Going to pubs, clubs, and bars alone can be a challenge. But as a solo traveler, if you don't go, you can miss out on a lot. If your concern is safety or feeling a bit awkward, don't worry. Read on to learn how to do it right.
Whether it's the spontaneous play of local musicians in a Dublin pub or the incredible jazz in a Havana bar, the local music scene comes alive at night.
Large concerts tend to be expensive. However, seeing live music in a local club or pub is not only less expensive but also more personal. You get to enjoy the local culture as well as the music, possibly a local drink, and you might meet people.
To access the local music scene when you travel, ask around, find the local weekly entertainment publication, or check sources like Time Out.
I go out to more clubs and pubs on the road than I do at home. Here's how to travel solo and enjoy the nightlife. Here's how to go to a bar solo, be safe, and enjoy it.
Going to a Bar Alone: 12 Safety Tips
- Dress by local standards. Consider the culture you are in and dress conservatively by its standards. It is respectful and sends a positive message.
- Ensure someone knows where you're going. Before you go out, leave the details of your evening plans with someone responsible. That could be someone at your hotel or hostel or someone at home.
- Arrive early. Show up early so that you have your choice of where to sit.
- Take a seat at the bar. It's more social at the bar so you will have an opportunity to chat with people. Plus, you'll be sitting physically higher than most people in the room, giving you a good view for safety.
- Choose a seat with a good vantage point. Pubs often have bench seats with tables along adjacent walls creating an L shape. When going to a pub alone, sit on the short side of this “L”. It's like sitting at the head of a table. You are in a position of power and have access to more people for chatting.
- Don't carry a purse. Bring one credit card, some cash concealed in a different location, and ID, preferably a driver's license rather than your passport. Leave other money options and your passport securely at your accommodation.
- Never leave your drink unattended. If you leave to dance or for the restrooms, get a fresh drink when you return.
- Choose a safe person and connect. If there's a huge lineup outside a club and you're feeling a bit uneasy, find someone in line who looks really safe and approach them as if they are old friends. Yes, this means that you are butting into line, but it's for a good reason. Explain that you are alone and would like to join them just until you get inside and get your bearings. They'll understand that you need a bit of safety. Once inside, you can either make a graceful exit from them or discover you have made new friends.
- Notice where the exits are. If anything goes wrong, you want out fast.
- Choose who you want to talk to and go for it. By being proactive you prevent the wrong person from monopolizing your evening and you'll have a great time with the right people.
- Never drink too much. In fact, when going to a bar alone, drink far less than you would if you were at home. You want to have all your faculties about you to deal with any surprising situations.
- Leave as you arrived: alone. If you have made friends, how you exit the bar is important. However nice they may seem, don't accept a ride from them. Get a taxi. This may require leaving early or after them. You can also discreetly leave and ask for a taxi to be called so that when the offer does come you have other arrangements.
Go to a Bar Solo and Enjoy the Nightlife
Going to a bar alone when you're traveling solo can be a bit of a challenge. I always take a deep breath before entering because I really don't know what I'm walking into. The results can be very worth the effort.
Here are some tips to help you have fun.
- Manage expectations. Not every evening out at home is amazing and the same applies when you're traveling. Plan to have a nice night out just to see the scene. If the band is incredible or you meet some great people, it's a bonus.
- Make friends with your bartender or server. Ask how the night is going for them. Ask for drink recommendations. They'll notice that you're alone and take care of you in case of unwanted attention. Also, tip well.
- Go when it is not too busy. If the bar is crowded there will likely be groups of people partying. That's hard to break into. If you go when the bar is quieter, you have more of a chance to meet people and have a good time.
- Use your phone, but not right away. Be patient. Allow some time to pass so that you can see what opportunities arise. If none do, take out your phone for amusement. Watch reels or TikTok and laugh out loud. You will be more approachable if people see you having a good time.
- Start conversations. If someone else is on their phone they might be in the same situation. Use conversation openers to make a connection. Do not ask if they come here often. Too cliché. You can, however, ask about the history of the bar or the band that is playing.
- Dance. If everyone's dancing, get up there and enjoy yourself as well. Remember that saying about dancing like no one is watching? Going to a bar alone while traveling gives you the opportunity to dance where nobody knows you, so revel in the freedom.
- Watch a game. Are you a sports fan? Even if you're not a regular follower, it can be a lot of fun to join a group of people enjoying a match on a big screen in a pub. Bonus: it's a natural conversation-starter.
Two Short Tales of Going to Pubs, Clubs and Bars Solo
- The place: Havana.
- The club: La Casa del Musica.
- The tactic: I expected the afternoon show to be more tourist-focused. It was not and I felt unsure of what I was walking into. In a massive sea of locals I spotted three people who were obviously tourists. I approached them as old friends only to learn they were Hungarian, a language like no other. They understood that I just wanted the safety of numbers and allowed me to join them. Inside, I met their tour guide who taught me to salsa dance.
- The place: Ambleside in the Lake District of England
- The pub: The Unicorn
- The tactic: I arrived and found a spot at the short end of a long table. As people arrived, it was natural for the table to fill up. I met many hikers (walkers) that evening. I returned to the pub for a number of nights. By the third visit, I walked in like a local.
If going to a bar alone is really not your thing, here are 7 more ideas for ways to spend an evening when traveling solo.