of further Solo Travel posts.

Having not actually travelled solo in Asia myself (though i have still travelled it) I asked a friend of mine, Jess, to help me out and she has kindly offered to answer a few questions I had for her based on her own experiences.
So with my knowledge and Jess’s combined, here are our…

Tips for Solo Travel in South East Asia…

HOSTEL TIPS:

Are female, male or mixed dorms better for a solo traveller?

Jess: I can’t give a definite answer for one being better than the other.  Mixed dorm rooms allow you to socialise with every single type of person, whereas a female dorm gives you a certain level of privacy (a room of girls aren’t going to bat an eyelid at a bra!)
Mollie: It depends what dorm experience you want, if it’s peace and quiet, maybe opt for a single sex dorm and get a smaller capacity dorm. Or if you want maximum encounters and noise – go large in a big mixed dorm.
{if you have a specific preference, make sure you book ahead to avoid disappointment}

Where is best place to make friends in the Hostel?

Jess: I’d say the room.  In the room you are in a small environment where you can easily start with the general ‘travelling questions’ (where are you from, where have you been? where are you heading next?) Once conversation has been made, it often leads to heading out to explore/eat/drink together.
Mollie: I’d agree, however most hostels will throw themed evenings or happy hours (Hanoi Backpackers had something going on every night) which encourages everyone into the bar area to mix and socialise. After a drink or two – making friends is a piece of cake. The kitchen / dining area is also a great place to chat and meet people over dinner. If you head down for dinner, chances are people will be off out for the evening afterwards so it’s prime time to bag yourself an invite!

How do you choose which hostel is best/ which will be busiest?

Jess: Tripadvisor, hostelworld and word of mouth.
Mollie: I agree. When choosing a hostel, I check TripAdvisor, Hostel World, Hostelbookers and Travel Blogs to compare the top recommendations. Theres usually one or two that will keep popping up and then its just ip-dip-do! You can still head to other hostels to the bars if you find yours is quiet. And yes, too, other travellers will recommend hostels along the way which makes choosing super easy.

Tips on Solo Travel in South East Asia | Where's Mollie? A UK Travel and Lifestyle Blog

TRANSPORT TIPS:

Is it easy to group up with people at airport to share a taxi fare?

Jess: No, people usually already have plans set in place or are so preoccupied with figuring out how to get somewhere that they do not stop to look around for fellow travellers.  But there are often shuttle buses from the airport that either drop you off at your hostel/hotel or at least into the centre of town.
Mollie: I’ve found that you’re more likely to meet travellers willing to share transfers from airports on Domestic flights (you can spot backpackers a mile off for obvious reasons). Travellers venturing to hotels / resorts will mostly likely have transfers in place. Saying that, transport in Asia is super cheap, so whilst you may have to jump in a taxi alone, it’s not going to set you back much.

Is it easy to get around on your own?

Jess: Yes, everyone is always super helpful and accommodating.  Everyone is always willing to help with directions or advice.
Mollie: There are ‘tourist shops’ by the dozen on every street, selling everything you, as a traveller, will need. From bus tickets, train tickets, tours and day trips to boat parties and hostels, the agents will give you clear instructions on where to be and when. For transport, you’ll usually get picked up from your hostel (the driver will do the rounds) or you meet at the shop you booked in. South East Asia survives on tourism so they are ready and waiting to cater to your needs.

Did Travelling Solo make transport costs a lot more expensive?

Jess: Yes, the price of a nice air conditioned taxi does add up when travelling alone, but if you feel confident enough there are often other public transport options, i.e public buses, which help cut costs.
Mollie: Yeah, it totally depends if you’re fussy on how you get to your destination. Buses and train tickets are readily available for travelling around Asia and won’t cost you extra as you are only purchasing your own ticket either way. Obviously it’s nicer to hop in a cool (on time) taxi, so if that’s you’re preferred mode of transport, it’s time to buddy up!

Tips on Solo Travel in South East Asia | Where's Mollie? A UK Travel and Lifestyle Blog

TIPS ON ORGANISED TRIPS:

Jess: I have experienced, ThaIntro, BalIntro, OzIntro and Tru Travel’s Thailand/Cambodia.

How many people were on the tours?

Jess: On the Intro tours there were 15+ but with tru travels there were actually only 3 of us – it depends how many people book on.

Did you find the tours restricted your freedom?

Jess: Not at all, these tours are more like travelling with a super organised buddy.

What were the leaders of the trips like? I can imagine like having a parent?

Jess: You have to remember that they are there for your safety and well being, so yes say you want to wander off to a different bar on a night out then you would need to let them know because if something would happen to you then they would lose their job.
But they are all in their 20s and share the interest of travel and are basically there to make sure that you have an awesome time!
One has even become a friend that I chat to frequently and will hopefully travel with in the future.
They’re also great for future tips and advice as they have usually travelled a lot themselves.

What were the hosts like?

Jess: The accommodation was great! Sometimes not the liveliest, but you had your guaranteed group of people so that didn’t matter.

Do you have to party a lot on the tours?

Jess: Not if you do not want to. Granted there are a lot of boozy based activities (booze cruises, bar crawls and some how a constant supply of beer) but if you don’t want to do anything, they will not make you.

Are the organised tours / trips worth the money?

Jess: To have a 2 week break, where someone else is there to think about all of the difficult things (where you’re going, how you’re getting there, where you’re staying) and the only decision you have to make is what you’re going to eat – it is definitely worth the money. Yes you could probably do it cheaper by yourself, but the benefit of having someone else think for you, allowing you to 100% relax is priceless is my opinion.

Mollie: I have personally never done an organised trip but i definitely think they serve a purpose. If you are solo and perhaps nervous to approach others initially but want to meet people – tours are a great way to kickstart your trip and build your confidence. However I do feel sometimes throwing yourself into the deep end and working it all out yourself is the best way to learn and evolve as a person. It totally depends what your intentions are.

Are there any other tours in SE Asia that you recommend / heard were good?

Jess: I would recommend all of the Intro Tours (google it) and looking into any that seem similar (I.e TruTravels).
Tips on Solo Travel in South East Asia | Where's Mollie? A UK Travel and Lifestyle Blog

TIPS ON MAKING FRIENDS + GETTING HOMESICK:

Do you have any advice on making friends?

Jess: Be open to talk to anyone, some of my best memories are with people that I probably would never have approached back at home as I would have just thought that our interests wouldn’t be the same.
Mollie: See my tips on ‘Making Friends When Travelling’ here.

How much are you actually alone? Did you get homesick?

Jess: I was only alone when I wanted to be alone. Sometimes having time to do my own thing was a blessing! For example taking my time to look through the the market stalls, or having an early night to watch Netflix in bed with some chocolate.
I have never really been homesick.
Mollie: Having alone time in a different country is something that actually draws me towards solo travelling. Time to slow down, reflect and really take in your surroundings and blessings.

Is it easy to stay in contact with people back home?

Jess: Unless my data plan is covered in that particular country, I do not bother with a SIM card as wifi is available by the bucket load in Asia. Air conditioning and wifi are their biggest marketing ploys it would seem!
Mollie: I remember thinking asia would be like being in the middle of no where but its the total opposite. Theres WIFI everywhere and it’s free. It’s almost TOO readily available – you come away to escape all that malarkey! Sim cards are super super cheap though and perhaps a good option for solo travellers to have a back up way to contact people for peace of mind and for feeling safe.

What did you find was the hardest thing about Solo Travel?

Jess: The hardest thing about solo travel would be how tiring it can be to keep on top on where to go next, how you’re going to get there and where you’re going to stay, you can’t always relax as you know that there is a list of things that need to be done and no one else is going to do it other than yourself. When travelling in a pair or a group at least that decision process is shared.
Mollie: I’m a control freak anyway so solo or in a group, I usually do the work haha! So that doesn’t bother me. I guess from the solo travel i have done, I’ve just realised experiences are so much better shared. If you’re not in the mood to make friends or you don’t have the energy to, it can mean experiencing things alone. If you want to be around people you have to be willing to put in that extra bit of effort that you wouldn’t otherwise need to do if you had your friend with you. But I think in the grand scheme of things it’s a small price to pay for the benefits of meeting new people!

… and the best thing about Solo Travel?

Jess: The best thing is by far the freedom.  You can move on or stay put in any place you fancy, your day by day activities are exactly what you want to do and you do not have to compromise with anyone else.  It’s nice to be selfish and to be able to do exactly what you want to do and how you want to do it.
Mollie: You can be selfish. There are times to be selfish and not to be – and it’s not always a bad thing! When travelling solo you can be selfish guilt free. You simply do what’s best for you, at your own pace and to your own tastes. There will come a time where you’ll have a husband or kids to compromise with – enjoy it!

Thank you Jess for sharing your tips with us 🙂

{If you want to follow Jess’s adventures you can find her here on Instagram @jessicacoopertit}

Tips on Solo Travel in South East Asia | Where's Mollie? A UK Travel and Lifestyle Blog

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Love as always,

Mollie x

Tips on Solo Travel in South East Asia | Where's Mollie? A UK Travel and Lifestyle Blog