I’m single and am looking for a holiday where I can meet other people, but I don’t want to go on any sort of forced ‘dating’ type trip. Can you recommend any good places or types of holiday for the lone traveller?
Going on holiday alone may not sound like fun, but I’d urge everyone to try it once. I’ve been abroad many times on my own – it comes with the job – and there’s much to be said for it. For starters, there’s isn’t the “what shall we do now?” debate cropping up every couple of hours. You can do exactly what you want, when you want. No compromises, no arguments.
As a solo traveller, you’re more approachable, which makes you open to meeting people and trying new experiences. Of course, there’s the safety aspect of solo travel, which is particularly pertinent to women travellers, but if you’re uncomfortable with not having a companion, there are a host of group holidays on offer, and they’re not all Blind Date abroad… unless, of course, that’s what you’re after.
I’ll start with a few destinations that would work for your break before Christmas. Cities are great for solo travellers because there’s plenty to do, and you can either slip into the crowd, or venture out and meet people.
New York would be my first recommendation. The city has a free tour guide scheme called Big Apple Greeters. Send a request to the website listing your interests, and they match you with one of their local volunteers. Your guide will take you round their neighbourhood and show you their favourite places – it’s a wonderful way to get under the skin of the city.
As for where to stay in New York, check out Ace Hotel in midtown. It has an informal atmosphere and affordable café that garners friendliness between guests. Rooms cost from around £230 in the lead up to Christmas, as it’s a popular time to go. Great for Christmas shopping, mind.
Also try one of the four Kimpton hotels in New York if you want somewhere fun and lively – they have nightly guest socials with wine, and you can get a room from around £200 if you’re flexible with your dates.
I also love The Jane hotel, where I stayed last year. It’s a quirky hotel in the fashionable Meat Packing district and it’s rooms are fitted out like a vintage railway carriage – they are tiny and bathrooms are shared, but it’s spotless, great fun and cheap – only £62 a night (if you pay more, you’ll get a private bathroom).
Moving a bit closer to home, I made a solo trip to Lisbon a couple of years ago and loved it. The city has some of the best hostels in the world – not your bed bugs and bunk beds sort… Ok, well some of them have bunk beds, but they are contemporary, clean and right in the centre of Baixa, the pedestrianized heart of Lisbon.
Try Lisbon Lounge, Living Lounge for contemporary cool or Traveller’s House for ethnic (but clean) charm. All three are great – and if you don’t want to share a room, there are singles available. The hostel managers put on events like cheap city tours, Portuguese food, drink evenings and quiz nights, and contrary to what you might expect, they aren’t filled with gap-year students – couples, families and older solo travellers are also regular guests.
If you want a tour of the place, there’s a service in Lisbon called Rent a Local Friend. Sadly, it’s not free like the New York scheme, but it’s tailored to you. Send your requirements via the website and book up for a half-day at €60 or full day, €90 tour with a Lisbon local. It’s not your usual Blue Badge style – expect to discover secret cafes, meet their friends for coffee and stay well away from the tourist trail.
If it’s solitude you’re after, then I have just the thing. The Dhamma Mali Centre de Vipassana in Burgundy, France is a meditative retreat and, even better, it’s free. This comes at a price, mind, you must remain silent for ten days.
When you enrol you have to hand over all valuables (which you do get back at the end!), and you are assigned a number and a bunk in a dormitory. The retreat attracts all sorts of people, either holistic junkies or people who want a fresh start. As well as silence, there should be no physical contact, no eye contact, no reading, writing, running and no yoga – just hours of daily meditation.
You wake at 4.30 am, eat healthy, simple food, and don’t do much else – those people who last the ten days say it’s life-changing.
If that’s a bit too ‘ommm’, here’s some ideas for those group holidays I mentioned. There are loads of tour operators now catering for solo travellers. For adventure and activity, try Explore and Exodus which offer trips all over the world. They’re graded for difficulty so you don’t need to worry about being left behind when you’re scaling that mountain, or held up, for that matter.
Women should try Thelma and Louise, an online community where you can meet other female travellers and put together group trips yourself. If you don’t want the hassle of putting the trip together, there’s Friendship Travel, which organises holidays with a host. You can get stuck in to their activities, or just opt for relax with a book – as I said before, you’ve got no one to please but yourself.
Answer by Ginny Light – TimesOnline travel editor
Got a travel question? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll get our panel of travel experts to answer your question.