A guide on how to travel alone
Although travelling alone has been on the rise for the past 10 years, still many women feel afraid of going it solo. There are many reasons that may hold you back: from fear of feeling lonely, not having fun by yourself or for safety issues. Or simply the lack of confidence for travelling on your own.
To tell you the truth all these feelings are natural. I still get a bit anxious about my solo trips, even after 30 years of solo travels. So there is nothing to worry about.
The only important thing is to feel motivated and have the willingness to travel alone. All the rest comes by itself. Travelling alone is a skill that like everything else, requires learning curve. You cannot learn everything on one trip and the more you travel by yourself the more you are likely to do it over an over again.
The ABC of solo Travel
That being said, there is no ABC for travelling alone. I believe that solo travel represents by definition the highest form of freedom in travel, it wouldn't be natural to have someone dictate or teach you how to travel alone. In fact travelling alone means doing it your own way.
This post has the goal of guiding you through your first solo trip by giving you my best tips on what works and what does not work for me. From getting inspired and organised to how to tackle uncomfortable situations.
The 80/20 rule for boosting your motivation with inspirational stories
Speaking by experience without motivation there is no inspiration that can help you any further. What I mean with this if you are not motivated in taking your first solo trip, it's unlikely to get inspired by solo travel stories. Nonetheless an inspirational solo adventure from other women and fellow travellers are key when your motivation is consolidating and you feel you just need something to kick off. That's why solo travellers forums are so popular for this kind of inspiration or any piece of advice.
Choose a safe destination for travelling alone
I cannot stop emphasizing on this point. Solo travel can get overwhelming at the beginning if you are not familiar with it. The best way to have a fun and relaxed solo trip is to choose a destination that is safe and easy for a woman travelling alone. Starting with a destination that a little bit out of your comfort zone will be fine, but don't overdo at the beginning. Pick solo travel destinations that are fun and easy from different points of view: culture, outdoor, nature, food, entertainment. And pick something that you really would love to visit and has been your list and raving to see it.
One of the many benefits of travelling alone is to grow and learn new things and meet up new people. While travelling solo is a great way to step out of your comfort zone, it's good to take little steps and start with easy challenges, this is the best way to gradually grow into a higher level of confidence and prepare for bigger challenges.
Be social and ge to know the locals
Travelling solo means socializing and getting to know friendly people on your solo adventure. This will happen naturally even if you are not intentionally looking for it. I recommend staying in hostels or with a host in a private home rather than booking a hotel room. This will allow you not only to meet up with fellow solo travellers but also make your first solo trip less lonely. You don't have to share dorms if you don't fancy. Staying in a hostel or shared community will empower you to getting to know your environment and making new friends.
This is one of the many benefits of travelling alone.
- Hostels are the best fit for first time solo travellers – I have spent months in them and really loved my time. Nowadays I don't use hostels much. I prefer staying in private homes or in small guest-houses. Other way staying with the locals is truly beneficial for the solo traveller. Check out this site for the top hostels around the world.
- Couchsurfing and more community based platform are useful if you want to get to know locals
Going Solo means be prepared to explore on your own
While meeting people on your travels is certainly one of the best parts, remember that solo travel means exploring a place by yourself. Make a plan of things you can do by yourself and start exploring a place. Mix it up with guided walk or tour. Try to do as much as you can by yourself. Do not resort to group tours all the time. Finally you are not travelling alone to end up spending all your time in a group.
Dining solo – do it even if you don't like it
Dining alone is probably top-hated thing but reality is that is not as bad as you can imagine. Of course it's unlikely for you to walk into a romantic restaurant and sitting alone at a candlelight.
These are my tips to avoid the feeling of loneliness when having dinner alone:
- Choose a suitable dining venue that maybe offer a bookshop, or an entertainment area too.
- Eat early in the evening in a place close to your accommodation.
- Choose a venue with a terrace or an open space where you can sit outside beacuse it makes it more enjoyable. Watching people when you are alone is always entertaining.
- Make of breakfast and lunch your main meals. During daylight is much easier to get around and having lunch alone in a busy place.
Female Solo Travel – how to deal with unwanted attention
Having travelled on my own for +25 years I know that this situation is part and parcel when a woman travels alone. While it's impossible not to avoid it completely, even if you are travel alone and are +50, there are ways to avoid this awkward situation and any unwanted attention.
- Don't go to out at night on your own to isolated places.
- Stick to a safe public area with entertainment and stay among people.
- Choose a nearby restaurant that is a walking distance to your accommodation.
- Don't drink if you can, or drink with moderation and don't get drunk.
These are all good tips, that may help stay more alerted. However I can tell you that the kindness of strangers sometimes will lead you astray. On this post you can read how I got drunk while sitting at the round-bar of the Hard-Rock Cafe in New York.
Where to travel alone as a woman
When travelling for the first time on your own the destination is key. While it's important that you choose a place that you really want to see, it's equally important to pick an easy and safe destination, that is a no-brainer and doesn't bring additional stress.
For the first solo trip I would suggest choosing a city with a good vibe or a destination that offers a good combination of cultural and natural attractions. 3-4 days are enough to start with the first solo trip. But if you are keen to venture into a longer trip, you can build a trip itinerary by connecting a few destinations or cities in the country you live or a destination overseas that speak your language or you can make yourself feel comfortable.
On my first solo trip around Germany back in 1990, I went on a train trip from Italy to Munich and further north to Hamburg and Berlin. Europe is a safe destination for women travelling on their own.
If you plan a trip to Australia get my book: Your Australia Itinerary for the Solo Traveller in Oz.