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Local Guide shares her best advice for solo travelers

V_Bellur.jpgCaption: A collage of images that includes a photo of Local Guide Vandana Bellur, travel photos she’s taken, and illustrations of Earth, a passport, and more.

Local Guides Spotlight is a Connect series that celebrates members of our community who are making a positive impact.

 

Vandana Bellur (@vvbellur) is a Local Guide from Bengaluru, India. After getting her master’s degree in industrial and organizational psychology, Vandana worked in the corporate world for 13 years before quitting her full-time job—to pursue her passion for traveling.

 

“I know it sounds so cliche, but after two solo trips, I was bitten by the travel bug. I felt there was so much in this world to see. To do that, I didn’t want to wait until my retirement and then travel,” she told us. “My bucket list has 21 countries ticked off and counting.”

 

Vandana first joined the Local Guides program after her first solo trip to Norway. She often writes reviews about restaurants from a vegetarian perspective and shares her experiences exploring the world as a solo traveler.

 

“I really want to inspire more women to travel by showing them the ease at which you can do so by using Google Maps, Google Trips, sharing your real-time location, and staying safe,” Vandana said. “I would highly encourage everyone to go on a solo trip at least once in your lifetime.”

 

We caught up with her to learn more about her experiences as a solo traveler and get her best advice for others who hope to one day do the same.

  

What’s the first place you traveled to after quitting your full-time job? Why did you decide to go there?

I traveled to Europe for my third solo trip. I came across the Travel Blog Exchange Conference (TBEX), which is the largest conference and networking event for travel bloggers, online travel journalists, new media content creators, travel brands, and industry professionals. I knew I had to attend this event and it was the right segue into what I wanted to do after quitting. It was happening in Ostrava, Czech Republic during the last week of July 2018. After the conference, I began my next journey 58 days in 15 countries.

 

IMG_20170625_091813381_HDR.jpgCaption: A photo of a line of people waiting to board a sightseeing cruise in Stavanger, Norway, taken from across the water on a cloudy day. (Local Guide @vvbellur)

What is the most challenging part of solo travel?

As much as we may envy our solo travelling friends by scrolling through their social media feeds, here are some untold truths about solo travelling.

 

  • Planning and research: Planning your entire trip is the most challenging part of solo travelling. Moreover, if you are from one of the countries with a weak passport and require a tourist visa, then securing your tourist visa is a challenge. You are required to produce your detailed itinerary which includes confirmed bookings of every place you are visiting. This is quite scary as you are not sure if your visa will be approved, but at the same time you need to produce confirmed bookings! This doesn't allow flexibility to make other plans.

 

  • Safety: One of the top concerns for any solo traveller is security and it’s more so if you are a woman. There's no one to watch over your luggage if you want to take a quick bathroom break! Furthermore, you have to be quick to think on your feet if things go south.

 

  • Loneliness: There are certain moments during your travel when you deeply wish your close friends or family were around so that you could share it with them. Sharing via social media does not have the same effect as sharing it in person.

 

  • Gender disadvantage: There are many cultures in the world that are still patriarchal and simply won’t allow women to travel alone. Men don't receive the unwarranted attention and advances that women do in various countries which is an unfortunate fact for solo female travellers.

 

  • Getting a photo: One of the pain points for a solo traveller is that it's also hard to get a good photo of yourself. Of course you can set up the timer, use a tripod, and so on, but it is time consuming and the moment of excitement passes away. So you just end up taking a selfie.

 

What’s the most rewarding?  

The fact that you have the luxury of designing your itinerary and seeing it come to life is extremely rewarding. When you are travelling alone, you can decide when your day begins, have brunch or ice cream for lunch, make a sandwich for dinner, etc. To top this all, you meet other solo travellers in hostels, share travel stories, and often promise each other that mi casa es su casa!

 

Slovenia (1).jpgCaption: A photo of a landscape in Slovenia, taken on a cloudy day for across the water. (Local Guide @vvbellur)

What are your best tips for other solo travelers?

  • Get the itineraries from travel agents but plan and book the places yourself. You will save a lot of money.
  • Apply for the visa yourself. This means more money for that kayaking trip of yours!
  • Use public transport wherever possible.
  • Use the Google Trips app to plan and organize your travel.
  • Meet and mingle with other travellers in the hostels.
  • Sign up for organized tours. You can relax, enjoy and listen as a guide shares the stories behind the scenery while someone else navigates.

For more info on international travel tips, please read my Connect post, “Essential Pre-Travel Tips for First-Time International Travellers.”

 

AJH-KB-20180405-044-001-0010-Roving (2) (1).jpgCaption: A photo of Local Guide @vvbellur bungee jumping at AJ Hackett Bungy Kawarau Bungy Centre in Gibbston, Otago, New Zealand. (Local Guide @vvbellur)

Do you have any travel tips that would specifically be helpful for other solo female travelers?

  • Share your real-time location on Google Maps with someone your trust—your family or close friends. This way they know where you are. My parents love this feature!
  • Always ask the hotel/hostel/Airbnb host whether it is safe to arrive back late. And also how safe it is to use the public transport after dark. This way you can plan your evenings accordingly.
  • You have to pack only the essentials and avoid this. Since you have to carry everything yourself, just a backpack and a check-in suitcase will do.
  • Never leave your drink unattended. Finish that mojito or take it along with you wherever you go.
  • Make the most of the daylight, by waking up early and reaching your destination on time. 

What information do you wish more people included in their reviews?

When people are reviewing hostels, it will be great to know whether there is an elevator or not so that people with huge suitcases will be greatly benefited.

 

What types of photos do you wish more Local Guides shared on Google Maps?

Outdoor seating and an updated picture of the menu card could help you decide if you would like to visit the place.

 

IMG_20180630_184844384.jpgCaption: A photo of outdoor seating under an umbrella near the pool at Kolavara Heritage, a homestay in Karnatak, India. (Local Guide @vvbellur)

Do you have any tips for Local Guides who are new to the program?

Be active on the Local Guides Connect forum and get to know other Local Guides, spend time going through the How-tos section which has a ton of resources that is very handy for newbies.

 

Why are you proud to be a Local Guide?

I like to help people whenever I can and, by being a Local Guide, I am able to help out people virtually. I know that in some small way my contributions are making a difference. More than anything else, this community has given me a huge set of friends that I am so lucky to be associated with. My Local Guide friends are fun, loving, humble, and are so inspiring that I want to imbibe a few of their traits. I am so proud to call them my friends.

 

We hope you enjoyed learning more about Vandana! What questions do you have about solo travel? Share them in the comments below and we might just answer them in an upcoming post on Connect!

34 comments
Connect Moderator
Connect Moderator

Re: This Local Guide shared her best advice for solo travelers

@AriMar Thank you for posting about the "solo travel of @vvbellur.

I loved to follow the travel on the social, and I have been so proud for the message that I received from her "hey, I will be in Venice day after tomorrow".

Wow, in Venice? It was August 13, 2018

We had a beautiful dinner in a nice restaurant, we shared our food then we moved to visit some part of the city.

IMG_20180816_230332.jpgVandana at Ponte di Rialto - Venice

IMG_20180816_203733.jpgMozzarella di Bufala with Watermellon IMG_20180816_212843.jpgBiscotti con Vin Santo

 IMG_20180816_210117.jpg

Sharing pasta

Really a great Local guide

 

 

YasumiKikuchi Level 10
Level 10

Re: Local Guide shares her best advice for solo travelers

181009-211358_R.JPG

Thank you for the topic @AriMar

Connect Live 2018 was a wonderful journey for me. But for @vvbellur it was only one of the long itineraries😮! Moreover, it was not San Francisco that I first met her. It's Portland in a local city😮! As part of social welfare learning, I went all the way to. but I did not think that she was there. She will be anywhere in the world😆.

 

181009-201908_R (2).JPG181009-201402_R (2).JPG 

Hello @vvbellur, What are the most important tools next to passport and money?

 

Please actively share my articles on social networks
I am introducing the unique culture of [DEEP JAPAN]

vvbellur Level 8
Level 8

Re: This Local Guide shared her best advice for solo travelers

@ermest, one of my highlights of my Europe Trip was meeting you! I was really nice to get to know you, your work and travels and how passionate you are about giving back to the community. Very proud of you my friend!

Ermes.jpgA photo of an awesome Local Guide, Ermes, taken when I met him in Venice, Italy during my solo trip ...

YouTubev2click@v2click@Follow v2click| Norway Solo Trip! | Advice for Solo Travelers| Norway Solo Trip! | Connect Live 2018 attendee |
gowthamselvam Level 8
Level 8

Re: Local Guide shares her best advice for solo travelers

Hi @AriMar , Thanks for sharing the post !

@vvbellur It is very really cool and nice to know about you ! your solo travel and tips are very much encouraging. Thank you ! Keep travelling 

Gowtham Selvam
you are educated by travelling - Solange Knowles
vvbellur Level 8
Level 8

Re: Local Guide shares her best advice for solo travelers

@YasumiKikuchi Very nice to have met you before that Connect Live 2018 conference and that too in Portland! So grateful for these experiences.

Yasumi.jpgA photo of Yasumi San, a Japan Local Guide at an Indian restaurant in Portland.

YouTubev2click@v2click@Follow v2click| Norway Solo Trip! | Advice for Solo Travelers| Norway Solo Trip! | Connect Live 2018 attendee |
YasumiKikuchi Level 10
Level 10

Re: Local Guide shares her best advice for solo travelers

Thanks for the photos @vvbellur

In a place very far from each other, It was meaningful for me that you taught South Indian cuisine from you😊

Please actively share my articles on social networks
I am introducing the unique culture of [DEEP JAPAN]

EmekaHouse Level 10
Level 10

Re: Local Guide shares her best advice for solo travelers

Very inspiring and educative interview @AriMar thank you for sharing. 

Vandana is quite  an amiable person and it was nice meeting her at.CL18.

@vvbellur I really want to travel but how do I quit a job to start?😊

 

Screenshot_20190112-133550.jpgCaption: Emeka and Vandana during Connect Live in San Francisco

 

 

 

Connect Moderator
Connect Moderator

Re: Local Guide shares her best advice for solo travelers

This is a great post @AriMar to keep bookmarked for future reference and share.

 

@vvbellur, thanks for providing your insights and experiences as a female solo traveler for us here in the Connect Community to soak up and learn from. I completely agree - personal safety is the utmost importance when traveling, especially as a solo female traveler. It can make or break an experience.

 

Look forward to reading more of your solo travel adventures here on Connect in particular.

 

Cheers,

Karen

 

 

PriyankaU Level 8
Level 8

Re: Local Guide shares her best advice for solo travelers

@vvbellur very inspiring. I am glad to have met you twice. Best wishes for your future trips. And I love your Instagram feed.