A reader request…
What can a solo traveler do at night if they don't like the bar scene?
That, essentially, was the question I received in an email from ST reader, Frances. The subject line of the email: “Tips for non-drinking solo travelers”.
So the challenge is first, what to do at night? And secondly, what to do at night if you don't want to go to a bar – even a quiet jazz club.
Let's start with some of my own experiences and then I'll give you seven suggestions.
Sometimes a solo traveler's evening just happens
One of the things about traveling to a country where you don't know the language is that you are likely to meet other travelers who share your language – especially if you speak English.
A short case in point: I was at a hostel in Vienna in 1985 when I met a woman from Israel and another from Australia. We all spoke English but, in addition I had some French, the Israeli had Hebrew and the Australian had some German. We ended up traveling to Budapest together for a few days. The four languages we had between us were no match for Hungarian but we had each other for entertainment.
Yes, other travelers are often a source of evening fun.
- On my trip to Chile I traveled to Patagonia via the Navimag ferry. I have very, very little Spanish – just a few phrases really. But on the ferry there were about 100 people from all over the world and we were together for three nights. I never knew what the evening would offer but conversation and fun always arose, in several languages including English.
- In Paris this past November I stayed at St. Christopher’s Inn Canal. This hostel makes sure that they have an entertaining evening at least three times per week. Whether it was trivia or an open mic, sitting in the cafe/bar (that is also the breakfast room in the morning) amongst other travelers made for a great evening.
- In India I didn't go out at night. It was usually dinner and then back to my hotel. But many hotels have rooftop restaurants that aren't too bad. Eating at one often resulted in meeting people and enjoying each others' travel tales.
My point is that evenings often materialize based on your accommodation. Choose a social environment and you likely won't be bored.
However, that doesn't solve the issue of what to do at your destination at night. For that, look at the following seven tips.
7 great things to do at night when traveling alone.
- Go communal dining. Look for restaurants with communal tables. They're becoming quite popular. I wrote about them Solo dining? Try restaurants with communal tables. For a bit on the history of communal tables and communal table etiquette read The Etiquette of Communal Tables. Though communal tables have become common, finding them can be a challenge. A search on Chowhound.com generally produces results.
- Go to the opera or symphony. I have been to more “highbrow” events traveling that I have at home. For me, the music is secondary to the venue and the scene. Concert halls tend to be spectacular and the people in attendance are often a spectacle unto themselves. Plus there is no need to know the language to enjoy the performance.
- Connect with a local. Voulez Vous Diner is the only site I've used but there are many where you can connect with locals to buy a dinner at their house our simply make friends for an evening. You can also join couchsurfing.org as the community side of the couchsurfing is about about making visitors feel welcome.
- Try a Meetup. Check out meetup.com for public evening events on just about any theme you can imagine. You'll meet people who have similar interests who will likely also have interesting recommendations for your visit to their city.
- Go for a walk. Some cities are great for walking at night. Of course, youhave to be careful of where you walk but I enjoyed walking in both London and Paris, seeing the city lit up, enjoying the energy of the people out and about – it's a great way to spend an evening.
- Go to where the action is. Whether it's a night street market or a local festival, check out what's going on in terms of public events and watch the locals in action. The person at the front desk of your hotel, hostel or B&B can probably help you with this.
- Join a night tour. Many cities have evening tours whether it's a cruise along a waterway or a walking tour of a ghostly area, there are many themed night tours around the world.