Solo travel is great. It is a time you can truly focus on yourself. You can be selfish and do whatever you want, when you want without having to consider anyone else. Travelling to a new place on your own can be daunting and scary, and there are always at least some nerves when setting off on your own. However, travelling solo is uplifting and empowering, especially as a solo female traveller.
But, along with the good must come the bad. And this is a list of things that I found more awkward or difficult because I was travelling solo. Do you relate to any of these or do you find other obstacles as a solo traveller? I’d love to hear from you in the comments or by email.
SOLO TRAVEL – TOILET ISSUES
For me, I have most problems when I really need to use the toilet but I don’t really want to have to buy a drink or food to do so, not all the time anyway. I never seem to be able to find public toilets when I need one. You can read an abnormally long post on the subject here, as long as you aren’t eating at the time. Also if you are waiting in a queue or have a seat in a waiting area and you need to go to the toilet you are likely to lose your spot – as well as having to lug all your belongings into the toilet with you. This can be such a frustrating aspect of travelling alone. How do you cope with it?
SOLO TRAVEL – DINING ALONE
Eating out alone can be a dilemma. I don’t mean grabbing a coffee and some cake in a café. I mean going into a nice restaurant and asking for a table for one. Some places don’t like to seat solo diners, or they will seat them at the worst tables. Personally I have not come across this, but then I tend to avoid busy restaurants so that is probably why! There have only been a couple of occasions where I have done this and I have enjoyed it immensely, but there have also been lots of times where I would have gone into a restaurant and didn’t, because I was on my own. I have kicked myself for walking past some lovely places and ended up snacking instead of having a proper meal.
Some people don’t like the idea of sitting at a table on their own. A simple solution is to take a book to read, take a notebook for writing notes or just browsing on your phone. Or go at quieter times – right at the start of service before the restaurant gets too busy. What I have tried to do the few times I have been in a restaurant on my own is hold my head up high and relax. I will people watch and take in the ambience and if outside admire the view. If you get any attitude from the restaurant about being on your own, stand your ground or move on to somewhere that is more friendly. I would move on to a more appreciative establishment, but that is due to my dislike of confrontation. I need to push myself to try this more.
SOLO TRAVEL – DRINKING ALONE
It is nice to enjoy a few drinks when travelling. To try the local speciality or have a cocktail by the sea. But solo travellers need to be careful, whether at home or away to not over indulge. It can be dangerous to end up drunk in a strange place where you don’t know anybody. If you do go out to enjoy some drinks, research the area you are going to first and make sure you know the way back to your accommodation. Check out the public transport and know the time of the last tram or bus. Find out the location of the nearest licensed taxi rank or have the number for a taxi or Uber / Lyft on your phone.
If you find yourself in an awkward situation or receiving unwanted attention, always speak to the staff. Sitting at the bar is a good way to get to know the staff and they might be able to look out for you. If I want some alcohol then I tend to have it with food at lunchtime and then I won’t have anymore for the rest of the day. I don’t want hangovers when I am away so I don’t drink much alcohol when solo. But do enjoy yourself and drink how you want – just be aware of your surroundings and always have an escape route.
SOLO TRAVEL – TAKING PHOTOS
I am not a big selfie taker but I do like some photos with me in them. I prefer being behind the lens, I always have, so being in front of it is never natural for me. Even my face feels weird as I try to smile attractively and I’m hardly ever happy with the result! Throw in having to take the photo yourself and I have double trouble. Holding the phone at arm’s length is one thing, I still feel silly doing that but using a selfie stick is a whole other issue! I feel absolutely ridiculous using those. I used one when I went to Vegas the first time and just tried to ignore everyone around me. To be honest they were probably ignoring me too, as they were taking their own photos! Practise with a selfie stick at home so you know the angles you like.
I bought a mini tripod earlier this year and took it to Seville but felt too stupid to take it out and use it. I was with my daughter though so we didn’t really need it. We used it once the whole trip. The other thing to do is spot someone else doing a selfie and ask if they want a photo taking. More often than not they will say yes and then offer to take one of you too! Unfortunately they aren’t always the best photographers and it can feel awkward posing for a stranger! Just keep doing it though and it will start to feel more natural. It is like eating out for me – a necessary evil that I just need to push through and do more.
SOLO TRAVEL – LONELINESS
Some people that travel solo start to feel lonely. I have never felt like this but then I am yet to travel solo for more than 5 nights at a time. It helps that I like my own company and don’t have a great need to be social very often. I enjoy reading so would take books to read in the evening. If I was away and started to yearn for some adult conversation then I would probably look up local activities to go on.
On my last trip to Italy I wanted to go on a cooking experience, so something like this would be perfect to fill a day and meet some new people. AirBnB has lots of local experiences you can book, there is bound to be something that appeals to you. Alternatively, post on the Facebook travel groups and see if there is another likeminded local or traveller in the same area as you who is up for some sightseeing or having a drink together. Or research the area and book an activity before you leave – I booked a skydive before I went to Portugal. It was a day I will never forget. You can even make the whole holiday a group experience by booking a group tour. I am thinking of doing this for countries like India or South America.
SOLO TRAVEL – COST
Travelling alone is more expensive. It shouldn’t be, but it is. A lot of places still charge a single supplement if there is only one of you staying in a room. I find this especially if you are looking at booking tours or cruises so always make sure to read the small print. Look for places that do not charge single supplements – I look on AirBnB and booking.com. And obviously if you are travelling with someone else you get to split the cost of the room which can make a big difference. I stayed at an AirBnB in Italy with 2 friends and between the three of us the price was great but I couldn’t have afforded it on my own. When I book accommodation for myself I try to stick to a per night budget. Although I would love to stay in high end places I prefer to spend my money on experiences and gifts I may want to buy.
As long as where I am staying is safe and clean then I am pretty much happy. I have stayed in a hostel twice but had a private room both times. I haven’t tried the dorm room yet, and not sure I ever will.
SOLO TRAVEL – AT THE BEACH
I was lucky enough to spend 4 nights in Ischia and as part of that visited quite a few beaches. So what do you do with your valuables when you want a dip in the sea? You can invest in a waterproof bag to take your valuables into the sea with you – but test this at home first to make sure it truly is waterproof. I bury anything I don’t want to lose in the sand (discretely of course) and then put my towel over it. I’ll also try to place myself near to the water and then keep an eye out when I am swimming. I’ll put my bag on the top of the towel so if anyone does make off with it they’ll be disappointed when they look inside. Minimise any risks in the first place by only taking what you really need. Just take a little loose money with you instead of your whole purse and leave your passport locked in your room. The alternative is to befriend someone on the beach and ask them to keep an eye on your stuff – a family with kids is a good call – but you still have to be able to trust them. Bottom line: always be discrete and aware.
SOLO TRAVEL – SAFETY
“Safety in numbers” is a saying for a reason. You are less likely to be attacked if you have someone with you. A lone traveller is going to be looked upon as easier prey especially, though not always, if you are female. I am way more safety aware when I am in a strange location. Have local numbers for the emergency services handy on your phone. I try not to do anything that will bring attention to me. I don’t wear valuable jewellery and if I have my phone out to look at directions or take pictures then I am always aware of who is around me and I hold on to it – tight. When walking in the dark I will already have planned out my route so I have to look down as little as possible and if I think someone might be following me I will cross the street and look behind me in the process.
If someone tries to engage you on the street, just ignore them and keep walking. Walk with a purpose like you know exactly where you are going and they are unlikely to persist. If they do persist then go into the nearest establishment to seek help, or go up to someone on the street and greet them like you know them while whispering to them that you are being followed and need help. Having a resting bitch face really helps too! Some people will advocate taking safety items with you – please research the laws of the country before you try taking pepper spray or similar. If you are at all concerned about being able to defend yourself then invest in a self defense course. Krav Magi receives a lot of positive reviews for personal defense.
Make sure people at home know your plans for the day, your routes and when you are due back.
SOLO TRAVEL – JUST DOING STUFF
I’m a fairly shy person and there have been things I have not done because I have been on my own. Some days I’m more confident than others but sometimes I will purposely not do something that I really want to do when I am on my own. This could be not eating in that nice restaurant I wanted to try. Or not going into the posh bar because I’d feel weird standing there on my own. It annoys me at the time and I feel frustrated at myself but I look at it as part of solo travel and part of that for me is to push my boundaries and make myself leave my comfort zone.
I find with each trip that I do this more and more, although I never know when a down day will hit for no reason. Whatever happens, or rather, doesn’t happen, I won’t be too hard on myself. It’s all part of a growing experience and I’m not going to force it.
That wraps it up for me. I don’t think I’ve come across any other obstacles when travelling alone. Is there anything else I haven’t thought of that you find difficult when you are solo travelling? Let me know in the comments or drop me a line here!