You get to do what you want when you want. You can connect with people if you wish or avoid them completely if you want to be alone. When you travel alone, you travel on your terms. Here are some tips to help you travel alone and love it with references to additional articles with detail on specific subjects.
Table of Contents
Travel Alone and Love It: Before You Leave
- Save up. Isn’t it great to return from a trip and know that it’s fully paid for rather than having to catch up financially after the fact? Save up for your trip before you go. Enjoy the delayed gratification. And be ready to start saving for the next trip as soon as you return. Read How to Save Money for Travel.
- Know your budget. There are a few steps involved in planning your travel budget. Read: How to Plan Your Solo Travel Budget – on Any Budget
- Decide on your destination. Maybe you have a dream destination or maybe you just need to get away and the destination doesn’t matter that much. Here are some sources for your destination planning.
- Check out our Destination section with hundreds of recommendations written by other solo travelers.
- Consider a destination where you can stay put in terms of your accommodation but have a good variety of day excursions. This way you save money and get to know the locals.
- Take a tour. The Solo Travel Deals page has tours specifically for solo travelers.
- Is money an issue? Read How to Save on Shoulder Season Travel: Top Tips and When Travel is the Goal not Destination.
- Buy travel insurance. Think you don’t need it? Think again. Read Do I Need Travel Insurance? Top Bloggers from 6 Countries Respond. In the introduction I point out the many times travel insurance has saved me. This post also lets you know what insurance is recommended by country and what to look for in insurance, including things like your insurance company covering the cost of getting someone to your bedside should you end up in hospital when traveling alone.
- Book solo-friendly accommodation. Book a homestay, hotel, hostel, B&B or small inn that is particularly good for solo travelers. How do you find them? Check out the Solo Traveler Accommodation Guide which has been compiled with the help of readers.
- Pack light. This is one of our most popular posts and one I go to when preparing for every trip: Bare Minimum Packing. If you’re going someplace where you’ll want to be a bit more fashionable, read: Bare Minimum Packing: Urban and Luxury Travel
- Know how you’ll stay in touch. Read Use Your Phone Anywhere in the World: Free and Low-cost Options
- Protect your identity on the road. If you’re going to be using public WiFi on your travels or if you expect you’ll need to do some online banking or use your credit card, it’s advisable to use a VPN. Read VPN for Travel: What, Why and an Easy Setup Guide. Here’s one occasion when my VPN really helped: Eek! I Lost My Credit Card
Adapt to Your Destination
- 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.
- 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. It would be a strange occurrence for you to choose to ask the wrong person for information, so go ahead, smile, and ask for help.
- 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 safely.
- Stay low-key. Don’t flash jewellery or expensive cameras and electronics. Be discreet to avoid unwanted attention.
Travel Alone But Not Lonely
- 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.
- 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. Choose a hostel or a B&B. Such places have common rooms and are great places to meet people.
- 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 to watch for you.
- 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 Global Greeters Network.
- Be curious. Ask questions and conversations begin.
- Go far 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 and Enjoy It
Dinner can be one of the most difficult times for the solo traveler. Here’s how to enjoy eating alone.
- Become a regular. Dine in the same place regularly so that you become friendly with the staff.
- Take your restaurant meal at noon. If you want to dine at a fine restaurant, do so at noon. It’s the same executive chef and quality of food but the prices are lower, the lights are higher, and the crowd less romantic.
- Eat at the bar or a communal table. A table for two or four leaves no opportunity for a solo traveler to be social. Eat at the bar or in a restaurant with communal tables and you could be mixing with the locals in no time.
- 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. It will not only occupy you but also signal to other solos that you travel alone.