As some of you may have noticed, I have done quite a few of my trips thus far since moving solo. Early on it was because I didn’t really know anyone well enough to travel with (and I had booked my first few trips when I was still in the U.S), and as of late its been more because my schedule hasn’t coordinated for friends or Mark to come along.
In this article though, I’d like to give some of my top tips that I’ve picked up from my solo traveling experiences. I know that a lot of people find the idea of traveling alone scary or too ‘out there’, but I think it’s a really rewarding experience because you are forced not only to have yourself as your only company, but also have the benefit of being able to pick the itinerary you want.
My Solo Travel Tips
Learn about the city through walking tours (or bus tours)
One way I can not feel as ‘alone’ even if I am solo is to do walking tours when I travel. Walking tours are typically free one to two hour tours where you learn about the culture and history of where you are visiting, and then tip (usually about $10) after. Since you are with a group of people you blend seamlessly into the crowd.
Bus tours are also a good idea – there are city bus tours that can get you around the city and give commentary. I did a bus tour from Belfast to the Antrim Coast where I got to see the Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge and Giant’s Causeway.
For a night out, join a pub tour or crawl
If you want to go out at night but are alone, pub crawls or tours are a great way to go out safely in a group. There’s always someone who leads the pub crawl, so you can usually discretely make it known you are alone and they tend to look out for you. People will always befriend you on pub crawls as well. I recently did a Literary Pub Tour in Edinburgh where I met a few other solo travelers and we all ended up hanging out together. One caveat to this is to make sure you don’t drink too much so that you can get back to your hotel/hostel safely.
Non-drinking alternatives to this are watching a play, comedy show, movie, or going on a night time tour (Edinburgh and London have tons of ghost tours!).
Stay in a hostel
People – the movie Hostel is NOT what hostels are really like. I’ve stayed in over twenty hostels in the past few years and have never had a negative experience or felt unsafe. Hostels are perfect for solo travelers – they typically have common rooms, and some have bars, so it’s a great way to meet other people. Lots of people traveling in hostels are solo or willing to make friends, so the social atmosphere is quite friendly. A bonus is that they are cheaper than hotels as well (typically about $30 a night, usually with breakfast included).
Bring a book
There’s bound to be some down time during your trip – while on public transport, waiting for food, and etc. If you are traveling abroad you typically won’t have data, and there’s not always guaranteed WiFi, so carrying a book is never a bad idea. Reading will make the time go by quicker (make sure to pick a good book!) and will make you feel like you are doing something rather than just waiting idly.
Put headphones in
I tend to feel very uncomfortable when people come up to me either asking for money, and sometimes for directions (this can sometimes be a rouse to rob unsuspecting victims). What I do sometimes is put headphones in – even if I’m not actually listening to anything. People generally don’t try to talk to you when they don’t think you can hear them, and even if they do you can just gesture to your headphone so they get the hint.
Make a ‘list’ of things to do
I’ve found that it’s helpful to have some top sights in mind you want to see before you travel. Then you can base your itinerary around doing those things, but also fit in relaxing or other activities should you find something at your destination that grabs your interest. When you are alone this is good because I tend to feel lonelier if I have too much free time – if I’m busy doing things I don’t even think about it! It’s also not a bad idea to have a ‘rain’ activity in case bad weather comes your way – a museum or indoor attraction is usually a good one for this.
Lastly, don’t be too self conscious
You may feel like everyone is staring at you or notices that you are alone, but they typically don’t. I certainly can’t think of many times when I noticed that people were alone if I’m with a group, and that tends to be the case for most people. Everyone is too busy worrying about what they are doing to notice you. So be confident and enjoy yourself!
I hope you find these tips useful in future solo adventures; some may seem obvious but others I have gleaned along the way. Do you have any good solo travel tips for me? Post them in the comments below if so!
Till next time all!