Want to hit the road but can’t find a holiday companion? Don’t let that stop you from going! Solo travel is booming as more and more tour companies cater for single globe-trotters. Plenty of independent travellers are heading overseas solo.
Of course, solo travel comes with pros and cons. Just think – you never have to compromise on the day’s sightseeing, suffer through a museum simply to please your friend or partner, or put up with a snoring roommate. It’s liberating – you can go where you want, when you want. However, even the hardiest solo travellers can hit snags from time to time. Dining out alone, for instance, can feel awkward. But armed with a few simple tips, you can turn a solo trip into the best experience of your life!
Where to go
First, choose your destination carefully. The last thing you want as a solo traveller is to be surrounded by loved-up couples. Avoid trapping yourself in a renowned honeymoon location such as Bora Bora in French Polynesia or the Maldives. Instead, sign up to learn something new in a great place. Take a cookery course in France (Flavours of France’s courses in Bordeaux have no single supplement) or perhaps a creative writing course somewhere like Bali or England (the Australian Writers’ Centre regularly holds overseas writing tours).
Treks, walks, bike or surfing tours are also a fun way to meet other travellers. Plenty of solo travellers are among the quarter of a million people who undertake the famous pilgrims’ trek, the Camino de Santiago in Spain, each year. They all report that it’s easy to make friends with other walkers along the way. Some not only fall in step with each other – they also fall in love!
Some cruise lines are friendlier than others to solo cruisers. Fred Olsen Cruise Lines has at least 40 single-occupancy cabins on each of its ships, which cruise from the United Kingdom to Europe, Scandinavia, the Arctic, the Amazon and beyond. Royal Caribbean’s Radiance of the Seas, which cruises around Australia and New Zealand during the southern summer and Alaska during the northern summer, offers three single-occupancy interior staterooms.
Independent travellers may want to explore a country where the people are famously friendly, such as Bali, Burma, New Zealand, Fiji and Japan. You could also consider staying in a hostel rather than a hotel, where it’s harder to mingle with fellow guests. If you feel your hostel days are behind you and you can’t do a bunk bed ever again, you may be surprised to learn that many hostels offer private rooms. Some hotels also offer excellent mingling opportunities. The 66 Kimpton boutique hotels across the United States, for instance, host a nightly wine hour in the lobby. Here’s cheers to that!
When to buddy up
If you’re a little worried about going out alone, there are some places where it’s safer – or simply more relaxing – to travel with a companion. Grab a travel buddy and head to India, Egypt or Morocco.
Once there, it is also wise to arrange a driver to take you from place to place (the cost is often more affordable than you might expect). The best advice is to use your common sense and behave how you would at home. Keep an eye on your drinks and valuables, be careful when walking around at night and notify friends and family of your whereabouts.
Solo travel tips
So it’s dinner time and you’re facing another night at a table for one. Head to a sushi restaurant where you can sit at the counter and be entertained by the sushi chefs’ deft knife skills while enjoying the fruits of their labours. In North America, you can find restaurants where you can dine at the bar and chat to the bartender. In Vancouver, for instance, you can sit at the bar of the Gotham Steakhouse, which is connected to the St Regis hotel in downtown, and enjoy small talk along with a fabulous grilled steak, Art Deco-inspired surroundings and live music. If all that fails, take a book, write postcards or update your Facebook status in between courses.
Practise the art of talking to others. Go on – it’s not that hard. Smile and ask someone where to find a good coffee, a great bar or a cute little café for lunch. You might get a fabulous recommendation – and enjoy the best caffeine/wine/meal of your life. And if you’re lucky, that cute guy or girl just might want to join you.
And now that you’re ready to set of travelling, there’s no limit to the destinations you can choose.
Have you travelled solo before? Got any tips or tricks to surviving the solo journey? Share with us to help your fellow travellers out!