A lot of us are reluctant to go to the cinema by ourselves, let alone travel the world. Despite this, a Tripadvisor study suggests that more people are going solo than ever before: they found that 25 per cent of the millennials surveyed were planning to try solo travel in 2016.
But if you’re heading away from home on business, the added pressure of meetings, presentations and networking could make you even more apprehensive about going it alone. Never fear – we’ve got all the help and advice to need to make sure your trip goes off without a hitch.
Solo travel is very common
Especially for business trips and, in 2017, especially for women. The days of men-only business class flights are dead and gone (yes, those really did exist until 1970). Your company has probably sent people travelling alone hundreds of times – if not thousands.
As long as you use a bit of common sense, being a woman travelling alone is no more dangerous than being a woman walking down the street of your hometown alone. On business trips, you have the added advantage of your employer keeping an eye out for you. After all, it’s in their interests to make sure you’re safe and comfortable, so you can ace whatever they’ve sent you out there to do.
Plan, plan, plan
Researching your destination is a great way to put yourself at-ease. If possible, try to find out where meetings and conferences will take place, and check out transport options. Even if you’ve got a hire car, it won’t hurt to get hold of the number for a decent taxi company and a bus timetable, just in case.
Always know where your hotel is and check out the surrounding neighbourhood – especially if it’s on the edge of a city. If possible, find out which room you’re staying in ahead of time. If you’re not 100 per cent happy that you’ll feel safe where you’re staying, ask to switch rooms or get a different hotel. For example, solo female travellers often request rooms which are above the ground floor and on well-used corridors.
It’s also worth scouting out some reputable cafes, bars and restaurants. Not only will you look knowledgeable when a client asks if you know anywhere good to eat, you’ll also get to try some awesome local food and drink without having to wander around an unfamiliar city looking for dinner.
Heading to a country where you don’t speak the language? Arm yourself with some basic words and phrases; local people are often more helpful if you make an effort. Knowing numbers for the emergency services is also a good idea – it’s very unlikely that you’ll need them, but it’s always better to be prepared.
Make the most of down-time
By far the best part of business trips is getting to travel with expenses paid. You won’t get as much time to yourself as you would on holiday of course, but even the most full-on schedule will have time between meetings and networking events. Your company might even let you travel in a day or two early (especially if it means cheaper flights) so you can piggyback on the free travel and have some extra time to explore.
Needless to say, business trips are networking hotspots, so you’ll run into plenty of other solo travellers who are keen to make friends. Most serial business-trippers find that they soon have someone to do to dinner with almost everywhere they travel to. There are even websites to help connect solo travellers if you’re worried about getting lonely.
Finally, never leave for a business trip without a book. Not only will reading help you unwind, it’s also a great way to look occupied in bars and cafes. We all know that headphones are the ultimate conversation-deterrent, but if you’re in an unfamiliar place it’s always wise to stay aware of your surroundings.
Trust your instincts
If something feels off, don’t wait around to find out. If you have any doubts whatsoever about your hotel room, the taxi you’re about to climb into, or someone you’ve met – act as quickly as you can to protect your safety.
During your stay, stick to busy public areas and if something (or someone) is making you uncomfortable, make yourself as visible as possible. In bars, for example, always get a seat in view of the bar staff. Similarly, if you think you’re being followed down the street, make a beeline for a public space like a shop, train station or hotel lobby. Most importantly, never be afraid to ask for help – whether from your employer or the local authorities.
This might sound a bit doom-and-gloom, but don’t forget that for every travel horror-story you hear, there are thousands of women travelling safely and happily on their own every single day.
About the author
Jen Anderson writes for Inspiring Interns, a graduate jobs agency who specialise in matching career starters with their dream internship.