Solo travel can have its drawbacks, but the benefits far outweigh the negatives. You can stress out about planning a trip, getting lost, your safety and plenty of other moot points as much as you like. But it won't change anything, unless you decide to book with a tour company and be one of the many sheep following the herder with his or her umbrella in the air.
Put on your grown-up panties and face the world with a big smile, plus a few little solo-travel transportation and orientation tips:
Without stultifying inspiration as you travel. Females especially should be wary of arriving in a strange place late at night or the wee hours of the morning when less people are around. Have at least your first few nights' accommodation booked. If possible, book your taxi from your accommodation and always ask the price. If they provide a shuttle, take it.
Go to an ATM ..
... upon arrival in the bus station/train station/airport so that you have the appropriate cash on you to pay for your transport. The last thing you want to do is have to ask a strange taxi driver to stop at an ATM on the way to your accommodation.
Write it down
Print or write out on paper where you are going, so that you don't have to pronounce words that are beyond your linguistic skills. Once at your accommodation, grab a few of their business cards to take with you, as the address is usually in the local language.
Learn some words
Learn a few words of the local lingo—if you chatter a bit in the local language, it's easier to ask for directions, to be polite and shows that you are making an effort to communicate.
Patience—for some this may be hard, especially if in your day job you are constantly bossing someone around—take the back seat and chill out if that person in front of you is taking forever to get up that step.
Let modesty prevail
Be low-key—don't flash that glittering gold jewelry, expensive camera or mobile phone.
Don't fear walking away
Trust your gut—if something or someone is making you nervous, remove yourself from the situation quickly.
Know when to ask for help—don't just stand wherever you are like a stuffed dummy. Find someone to ask where to go, preferably in a shop or cafe.
Download an offline map—it may be your saving grace if you are not purposely getting lost in a town whilst exploring.
Get to know the town
Orientate yourself—study a map so that you have a rough idea of where you are and where you want to go, taking note of landmarks before you head out of the door of your accommodation. Jump on a hop-on hop-off tourist bus or take a free city walking tour on arrival, just to get a quick overview of where you are.
Do the walk
Walk, stroll, saunter or promenade—not only will you get your daily workout, but also you will be more observant of what is around you, such as little nooks and crannies that are worth exploring. Espressos always taste better in a little side alley of intrigue.
Local transport—check out the local transport system before you leave home, if the idea of catching a train or a bus frightens you. Head to a tourist office if there is one where you are and get a detailed local map of the transport system.
Stay caution in taxis
Don't get taken on a sightseeing tour to your accommodation. Check out the distance and the time it should take before you arrive. Confirm that the driver is taking you where you asked to go and make up a white lie, such as a friend/lover/partner is already waiting for you there. Even make a pretend phone call to the person you are supposedly meeting saying that you will be there in however minutes it should take and say the taxi number you are in, if there is one on display. Keep it one-on-one, and if he wants to put someone else in the car with you, get out. (This doesn't apply if you are in Morocco, as you will be squished in with about six other sweaty bodies.)
Flights—unless you really want that window or aisle seat, don't book your seat, as being a single traveller, it's amazing where you may end up (think business class). If you have a habit of being late, a foreign country is not the time to be tardy, in case you need to ask directions to get to the boarding gate.
Trains—everything important and valuable should be in hand-held luggage of the anti-theft type (think totally lockable). Choose a reclining seat amidst the masses, rather than a sleeper with strangers. Take note of the towns before your stop and the time of your arrival, in case you can't understand the announcements. Bring a feast and a bottle of water with you if you are unsure about there being a dining carriage. Sanitary wipes are handy, not just for your hands, but also for when nature calls. Be totally aware of who is standing near you when waiting for transport, as departure lounges are a pickpocket's idea of heaven.
Solo night bus
Night bus trips—never sit in the back seat of a bus; sit as close to the driver as possible. Take water but don't gulp more than you need, as many buses do not have toilets on board. Ensure that you are dressed appropriately (think cozy and warm), as you have no control over the air conditioning. Females should take a bit of precaution and wear long pants. Ensure all of your valuable goodies are tucked safely beside you, or better yet, keep a strap over your arm, if possible. Again, take note of the time of the trip to your destination. Befriend the person beside you, as they may be the one person to notice that you haven't got back on the bus after a pit stop. Always carry your ticket with you, as it may be the homing device you need if you can't find your bus in a dark parking lot.
To tip or not to tip
The tipping issue is easily resolved by doing a bit of online research before setting off on your pilgrimage.
Chatting to strangers can be a bit of a tricky situation, as you don't want to distrust everyone you meet on this journey, so trust you instincts. Basically it's a golden rule not to let on that you are travelling alone, so get good at making up stories. If a creep starts to freak you out, get your mobile out and start taking pictures of him. If you find yourself in a dire situation, do not hesitate to shout, scream or whatever you need to do to attract attention. Better yet, if you have a personal alarm or a whistle around your neck, let it screech!
NB: Always have toilet paper somewhere on you at all times, as you never know when you may need it.