Don’t know anyone who wants to visit the same places as you?
Did your travel buddy change their plans at the last minute? Not a problem! Solo travel is both one of life’s most rewarding and most challenging experiences.
If you’re looking to step out of your comfort zone, use these handy tips to start planning your next solo adventure and visit those places you’ve always wanted to see.
Pack a book
A large part of ‘solo travel anxiety’ stems from wondering what other people think of you. You need to get some lunch, but would look you strange eating at a restaurant by yourself? Keeping a book or a travel diary handy is a great way to keep yourself occupied in these kinds of situations. Whenever you ever feel bored or self-conscious in a public space, simply whip out a paperback to distract yourself and focus on the pages in front of you. What’s more, people reading books or writing in journals generally appear more approachable than those who are engrossed in their smartphones.
Look for casual dining
On a related note, it’s worth thinking about where you choose to eat. Dining without a companion can be daunting to anyone, not just inexperienced travellers. Fortunately, enjoying a meal by yourself is something that becomes a lot easier with practice. To start, choose a cafe with window seats or an outdoor seating area where you can relax and watch the world go by. If dining at a bar or restaurant, take a seat at the bar or a communal table rather than occupying a table for one. If your waiter seems friendly, don’t pass up the opportunity to get chatting – there’s a good chance they’ll have lots of local knowledge and advice to share.
A quick internet search will uncover loads of valuable resources for finding people and events that suit your interests while travelling. Organisations such as Meetup host thousands of different events around the world, from bar crawls and photography walks to movie screenings and social sporting events. Cooking classes, language classes and workshops are another great way to learn a new skill while meeting like-minded people. Don’t worry if you haven’t found your niche, though – you can just as easily join a walking tour of the city to meet other travellers while seeing the sites. Two birds, one stone!
Choose hostels over hotels
Travelling solo doesn’t have to mean staying on your own. Hotels might be a fine choice when travelling in a group or as a couple, but they should generally be avoided if you’re a solo traveller looking to make new friends. Instead, book a bed in a hostel dormitory; with shared rooms and common areas for socialising, you’re practically guaranteed to meet fun people with similar interests. Remember to check the reception area for announcements about upcoming tours or social events. If hostels aren’t your scene, you can also meet friendly locals in a low-pressure setting by using platforms such as Couchsurfing and AirBnb.
Learn the local language
While it can be fun to travel in a group, sticking with familiar faces is the easiest way to miss out on your destination’s local charm. Fortunately, travelling on your own means you’re much more likely to interact with locals and get a genuine feel of the places you’re visiting. If you’re travelling to a country where most people speak a language different to your own, make an effort to learn at least a few key words and phrases before you set off. Not only is this Travel Etiquette 101, but it’ll also allow you to enjoy a whole range of experiences that simply wouldn’t be possible without a little back-and-forth.
Be travel smart
Despite the many benefits of solo travel, tourists who travel without a companion can be more vulnerable to things like scams, uncomfortable confrontations, and even health scares. Be aware of local scams, don’t leave your drinks unattended in bars, and always pay attention to your surroundings—especially in large cities and at night. Do some research ahead of time to get an idea of what you should be paying for taxi fares, souvenirs and guided tours to avoid getting ripped off.
Having said that, one of the best things about solo travel is being able to go with the flow and open yourself up to new experiences. It’s a curious thing that single travellers seem to attract the kindness of strangers; you could easily find yourself being invited to a local family’s house for dinner, or being recruited into drinking with a group of exuberant businessmen. Of course, it still pays to be wise and weigh the risks of each situation, but these kinds of unexpected encounters can easily become a highlight of your trip. Just remember to keep your eyes – as well as your mind – open.
Once you’ve decided to travel by yourself, there’s nothing to stop you from seeing and doing absolutely everything you want to. Whether you’re a creator of careful itineraries or a spontaneous spirit who lives on the fly, some of the best experiences are reserved for those who travel solo.