This is something I became super acquainted with for the last 5 years. Well, maybe not traveling alone per se (although life in Taipei is pretty much that), but taking a flight to your destination alone. Maybe you're meeting a friend/relative there, your friends are on a different flight, you're going there for a work trip. Basically, just flying alone. I have some tips for solo travelers as well la, so if you're doing that, you can reference this. =)
I can't remember exactly when I did my virgin lonely flight, could be a Taipei flight to meet friends there, or a KL, or China for work. To date, I have a box of boarding passes of flights I flew by myself. And I figured I should compile a list of tips for any of you doing that for the first time.
1. Do Your Homework. Plan Your Itinerary.
This is for solo travelers. And it's a Singaporean/Asian thing I guess, this planning the itinerary. I've had many friends from elsewhere tell me they just go to a country and start exploring. But hey, we are kiasu, cannot huh? We only have so many days for our holiday, and we want to make the most and best out of our trip, so we plan!
Look up trip advisor or some other guides. Read up, decide where you want to go, and put them down. Don't neglect food places! I tried to anyhow tikam eateries near my hotels, and sometimes I end up with crap. So make sure you find good makan joints too! Just key in keywords like "Breakfast Myeongdong" or "Goose Wan Chai" into Google and a list of reviews should come up.
2. Change Money
Please do this before your flight. I find the best rates to be at Mustafa Centre (inside at Level 1 where the watches are). I remember once when I changed RMB elsewhere for S$1 to 5.70RMB, then changed again somemore at Mustafa for 6.30. Yup. You get the idea. Another place that's recommended is at Cuppage Plaza. I heard. =)
If you forget, there's always the airport.
Don't think that you can change it when you arrive at the country. I mean, sure you can, but the rates may not be as good. And if you forget to change it in Singapore and have to change when you arrive, please do so at the airport.
Let me tell you why – I thought I could change money everywhere in Taipei, because that's the case in Hong Kong (and people tell me Hong Kong's rates are better than here, so...). I couldn't be more wrong. I had to go to quite a few banks and found out that only Bank of Taiwan and Zhao Feng does currency exchange for SGD. Talk about wasting time finding banks on your trip.
Also, I believe some countries like the Maldives don't do SGD currency exchanges. They only recognise USD, Euros and Pounds. I think. I can't be sure cos I have never been there. Really, just change at least a bit in Singapore, so that you can buy train tickets to the hotel and stuff.
3. Do a Screenshot of Your Flight Details
You'll never know when you might never get Internet connection. Most airports offer free Internet, but I've been to quite a number which give, but might as well not. Singapore used to be one. Like visitors have to log onto Wireless@Sg which you will need an existing Starhub/Singtel/M1 account to log on. How is that free for foreigners? -.-”
Another one is China. Almost all airports in China offer free Internet, but you will need a Mainland number to register onto the network, after which they will send you the password to log in. Seriously? Shouldn't most mainland mobile phone users already have like at least 3G on their phones? Hello! We need it to be friendlier for travellers, especially those with many hours on transit!
My point is, you don't want to get to a country and then forget your departure flight details and not being able to access it in your email. Screenshot once you get the itinerary, and save it in a proper folder in case it gets lost in your Picture Gallery.
4. Same For Your Hotel/Accomodation Details
So that even if you don't have Internet, you can ask around on how to get to your hotel.
5. Buy a Local 3G/4G/Internet of anyG SIM Card
DO NOT activate your roaming data! It will cost you a bomb when you receive your next bill. And do not bother with activating the $15 or $18 per day unlimited roaming by your mobile service provider. Most countries offer internet SIM cards for cheap. For Taiwan, for example, 3 days' unlimited data only costs 300NT (~S$13?) and 30 days' unlimited only costs 800NT. I remember it's quite cheap in Hong Kong, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Korea as well.
Oh, btw, for South Korea, you can't get a SIM card, but you can rent an egg. It's like a wireless router. So you can rent one and everyone in your group can use as long as the wifi and sharing is on.
I rented one for 4 days and it only cost about $30. Much cheaper than $18 per day I would say.
6. Download Stuff into Your Tablet/Laptop to Watch
You're traveling alone. And unless you're flying SQ, you can't be guaranteed inflight entertainment. For your info SQ doesn't really provide IFE if you're doing really short flights like to KL. I recently flew China Eastern Airlines and if not for my laptop, I'd be bored to tears. No TV~~~~
I was most surprised when I once flew United Airlines (can't remember to where but that flight will continue to the states) and THERE WAS NO TV~~~ How do those Americans do it??? Americans are generally larger than us Asians so I can imagine the discomfort already cos the seats were so small, how do they do 27 hours without anything to watch??? #respect
7. Bring a FULLY-CHARGED Mobile Charger (and your cable)
In case your tablet or phone dies on you. And I emphasize fully-charged because all too often I head out the house with an empty charger. Or forget the cable. Extra weight. No juice. Damn stupid.
8. Bring a Book
Just in case you're not a ipad/laptop/play with gadget kinda person.
9. Check In Early, and Choose Your Seats
If you fly alone, I'd assume you don't want to be squished between 2 strangers unless you're into that kinda thing. I always prefer the window seat cos hey, if I can't have a bf's shoulders to lean onto, I have the window.
Some of you would prefer the aisle seat for its easy access to the toilet and your bags. So take either window or aisle. Just my suggestion.
10. If You're Going Budget, Bring a Travel Pillow, and a Scarf/Cardigan/Jacket
Budget airlines do not provide inflight entertainment. Nor pillows or blankets. Unless you want to pay for them of course(Scoot provides iPads for rent.) It was really uncomfortable having to sit on an empty seat without any pillows/blankets.
It can get cold onboard, so bring a scarf or something that you can use as a blanket or to keep yourself warm. A travel pillow makes a LOT of difference, I get really grouchy whenever I forget mine.
11. Remember Your Water Bottle
This is for going out of Singapore. Bring an empty bottle, and once you get through the security checks at the gate, fill up your water bottle before you board. It's always near the aerobridge door. This was you'll always have access to water on your flight. This is a good tip if you are flying budget. You need to drink a lot of water onboard. And you know how pricey drinks can get on the plane right?
Same idea. It's really dry onboard the plane and sometimes I get cold rash or itchy, especially at the legs due to dry skin. Itchy dry skin is something you don't want to spoil your trip with. Slap on moisturizer and chapstick onboard and overseas when it's cold and dry. Just make sure your moisturizer is less than 100ml so it doesn't get confiscated and thrown away at the security check.
13. First Aid!
You don't know when you will get the sniffles/cough/fever/laosai/blister. Bring medication. Plasters are easily available I think, but not medication. Not in all countries at least.
After a trip from Seoul some time back, I realised you cannot get any kind of medicine over the counter at the convenience store. I tried to ask them what I should eat for cough (cos I saw a bunch of medicine in the store), and the sales assistant said he cannot explain to me because he's not a doctor, or else he'll get jailed. And because I can't friggin read Korean, I won't understand what the box says. So no cure unless I go to the doctor.
I'm sure other countries are not as difficult, but to be safe, bring your own medication. Essentials include paracetamol, ibuprofen (or some kind of painkiller), antihistamines, hydrocortizone, decongestant, bandages, and feng you (medicated oil).
I need to rave about this. Because it's so multi-purpose. (And because I'm a mosquito magnet.) Feng you is great for nausea, headache, blocked nose, insect bites (damn you mozzies!), rashes, stomachache, colic, and muscle ache. Note that this is only for external application. Do not drink this.
I compiled a list of travel essentials before so I'll not go into that too much. You can read them up here. I think it's also really useful if you're traveling alone because if you forget something, there's no backup.
I hope you'll find this useful! If you have any suggestions on what else I can add to this list let me know! Have a good trip!