What can a person do at night when traveling alone?
That's the question I received from ST reader Frances. The subject line of the email was “Tips for non-drinking solo travelers”. In her email she was particularly interested in what to do at night when traveling alone. If going to a bar is for you, please read 18 Tips for Going to a Bar Alone.
During the day, being alone is not unusual. But at night, it seems that everyone, travelers and locals, is going out with friends and having a good time.
Fortunately, solo travelers do not have to be left out of nighttime fun. There are many options and I've had many great evenings out alone. Also read Night Safety for Solo Travelers: How to Have Fun and Be Safe.
1. The right accommodation provides night entertainment for solo travelers.
I often stay at hostels or small hotels. I look for accommodation that is social and this usually doesn't mean large hotels. The social nature of B&Bs, hostels, and boutique hotels often presents opportunities for entertaining evenings.
- In Paris, I stayed at St. Christopher’s Inn Canal. This hostel, like many others, makes sure that they have an entertaining evening a few times each week. Whether it's music, trivia, or simply sitting in the hostel's cafe/bar amongst other travelers, a hostel is a natural place for a great evening.
- In India, I rarely went out at night. I usually had dinner and then went back to my small hotel. But many hotels have rooftop restaurants that are quite good. These restaurants often present great opportunities for meeting people and enjoying each others' travel tales.
- On my trip to Chile, I traveled to Patagonia via the Navimag ferry. I speak very little Spanish–just a few phrases, really. 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.
My point is that great evenings often materialize based on your accommodation. Choose a social environment and you likely won't be bored.
2. Travel alone and join new friends for a dinner out.
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. Whether they are solo travelers or not, they may be interesting people to share an evening meal with. As you do, please keep in mind our safety advice, including The Fundamentals for Safe Travel.
- In Kauai, I met people at the hostel. On a couple of occasions we walked down to the food trucks, which were about 500 meters away, then sat and ate our meals on the beach.
- In Takayama, Japan I met a couple at the ryokan where I was staying. We went out for dinner and spent half the night chatting.
- In Bologna, I met a couple at Cineteca di Bologna where English movies are sometimes shown. I was then invited to join them for dinner. It was lovely.
3. Go to the opera or symphony.
There is no need to know the language when you go to the opera or symphony. But, 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. Enjoy mingling with locals doing what locals do.
4. Eat with a local.
There are many sites on which you can connect with locals to buy a dinner at their home. Chefs and culinary enthusiasts open their homes to travelers for a taste of excellent local fare. It's a fabulous way to spend a night when traveling alone! I did this with VoulezVousDiner which has since been bought by eatwith.com. Search “dine with locals” and you'll find many options.
5. Try a meetup.
Check out meetup.com for public evening events on just about any theme you can imagine. You'll meet people with similar interests who will likely also have interesting recommendations for your visit to their city. In Bordeaux, France I went to a number of meetups for people practicing French, English, and Spanish.
6. Catch a flick.
While the film itself may be wonderful, there's even more that is interesting about going to the cinema in a different country. It's a fun and easy activity to do at night when traveling alone. Seeing what a movie theater looks like, what filmgoers eat and drink, and how people respond can be fascinating. Depending where you live and where you are traveling, you may get to see something that has not (or might never) become available at home. If you happen to stumble upon a film festival, even better!
7. Find a communal dining opportunity.
Look for restaurants with communal tables to have a more social evening meal. They're becoming quite popular. Dinner theaters and dinner cruises also offer communal dining as they can't afford to have only one person at a table. The event host makes the introductions and you enjoy the company or other travelers. To learn more, read Eating Alone Is Easy When You Know How.
8. Go clubbing solo.
Jazz, blues, rock, country, and folk are all music forms you can find in small, comfortable venues. Keep an eye out for a concert that could be right in your area. This happened to me a quite a few years back. Quite by surprise, I ended up seeing BB King in a small night club in Redondo Beach. See 18 Tips for Going to a Bar Alone.
9. Join a tour at night when traveling alone.
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 that will get you out in the evening safely. Tracey still talks about a moonlight trolley tour of monuments she took in Washington, DC years ago. Night tours really allow you to see a city in a different way, solo but not alone.
10. Go for a walk.
Some cities are great for walking at night. Of course, you have to be careful about where you walk but I have enjoyed walking in both London and Paris, seeing the city lit up and enjoying the energy of the people out and about. It's a great way to spend an evening.
11. Go 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. Front desk staff at your hotel, hostel, or B&B can probably help you with this.
12. Go to museums when they are open late.
In some cities on some days museums are open later, to 8:00 pm, for example. Watch for the hours and build your museum time into your evening. It can also be a great place to strike up a conversation with a fellow art-lover.
13. Enjoy some quiet time at night when traveling alone.
Travel can be tiring. Take some quiet time to chill, read a book, do yoga (either on your own or join a class), or any other activity you find relaxing. In Italy and France, where it's typical to be outdoors in the evening, I found that going out to a patio cafe or restaurant for an evening tea was a great way to end the day.