Tips for First-time Solo Traveller

Hi all,

I am 25, and I am finishing my university soon, and would like to travel by myself before I start work in July. I have been into photography for almost 4 years now, and I've always dreamt about going somewhere alone, travelling and taking pictures. I have been on numerous self-planned holidays with friends and family, but it hasn't been very adventurous as we always have a very detailed plan (accomodation etc.) before we go.

I've been looking at New Zealand, and am thinking about catching the Southern Lights. If I do go ahead, it would be the first time that I'm travelling alone. I really thirst for an adventure.

1. Any tips?

2. Should I self-drive or backpack? (Considering that self-driving gives a lot of freedom, but driving in winter in a strange land can be quite challenging for a young singaporean guy. I am reasonably confident about my driving skills though.)

3. Should I consider another place? Cost, ease of travelling solo and photographic value are concerns for me.

4. Anybody with any past experience care to share?

Thank you!


Senior Member
Dec 29, 2008
East Coast
For the money why not consider Japan or Taiwan.
Distances are not vast and public transport is an absolute joy to use. Can go anywhere with ease.
Spring and early summer will be great.

Driving in winter need a lot of skills and you'll not be familiar with road conditions, such as black ice, fog, strong cross wind etc.
You need to experience it, very frightening when you encounter them.
Need to learn to change to low gears when going up or down slope. Riding on the brakes is a very dangerous way of driving

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New Member
Oct 21, 2004
Personally I would suggest Vietnam, for solo travelers. Make your way from Sapa to Mekong Delta via train/ bus.


Senior Member
Jan 21, 2002

2. Should I self-drive or backpack? (Considering that self-driving gives a lot of freedom, but driving in winter in a strange land can be quite challenging for a young singaporean guy. I am reasonably confident about my driving skills though.)

3. Should I consider another place? Cost, ease of travelling solo and photographic value are concerns for me.
For NZ, I would suggest self-drive. NZ is great for landscapes, and with self-drive, ease of traveling solo is good (apart from winter driving). But cost-wise not the cheapest.

Taiwan is generally great for all the three aspects you listed. I think is a good choice for backpacking (or even self-driving)
Japan cost-wise is high, but easy to travel and of course wonderful photographic opportunities all-round

Thailand/Vietnam/Cambodia/Laos all make great candidates as well, with Laos my recommendation for a more adventurous outing, especially going up north. Cheapest of the options :)


Senior Member
May 23, 2006
Cost wise, consider the SEA countries.

I travelled from North of Vietnam to South in around 2 weeks with a combination of buses and trains. A 6-hour bus ride (quite comfortable) from Ho Chi Minh also brings you to Cambodia if you are interested in crossing borders.

If you still intend on going New Zealand, then self drive seems more efficient. I 'm not sure of its winter conditions of New Zealand, but I just returned from Iceland, I co-drived with 2 other people, I think the sudden weather changes and cross winds would be quite disconcerting if for a solo first timer.

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Senior Member
Nov 9, 2003
Visit site
On solo self-drive:

Don't over-estimate your own driving skills.
Don't under-estimate the driving distance.
Be mindful of road conditions and hazards which you have never encountered in Singapore.

Driving in Singapore is easy. People keep to traffic rules, overall speed is actually low. Try driving in a country where average speed is 110-130km/h on highways across empty desert. Nothing to interest the eye, the mind wanders. When you are travelling at much higher speed which you have not driven here before.

Most overseas countries are much much larger than Singapore. 2 points on a map may seem close, but they may take 6-8hrs of driving time. Solo driving without a partner to spell you at the wheel will lead to increased exhaustion and higher risk of accident.

True story: I stayed on a few days solo in New Zealand after a business trip, and decided to self drive to a lighthouse I saw on a map not too far from Wellington. It was a 3hr drive across mountainous terrain, single land road with lots of switchbacks and gravel on the road. I skidded on a gravel patch while negotiating a turn on a downhill stretch. I was lucky I skidded towards the cliff face instead of over the edge; I ended up facing the opposite direction I was driving towards but was very very fortunately safe and sound.

So don't let my lesson go to waste :)


New Member
Dec 14, 2010
Like what others mentioned, NZ is not a cheap place to do. On top of that, driving solo will push up the costs. If you have the budget, of cos you can go for it. But if not, then I suggest you backpack and choose some other destination. You are still young, you have many good years in front of you, there is no need to do all the adventures in one go. If you are a little apprehensive about travelling solo, then self drive will probably not be the best way to go. Backpack. Travel by public transport. Meet people. It's the best introduction to solo travel. The thing about solo travelling is the many people you will get to meet along the way and the experiences you will get. You will miss out on all these if you drive. I did my full solo trip in South Korea. I only knew 2 korean words (hello and thank you) and did not know anybody there. But, hey, that is adventure too right? I met a lot of nice people and had great experiences. There is no need to go to extremes nor is there a need to go to off the beaten track places to get adventures. An open mind is all you need for adventures. And an important advice: loads of common sense is needed for a safe trip. Driving alone in a totally strange country is not a very common sense thing actually. I was driving around Ireland and Northern Ireland with my friend. But due to certain reasons, I was the only one behind the wheel all the time. For Singaporeans like us who are used to driving only 1 hour at most due to the size of the country, it does take the toll on our body when we have to driving for 3 hours or more. I was so dead tired every evening and could hardly enjoy. Not to mention that i almost fell asleep at the wheel a few times. Luckily my friend was with me.

Loads of places and options for a solo trip. You may want to explore other options.

Jul 10, 2010
IMHO, July is not the best time to go NZ. Its winter.
1) Its cold or too cold.
2) It may be difficult to drive during winter.
3) The scenary is not the best during winter.

Taking into consideration your criteria of Cost and Photography and Adventure, you may want to consider China Yun-nan, or Cheng Du or Huang Shan.

1) Photography
Both cities and mountains offer ample opportunities for great photography. The local cities are very unique vs NZ.

2) Adventure
Everything is an adventure. Even taking the local train is an unique experience too. Dealing with the locals vs NZ, trying their local exotic food is an adventure. Food photography oppty. U want to go adventurous places in China when u are alone, vs when u are bringing old folks or women travelers nxt time. There are the very developed places to the least developed places, depding on your comfort level. The three places I recommend are decent. Vs Zhang Jia Jie, which can be more rural and challenging wrt living conditions on top of the hills.

3) Cost Wise
U can take taxi, eat lavishly and live like a prince, plus shopping. No nid to drive. Do your shopping at the end of the trip, before you go home. You can join a local tour, or map your own travel. Even joining a local tour in China is quite reasonable. Even if you dint plan in detail, you can still find a decent cheap accomodation, and your other expenses are still kept very low, even if you waste a day or two.

A major disadvantage is its weather can be HOT during July, even in the mountain areas. Good becos Long daylight hours. Just dress light.

Until you acquire more travel experience, then u venture more adventurous place and take more risk for eg driving alone during winter in a foreign land.

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Nov 19, 2011
I would recommend you to self drive.. perhaps try to 'conquer' south island 2-3weeks ..

take you time.. when traveling there isn't a fix rule/method/template. Do what you like is the most important thing. don't worry bout what others say.

southern light would be hard to see in july.. due to snowy condition, snow = cannot see the lights. but you never know.

My rationale is.. younger and more free = go to further country. when you start work and have lesser time/leave and energy, you can go for short getaways to nearer SEA countries.

hope this helps, feel free to ask more qns!


New Member
Oct 10, 2002
Visit site
southern light would be hard to see in july.. due to snowy condition, snow = cannot see the lights. but you never know.
Filmoman, I assume you are talking about snow storm, not just general snow condition, right? Because June, July & August is the best time in Southern side to try to catch the lights as it has the longest night skylight to look for it. Maybe Lake Tekapo would be great for it, since it was the best place to do astronomy during summer.

But you need 2 things, solar wind and clear sky. I do noticed that it might be a little harder for southern lights because ANZ is still not at the Antarctica circle or even near it, which is the counterpart of Arctic circle which is where most of the aurora can be spotted. However, since lately even in Wisconsin, US can spot some aurora this year, you never know what might happen, it might just lit the ANZ sky.

Solar wind has not been letting up, even now with more sunlight, there are still aurora sightings in the arctic circle area.

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