Some Tips for Older Lone Travellers
Travelling on your own can seem daunting, and travelling on your own when you are older, even more so. Some things will be beyond your control – weather, fellow travellers, local customs etc., but others you can exercise some power over, and my experience would be to do just that. That little bit of knowing what might happen, and when, can be very reassuring when you are out of your comfort zone in every other way.
These would be my top tips to make life on the road a little less intimidating.
Be prepared: Get as many of your travel plans, tickets, visas, accommodation etc. as possible all sorted in advance.
Pack lightly: That advice about putting all you want to take out on the floor before packing and then only taking half of it holds good, except I would suggest only taking a quarter! In warmer climes you can wash out underwear and tee-shirts, and if you’re travelling further afield, then getting laundry done locally is cheap as chips. Be aware of cultural mores: Your bikini top and hot pants (or the male equivalent) will not be appreciated in many countries, and may bring unwanted attention or disapproval. It is also important to be conscious of the fact that many religious sites require that you cover up shoulders and knees, and it is rude and insulting not to do so. I would suggest erring on the side of caution.
Try not to arrive in a new country late at night: If at all possible, try to arrive at your destination in daylight, it is safer and easier to find your bearings. If a night time arrival is unavoidable, then use an official taxi to get to your hostel or hotel. If you arrive in a bus or railway station, try to join up with other travellers, and stay in well lit and populated areas until you reach your taxi.
Consider hostels rather than hotels: They are for everyone, and many have all the amenities of good hotels. The advantages are numerous – usually cheaper; other lone travellers; much friendlier staff and guests, communal eating; and lots of local information from fellow travellers. Admittedly most of the other guests will be younger (and sometimes much younger!), but they are usually so helpful and pleasant it can restore any jaded faith in human nature.
Look for city walking tours: Many big cities all over the world offer these, and sometimes they are free with a donation at the end. They give the opportunity to see the must sees, and often many of the idiosyncratic gems that are missed by the guide books. An alternative, especially if long walks are a problem, is a hop-on/hop-off bus tour.
Do your homework on the sights: Sometimes some of the biggest tourist attractions require a certain level of physical fitness. For example, parts of the Great Wall in China are so steep and rough that rock climbing skills are nearly necessary, and the number of temples in Bagan in Myanmar with almost vertical steps is astounding! A little prior knowledge will mean you can visit the sights you know are within your abilities. Just because we are older does not mean we can’t consider travelling. Don’t let your years hold you back – anyone can travel, we just need a little more forethought and a whole lot of chutzpah!