Why travel solo and how to enjoy solo trips?

I regularly travel alone. A decision that sometimes provokes incredulity. Isn’t travelling alone a bit risky (especially when you’re a girl)? How can you enjoy a solo holiday without having someone to talk to? And why go alone? After all, it’s not hard to motivate people to visit nice travel destinations, is it?

These are all remarks I’ve heard before… so today I want to talk to you about solo travel, with some tips on how to make it a magical experience!

Why travel solo?

There are many reasons to go on holiday alone and in my travels I have come across many solo travellers who all had their own story!

Travelling alone because no one else is available – You took some days off (or were forced to do so by your employer) but no one else you know can leave at the same time as you. Should you deprive yourself of travelling or should you make the most of this time and prepare for a solo trip in line with your tastes?

Your friends don’t travel like you – Finding the right travel companion is not always easy and sometimes your friends simply don’t have the same way of travelling as you. This is the case for me! Among my friends, I have beach-pool-beach-pool vacationers, hard-core party people and so on… which is not my type of holiday.

Solo travel is sometimes preferable to leaving with people who do not have the same vision of holidays and with whom the trip can become a source of tension or frustration.

Travelling alone to experience holidays in a different way – Solo travel is not necessarily a choice you make because you have no other option, it can be a real choice. Because it makes it easier to meet the locals, to create an itinerary that immerses you 800% in the destination (and that corresponds 800% to your tastes!), to set off on an adventure, because it offers unprecedented flexibility (whether in the choice of destination, the budget spent, the programme of your trip)… solo travel can be a personal decision!

Travelling solo to think about yourself – Going on holiday alone is also about confronting yourself. Finding what makes you tick, but also taking it upon yourself to overcome certain fears, whatever they may be (fear of the language barrier, fear of scams and security problems, fear of getting lost…). Solitude is a great opportunity to learn about yourself and it makes the experience very powerful, especially when you are trying to gain self-confidence.

A solo trip to Lisbon

How to travel solo without worrying?

A solo trip offers you the unique opportunity to have a blank sheet of paper in front of you, on which you can create the itinerary you dream of!

Finding the right destination

There are surely places you dream of visiting. And maybe places you don’t know yet that will arouse your curiosity. Some people wait until they’ve “found the right person” to go on these trips: what if you went alone now?

I believe that a solo trip is not experienced in the same way as a trip with two or more people. You don’t look at it in the same way and you often don’t do quite the same activities. And then, if the place is really fantastic, you can still go back there with the people you love… and you will live the experience differently!

It’s time to think about where you want to go. To do this, I like to visit the website Where and When to find my next destination! On this site, you can enter the criteria for your ideal trip: the region of the world that appeals to you, the climate you’d like to have, your budget, the time difference or the duration of the flight…

Where and When offers you a list of destinations that match your criteria, with lots of information to get a first idea of the place.

It’s a good way to refine your choice and, above all, to avoid “seasonal mistakes”: when you travel alone, you don’t have a travelling companion who will ask you the right questions. “Erm… but isn’t it the monsoon/cyclone season at this time?” “Ah I heard there are lots of mosquitoes there in June!”

Some organisation to travel in good conditions

Of course, everyone travels as they want… but when you go alone, you can only count on yourself so it’s sometimes useful to plan your itinerary (at least a bit!) and to take some precautions.

For example, I always carry a portable charger to recharge my phone (it’s always reassuring to know that in the worst case, you can call someone ^^). Also, it’s useful to have some cash on you or even a second bank card in case of a problem with the first one.

When I was in Lisbon recently, there was a European bug on all Visa cards… and I found myself in a situation where I couldn’t withdraw money or pay anything by card. Quite stressful when travelling alone!

Think about what makes you feel better, especially if you tend to be anxious: useful tips include allowing time to get your bearings in the city rather than knowing you’ll have to run to catch a bus as soon as you arrive; downloading an offline map of the city (through an app like Google Maps, which allows you to download a map of any given area in advance), the local public transport app, etc. Anything to make your life easier!

Hiking on the coast of Portugal

Managing your budget

Solo travel tends to be expensive… if only because you don’t share the cost of accommodation with someone else. In recent years, the “single room supplement” has tended to disappear and more and more hotels offer single rooms (Booking always offers this when I’m looking for accommodation for a solo trip!)

It’s not always the most comfortable (just because you’re going alone doesn’t mean you want a small, cramped room!) but if you’re on a budget, it can be a solution.

Another tip for those on a budget, don’t hesitate to look at hostel rooms, especially if you want to meet people. Nowadays, they are not only frequented by students and more and more often, there are both offers of dormitory beds at very low prices and rooms with private bathrooms. This allows you to combine comfort with opportunities to meet people in the communal areas.

It’s worth setting a budget limit and taking this into account when choosing your destination.

Nothing is more frustrating than having to tighten your belt on holiday when it should be a time to enjoy yourself! You need to be able to seize the moment, whether it’s to treat yourself to a yummy ice cream or to splurge on an item of clothing/souvenir that catches your eye at a local market…

Eating alone in restaurants

This is perhaps THE point that I still find a bit difficult when travelling solo! At lunchtime, everything is fine: I never have any trouble eating alone in a restaurant because, after all, that’s what a lot of business travellers go through when they’re away for a meeting in another city. In the evening, it’s a different story!

There are restaurants where, as a solo traveller, I don’t feel comfortable: either because it’s the kind of “special occasion” restaurant where you feel out of place when you’re alone, or because the restaurant’s staff reminds you that your situation is special.

Sometimes you are made to feel that you are “blocking” a table for two without paying for two meals… Or you are given the most awkwardly placed table in the restaurant (the one next to the toilets or the one that is systematically pushed around because it is in the way)… Or you are being questioned about why you are travelling alone (this is even more true when you are a woman… and it depends on the country; in Poland for example, I was always welcomed “normally” in restaurants whereas I had many more remarks and questions in Portugal).

So I have adopted a few strategies at dinner time that might be useful to you too :)

  • Eat early – I often manage to go to the restaurant quite early, to avoid the rush, the painful search for a table lost in the middle of couples having a romantic dinner…
  • Target the restaurant beforehand – I always go on a trip with a list of recommended places gleaned from friends or a blog… and I often take a look at the photos posted on sites like TripAdvisor to get an idea of the atmosphere of the restaurant.
  • Eat at home – When you’re in an Airbnb or apartment hotel, it’s very easy to grab a takeaway (or cook if you’re brave enough!)… and it’s also an opportunity to try local produce and feel like you’re fully immersed in local life!
  • Take a book – If you’re not comfortable, a quick tip: having a book handy can help you pass the time between courses or while waiting for your order to be taken.

What about safety?

I’ve heard this concern before, especially from ladies. Is it risky to travel solo?

I think you have to find the right balance between being cautious… and having an obsession for safety!

Yes, you have to be careful, in the same way as you probably already are if you live in a big city: avoid venturing into totally isolated corners and/or those with a bad reputation, walking around displaying your valuables or having a lot of cash on you, drinking too much alcohol at the risk of losing your vigilance…

Yes, you can take precautions: for example, tell someone where you are going (the hotel concierge, etc.) or leave a piece of paper in your room with the information when you go hiking without a guide… You can also choose accommodation that is well served by public transport and easy to get to.

However, you should not imagine that the whole world is just waiting to rip you off or attack you! Because if you think like that, you won’t allow yourself to have any contact with those “hostile people”. And if there was a country where the whole population was hostile, we would know ;)

It would be a pity to deprive yourself of living beautiful moments! As an indication, you can consult the “Travel risk map”, a map elaborated by the company International SOS which lists the countries of the world and the level of danger they represent in terms of tourism.

Cruise on the Tage river at sunset
Cruise on the Tage river at sunset

Travel solo… without being so alone!

In reality, when you travel alone… you rarely find yourself “all alone”.

Unless you voluntarily cut yourself off from the world by ignoring the people around you or going on an adventure in the desert, you will find that it is quite easy to engage in conversation with others, especially if you speak English (at least a little!).

You will often come across other solo (or not solo!) travellers. If I had to list all the nationalities I met during my recent trips, I would already have a map of the world: Uruguay, Norway, Brazil, Belgium, Australia, the United States, Italy, Mexico to name but a few…

These meetings sometimes lead to a “not so solo” holiday because if you get on well, you can decide to do some activities with your new travel companions afterwards.

Meeting people

A smile to a traveller who sits next to you on a bus or ferry and a conversation can start, and the same goes with the people at the next table in a restaurant.

Going to a local café for breakfast is also a great opportunity to meet people. Eating at the bar when a brasserie offers the opportunity also makes it easier to make contacts than if you go and hide at a table of 2 in a corner!

Stuck in a queue to visit a famous monument? A smile or a banal comment to the people around you and sometimes a conversation will start (plus it will make time seem to pass much faster!).

Going on day trips or small-group activities

You can also meet people by participating in organised activities. In most cities, there are walks (sometimes free), bike rides or Segway rides, activities to discover the heritage or gastronomy, etc.

Go for activities in small groups because it’s easier to talk to other people… and you’ll often come across other solo travellers who will be delighted to make contact! For example, in Lisbon, I tried a new experience: I signed up for a photo session with a professional: there were 4 of us in the group, including one solo traveller (besides myself) and we had a great time!

Get Your Guide is a very serious site for finding ideas for day trips and activities in your holiday destination, either for a day or for a few hours. You can read reviews from other travellers to get an idea of whether the trip is worthwhile. There is a mixture of guided tours, workshops (e.g. discovering local cuisine or tasting local wines), boat trips, small group activities…. and of course sports and party outings (pub crawls, etc).

Accommodation as a place to make new friends

If you want to maximise your chances of meeting people, forget about staying in a cosy hotel or rental flat. Instead, opt for hostels or homestays (a bed and breakfast, a private room in a flat through Airbnb).

Sunset in Lisbon

Be comfortable with travelling on your own

Solo travel is still associated, in some countries and for some people, with “single people trying to meet a partner abroad”… with all the consequences it can have.

I had an interesting discussion about this in a hotel in Tunisia: I was staying there before leaving for the Sahara desert and I had talked to a (male) hotel employee about solo travel. He told me that he often saw people travelling solo with the explicit aim of getting laid (or with the idea of meeting their soul mate on holiday)… and that it led some locals to have a sometimes inappropriate flirtatious attitude with solo travellers.

Sometimes, as a solo traveller who-s-not-looking-for-a-boyfriend-thank-you-very-much, you have to respond to comments (“but why come here ALONE?”) or to prejudices… As for me, I try to show that solo travel is a choice and avoid inventing a “partner who sadly couldn’t come with because of his work/who will join me later”.

Solo travel has real value, it’s not a trip that you do “by default”… so don’t be afraid to go for it. You’ll probably have a very different experience from what you might experience as a couple or with friends, and it will bring you just as much!

Have you ever travelled alone? Do you enjoy travelling alone or are you put off by it? Do you have any good (or bad) memories of travelling alone?

Hello! I am on maternity leave until summer 2023. I take this time to focus on my family so the comments are temporarily closed on the site :)

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