Taking in new surroundings unfiltered by the prejudices, tastes or preferences of a companion can be heady stuff. Of course, single travel has its perils too — such as safety concerns and loneliness. But with a little preparation and common sense, solo adventures can be the ultimate in self indulgence.
Why travel alone?
For starters, you can rest when you want and accelerate when you feel like it. Another benefit is that your mistakes are your own, and your triumphs all the more exciting. There’s no worrying that trekking all the way across town to a museum that was closed ruined your partner’s day; it’s your own day to salvage or chalk up to a learning experience.
Also, you can do exactly what you want to do — all the time. Always wanted to try surfing? Sign up for a class and go for it; there’s no one sitting on the beach bored while you have the time of your life. Have no desire to see Niagara Falls or the top of the Eiffel Tower? Just skip it!
It’s undoubtedly the most pressing concern of single travelers. Simply put, you’re on your own and more vulnerable. Plus, there are common health concerns. But the saying “safety in numbers” isn’t necessarily true — a solo traveler can blend in more easily than a group, and not drawing attention to yourself as a tourist is one way to stay secure. Here are a few tips:
Hit the internet prior to traveling and do en route on your mobile phone, checking to get up-to-date info on various aspects of your trip. For instance, how long it takes and how much it costs by taxi to get from say, the airport to your hotel or city center.
Solo travelers are more likely to be scammed. Before you or your bags even get in the car, ask the driver for an estimated fare. If it’s considerably different from what you know to be true, switch cabs.
When you book a hotel, make sure they have a 24-hour front desk so if you’ll be arriving late, you won’t wind up in the street.
Be your own best advisor. There’s an old saying, “when in doubt, don’t.” If something doesn’t feel right, avoid it.
Carry good identification, in your handbag or carryall as well as on your person.
Keep to open, well-lighted public places, especially at night. Exude confidence and walk like you know where you’re going. And you will, thanks to the aforementioned internet sleuthing you did prior to leaving home.
Avoid looking like a tourist. Ditch the “message” tee shirt and don’t walk around with your nose in a guidebook.
Dress attractively and comfortably but conservatively. You’re an easy target for pick pockets and street thugs by wearing flashy clothes or jewelry.
Fib a little. Don’t let on that you’re alone. Example; if asking directions, say “Can you direct me to the museum? I have to meet a friend.”
Check your mobile phone for maps and transportation schedules before leaving your hotel/train/rental car/tourist office and suibtly reference en route. A solo traveler looking perplexed and obviously poring over maps can be an easy mark for street thieves and other criminal elements.
Let those at home know where you’ll be and when. Leave a copy of your itinerary with a friend or family member and stay in touch regularly via phone, text, video chat or email.
For U.S. citizens traveling internationally, consider signing up for the free Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), which could help the State Department assist you in case of emergency. If you’re from outside the United States, see if your home country has a similar program.
Trust everyone and no one
Although one of the best reasons to travel alone is to meet new people, this also makes you more vulnerable. It’s great to make new friends but avoid asking them to hold your cash or travel documents. Keep your guard up enough to ensure your safety.
Tips for solo dining
Many solo travelers (and frequent business travelers) hate dining by themselves. There’s even a name for it: solomangarephobia. These tips can aid in overcoming what for many travelers is the most unpleasant aspect of going it alone.
Chat with the service people. Waiters and waitresses are some of the best local color you’ll find.
Cafe and outdoor dining is often attractive to single travelers; sitting alone with a book in a cafe isn’t as unusual as a table for one at a fancy restaurant.
Choose a counter seat or a seat at the bar.
Go to a restaurant that has booths, which offer more privacy.
Bring something to read. Crack open a book, whip out your phone or read a magazine. One hint: The more high-minded your pursuit appears, the more likely folks are either to ignore you, or to become intrigued and maybe say hello.
If you don’t want to endure yet another public meal alone, use room service or order carry-out from a restaurant nearby.
Eat well. Just because you’re alone and on the run doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take time for sit-down meals, a leisurely cup of coffee or a decadent dessert.
SoloDining.com is a good source of advice for those eating alone.
When you’re getting weary
If you’re flagging in mind or body, slow the pace and kick back for a bit.
You may want to seek out an expat bar or the local overseas branch of an organization you belong to such as professional or alumni groups where you can hang out and speak your native tongue with some fellow expatriates and travelers.
All books are available at amazon.com. Click on titles for more information.
Why Travel Solo?
by Michael Pinatton
The Solo Traveler’s Handbook
by Janice Waugh
Kicking Ass on the Road
by Sunni Dawson
Time to Take Flight
by Jayne Seagrave
Tours and cruises for singles in a variety of categories, including active trips, beaches and classic sightseeing.
Allows solo travelers to register their trips in order to make sure they get back safely. For a monthly membership fee, you can enter specific information about when you should return from a particular trip or outing. If you don’t check in with the site at the designated time, SafeCheckIn.com will attempt to contact you; if you’re out of reach, the site will reach out to your emergency contacts and, if necessary, the local authorities.
Tips, resources and destination guides for solo travelers, as well as a free e-book called “Travel Alone and Love it!”
Solo female travelers who prefer to be with a group can be connected with like-minded women. The company offers tours, retreats and other getaways, complete with roommate matching.
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