Surviving solo travel

Travelling alone can seem daunting from the comfort of home. What happens if you get stranded somewhere? Can you go out at night solo? Won’t it feel weird to eat in a restaurant alone?

All these worries and more (Will I get attacked by bandits? Or my car stuck in a ditch?) plague most travellers before their first solo trip, but quickly evaporate, outweighed by the innumerable benefits. Here, our authors and editors offer their top tips on how to travel alone successfully.

 

1. Know your strengths

Are you a sociable person who wants to be in the middle of everything? You might go crazy if you can’t communicate, so head for where you speak the language. Or, barring that, go somewhere with very few tourists.

If you’re more of an introvert and prefer to observe a culture, forget the language barrier and go for passive entertainment. Vibrant cities are perfect for this, especially ones with good café cultures. Paris is classic, but other former French colonies, such as Vietnam, are also great for sitting and people-watching, all for the price of a coffee.

 

2. Sleep around

Look for room rentals in an apartment, which gives an automatic connection with residents when you’re travelling alone. Even if your landlord doesn’t take you out on the town, you’ll at least scoop up a few local tips. Try online bulletin boards in your destination, room-rental sites such as Airbnb and crash-pad networks such as Couchsurfing.

Bonus: as a solo traveller, you have tons of options to choose from. Hostels are of course ready-made for solo travellers, but you might wind up spending more time with other tourists than with locals.

 

3. Don’t be afraid of your own company

Being alone for large quantities of time can be daunting – but just roll with it. You might learn to love your own company along the way.

And if you’re feeling particularly social, you can always make new friends. Show off your free-agent status by offering to take a family’s photo at a big sight, for instance, or by sitting near a chatty gang at a bar.

 

4. Just say no

Sometimes, especially in more hospitable and foreigner-fascinated cultures like Egypt, the attention you get travelling solo can be a little intense. Learn how to say “no, thank you” in the local language, as well as “absolutely not” – plus the local nonverbal gesture for no, which is often more effective than both.

Also have local help numbers, such as the tourist police, programmed in your phone. You’ll probably never need them, but just knowing you have them can give you the confidence to deal with awkward situations.

 

5. Pack a book

A good book, a magazine or even just postcards to write or your travel journal to jot in – are all legitimate activities at a bar or restaurant if you get to feeling a little bored/lonely/exposed, so carry one of them with you at all times. And as a last resort there’s always fiddling with your smartphone.