Many people these days choose to travel alone. Solo travel can provide a great sense of freedom and achievement, but there are challenges and various issues to bear in mind.
Benefits of solo travel
One of the greatest benefits of travelling alone is that it allows you to experience your choice of destination exactly how you want. When it comes to deciding what you should see or how you should spend your time, there are no compromises to be made with a partner or fellow traveller. You can make your own schedule and alter it as you wish. Travelling alone can also be a great way to meet new people. Or, if you prefer to keep your own company and enjoy some uninterrupted time to relax, read or just think, it is also a great option.
Meeting other travellers
Organised tours can be a great way to meet fellow travellers. Some companies specialise in solo excursions, while others might have a mixture of solo travellers and groups.
If you prefer something a little less organised, hostels can be good places to meet people. Some cafes, bars and other social spaces may be hubs for travellers. Of course, there's always the possibility of chance meetings elsewhere. Travellers and locals alike will often respond if you introduce yourself or initiate conversation.
The language barrier
If you're a social animal who likes to be surrounded by people, or if you fear that loneliness might become an issue, you might wish to consider destinations where you can speak the language. If you're an English speaker this might mean Australia, New Zealand, North America or even India, where English serves as an official language. If you're multilingual, taking a solo trip might allow you to shake the rust off a language you rarely get to use and improve your linguistic skills.
Not speaking the lingo doesn't necessarily have to rule out destinations. The chances are that you'll still meet fellow travellers and locals alike who speak English.
When travelling with other people you'll often have someone to help share the load, or to watch your bags while you queue to purchase train tickets or go to the loo. When travelling alone you'll probably have to haul everything with you wherever you go – at least until you find secure accommodation. Depending on the type of trip it can help if you pack light, taking no more than you can comfortably carry for an extended period of time. If you're taking a cruise or going straight from an airport to a hotel and back again, this is generally less important.
Eating and sleeping
Finding places to eat shouldn't pose too much of a problem, but some people may feel more comfortable eating in casual settings like a cafe, bar or pub as opposed to a fancier restaurant. Accommodation should also be easy to find but can be more expensive. Many hotels charge per room and may base their standard prices on double occupancy. Solo cruises may also charge a full cabin fee. Some solo travellers might decide to pair up in order to share the cost of a hotel room.
Hostels and dormitory style accommodation can also be a potential solution for those travelling on a budget. Alternatively, you could simply ask for a discount. Bargaining over room rates is common in some places and a hotel owner or manager might prefer to have a single person in a room at a reduced rate than have it empty.
If you are booking accommodation in advance, there are companies that specialise in solo travel which may be able to help you find the most advantageous rates.
There are a number of ways you can make your trip safer without affecting the experience too much. It can help if you time your journey so you arrive in a new or unfamiliar place during the daytime. It can also help if you try not to look too much like a tourist in unfamiliar cities. This may mean avoiding reading maps on the street. It can be safer to consult a map over a coffee indoors, while using a phone or mobile device may be less conspicuous. It may also be advisable to avoid flashing cash or expensive electronic equipment. Use common sense depending on the setting and situation.
If you are unfortunate enough to be mugged, pick-pocketed or simply lose your belongings, it will help if your cash, cards and important documents are divided and carried in different places on your person.
Drinking too much can also be problematic as you may have no one to watch your back and help you get back to your accommodation. Too much alcohol can lead to bad judgement calls about who to trust and where to go. Again, common sense can help you make the right decisions and keep safe and healthy when travelling alone.
Drawbacks of solo travel
Travelling alone can be more expensive, especially when it comes to accommodation. Some people might experience loneliness on a solo trip and there can also be issues of safety to consider.
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