The world of travel is often a world made for two. Double beds, double rooms, dinners for two – a lot of accommodations are built around the assumption that you’re not staying alone. However, you don’t always want to travel alongside a companion, even if that person is a romantic partner, family member, or close friend. Sometimes you want to explore the world by yourself and have breathtaking experiences that open your eyes to new ways of seeing the world and yourself. That’s why solo travel is so spectacular.
Solo travel allows you to see the world as you wish, to explore detours on a whim and not worry about dragging a companion along for the ride. If you want to dine in that extravagant French restaurant or try daring snacks in a night market in Hong Kong, go for it. When you’re travelling by yourself, there’s no one to dissuade you or to guilt you with warnings of a tight purse string or an uneasy stomach. Solo travel allows you the freedom to conquer the world on your own terms.
However, there are some smart practices to consider when heading on solo travel. Whether by offering ways to stay safe, encouraging you to immerse yourself in local cultures, or imploring you to take advantage of your freedom, these tips will help you navigate the world of solo travel.
Do your homework before you go
This is true of any trip you embark on, but especially true when you have no one else to fall back on in the moment. Know your destination, whether that means brushing up on a few choice phrases in the local language, knowing which neighbourhoods to avoid at nighttime, or feeling confident in knowing what to order at lunch and dinner, without having the implicit support and advice of a companion to help you choose. Being prepared will allow you to relax in the moment.
There are also some common sense things to consider before boarding your plane. You don’t want to overpack, as you won’t have anyone to help you schlep your bag across cities if it grows too heavy. However, you also have to think about packing potential backups in case you lose something, as you won’t have a friend to lend you a spare in the need of emergency. Still, remember that the same rules apply to travel whether you’re going it solo or with a companion. Stores do exist in the destinations you visit and whether it’s a case of shampoo, a new tube of toothpaste, or an extra sweater, you can always purchase the item on location if you really need it.
Avoid the dreaded single supplement
It’s no secret that travelling alone can often be as expensive as travelling with a companion. While you’d think that you’d save money from not having the extra bed, the extra meal, or the extra plane seat to pay for, many places charge you extra if you’re alone, to make up for any lost revenues from not having two people to serve.
Luckily, with Goway, you can often avoid the single supplement that puts a damper on solo travel. Many trips avoid the premium by offering twin share guarantees, such as our famous Holiday of a Lifetime trips, as well as most Australia and New Zealand coach tours. It means you’ll be sharing a room with a fellow traveller, but it also means that you’ll avoid any unwanted surcharges and have a potential new friend to boot. As well, most trips for 18 to 30 Somethings offer twin shares to make sure that you bond with your travel companions.
Cruise ships can be trickier for solo travellers, as the larger cruise lines assume you’ll be travelling with a companion unless it’s specifically a themed cruise for singles. However, many more adventurous cruises and sailing ships do not. For instance, many Australian and South Pacific sailing boats like Coral Expeditions waive single supplements as an enticement for adventurous travellers to explore far-flung destinations. As well, although it’s not advertised as such, trips like a cruise around the Islands of Tahiti offer shared cabins as a means of avoiding the single supplement fee. Many rail trips such as the Ghan and the Indian Pacific in Australia also offer single cabins, which are more expensive than shared options, but not double the cost.
2-Day Classic Aussie Sailing on the Waltzing Matilda
14-Day Aranui: Tahitian Cruise
Perhaps most intriguing for solo travellers is that we’ve arranged some sweet deals with African tours, where if you book on the last departure of the month, you will pay the twin price and get your own room. As well, some game lodges in Africa waive the single supplement fee in the low season to encourage you to stay with them.
The single supplement can put a serious damper on your solo travels if you’re not aware of it, so knowing a few ways to get around it or a few trips that avoid it is sure to make your adventures more rewarding.
If you’re travelling alone, you’re probably already stepping out of your comfort zone. So don’t take half measures and let your trip go by without embracing the adventure you’re on. Instead, conquer the unknown and take advantage of the opportunities to experience life to the fullest. Whether this means striking up a conversation with a stranger in a pub in London or bungee jumping from a bridge outside Queenstown in New Zealand, be bold when you’re travelling solo. You’re already putting yourself out there by embarking on the journey in the first place. Don’t let opportunity pass you by.
Know your limits
All that being said, don’t overdo it. If you’re a person who can’t handle spicy food, being alone won’t magically turn you into someone with a gut of steel. In fact, remember that solo travel is an excuse to be your authentic self. If you often find yourself deferring to others’ preferences when it comes to food and activities on trips, solo travel lets you control the order of business.
Do what you enjoy when you’re travelling alone and know what you’re capable of. If you’ve always dreamed of skydiving, solo travel offers the perfect opportunity to indulge in it, but if the thought of it terrifies you to no end, don’t expect yourself to be capable of it just because you’re now capable of heading around the world without a companion. Travelling solo is a great opportunity to get to know yourself better and a key part of knowing yourself, is knowing your limits.
This is another common sense tip, but it’s worth mentioning again. When you’re travelling solo, you are more vulnerable to the dangers of the world. While you should never enter into any trip paralyzed by the fear of something bad happening – it saps the fun right out of travel and poisons your brain with all manner of paranoia that you don’t need – you still need to be wise about how to prepare for worst-case scenarios. When you’re on solo travel, you won’t have anyone watching your back or able to help you sort of out emergencies when they do happen, so you have to take some extra steps to protect yourself and ease the minds of those people who care about you. Whether that means adding a roaming data plan to your mobile bill when you’re travelling to ensure that you can make a call to emergency services if you need or can Skype with family back home, or wearing your backpack on your chest in a crowded train station, do what’s best for you to stay safe. You don’t want to have the deer-in-the-headlights look of a scared tourist, but being smart about protecting yourself and your valuables is worth a bit of an embarrassment in a pinch.
And as always, be wary of the occasional scammers and criminals you’ll meet in all corners of the world. If you’re a woman, you don’t need to be reminded to defend against men who are a little too excited at the sight of a solo female traveller, so follow your best instincts and you’ll be good to go.
Get to know the locals
While there are always people you want to avoid meeting no matter which city you’re in, the vast majority of people you meet on your travels will be friendly, kind-hearted people who want to share their culture and country with visitors. Solo travel is a great opportunity to meet locals and learn about cultures. While everyone enjoys alone time, you’ll grow hungry for human contact on solo travel and so it’s great to satisfy that hunger for connection by meeting locals and learning about their culture.
Obviously, social spaces like restaurants, cafes, and bars are great places to meet people and many locals in popular tourist areas are used to visitors wanting to chat with them, so they’re probably old aces at introducing themselves to strangers from foreign lands. It’s also worthwhile bonding with service professionals you meet, whether that’s your tour guide, servers at the restaurants you go to, or staff at your hotel. These people can often help you navigate areas where English is not common and can even be very useful friends if you run into any problems in the city. Just be sure to tip them well for their services if they do go the extra mile to help you with your train tickets or give you tips on finding an incredible little restaurant in some back alley unknown to tourists.
Bond with fellow Globetrotters
It’s also key to befriend fellow travellers when you’re traversing the world by yourself. While navigating cities alone can be a refreshing experience, you will occasionally want a dinner companion or someone to explore alongside. This is why group tours are great as you develop close bonds with like-minded travellers who are interested in the same destinations and experiences as you.
It’s easy to meet fellow Globetrotters on City Walking Tours, in bars in tourist areas, and in hostel lobbies, which are the unofficial meeting spaces for backpackers and avid travellers the world over.
Embrace your alone time
But just as you want to engage with other travellers when exploring the world on your own, you also should embrace your alone time. Take advantage of the fact that there’s no one else dictating your days and spend some time getting to know yourself and what you like about the world around you. Want to spend the entire afternoon in the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris, reading a book and sketching strangers on a sketchpad? Go for it!
It’s likely that your daily workday life offers few opportunities to tune out the world around you and be truly alone. So take advantage of solo travel’s opportunity for aloneness by finding a hideaway in a gorgeous part of an old city or taking a hike through the jungle or fetching mountainside. You’ll learn a lot about yourself when you’re your own travel companion and you’ll find yourself refreshed by the deliberate time outs from busyness.
Take yourself out for dinner
For many people, there are few things more uncomfortable than dining alone. On solo travel, this can create some problems, as you might be wary to dine at an enticing restaurant because you don’t want to experience the awkwardness of eating alone. Disabuse yourself of any awkwardness right off the top and take advantage of dining out on solo travel.
Eating out is part of the fun of exploring other parts of the world, so if you avoid restaurants because you don’t want to eat alone, you’ll miss out on all the incredible food to be had. As well, there are opportunities to engage with other people in restaurants, whether it’s a friendly server or a like-minded traveller sitting near you. If you don’t like the idea of being alone in a dark restaurant in the evening, dine at lunchtime when the sun is out and there’s a brighter feel to the day. Also, remember, when you dine alone, there’s no one to tell you to forgo that sumptuous looking dessert, so you can spoil yourself all you want.
Be realistic about your expectations
This is key. Solo travel is an incredible opportunity to see the world and learn things about yourself, but it is not a cure all for every ailment or mental malady that you might have. Travel gives you a new perspective on the world and how you approach it, but it is not magical, even if we all like to think there’s a spark of magic to exploring the world.
Be realistic about what you want to get out of your solo travel and about what you’ll experience in far-flung destinations. Don’t expect 100 percent comfort 100 percent of the time. Don’t expect to save money. Don’t expect to meet a person who will change your life forever or to meet a friend you cherish for the rest of your life – although this can happen. You will have days that are rainy and days where the world landmark doesn’t explode your brain in the way Instagram posts promised you. This happens on travel with companions and it happens on solo travel. Don’t be shocked when it happens to you.
At the end of the day, a lot of how you experience the world depends on what you bring with you when exploring it. So enter into the proposition with an open mind and a joyful heart and you’ll be surprised by how much pleasure and joy you receive in return.
There’s a wide world out there for you to explore and if you’re waiting for someone to explore it with you, you might be waiting a long time. These tips will help you navigate the world of travel on your own and help bring peace of mind to those you leave behind. Be smart. Be bold. And enjoy the heck of seeing the world with only you by your side.