Traveling solo? Great! 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 more recent posts with detail on specific subjects.
Before you Leave to Travel Alone
1. 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.
2. Know your budget.
3. 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
Buy travel insurance. Think you don’t need it? Think again; Insurance might save your life.
Book solo-friendly accommodation. Book a homestay, hotel, hostel, B&B or small inn that is particularly good for solo travelers.
Adapt to Your Destination
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. Stay low-key. Don’t flash jewellery or expensive cameras and electronics. Be discreet to avoid unwanted attention.
Travel Alone But Not Lonely
1. Smile. It means the same things in every language. It means you are happy, friendly, approachable, kind. A smile opens many conversations.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. Be curious. Ask questions and conversations begin.
9. 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.
1. Become a regular. Dine in the same place regularly so that you become friendly with the staff.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. Take a book. It will not only occupy you but also signal to other solos that you travel alone.
1. Get oriented. A Hop On, Hop Off tour is great if you’re short on time or want to get an overview of the city before you dig into its specifics.
2. Walk! There is no better way to get to know a city and understand its culture than walking. It slows you down so that you can see the nuances of the society and understand how the city is designed.
3. Take local transit. If you are going to a non-English speaking country, research how the system works before you get there or ask at your hotel before you head out. Also, look for passes and special deals for tourists.
4. Travel between destinations. Whether you choose the train, bus, or plane, live within the limits of a carry-on bag or backpack. You’ll be happy you did as you manage to move around from destination to destination with greater ease.
Travel Alone and Go Out at Night
Some people are concerned about going out at night alone. It’s such a shame as it can be a great time. Before getting on to what to do at night, I want to mention a few safety tips on how to go out at night.
1. Plan your transportation wisely. If it’s light out when you go you likely won’t need a taxi to get there but traveling by taxi back when it’s dark is advisable.
2. Confirm that it’s safe. Before leaving, ask your concierge or the desk clerk whether the place you’re planning to go to is fun and safe.
3. Stay sober. Drink very responsibly so that you have your wits about you.
4. Leave a note. In your hotel room leave a note as to where you’ve gone and when you expect to be back.
5. Connect with the staff. Chat with the bartender or your server. They’ll have your back.
6. Be a bit coy. If a conversation starts, introduce yourself with your first name only. Leave by yourself and by taxi and don’t tell people where you’re staying.
7. Keep your valuables safe. Know where your purse is – or better yet, don’t carry one.