Traveling alone delivers access to the world in ways that other forms of travel don't. It is a must mode of travel, at least some of the time.
However, not everyone takes to it naturally. Some worry about traveling solo. There are concerns of loneliness, safety and more.
While we have hundreds of articles on the site that get into the details of how to travel solo, here, in one place, is the ultimate guide for those who want to travel alone. The tips in this post will help you have the best experience possible.
They will help you travel alone and love it.
Why You Will Love Solo Travel
When you travel alone, you travel on your terms. You get to do what you want when you want. You can connect with people if you wish or avoid them completely. Those are the obvious benefits for going solo as a traveler.
But there are many benefits of solo travel that affect your whole life. The experience encourages you to stretch and grow as a person. You gain confidence and get better at problem solving. You understand yourself better, become more independent and become a more interesting person.
For more, read Why Travel Solo? It’s Not Just about the Trip.
Now, let's get on to the ultimate solo travel guide.
Travel Alone Tips: How to Love the Solo Travel Experience
Let's get into the experience of traveling alone.
For some people, enjoying a solo trip comes naturally. Others have to work at how to travel alone. Most who do, fall in love with it. Here are a few things you can do to ensure a great solo adventure.
- Visualize the trip you want. Start thinking about the opportunities that are present when you travel alone long before you leave. Is it down time you really want? Build that into the plan. Are you after a creative travel experience? Research the opportunities before you go and then dream on them until you get there.
- Gather as much first hand knowledge you can before you go. Talk to people who have already gone to your destination. Use your social network to find people.
- Learn to chat with strangers. Starting conversations with strangers can be a challenge, especially when you're an introvert like I am. However, these conversations can be trip-changing, if not life-changing. There are many skills that can be developed for this and, what I have certainly found, is that you are never too old to learn them.
- Tap the experience of the people you meet. As a solo traveler, you'll meet more travelers and locals than those who travel with a partner. Ask a traveler about the best thing they've done so far or a local for the best hidden gem restaurant in the area. The people you meet and the advice they offer will greatly enrich your trip.
- Be flexible. When suggestions or opportunities arise from these chance encounters, be flexible enough to act on them. There are times when flexibility must reign and the schedule should be thrown away.
- Don't over-plan. It is only by having extra time in your itinerary that you can spend a little more of it at the market, linger over a coffee at an outdoor café, or take that trip into the mountains you hadn't considered.
- Be patient. It can be difficult arriving in a new city alone. Take your time. Take a day to relax, watch the city function, and settle in. Read Tips for Solo Travel Confidence.
- Explore the city at different levels. In London, it's natural to take the Tube. However, riding on the top of a double-decker bus gives you another perspective on the city. But you still wouldn't want to miss the Tube as it's an experience unto itself. My point is, explore the city in as many ways as possible: on foot, by bicycle, via public transit. Take a taxi and talk to the driver. Rent a car and learn what it's like to park or drive on the opposite side of the road. Every mode of movement offers new perspectives.
- Take in local events. Whether it's a street festival or sporting event, these are opportunities to rub shoulders with locals, offering insight into the culture and, potentially, fun conversations.
- Be proactive if you’re unsure of yourself. Ask for help. Standing around looking dazed will not get you where you want to go and it may get you noticed by the wrong people. Go ahead, smile, and ask for help. It's one of the fundamentals of staying safe as you travel solo.
- Eat locally! There is nothing like exploring the local cuisine. It gives you a new way into your destination's culture, history, and geography. There is always a reason, historical or geographic, for a specific cuisine that can be explored through your taste buds and your mind.
- Shop where the locals shop. Are you into home renovations? Then a hardware store in another country could be quite interesting. Are you a foodie? Go to the grocery store or the street where all the specialty vendors are located. Are you into fashion or interior decorating? Again, explore (you don't have to buy) where the locals shop.
- Know which way is up. Study a map of your destination. Get to know it. Get a sense of direction using major landmarks like Central Park in New York City or the CN Tower in Toronto. This will help you explore cities happily, with greater confidence. Read How to Navigate a New City Solo.
- Find people who share your passion. Whether it's chess or poetry or badminton or books, there will be hubs or groups that share your passion at your destination. Google search or find them on meetup.com. What a great way to combine your love of travel with your love of other things.
- Take day tours and classes. When you punctuate your independent trip with city tours, cooking classes and the like, you create ways to better experience your destination and spend some social time.
- Plan for great evenings out. Just because you're traveling solo doesn't mean you have to stay in at night with a book. There are many options for things to do in the evening. If you're in a country where you don't speak the language, music is a good bet. Read Night Safety for Solo Travelers: 17 Tips and What to Do at Night When Traveling Alone.
How to Meet People when You Travel Alone
As you travel solo you can have as much alone time as you want. But what many people don't realize is that you can have a lot of really social time as well.
The travel stories I tell most often are about the people I meet on my trips. It's rarely the iconic building I saw or the museum exhibit I took in that lingers strongly in my memories. It's the people who I met that stay with me the longest.
So, how do you connect with people on your trip? Here are a few tips.
- Smile. It means the same things in every language. It means you are happy, friendly, approachable, kind. A smile opens many conversations.
- Learn a few words in the local language. Making an effort to communicate in the local language is always appreciated and often returned with an effort to communicate in your language. Given that English is often the second language that people learn, you will find many locals wanting to chat with you.
- Go to a local, independent coffee shop. Look for coffee shops with large communal tables or coffee bars along the window and sit near someone. I've often had great conversations with locals by positioning myself in this way.
- Stay at places that encourage talking. I think that hostels and B&Bs are the ideal accommodation for those who travel alone. With fewer guests and the proprietor often onsite, common rooms and communal dining rooms, they make for more opportunities to connect with others.
- Read a book that makes you laugh out loud. Take a book that makes you laugh out loud and hold it so that people can see that you are reading in English. This often attracts people for a brief chat. In Havana I was reading Happiness by Will Ferguson and it got me into a few conversations.
- Establish a routine. Visit the same café, fruit stall, or restaurant every day. You’ll get to know the people and they'll start watching out for you. New friends are made this way.
- Take day tours. In Paris I met a woman on a free walking tour. It started to rain so we cut out and went for lunch together. Yes, meet people on tours and you might end up with a friend to enjoy a meal with or another day of exploring. Check out Greeters International.
- Be curious. Ask questions and conversations begin.
- Go off the beaten path. Travelers who find each other where there are few tourists are more inclined to talk to each other. Meet someone on a hike or in a specific museum and you already know that you have an interest in common.
Eat Alone (or Not) and Enjoy It
While many people don't understand why, the fact remains, dinner can be one of the more difficult times for those traveling alone. Here are a few options.
- Become a regular. Dine in the same place regularly and you'll become friendly with the staff. I'm not suggesting that you only go to one restaurant. After all, experiencing a culture's food requires variety. But, if you can, take one meal a day in the same spot and you'll find more than friends, you'll find a comfort zone.
- Take your restaurant meal at noon. Restaurants run by celebrity chefs are great attractions for some solo travelers. If you want to dine at a fine restaurant, consider doing so at noon. It's the same chef and quality of food but it's usually easier to get a reservation, the prices are typically lower, the lights are higher, and the crowd less romantic.
- Eat at the bar or a communal table. Sitting at a table alone leaves no opportunity for a solo traveler to be social. It can also feel like you have a spotlight on you. I ate at one restaurant that had a line of two-person tables down the middle. They were all empty except the one I was seated at. I really felt like I stuck out with all the couples and foursomes at tables around the perimeter. I have learned to speak up in such situations. More importantly, I've learned to scout restaurants that have a great bar or communal tables so that I can chat with others.
- Be obvious. Place your camera, travel guide, or map on the table, making it obvious that you're a tourist. Some people are concerned about looking like a tourist and therefore looking like a mark. In a restaurant there is a certain amount of safety. Yes, you should still be discerning in who you talk with but in most cases the person will be not only safe but also interesting.
- Take a book. This is a classic. A book will not only occupy you but also signal to other solos that you are there alone. You just might get a companion for the meal.
- For many more ideas read Eating Alone Is Easy When You Know How.
What If You Don't Love Solo Travel?
Let's face it, not everyone likes the same thing. Some people will travel alone and, for one reason or another, not enjoy it.
The first thing I suggest is that you be patient. You're not going to find your solo travel groove on the first day of your first trip. You need to give yourself some time to settle into your destination and apply some of the many travel alone tips above.
If, then, you're still not loving it, read What If You Travel and You Don’t Love It? and the advice of other solo travelers in When You’re Feeling Overwhelmed: 43 Tips for Traveling Alone.
Resources for Planning Your Solo Trip
Here are a few posts to explore to help you plan your best solo trip.
- How to Save Money for Travel.
- How to Plan Your Solo Travel Budget – on Any Budget.
- Best Solo Travel Destinations: All Solo Traveler-Tested.
- Our list of tours for solo travelers.
- Going Alone? Travel Insurance for Solo Travelers.
- Best Accommodation for Solo Travelers.
- Feeling the Pinch? Solo Travelers Save Money at The Airport
- How to Get Through an Airport by Yourself
- Bare Minimum Packing.
- Checked Baggage: Top Planning and Packing Tips.
- VPN for Travel: What, Why and an Easy Setup Guide.
- A Road Trip Alone: Top 10 Tips to Prepare