Solo travel is growing in popularity these days, and for quite a few years now it has been my favourite way of travel. In this post, I’ll share why and how you can travel on your own.
Solo travel has many benefits. I value freedom and independence (that’s probably why I travel so much) and solo travel gives me just that.
Being free to choose the dates of my trips, the destinations I go to and what I do throughout the day is priceless.
But being a solo traveller doesn’t mean I’m actually on my own during my trips. In fact it is rare that I spend a single day on my own.
There are many ways to meet people when you travel, while staying independent. Keeping this balance makes for a happy traveller 🙂
Overcome Your Fear of Solo Travel
I realise that for many travellers, especially female travellers, the idea of solo travel sounds daunting.
Honestly, there’s absolutely no need to give up on your travel dreams.
If you can’t find someone to travel with, that is not a reason not to travel. If you wait till someone is available to travel with you, you just might miss out on so many adventures…
As vlogger Allison Anderson put it: “That’s when it hit me: If I do not go to these places by myself, I will never go at all.”
Are Solo Travellers Lonely?
The main fear related to solo travel is that of loneliness.
This is a myth worth dispelling. Solo travel doesn’t mean lonely travel.
There are a lot of ways to meet people when you travel (I’ll give you specific tips later in this post) and in general when you go on a trip on your own, you’re often much more open to meeting new people and making new friends.
This happens naturally, sometimes you won’t even notice it until later.
You will find yourself sharing meals and drinks with strangers, chatting to random people on the train or going out at night to party with locals you’ve just met.
Is It Difficult to Plan a Solo Trip?
Another fear or worry people have about solo travel has to do with the planning and budgeting side of it.
Planning trips is an acquired skill and if you love travelling, you want to learn how to do it whether you travel alone or with other people.
It is a learnable skill and all the info you need is readily available.
If you want to travel solo but are worried about planning a trip on your own, start with these guides that cover the basics:
What about Safety? Is Solo Travel Safe?
Personal safety and security are also issues that deter many people, especially women, from travelling solo.
I myself haven’t been to several countries that seem fascinating, because I’ve heard too many stories about them that scared me off.
Not all destinations are ideal for solo travel, of course, but finding out which places are not safe is very easy these days.
It’s quite common to see questions like “Is destination x safe for female solo travellers?” on Facebook travel groups, Quora or TripAdvisor forums.
You can search to see if your question has already been answered, or ask away and you will get answers from locals and travellers.
From my experience as a female solo travellers, travelling alone in Europe is generally quite easy.
Still, for each and every place you plan to go to, you want to ask some essential questions.
Questions to consider:
- What is the crime rate like? You can easily find the stats just by Googling the question.
- Are there any warnings about the region that you should take into account? There may be political unrest, or perhaps a general election coming up that might cause some turmoil. It’s worth knowing about these in advance.
- What are the no-go areas in the city? Some cities have districts that are best avoided after dark. Ask on travel groups and mark those on your map.
- Are there religious practices to consider? I put this tip under the title of Safety Issues, because it may affect your safety. If you’re a female solo traveller, check whether you’ll be expected to cover yourself up. Modesty is taken seriously in some places, and whether you agree with that or not, it’s best for your own safety to comply.
Top Tips for Solo Travel
If you’re wondering how to travel alone for the first time or how to improve your experience as a solo traveller, here are my tips.
Join a Group Tour
This is probably the simplest way to ease into solo travel, if the style is new to you.
It’s not at all uncommon to go on a group tour for people who want to travel and can’t find partners, as their friends are too busy, can’t afford to travel or simply don’t want to.
Interpid Travel say on their website that over 50% of travellers on their trips are travelling solo.
The idea behind joining a group where over 50% of the other travellers are also travelling solo, is that you can make friends along the way.
It’s ever so easy in a small group. It’s easy because you’re hanging out with people you already have something in common with, and you’re sharing experiences every day.
If you’re new to solo travel and have safety concerns, a group tour will definitely feel safer.
You can also plan your solo trip around some main activities, so you’d be in the company of like-minded people. For example:
- Go on a yoga retreat
- Take a cycling holiday
- Join a surf camp
If you don’t join a group tour and want to go solo, read on – there are other options.
Look for Accommodation Where You Can Meet People
Meeting people is easiest when you live with them or next door to them.
When you travel solo, you can stay independent and find people to hang out with.
This means you get to choose when to spend time on your own and when to socialise.
Hostels: A Great Way To Meet People
Known as a popular way to meet people, hostels normally have a lounge, bar, TV room or other common spaces where you can easily meet other travellers.
Some hostels offer single rooms, so you can keep your privacy while enjoying the benefits of the common spaces, or you can go for a shared room if you prefer.
Stay with Locals
One of the easiest ways to meet locals is to simply stay with them.
When you search for accommodation on Airbnb, you can select “Private room” and see results only for rooms in people’s houses.
This will not always mean that your hosts will necessarily be willing to hang out with you. In my experience, some do and some don’t, so you may need to check their profile and references to see how prone to socialising they are.
People who are willing to host guests at their home through CouchSurfing (and similar hospitality exchange communities) are often keen on getting to know their guests.
In my experience, they will not just host you, but will often show you around, take you out in the evening, introduce you to their friends and generally make you feel at home in a foreign city.
I have spent many of my solo travel years surfing couches, and though I’ve been travelling alone, I’ve never been lonely.
More Ways To Meet People When You Travel Solo
Living with people isn’t for everyone. Sometimes when you travel solo you really need your own private space, be it a hotel room or a studio flat on Airbnb etc.
However, you can keep your social life fresh and active by going out to local events to mix with locals and other travellers.
Go on a Guided Tour
This is one of the easiest ways to meet people. Most cities offer guided walking tours that you can join.
I like to go on a walking tour on my first or second day in a new city.
It gives you a nice overview of the main attractions, and then you can pick and choose what you want to explore further on the coming days.
The best sites for finding guided tours are:
It is very easy to talk to anyone on guided tours.
In big cities you may find yourself walking around the city for a couple of hours in a groups of about 20 people (sometimes even more if it’s high season).
There are a lot of gaps between one stop and the next, when you basically just follow the guide.
These are great opportunities to chat to anyone in the group.
In most of these tours there’ll be an introductory round at the beginning when everyone says their name and where they’re from and perhaps some other bits of info. This makes it even easier to start a conversation later on.
Since most people on these tours are travelling as well, it’s a good idea to make plans for later with the ones you chat with, say to go out for dinner or visit a museum or anything else you’d like to do. Sometimes I just find myself walking around the city with someone I met on a tour.
Language Exchange Meetings
These meetings are ideal for meeting people from all over the world.
Even if you’re not learning a language right now, there will probably be people at the meeting who want to practice their English.
I say it’s an ideal way to meet people because the whole purpose of a language exchange meeting is to talk to people.
It isn’t awkward to join a group of people who are already in the middle of a conversation at meetings like this – this is actually what you’re expected to do!
You can move between different groups throughout the evening, or stay with those you enjoy talking to most. It’s all very easy going and very friendly.
It’s both easier and much more interesting to talk to people when you already know that you have something in common.
Look for events around your interests on sites like Meetup or on local Facebook groups. You might even come across a solo traveller meetup!
Keep in Touch with People Back Home
It is so ridiculously easy these days to keep in touch.
Use Whatsapp, Skype, Facebook Messenger etc. to make free calls and video chats with family and friends. It’s free, so you can do it on a daily basis!
I normally get a local sim card with a nice data plan when I travel, so I can stay connected anywhere.
If your home mobile provider offers good rates for roaming, then you may not have to buy a local sim. You can also find free wifi in many places and use to make calls or chat.
Another tip: Let people back home know the details of your trip, the addresses you will stay at and the dates of your flights etc. just to be on the safe side.
Use Online Travel Groups
There’s a wealth of information in Facebook travel groups.
You can easily resolve any doubts or fears you may have about solo travel by asking anything you need to know on these groups.
These are usually warm and welcoming groups that keep a positive vibe.
Chatting to locals or to other travellers in your destination will give you the encouragement you need and also help you meet more people when you travel.
Books on Solo Travel
These books on solo travel will give you more information and advice, but most of all will encourage and empower you to take the leap and travel solo:
The Solo Travel Handbook by Lonely Planet: This book has some good tips, but its mostly useful in giving you confidence to travel solo.
The Solo Traveler’s Handbook: A practical guide planning a solo trip, packing, safety etc., with real life stories about solo travel.
101 Ways to Rock Solo Female Travel – Tips & tricks to make solo travel more fun and a truly empowering experience. Aimed at solo female travellers, but guys will find useful tips in it too.
Solo Travel: Try It At Least Once: Diary of a Traveling Black Woman: A Guide to International Travel. Tips and advice on all aspects of solo travel from the perspective of a black woman.
The Solo Female Travel Book: Tips and Inspiration for Women Who Want to See the World on Their Own Terms – A female empowerment solo travel guide full of tips and stories.
Travel for STOICs – Empowering the Solo Traveler Who is Obsessive, Introverted, and Compulsive: Taking the anxiety out of solo travel with some ancient philosophy.
Listen To Yourself
This last tip is a bit different.
There may be many reason for you to choose to travel solo – maybe your friends back home have demanding jobs and can’t take time off, or you don’t want to risk your friendships, or your friends can’t afford to go away when you want to go.
But beyond all that, there may be a more profound reason.
Solo travel is also an incredible opportunity for self development.
Facing challenges by yourself teaches you what you’re capable of, and that is such a valuable lesson.
Being away from everyone you know and thus away from many social expectations that rule your day to day life back home, gives you a chance for some introspection.
Away from your ordinary life and the environment you’re used to, you will get the rare opportunity to gain clarity.
You may find yourself thinking about your life, what you want it to look like, how you feel about the way things are.
Your observations might surprise you.
I always write down any insights I get in this process. They sometimes appear just a few days into my solo trip, and sometime after a couple of months of travelling. Then I read them again when I get home.
Be prepared to learn new things about yourself.