Solo travel items we love to hate (that are actually really useful)

As solo travellers, our main goal is to always fly under-the-radar, without looking too touristy or blatantly foreign when we visit new places. We can all name several items that stand out as super obviously non-local (we’re looking at you man in baseball hat with camera around your neck). As much as we hate to admit it, though, some of those items are actually incredibly useful when travelling alone. Here’s the four we love to hate.

1. Guidebooks

female reading greece guidebook while travelling

There’s nothing that says “I’m not from here” like pulling out a brightly-coloured Rough Guides or Lonely Planet guidebook. But we secretly love having one along to reference when we don’t have a wifi connection and are looking for a place to eat or something to visit in a city.

Tip for looking less like a tourist: Not everyone chooses to travel with a guidebook, and some may be able to get along fine with just an online version. But, if you do carry a book with you, you can cover it in brown paper or with the book cover of another similar-sized book to make it look like you’re just casually reading.

2. Selfie sticks

solo female traveller taking a selfie with selfie stick

Potentially the most cringe-worthy piece of travel memorabilia, the selfie stick stand out like only a selfie stick can. And while they immediately scream “I’m not from here but I need a nice Instagram photo of my visit!” they are actually super useful (sigh), especially when travelling alone.

You can get more of the landscape or surrounding views without having your head taking up most of the screen. And, you don’t have to trust a stranger with your phone.

Tips for looking less like a tourist: Sadly, there’s little you can do about hiding a selfie stick, except to only pull it out when you need it instead of walking around with it constantly in your hand. Just embrace it… you’ll appreciate the pictures later.

3. Maps

solo female reading map in Paris

Sometimes, you just get lost and need the paper map you (thankfully) grabbed from the hotel front desk. It’s inevitable that you’ll look like a confused outsider, but hey, at least you’ll make it to your destination without aimless wandering. We can’t leave without a paper map, as it is always the best fallback if your phone dies, or you can’t find help from locals.

Tips for looking less like a tourist: Once that big, colourful map is out, you can’t do much to keep from looking lost. But, you could do a bit of pre-planning, and download some offline walking maps for your destination city (because at least looking at your phone is less obvious). If you swear by paper maps, try folding it into a smaller size that still shows your main area, and then tuck it into a book or notebook to keep it more hidden.

4. Comfortable shoes

solo traveller keen sandals

Travelling solo means a lot of walking. Everywhere. While it’s great exercise, improper shoes can make days out uncomfortable affairs. The problem is, many times comfy shoes force us to sacrifice style, especially when it comes to summer sandals. Even though cushy shoes tend to stand out, we wouldn’t trade comfort for fashion when travelling alone.

Tips for looking less like a tourist: Luckily, with Converse trainers and Birkenstocks en vogue, options for quality, comfortable shoes continue to grow.

What are some travel items you wish you could do without, but really can’t? Let us know below!