Are you thinking travelling alone for your next holiday? Read our tips for ways to remain financially savvy and make the most out of your next solo vacation.
1 in 5 Singaporeans prefer to travel alone, as recently indicated by a Visa Travel Survey. Not only that, a TripAdvisor survey showed a 12% increase between 2014 and 2015 in the number of Southeast Asian female respondents who said they travelled alone.
There's no denying the hot new trend is embarking on solo adventures. While it can be exhilarating to leave everyone you know behind and jump headfirst into an exotic location, it still pays to be vigilant and plan carefully to reduce unexpected surprises that can be painful both financially and personally.
If you are a woman planning to travel alone, read on to find out the top ways you can make the most of your solo trip by being financially responsible and well-prepared for any situation.
Budget for Emergencies
Singaporeans spend between S$2,280-S$7,560 per year on travel. Solo travel will usually cost a bit more due to "solo supplement", or the financial phenomena that many solo travellers end up overpaying by having no choice but to pay for double-occupancy or 2-person based prices.
While this means you may have to save more to go on your trip, you shouldn't stop saving right when you have just enough to cover the costs of your itinerary. Instead, you should try to save a few hundred dollars more to protect against costly medical emergencies or itinerary changes.
Travel emergencies tend to cost travellers quite a lot—for instance, airlines can charge a few hundred dollars just for you to change your flight to an alternate date. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that you shouldn't keep your emergency funds in the same place as the rest of your cash. This way, you'll still have your emergency funds to back you up if your wallet gets stolen.
Know Money-Swindling Tricks of Your Destination
To safeguard your valuables and prevent uncomfortable situations, you should research common types of theft and scams at your destination. Doing so will help you get familiar with the way thieves interact with tourists and can help prevent being the victim of scams.
For instance, if you're travelling to Spain, you should be aware of anyone trying to offer you free herbs or those who attempt to place free jewelry on you. These people will usually demand money once you are in possession of these articles and will make a scene should you not pay up.
In the Philippines, renting a moped or scooter from a non-authorised dealership can result in it being damaged on purpose, with the owner then demanding expensive repair compensation. Paris has been publicised for a ring scam that has been swindling unsuspecting tourists for years.
Keeping your money in separate places, knowing the warning signs of a scam and having backup funds can help prevent you from becoming the victim of a robbery. If you are worried about potential robbers getting angry when you have nothing to offer them, keep a few small change bills on hand and keep your larger bills protected and out of sight.
One last note concerning taxis—you should always agree on the fare before you get in the car and make sure your driver goes straight to the destination. Travelling alone, especially as a female, can make certain people think you are an easy target. Being polite yet stern, using common sense and agreeing on pricing beforehand can help prevent costly detours and getting ripped off.
Weigh the Cost and Benefits of Your Transport Mode of Choice
In most major cities, public transportation can be an easy and economical way to get around. While you may think renting a car may be safer, you will still be susceptible to auto theft, carjacking, break-ins and car breakdowns. Additionally, you will be responsible for car rental excess in the event you get into a car accident.
As an example, taking public transport in London and using a bus to explore the rest of the country will set you back S$197 (1-week tube pass and 1-week National Express Coach Skimmer pass). On the other hand, renting a car for a week will cost you S$220, without taking into consideration parking, fuel costs, taxes and insurance.
Public transportation also provides a few benefits that you may not get with a car when in a large city: you'll always have someone around to help you if you get lost, you can explore the city like a local and you'll have access to maps that can show points of interest and help guide you around the city.
On the other hand, there are some scenarios when opting for car rentals may make more sense—even if it costs more. For instance, if you are travelling to remote locations where public transportation will be more of a burden, then renting a car will be your best bet. In this situation, look to book in advance and take advantage of sales or discounts. Purchasing a travel insurance policy that has rental car excess coverage can also help save you money in the event of an accident.
Save Money When Spending Money
There are a few ways to pay for your purchases abroad that can end up saving you a few dollars down the line. First , you should use a credit card that will reward your overseas spending. While you can't completely eliminate foreign transaction fees when paying with a card, you can at least reap some points for all of your dining and souvenir shopping expenses.
One thing to note: if you are paying for something with your credit card, you should opt to pay in the local currency, as dynamic currency conversion tends to come with a few extra strings in fees and exchange rates.
Second, you should avoid suspicious money exchange kiosks. The general rule of thumb is that the kiosk could potentially be a scam if the exchange rate seems too good to be true or there are advertisements for no commissions. Sticking to a trusted ATM or bank can give you a better exchange rate and reduce the chances of theft.
Add Extra Layers of Protection
After spending weeks researching destinations, customs and activities, you may think your planning is done you finally book a destination that is promising to cater to your every whim. However, even in the safest destinations, you may still encounter unpleasant surprises via medical emergencies, being in the wrong place at the wrong time and problems with your carrier that can throw off your itinerary.
One way to circumvent losses that you can encounter due to the aforementioned events is to purchase a robust travel insurance policy that will provide flexible coverage for trip cancellations, travel delays, baggage loss, medical emergencies and theft.
For instance, you can find a policy that costs under S$30 for a 1-week ASEAN trip that will provide S$200,000 of medical coverage, S$7,500 of trip cancellation coverage and S$3,000 of baggage loss or damage coverage. This is more than enough to offset basic medical emergencies.
Additionally, if activities like skydiving, hiking, trekking or skiing are on your itinerary, it will help getting a travel insurance policy that covers sports and adventurous activities.
Trending Destinations for Female Solo Travellers
If you are wary of going to a brand new destination, you can consider following in the footsteps of other solo female travellers. Currently, the most popular destination for solo travel is Japan, followed by Thailand. But Singaporeans are eagerly turning to new destinations.
Though Tokyo and London will remain popular and are safe bets for first time travellers, once you've had a few solo trips under your belt, you can start considering new destinations like Cusco in Peru, Warsaw in Poland or Petra in Jordan. These destinations are less touristy, which means accommodations will be more affordable and you will experience less tourist traps with high price markups.
While travelling exotic destinations can be exciting, you should make sure you pay careful attention to the news. For instance, while some are touting Nepal as the next great destination, its current political climate may suggest otherwise, which resulted in a few travel insurers pulling out coverage for Nepal trips.
Additionally, it will help to read up on the culture of your destination to avoid standing out—some cultures have certain dress codes for women, while others have social cues that are important to follow. This can help you blend in as a local, reducing the chance of shopkeepers charging you tourist prices.
This was first published at Value Penguin's website, "6 Financial Travel Tips for the Female Solo Traveller".