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Solo travel: What is it really like?

Why wait for your friends or partner to go and see the world? With more people choosing solo travel, we look at what it's really like: the good, the bad and the unexpected.

Solo travel is having a moment, with more people – especially women – gaining the confidence to go it alone. But it’s natural to feel a bit nervous about your first solo trip. If you’re not sure whether travelling alone is for you, we’re taking a good look at the pros and cons, and giving some tips to help you make the most of your independent adventure.

Solo travel: the good bits

Solo female traveller in Melaka, Malaysia, looking at pink coloured church

There’s no one else to worry about. Want to linger in a book shop for an hour? Do it. Prefer sleeping in late to getting up early for sightseeing? It’s your holiday. You’re the number-one priority and you can do what you want, when you want.

It’s empowering. Nothing gives you a confidence boost like navigating a new city (and maybe a new language) all by yourself.  

It’s easier to meet new people. When you travel with your friends or a partner, you don’t feel the need to strike up conversations with strangers. On a solo trip you often end up making new friends from around the world.

It’s more relaxing. You don’t need to stress about your travel buddies messing up your itinerary. And, on the flip side, you don’t need to feel guilty if you decide to cancel plans and enjoy hotel room service in bed.

You’ll never feel more free. Once you’ve traversed the globe solo, with nothing but the rucksack on your back, you feel like there’s nothing in the world you can’t handle.

Solo travel: the bad bits

Young woman reading a book outside, on a flight of stairs, looking wistfully into the distance.

It can be lonely. Humans are social animals, and we love sharing experiences with others. Posting on Instagram isn’t quite the same as having your bestie by your side.

There’s no one to watch your stuff while you nip to the loo. But don’t worry, you’ll soon become an expert in navigating airport bathrooms with your rucksack on.

It can be more expensive. On a solo trip, there’s no one to split the cost of taxis, car hire and hotel rooms with. To add insult to injury, some all-inclusive hotels and cruises levy a single occupancy supplement.

There’s safety in numbers. Don’t get us wrong: solo travel isn’t inherently dangerous. You just have to be a bit more careful about walking around alone at night, just as you would at home.

Solo travel tips & tricks

Young woman looking through a telescope at the city.

Join in with activities. Look out for walking tours, food tours and pub crawls. As well as being a great way to discover a new side to your destination, it’s also a fab way to make friends, especially if you’re a bit homesick. 

Stay at a hostel. You don’t have to stay in a dorm, although it’s a great money-saving option. But a big benefit of hostelling is the shared lounge, where you can hang out and swap stories with other travellers. Look for hostels that offer communal dinners, as it’s a good way to meet travel buddies.

Sit at the bar. Drinking and dining alone is one of the big anxieties of solo travel, but you can get around it by perching at the bar. There’s no chair sitting empty in front of you and you can chat to the staff and other guests.

Share your itinerary with friends and family. Make sure people know where you’re staying, if you’re going on any organised group tours and what you’re planning to do. It will give you – and them – peace of mind in case anything goes wrong.

Do something unexpected. There’s nobody to tell you ‘no’ or judge your choices. Look for things that you wouldn’t normally be able to drag friends to, whether it’s a cheesy ghost tour, lengthy lecture on your specialist subject, or muddy outdoor excursion.

Solo travel: the expert view

Jenny Lachs

Image Credit: Jenny Lachs, Digital Nomad Girls

Jenny Lachs is the founder of Digital Nomad Girls, an online community dedicated to connecting women who work while they travel the world.

My first ever solo trip was to Israel in 2010. I had planned to go with a friend who told me last minute that she forgot to save any money for the trip. I was really disappointed at first, but then decided to just go by myself. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, and I ended up really enjoying being in charge of my own time and itinerary. One of the most unexpected pros of travelling solo was how easy it was to meet new friends. I probably wouldn’t have learned that had my friend joined me. I still really enjoy travelling solo, but like to mix it up with some group trips and retreats with my travel friends that I’ve met from around the world.

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Solo travel FAQs

Young woman looking out over Istanbul, the wind whipping her hair.
How much does it cost to travel solo?

Travelling alone can be more expensive than travelling with friends or a partner. Hotels, taxi firms and car hire companies charge a flat rate, regardless of how many people are using the room or vehicle. You also need to look out for the ‘single occupancy’ supplement that some all-inclusive hotels, tour operators and cruises charge. Following the usual principles of budget travel – booking in advance, being flexible and aiming for shoulder season – can help you save money.

What are the best groups for solo travellers?

Lots of companies offer group tours for solo travellers, so you can easily make new travel buddies. Some of the most famous ones are Flashpack, Contiki, G Adventures and Girl Gone International. Most have their own niche and focus – such as adventure travel or luxury travel. Hunt around to find the best one for you.

Where is the best place to travel alone?

The short answer? Anywhere and everywhere. Don’t let stereotypes put you off. For example, Paris is the city of love but there’s something magical about going by yourself. Enjoy aimless wanders, linger in vintage boutiques and have some ‘me time’ at a café terrace. A glass of wine and a good paperback is all you need.

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