• How to Travel Alone

    by  • Planning, Travel Fears • 20 Comments

    I talk a lot about solo travel on this site. I didn’t take my first solo trip until I was 28 years old, but once I did I wished I had gone earlier. I gained so much confidence from traveling alone, I met people along the way, and I enjoyed being able to travel on my terms. You can do it too, even if it scares you to travel alone. Read my advice on how to travel alone, and then book your first solo trip!

    Research your solo travel destination

    It could be anywhere really, but pick a destination you’ve been dreaming about for a while. Do some research on the attractions and activities that city or country has to offer. Find out your transportation options ahead of time. You’ll feel less nervous if you’re prepared. I don’t think you can completely know what to expect until you arrive, but if you’ve done some research, you won’t be completely caught off guard.

    Not sure where to go? Check out my post on 6 countries for new travelers.

    how to travel alone

    Book ahead

    I don’t always recommend booking everything ahead of time, but if you’re scared about traveling alone, it helps to have pieces of your trip booked before you get there. If you plan on going to more than one city, consider booking your train or bus ticket ahead of time. Book lodging ahead of time so you don’t have to worry about looking for something at the last minute.

    Using public transportation to get from the airport to where you’re staying is often a simple and inexpensive option, but it could get confusing quickly if you’re nervous. See if your hotel or hostel has an airport pick-up option. It might be worth a little extra money.

    Stay somewhere social

    No matter what your age is, if you travel alone, I’d recommend staying in a hostel. Even if you’re uncomfortable with the idea of staying in a dorm with 7 other people, you can usually find good hostels with private rooms, some even with private bathrooms. Being in a hostel means you’ll have access to the common rooms where other travelers hang out. This is a great way to meet other people to hang out with for a few hours or a few days.

    Still don’t like the idea of a hostel? Look for locally owned guesthouses instead of sterile hotels. They’ll be more friendly and usually have great advice about what to do and where to eat. Depending on the guesthouse, it will probably still be easier to meet other guests than in a hotel.

    Take a day tour

    Most destinations will have good day tour options. It’s not only a great way to learn about the city and the sights, but it’s a great way to get yourself oriented and ease your way into solo travel. It’s also another way to meet people. Chat with the others in your group, especially if you find other solo travelers. You never know who might want to grab lunch or dinner afterwards.

    how to travel alone

    Dealing with solo meals

    Eating alone seems to be a big concern for many people. But it’s not as scary as it sounds either. If you can find a cafe with outdoor seating, eat there. This will give you a lot more scenery to look out while you wait for your food and while you eat. Watching the world go by and soaking up the atmosphere of the city streets is a lot better than staring at the walls of the restaurant. Bring a book if it makes you feel more comfortable to have something else to do, but don’t forget to look up every once in awhile.

    Leave yourself some flexibility

    Despite my recommendation to book things ahead of time, you should also leave yourself some flexibility when you travel alone. Constant sightseeing can get exhausting, and you might want a day off to relax and recharge your batteries. Sit on the beach or by the pool, picnic in a park, hang out at a cafe with a good book, wander the streets with no real purpose, whatever you want. If you find you don’t need a day to relax, find another attraction to explore.

    Be safe when you travel alone

    Traveling is not as dangerous as the media makes it seem. But you still need to be safe. Stick to well-lit streets at night. Be aware of your surroundings. Don’t overindulge with alcohol. Keep a business card from your hostel or guesthouse with you so you won’t forget the address. Make sure someone back home knows your basic itinerary and check in with them occasionally.

    That said, remember that most locals are friendly, helpful people. Most are not out to get you, so don’t be suspicious of everyone. Trust your gut, it’s usually right.

    how to travel alone

    Traveling solo can be an incredibly rewarding experience. I can understand why it can seem scary at first. I had all kinds of fears before my first solo trip, and I still get nervous sometimes, but ultimately I decided worrying about the what-ifs wasn’t worth it. If you’ve been dreaming of traveling but don’t have a travel partner, you can still travel on your own. Learn how to travel alone and embrace it!

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    20 Responses to How to Travel Alone

    1. Matthew Cheyne
      August 28, 2013 at 5:42 pm

      I still remember my first solo travel experience. It was August 2001, almost 12 years to the day. Because of some seriousl intense events that occurred earlier in that year which I needn’t go into here, I had only a suitcase to my name and $250. On the spur of the moment without any research I decided to catch an overnight train from Melbourne, Australia to the other major capital Sydney. When I say without any research I absolutely mean it. I had no job, nowhere to stay when I got there and not enough money to get back to Melbourne if something went wrong.

      As soon as I got off the train in Sydney I found an accommodation board and made a couple of calls and found somewhere to stay in Central Sydney. Then when I got to the place, I put my bags down and slept for five hours and made some calls and found some work within a week. I was 23 at the time and had absolutely nothing to lose and it was the single best thing that I have ever done. I proved to myself that I could make it on my own in this world regardless of what other people said and did, family included.

      I have been back to Sydney on several occasions and every time I go, I plan almost every detail – how I’m going to get there, where I’m going to stay, what I am going to do for at least the first few days and the all important: how am I going to finance all this. I’m 35 now and still desire to travel but nowadays I am older, wiser and much more cautious, I still have the desire for spontaneity but I prefer spontaneity of the ordered kind, not the disordered.

      • Ali Garland
        August 29, 2013 at 4:50 pm

        That sounds like such an awesome experience Matthew! Being spontaneous can be really great, but there are times where planning is more useful. I’m probably more comfortable not planning now than I was a few years ago, but in some ways I’m a lot more cautious than I was when I was younger. I totally understand what you’re saying about spontaneity of the ordered kind, love that!

    2. August 30, 2013 at 5:54 am

      Awesome tips. Agree on staying social and also keeping safety in mind. Also, love walking tours!

      • Ali Garland
        August 30, 2013 at 10:23 am

        Thanks Christoffer! Walking tours can be really great, a nice way to get a feel for a city!

    3. September 6, 2013 at 12:06 pm

      It was really motivating. I dont have any travel partner. I am thinking of going alone but everytime something stopped me but now i will make a plan .

      Thanks……………….

      • Ali Garland
        September 6, 2013 at 2:17 pm

        Enjoy and happy travels!

    4. September 10, 2013 at 4:31 am

      Great tips Ali! When I travel on my own and I don’t want to feel lonely I always stay somewhere social, usually in guest houses and backpacking hostels. There are amazing people there who I can always join for a day or two :)

      • Ali Garland
        September 10, 2013 at 2:49 pm

        Thank you Agness! I love meeting new people on the road, and it’s somehow easier to do when you’re traveling solo.

    5. September 21, 2013 at 11:06 am

      I definitely agree that you can meet fun people on a day tour. I especially like small group tours where you really can get to know someone over the course of the tour. I find bigger tours make this much harder.

      • Ali Garland
        September 21, 2013 at 4:34 pm

        I can’t remember the last time I took a big/long tour, but I’m sure it totally depends on the tour. Those are not my thing at all, but I could see how someone in their early 20s might meet fun people on a Contiki tour or something. As I’m older now, meeting people on a 10 day tour just wouldn’t work the same.

    6. Anne
      November 14, 2013 at 1:12 pm

      Hi Ali, I enjoy reading your posts on solo travel. Great to see that others have done it successfully, it’s really encouraging. I’ve had people suggest that I go on tour groups for safety reasons and for company. We face risks in our home countries too. I’ve also learned from experience that friends are not always reliable in keeping with plans and they can pull out for various reasons.

      Doing some research on the culture and customs of a country would also be very helpful and also know what the weather will be like when you travel to that destination.

      • Ali Garland
        November 19, 2013 at 1:06 pm

        Thanks Anne! I think group tours have their place, but it’s not a guarantee of safety, and it’s certainly not a guarantee you will enjoy your trip. Solo travel brings its own stresses at times, but overall I think it’s a great option for someone who wants to travel but doesn’t have a travel partner and doesn’t want the restraints of a group tour. And I agree, researching the culture, customs and weather of your destination is definitely important.

        • Anne
          December 16, 2013 at 9:38 am

          Also just because one is on a group tour doesn’t mean they can let their guard down. One always to keep safety in mind, regardless of whether they are in a group or on their own. It may be well and good to spend time with people on an organised tour lasting a week or so, but once the tour is over, people can choose to go on a path totally different from someone else’s, so one can be left without someone to travel with once again. This is something one should consider especially if they are travelling for extended periods.

          • Ali Garland
            December 16, 2013 at 10:51 am

            Agreed, you still need to be aware of your surroundings, watch your things, etc. And yes, many people do travel on their own after a group tour (and I highly recommend it!) and you need to be careful no matter what. I don’t think people should be overly paranoid because in reality most of the world is filled with good people, but being a little cautious is helpful.

    7. May 14, 2014 at 12:20 pm

      Travelling alone is a very rewarding experience I think everyone should do at leat once in their life. It’s the best way to learn about yourself, step out of your comfort zone, grow your confidence and see what you are capable of. Most times we learn that fears and limitations we had only live in our imagination! :)

      • Ali Garland
        May 14, 2014 at 5:31 pm

        Thanks Michela! I completely agree with you. Deciding to travel by myself was one of the best decisions I ever made. I returned from that first trip with so much more confidence!

    8. Teresa
      August 23, 2014 at 1:11 pm

      I really want to travel alone to grow up and be more confident about myself. Only thing holding me back is a fear of fainting and getting ill. I always feel dizzy when I travel but doctor says everything’s fine. But it is still holding me back. How to overcome fear or fainting which is on my way to fulfil my dreams of traveling?

      • Ali Garland
        August 23, 2014 at 9:54 pm

        Hi Teresa, that’s a tough one! What if you booked yourself a tour for the first day of your trip? That way you’re not completely alone, and someone else is handling the details. Food tours are great because they give you a little glimpse of the city while teaching you about the importance of the cuisine in that destination’s culture. Plus you get a lot of sitting time, which might help you feel less dizzy. If your doctor can’t find a physical reason for your dizziness, it might be an emotional thing, that your fear is causing you to feel dizzy. Which means you might have to just power through and push yourself to work through the fear. I know that’s easier said than done, but keep reminding yourself that you CAN do this, you are stronger than your fear. Start small, maybe take a trip to a new city in your own country for a weekend or something. Sign up for a tour or two so you’re not completely on your own. Any time you feel dizzy, take a few slow, deep breaths, and remind yourself that you’re ok. Once you get through it, you’ll start to feel more confident about the whole thing. Check out this post too: http://travel-made-simple.com/story-overcoming-solo-travel-fear/

        Let me know if I can help with anything else!

    9. Anne
      December 5, 2014 at 12:16 pm

      One advantage that I have found about travelling solo is that I discover much more than I would have if I went in a group.

      • Ali Garland
        December 6, 2014 at 4:19 pm

        That’s great, Anne! I can see how that happens. I definitely have to rely on myself to figure things out when I’m on my own, though sometimes it takes me longer when I’m on my own. I get lost and I always seem to look at the map the wrong way. Always an adventure though!

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