The 5 truths about my solo scuba diving travels

And you go… alone?”

You have no idea how many time I have been asked this question. So often, that at some point I made up the answer everyone wanted to hear by saying I was joining friends over there. What they didn’t know is that my friends were people I didn’t know yet. I’m not a very good liar and I am tired of telling this story just to make people feel comfortable. So I published this blog post to encourage you and finally admit that I’m going on my own.

If you want to know why I wrote an entire blog post about it!

Scuba diving holidays are not just only what they used to be: all-inclusive resorts or expensive liveaboard cruises. Single travellers are a new trend in the travel industry. With simple research online it is easy to find scuba diving holiday packages for singles. But solo travelling doesn’t necessarily mean single. It seems about 20% of solo travellers are married or in a relationship. Now solo travelling is more and more a way to make a break. There is no need for a guided tour to try it, it’s quite the opposite.

Through each of my trips, I have learnt, step by step, how easy it could be to organise everything by myself thanks to the Internet and how much fun it was to make new friends on the road. So let me tell you you why my solo scuba diving adventures are easier than you think and how they rewarded me in the end.

 

Solo travel & safety: what if something happens to me?

Voyage solo Copan Honduras

Honduras, the country with the most questionable safety level I visited, I don’t recommend for first-time solo travellers but I loved it

It is a legitimate concern. Not fearing for my safety doesn’t mean I’m ignorant of the consequences of going alone. In addition, by being a woman, the entire world loves to remind me how afraid I should be every time I step out my door. Every new minor news item in the press being considered as general statistics. But when you learn that a UN report reveals that the most dangerous place for a woman is her home, it put things into perspective.

I’m an optimistic person but also a very realistic one. 10 years living in Paris have unfortunately taught me to be cautious and aware of my surroundings. I’m not paranoid, but I learnt you need to rapidly learn the dos and the don’ts when arriving in a new place. Here are my top tips to deal with personal welfare when travelling:

  • Know your itinerary: Or at least pretend you know where you are. Memorising maps has always been a game for me. It is actually a useful skill. The more confused you look, the higher a chance you will be chosen as a target. Don’t unfold this huge map or open this thick guidebook in the middle of the street; it’s better to find a quiet corner or to stop for a coffee to check or ask for directions.
  • Have a budget for your safety: This tip mostly applies for taxi fares. For example, I love strolling around and getting lost in a new city, but sometimes I can end in a bad neighbourhood doing so. Arriving late at night in an airport or a station in a place I explore for the first time. Don’t take a chance, always have a bit of money to pay for a taxi to drive you safely to your accommodation. Travelling independently, even on a budget, doesn’t mean you should not include choices that make you feel safer. Be careful, calling a taxi in the streets especially at nights in some countries is not a good idea. Do your research and speak with people managing the place where you stay for advice.
  • The fake wallet: This is such a simple and efficient trick. First of all, bear in mind that if you are attacked with the intention of robbing you, do not resist, and give the attacker what he wants. In the stress of the attack do you think he will clearly see the difference between your real wallet and your fake wallet where you smartly put old student IDs, shopping loyalty cards you don’t care about and about £15 / 2 0€ in local currency? It will look like your real one and the attacker will be satisfied with getting cash. I’m only applying this trick in countries with a high risk.
  • Speaking a few words of a language spoken in the country: I think that being able to speak Spanish in Honduras, a country that doesn’t really have a good reputation, helped me in one or two situations that could have gone wrong (my strolls in La Ceiba and San Pedro Sula have pushed the limits of my confidence as a seasoned solo traveller). Spanish and French provide access to a large number of countries in which one can easily communicate. But think that learning a few Indonesian or Japanese words on the plane can pass the time. Aim in priority for what I call the language survival kit: Hello, Excuse me, Please, Thank you, How many, count 1 to 10, Goodbye, Help me.

Unfortunately, anything bad can happen to anyone, anytime, anywhere, even at your doorsteps. Are we all staying home for that reason? So it’s better to take a chance and see the World, isn’t it?

Even if the information is often exaggerated, please have a look at the website from the Foreign Affairs Ministry of your country before going. For the UK, it’s Foreign Travel Advice, for the US Travel.state.gov, for Canada Travel.gc.ca, and for Australia Smarttraveller.gov.au.

 

Solo travel & loneliness: what if I don’t have a dive buddy?

My Divemaster training in Thailand: alone & Scuba diver, is it even possible?

This is a fact: I’ve never been as surrounded by people or making new friends than when I started to travel alone. It feels like being alone makes you more open and available to socialise. I used for a long time Couchsurfing and not only to get a free couch to crash. Opportunities to join gatherings for the discovery of a museum or for a drink are abundant on this website. My hosts often invited me to go to the food market or having tea with their friends and family.

Scuba diving added a new dimension to my solo trips. If you think it is impossible for a single scuba diver to travel on their own you are going to be surprised. No dive buddy? No need to pass the solo diving certification. They are plenty of scuba diving centres all over the world where you can find cool diving buddies travelling on their own as well. And if not, the divemasters are always happy to have me as a buddy. Our common passion for scuba diving usually creates a strong link between people from the diving community. A piece of equipment you have never seen before? Asking other divers if this is their first time at this spot? Need help to zip your wetsuit? What a perfect way of starting the conversation! Smile and be helpful, and it won’t be long before you start to make new friends. The last piece of advice, try to meet-up with local scuba divers and to learn from their best tips and secrets.

You can also find a dive buddy before departure or during your trip thanks to online scuba diver groups. Join us on the “Scuba diving & Adventure” Facebook group!

 

Solo travel & budget: What if I have to pay a supplement?

Florine World Adventure Divers Efate Vanuatu

Vanuatu, a budget nightmare solved thanks to the dive buddies I met there

Supplement what? Sorry, I don’t know that thing! It is hard to believe you still find these on some travel agency websites today.

By always waiting for a friend to join you, you will either put off your adventure, travel through the most expensive period or even worse, never go. By organising your trip by yourself online and/or step by step once you reach the location while aiming for low-season, you can make significant savings. You can find on this blog post, the websites I use to make savings on my travel expenses.

On my first trip to Bali, I visited the island in January when the monsoon is supposed to be the worse. While it was raining most of the night, it was maybe raining only for an hour during the day! So It was a low touristic season, weather was warm and I could enjoy amazing dive sites such as the wreck of the Liberty in Tulamben only with my Divemaster. On the beach of Amed, I could negotiate a luxury bungalow, bigger than my apartment in Paris for 120 000 Rp (about £7 / 8 €) per night. I did a simple calculation. During this first trip to Indonesia with my rental jeep, diving as much as I wanted, alternately staying in guesthouses and Couchsurfing, the total budget included flights for one month was less than a 10-day organised diving safari.

In Argentina, which is an expensive country contrary to general belief, especially Patagonia, I managed to couch surf for a whole month, so my expenses for accommodation was null which made up for the high cost of the bus tickets and the dives. As a bonus, I made lots of friends and I improved my Spanish while learning to handle the Argentinean accent.

In Japan, a country deemed expensive, thanks to the boutique hostels and the 4 months spent in a share house in Tokyo during my Japanese classes, my average budget was £25 / 30 € per night. While travelling for an extended period (I spent 7 months in Japan), I also realized that I became an even more minimalist traveller than I was before. I took the time to cook (I love Japanese cuisine), I went for long walks or bike rides rather than paid activities all the time. My expenses inevitably went down without even making special efforts. In the end, I lived in Japan for less than in Paris.

Then there are countries where it immediately becomes complicated budget wise. Especially when you need to rent a car to travel around and that the cost per day is prohibitive. This has been the case especially for me in Iceland and Vanuatu. In these cases, I manage to find carpoolers. In Iceland, I was joined by two travellers met on Couchsurfing, and in Vanuatu, my Japanese dive buddy met at the dive centre wanted to make the same tour than me, problem fixed!

 

About the learnings you make on the road…

Relaxing at Fudo Falls Yugawara Japan

Japan, almost total safety, unlimited discoveries, an ideal country for beginner solo travellers

Most of what I know about history and geography, recipes I’ve learned to cook and languages ​​I’ve learned to master come from my solo travels. When we are two or more, we tend to stay in our own cultural bubble.

In one month in Mexico, my Spanish went from basic conversation to almost bilingual. I had to start again this process when I arrived in Argentina because of the accent, but once more in a month, my Spanish was operational again. For Japanese, the challenge took a new dimension. But I was so happy after 4 months of studying in a language school in Tokyo to be able to travel the country and have a simple conversation with my neighbours at the izakayas (Japanese pubs) and thus better understand the culture of the country which appearances are often misleading. When alone abroad, total immersion puts you in survival mode. The need to communicate being strong, learning works a lot faster.

Beyond these cultural learnings, solo travel is often an inner journey. By taking time with yourself, you can reflect on what is important and what direction to take in the future. Coming out of your comfort zone without the permanent judgment of those around you, you discover yourself much on and on on the personal development aspect, but to put it into simple words, solo travelling is the school of life and I got a 1000 times more out from it than 6 years of university.

Solo slow travel is gradually becoming the only way for me to consider travels. To go further, I recommend my blog posts on the first weeks of my sabbatical in Japan and my 3-month experience in New Caledonia.

 

Freedom & responsibilities

No need to go far away to gain experience as a solo traveller, this picture was taken in Tenerife, in the Canary Islands.

Freedom is a romantic concept. Yet to truly experience it, it comes with responsibilities. Hopefully, these responsibilities are absolutely empowering. Every day you need to decide for yourself what you will do and how to do it. Getting through little challenges like finding an address in a city you don’t know at all, or overcoming language barriers to order your lunch are little wins, which repeated on a daily basis are life-changing. The freedom you enjoy during these moments actually builds up your strength and confidence for anything else in your life.

My first solo backpacking trip to Thailand, 10 years ago, which led me to pass my first scuba diving level, changed my way of handling things in my life forever. Once you know you are able to do it, nothing is impossible to you anymore.

If you want to get inspiration from other seasoned solo travellers, I recommend the following travel blogs:

 

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Posted by Florine

  1. I have travelled solo a few times in South-East Asia for short diving trips and I never had any problems – I always found some people to have dinner with or hang out after diving, and dive shop staff were always super helpful to me. Planning is very important though – I do my research and like you I memorise the map of the place in advance so I’m not disoriented. I also do check with the dive shop whether they will run a dive if there is only one diver though – some places don’t. One downside is to be paired up with a dive buddy you wouldn’t be happy with – but like you, I often got paired up with the divemaster so that was no problem.

    Reply

    1. Thanks Emily for sharing your story, South East Asia is great for that! it’s true about the dinner with other divers after a nice day of diving. It is so nice to share delicious local food together while sharing tips about where to go diving next!

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  2. Love this!

    Diving is the best way to travel solo – you’ll always find a buddy! I’ve travelled solo loads of times to five, including Egypt, Indonesia, The Maldives and have had a great time (and I’ve blogged about it once or twice!)

    Liveaboards are great, I find because there’s no single charge and you always get paired up with someone else. If you’re not a fan, you can always find a quiet spot on the boat to keep itself to yourself!

    Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Thank you for sharing. I am very impressed you travelled alone in Egypt!

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  3. Thanks for this post!
    I think and feel the same. I prefer solo travels. You get to know locals and other travellers better when you are alone and open minded with curious eyes than being with friends who don’t share exactly the same way, or non-divers. I once travelled with non-diving friends on my dive trip to a resort. The result was simple, we didn’t see much or spend time except dinner time. And their conversation was how hot it was that day to lay on beach all day long. Every solo trip I had, I always became good friends with locals and keep in touch with them. Also, I’ve met other solo travellers and we shared the same opinions of how fun it is to meet new people and broaden horizons. I’m very glad you wrote this post! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!!!! 🙂

    Reply

    1. Wow thank you so much for sharing your story! I totally understand how you feel about going on holiday with your non-diving friends. But I sometimes go on some small trips with non-diving friends, still we organise everything by ourselves. As they are quite active as well, we make sure they will find an interesting activity for them, rock climbing or bike tour for example. If you are interested, I post, on the Facebook page, some events where world adventure divers can meet! This summer I have 3 events listed in Scotland.

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  4. Damien McConnell July 23, 2015 at 11:45 am

    Hi Admin,

    That is an awesome fact about scuba diving travels. Whenever I will make any plan about the tours I will definitely keep this in my mind. Thanks for giving us such helpful information about scuba diving travels.

    Cheers!

    Reply

  5. Hey Florine! Nice post. This gave more confident to go on a solo trip. I am planning for next year as my birthday adventure. I will explore a place locally as a start. To where? – It depends on airfare promo in the coming months! 🙂

    Reply

    1. Awesome! Please give some news!!!

      Reply

  6. Nice article! Been planning to go diving solo in the Maldives and Palau soon!

    Reply

    1. Wow! Palau! Will you go to the jellyfish lake?

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  7. Dee (or Debi) Jones November 8, 2015 at 5:20 am

    This really appeals to me, or if I’m not entirely alone, travelling like this with my two daughters. One thing I would NEVER do again is travel anywhere I want to dive with someone who doesn’t dive, only because past experience, it was a HUGE pain in the ass! haha

    Reply

  8. All of these articles sincerely reflect a love and positive attitude with solo traveling. Nice to read so many people on the same plane. yes, being wise and blending in is important – it also shows a respect that locals appreciate. It shows that you are making an effort to ” not rock the boat” and to “go with the flow”. I have found, in general, locals are pleased to assist when approached with a smile and in an open environment. Keep on trucking!!!

    Reply

    1. Thank you Lin for your kind feed back! I agree, when you make the efforts people are willing to help!

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  9. Great post! I almost always travel solo, and I love it. People always comment on it though, saying I’m brave. And people often seem to feel bad for me. I always have to explain that I love it!

    Reply

    1. People always comment no matter what you do in life! But it’s pretty cool to be call brave, what do you think?

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  10. Your blog started long ago & I’m happy to have found it now. After a lot of years and several very good buddies who have aged out OR We became separated & more out of touch OR Situations just change OR Too many of the same old trips because they were easy & with old friends. … I’m here.
    Need a “renewal” on diving. Going solo for while sounds like the way. Many thanks for preview.

    Reply

    1. Just try it! 😊 You’ll be surprise how many new friends you’ll make on the road!

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  11. Love your article,
    I was wondering if I can get your opinion on a future trip that I am planning. I am a college senior that is going to graduate in May and I am planning to go travel the world, mostly Europe, for at least a month. I have been considering doing a trip through EF College Break, where they will take you around 19 cities in Europe in 5 weeks. During these trip, we have free time once or twice to go do whatever we want to do. I am planning to go scuba diving, but I am worried that I won’t be able to scuba dive that much on the trip. The trip alone will cost around $7000 without the scuba part, so in your opinion should I travel with that agency or should I choose another agency or should I just travel alone? Any input would be greatly appreciated!!

    Reply

    1. Hi David, thanks your kind feedback! I would say 19 cities in 5 weeks is a bit ridiculous (definitely no time for scuba diving) and you can travel for less than half that budget by yourself using hostels and European low-cost airlines!

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  12. Charlene Kowlessar September 21, 2017 at 7:44 pm

    Hi Florine, came across your blog post while searching about scuba diving on a solo trip. I am actually going on a trip to Cancun with friends, but none of them are interested in scuba diving. I travel most of the times solo and this blog post was totally relatable as to how I feel on my solo adventures. This will be my first time scuba diving in a Beginner course, can you advise on what precautions I should take or is it advisable I dive, I really want to dive though on my vacation there.

    Charlene

    Reply

    1. Hi Charlene, first of all you have chosen a fantastic destination to start your diving adventures where even beginners can have fun! I advise you to go to Playa del Carmen, first because there are many other solo dive travellers and dive sites including the cenotes are so good. Make sure to select a reputable dive shop registered on PADI or SSI websites, you can also have a look at my selection https://worldadventuredivers.com/dive-centres-directory/ And never worry to go on your own, divemasters like me will always be happy to take care of you 😉

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  13. Hi Florine,
    I just came across your article and simply loved what you described when going on a dive trip alone. I did my OWD in Martinique all by myself during a 6-week language course stay. It was fantastic!! I met amazing people on the boat every day and by the end of each dive day it felt like we´d all known each other for ages. I guess you´ll find that kind of socializing-phenomenon in all sorts of communities – music, fandom, sports and also budget travelling and diving. I´ve had similar experiences travelling on my own and I can only recommend anyone to do it at least once in their lifes. 🙂

    Reply

    1. I cannot agree more, yes when you go and meet people who share the same passion, whatever it is, it makes things easier!

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  14. Thanks for this blog I am An experienced diver and have the week of Christmas 2017 off would love to meet up with other divers. I normally go on trips with my dive friends but everyone of course is busy that week.
    I live in Philadelphia and don’t have the luxury of a lot of travel time do you have any suggestions for me?

    Reply

  15. Hi. I just want to say thank for this post. I did my OWD cert about 8 years ago in Egypt but my husband never really took to diving, although I loved it, so I sort of let it lapse over the past few years.

    Unfortunately, I was widowed 6 weeks ago and have been thinking about what I can do and where I can go when I’m ready to go on a holiday again, without my hubby being with with me. I was thinking about doing a refresher course and going on a solo dive holiday but was very nervous about travelling alone, being female and fifty(ish) it seemed like such a big step to take – but you’ve made it seem far more realistic for me. I think I’ll have to take the plunge (Heh!) and go ahead and book myself a liveaboard week somewhere exotic.

    Thanks for the encouragement 🙂

    Reply

  16. What would you say is the maximum age for scuba diving? I’m 73 and went to the Calypso Diving School in Gozo once when I was 43.

    Reply

    1. Hi Hugh, there is not really any maximum age as long as you are fit and your doctor gives you full approval; have a look at what DAN says: http://www.daneurope.org/aging-diver

      Reply

  17. I admire your approach Florine. I am in my mid 50s and started diving again 7 years ago after a break of 15 years. I have a family but my 1-2 solo dive trips a year are great for my mental health and rejuvenating as well as the great full on diving experience that 3 weeks in a diving hotspot gives you.

    Reply

    1. Thank you Donald and thank you so much for sharing your experience.

      Reply

  18. Meltem (warrior_melty) August 10, 2018 at 9:10 pm

    Hi Florine, your blog gave me a lot of confidence. I turned 50 this year (OMG! this is the first time I am actually stating my age – usually I say I am forever 26 LOL!). I made a decision to take 3-months off work and go on a solo diving trip to Australia ([pass through Solomon island), Indonesia and Philippines. Currently, figuring out if I could squeeze Palau as well. Flight connections aren’t so good. Anyhow, I never traveled solo in my life. Only this year, I gave myself a birthday present – a week volunteering for the whales projects in the Azores. It was an odd feeling at the beginning but it was okay later. My husband is okay with me going alone that far and for that time.
    I loved your blog because it addressed some of my concerns. I love the fake wallet idea!
    I am a great itinerary planner so I am trusting my skills on that. But, not sure if I could be even more courageous to turn up somewhere and look for an accommodation.
    Diving is an expensive sport so I am not saving much there unless multi day packages are offered. I am trying to save from the flights by making myself flexible. As you mentioned, Skyscanner or google flights are really good to show cheaper rates. My current problem is that I want to do everything, ie, dive every dive site in bali or komodo or raja ampat. Then, I turn to convenience of bigger dive packages. Then I see their prices and get upset I cannot afford all that. For instance, if I don’t dive the banda islands am I missing a lot in Indonesia? such questions are giving me headaches.
    Anyhow (the second time!) thanks for helpful tips. It’s good to see there are other people who have been there and managed it so I should be okay, too.
    🙂

    Reply

    1. Hi! Thanks for stopping by and sharing your story! From what I can understand, you may have the symptoms of the FOMO (Fear of missing out). May I suggest digging into what slow travel means? You know it’s ok not to see everything. Seeing more doesn’t always translate into enjoying more. Stay longer where you can afford, feel good and have a good connection with people. Have a look at my blog post about the Izu Peninsula in Japan, I wrote about Slow Travel there and why I decided not to visit everything in Japan: https://worldadventuredivers.com/scuba-diving-izu-peninsula-japan/

      Reply

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