15 tips for surviving solo travel

written by Joanne Owen
updated 6/14/2021
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Travelling alone can seem daunting from the comfort of home. What happens if things don’t go to plan? What if you get stranded? Is it safe to go out at night solo? All these questions and more (what will I do if my luggage goes AWOL? What if my car gets stuck in a ditch? Will I get attacked by bandits?) often plague travellers before their first solo travel trip. To put those fears at bay, read on for our writers’ and editors’ top 15 tips for surviving solo travel. It’ll hopefully furnish you with what to know before traveling to anywhere on your own, and lead you to learn lots of new things about the world – and yourself.

The sunny delights of solo travel © Shutterstock

1. Know your strengths

It goes without saying that pre-solo-travel anxieties will depend on what you want from your trip, and what kind of person you are. Do you relish being outside your comfort zone, or does the thought fill you with fear rather than exhilaration? Are you a sociable person who wants to be in the middle of everything? If so, you might go crazy if you can't communicate, so head somewhere you speak the language.

Conversely, if you're travelling solo and more of an introvert, forget the language barrier. Vibrant cities are perfect for people watching, especially if those with a thriving café culture. 

2. Do your homework

Definitely one of our top tips of surviving solo travel. Take time to consider what you want from your trip, and where you’re most likely to get it. For inspiration, and to help you focus on what you want, and how to get it, read our gallery guide to the best 20 places to travel alone. 

3. Sleep around

Try a homestay or look for room rentals in an apartment – this gives you an automatic connection with residents when you're travelling alone. As a solo traveller, you'll have lots of options to choose from. Even if your landlord doesn't take you out on the town, you'll at least scoop up a few local tips. Hostels are ready-made for solo travellers too (here’s our pick of the best hostels in Europe), but bear in mind you might wind up spending more time with other tourists than with locals.

4. Embrace yourself

This came up time and time again as one of our writers’ top solo travel tips - being alone for long periods of time can be daunting, but just roll with it. You might learn to love your own company along the way.

Solo traveller embracing freedom © Shutterstock

Or, if you're feeling social, you can always try to make new friends. Offer to take a family's photo at a big sight, for instance, or sit near a chatty gang at a bar. This really is one of our top tips of surviving solo travel.

Enjoying a pint with new-found pals © Shutterstock

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5. Just say no

Sometimes, especially in more hospitable and foreigner-fascinated cultures, 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, saved 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, whether you’re setting off on a South American solo trip, backpacking Australia, or road-tripping Europe.

Backpacking essentials © Shutterstock

6. Take photos

Making photography a mission, even if it's just snapping odd little details you notice about a place, gives structure to your day. Your friends back home will appreciate your perspective and the stories behind the pics. It's also a great way to reminisce after your solo travel adventure and remember what you've achieved.

If you fancy upping your Insta game, you could investigate taking an Insta-oriented tour. You'll find them in all corners of the globe, like this photo shoot tour of Oahu, Hawaii, or this Ho Chi Minh City Hidden Gems Instagram Tour - and pretty much everywhere else besides.

Snapping the perfect scenic shot © Shutterstock

7. Eat big

While the thought of visiting restaurants as a solo traveller might fill you with fear (and you might be tempted to live on fast food to avoid awkward situations), put that fear aside. Fancy establishments are fantastic places to dine alone. Waiters are happy to help solo diners who smile and say, "I made a special trip just to eat here. What do you recommend?" Social folks might want to eat at the bar, but there's no shame in taking a table for two.

If you’re really into your food and fancy company at the same time, look up local tasting experiences. Some deliver in-depth detail on local delicacies, like this Parisian introduction to cheese and wine-tasting, while others mix culture and cuisine, like this immersive sightseeing and home-cooking experience in Bucharest. The world is your oyster when it comes to tasting tours (oysters optional).

Asian street restaurant - a local, social spot to spark conversation © Shutterstock

8. Get an early start

If the thought of bar-hopping alone makes you die a little inside, just recast your day. Wake up early, enjoy a leisurely breakfast (when all the good stuff is still available on the hotel buffet) and head out for parks, museums and other daytime-only activities. If you pack your day full enough, you'll be ready for bed by 9pm.

9. Find your people

Use Facebook and Twitter to make connections where you're travelling. Offer to take local friends of friends out for dinner, and you'll be surprised how many people take you up on it – everyone likes to be a tour guide for a night. Also seek out your interests in your destination. While you might be travelling in solo style, you don't have to be a hermit.

To that end, and wherever you are in the world, you could check-out tours that tie-in with your interests, and your destinations' specialties - as the saying goes, “when in Rome”. Talking of which, as an example, when actually in Rome culture vultures could take an expert-guided tour of the ancient city in the company of other history buffs. Or how about this Secret Roman History LGBT Walking Tour? Footie fans will usually have no problem finding fellow aficionados of the beautiful game to hook up with - from touring the Maracana in Rio, to exploring Barcelona's Camp Nou (nb solo travellers could make the latter more social by taking a stadium tour with tapas).

You get the idea. Securing a slot on the likes of these trips - doing whatever floats your boat - means you’ll almost certainly be in the company of like-minded folk. A win-win situation.

10. Revel in it

Even if you do get lonely, don't lose sight of all the things you can do when travelling alone. Some of those perks are tiny – whether that means double-dipping your chips in the guacamole or changing your mind every hour, without worrying about driving anyone crazy. But the real bonus of solo travel is much larger: pure freedom. You can take the exact trip you want, and even if you're not quite sure yet what that might be, you'll have a great time figuring it out.

Solo traveller capturing the moment and seizing the day - in her own time © Shutterstock

11. Embrace tech (and terrible films)

Remember that it's OK to spend the occasional night in watching the TV in your guesthouse. You wouldn't be out every night at home - it'd be exhausting - so why try to do it for several months abroad?

A smartphone or tablet is a must now there's free wi-fi almost everywhere. Having tech to hand means you can check what to know before traveling to your next stop. Among many other things it means you can book your accommodation ahead and ensure a safe pick-up at your destination. And, if you're feeling lonely, you can connect with home, read the news, and listen to podcasts - perfect for passing time on long journeys, and a guaranteed way to travel to your destination in interesting company.

Long journeys - perfect for planning, podcasts (and catching up on kip). Image: Devil's Nose, Ecuador © Shutterstock

12. Don't hide

It's easy to be daunted by travelling alone, and retreating into the pages of a good novel can feel like the perfect way to escape curious stares on public transport or in restaurants. But going solo means you have a chance to really take in your surroundings, meeting locals and travellers alike along the way. Be content to be by yourself, but confident enough to introduce yourself to people when you want to be sociable.

13. Learn local lingo

It's definitely worth making the effort to learn a few words and phrases before you go solo travelling. Just knowing how to introduce yourself, start a basic conversation, order a beer and count from 1–10 makes all the difference. People love to know you're trying, however rusty you are. If you're wondering how to travel pretty much anywhere and make new friends, giving the language a go is a must. If travel opens the mind, learning local lingo is a great way to open doors.

14. Bring back up

It goes without saying that travelling necessitates having the right documents, and keeping them safe. For solo travellers, that’s even more important - no one wants to be left stranded alone and visa-less. So, make sure you’ve saved the likes of your passport and visa details somewhere safe. Email yourself photos of your vital documents, for example.

Be sure to back-up your vital documents. Image © Shutterstock

It’s also pretty essential to make sure you’re insured. Head here to check-out options offered by our World Nomads affiliate partner. Having back-up and insurance is a sure-fire way to travel to your destination with fewer worries, As the saying goes it's always better to be safe than sorry. Talking of which…

15. Be aware of safety

Solo travel can be both safe and rewarding, but be mindful of safety concerns just as you would travelling in a pair or group. Take care in large cities at night, watch your drinks, be aware of any local scams and keep a close eye on your valuables.

While it's certainly challenging, the hardest thing about solo travel is making that initial leap to do it. After that, all you need is a bit of know-how, an eagerness to explore, and these tried and tested tips on how to travel solo. An incredibly rewarding experience awaits.

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At Rough Guides we’ve always taken pride in telling it like it is - whether we’re updating details in our guide books, or researching emerging destinations. With that in mind, we want you to know that when you click on links that lead to our affiliate partners’ sites, we can earn a small commission (at no cost to you). This is one of the ways we’re able to keep doing what we do best - provide you with travel advice and inspiration you can trust. Speaking of which, you can trust what we link to - our travel writer experts are exactly that (experts) and have highlighted them to share ideas that might make your trips all the more satisfying.

Scenic solo travel header image © Shutterstock

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written by Joanne Owen
updated 6/14/2021
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Joanne is a Pembrokeshire-born writer with a passion for the nature, cultures and histories of the Caribbean region, especially Dominica. Also passionate about inspiring a love of adventure in young people, she’s the author of several books for children and young adults, hosts international writing workshops, and has written articles on the Caribbean and inspirational community initiatives for Rough Guides. Follow her @JoanneOwen on Twitter and @joanneowenwrites on Instagram.

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