The Ultimate Guide to Solo Travel
Written by Sabrina Wu
Traveling alone. To some those two words might fill their veins with wanderlust and bring light into their eyes. Others? It might be their worst nightmare. In this guide, we'll go over everything you need to know about solo travel including:
- What's Solo Travel?
- Does it Feel Weird Travelling Alone?
- Do You Recommend Traveling Solo if it's Your First Time Traveling?
- Where Should I Travel When I'm Alone? Any Best Destinations?
- Why do Some People Think Solo Travel is the Best?
- What Are the Cons to Solo Travel?
- Is it More Expensive to Travel Alone?
- Where Can I Travel Solo as a Female?
- How do You Travel Solo but Not Alone?
- Is it Easy to Meet Other Solo Travellers?
- How Can I Enjoy Night Life Alone?
- Does Solo Travel Get Lonely?
- How do You Start Travelling Solo?
What is Solo Travel?
Solo travel is simply the act of travelling alone.
While solo travel is about travelling alone, it’s not necessarily about being alone. Actually, travelling solo is not so much about who you’re with (or not with), but rather, it’s about experiencing a destination in your own company, on your own terms, and on your own accord.
The experience that you have while travelling solo largely depends on you – the traveller – where the choices that you make and the way in which you interpret the world around you ultimately influence the experience that you’ll have.
For me, solo travel is an expression of the soul, where the world is the canvas, I am the paintbrush, and the experience itself is my masterpiece.
Does it Feel Weird Travelling Alone?
From an evolutionary perspective, the concept of being alone is very unsettling for humans. Human beings are social creatures. In history, survival largely depended on the collective effort of a community to provide resources, shelter, and safety. Being isolated from a group significantly reduced chances of survival. So, as a survival mechanism, our brains are wired to cling onto a sense of togetherness and avoid loneliness.
On that same token, our sense of identity is largely influenced by our relation to others within a community. Being alone in a foreign place, possibly surrounded by a foreign language, can throw you into a situation where that sense of community – and therefore, that sense of self – is lacking.
So yes, solo travel can be weird sometimes, but that is totally normal, and just part of the fun.
Do You Recommend Traveling Solo if it’s Your First Time Traveling?
Having some prior group travel experience can definitely help with navigating through some difficulties that may arise while travelling alone. That being said, with the right attitude, an open mind, and preparation, it is absolutely possible for someone who’s travelling for the first time to have a successful solo trip.
Where Should I Travel When I’m Alone? Are There Any Travel Destinations Which are Better than Others?
The world is your oyster. You can pretty much travel anywhere alone. That is, nobody is stopping you from purchasing the ticket. The best solo travel destinations will vary depending on a variety of factors, but there are a few popular destinations that have been revered as the best.
The inviting backpacker culture, monumental sights, and cheap intercontinental travel make Europe a great destination for solo travel. Tackle the popular Western destinations like Spain, Italy, Portugal, and France, or visit Eastern Europe and indulge in the culture of Poland, Czech Republic, Austria, and Hungary.
Whether you choose to visit the hustle bustle of Bangkok, relax on a secluded beach, or visit up north to scooter around and visit elephant sanctuaries, Thailand has so much to offer for the solo traveler. This trip can also be combined with other countries in Southeast Asia like Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar, Malaysia, and Indonesia.
From conservation initiatives, to wildlife excursions and yoga retreats, Costa Rica is the place to reconnect with yourself and nature. It is a relatively safe place to travel and has a great backpacker culture, making this country a great destination for solo travel. But just an FYI, it is one the most expensive country in Central America, so make sure to save your pennies for this one.
While the trip can get quite costly with flights and accomodations, Australia offers a laid-back culture with lots to discover and explore. To get off of the beaten path, visit the west coast.
Considered the adventure capital of the world, New Zealand is the hub for intrepid travel. Many visitors stay for extended trips to indulge in this lifestyle, making New Zealand a great place to meet like-minded people.
Another destination for adventure, Iceland is best known for the northern lights, glacial travel, and #vanlife. Well-established travel infrastructure offers convenience to solo travelers, and with low crime rates, safety is hardly a concern.
New York City
New York City is a bucket list destination that everyone needs to cross off. It’s one of those places where being alone does not take away from the adventure. In this fast-paced environment, only having to think about what you want to do can make for a much smoother trip.
Why do Some People Think Solo Travel the Best?
Many people who travel solo LOVE travelling solo. I know I certainly do. While the reasons will vary from person to person, these are four reasons why I think solo travel is the best.
When you travel alone, you can do whatever you want, whenever you want. There’s no compromising or waiting on other people. You get to make the final call on your travel decisions, and the freedom to do so is oh, so sweet.
While many people don’t like being alone, alone time is important for introspection. Introspection allows for insight about who you are and who you want to be. Travelling alone can provide the space to see yourself in a different light and interpret these insights in a meaningful way.
3. Building connections
Solo travel is a great way to connect with new people. It forces you to step out of your comfort zone and meet new people you otherwise wouldn’t have even given a second thought. These connections can make all the difference in a trip, and create memories that last a lifetime.
There is always an aspect of chaos in travel. Chaos shakes up the norm and brings you into unexpected situations. While that can be unsettling, chaos forces you to follow your gut, and oftentimes, that leads you to the things that you’ve been subconsciously yearning to experience.
What Are the Cons to Solo Travel?
While solo travel certainly has its perks, there are aspects to solo travel that can be difficult.
There’s safety in numbers, and as such, there are undeniable risks of travelling alone. While there are plenty of places where safety is not a huge concern, a single traveler is an easy target for theft, scams, and other crimes. Because of this, it is important to be aware and follow safety practices while travelling.
Lack of Company
A lack of company can definitely be a con for solo travel. Having someone to experience a destination with can make a world of difference. With the right person, a beach becomes an oasis, a city becomes a party, and the world becomes a paradise. Even just having company for the little things, like transportation, check in, and meals, can make things that much more pleasurable.
Price can be a big con for solo travel, which leads us to the next topic...
Is it More Expensive to Travel Alone?
It can definitely be more expensive to travel alone. Without anyone to split the tab for rentals, accommodation, and transportation, things can get expensive quickly.
Here are the top tips for reducing the cost of travel for solo travellers:
- Book your stay in hostels. Unlike hotels, hostels charge per bed, not per room, reducing the price of accommodation significantly
- Depending how flexible you are in your travels, you can book a work-stay arrangement where you will be required to do some work in exchange for a place to stay –this is best for long-term stays
- Use public transportation. Taxis are usually very pricey and without other people to split the bill with, it can be much cheaper to just hop on a bus. You can look up routes and schedules online or simply ask for help
- Pick accommodation with airport transfers. Some accommodations offer airport transfers for a small fee or even for free. Do some research beforehand and coordinate your accommodations based on this
- Along with traveling sustainably, you can choose a solo traveler-friendly tour company. Some tour companies charge an extra fee (a single supplement) to solo travellers. This is done to accommodate for the price of services that would have otherwise been split amongst a group. To avoid this fee, choose tour companies that accommodate solo travellers by combining multiple different travellers into one group tour
- Cook your own meals. Many hostels offer a shared kitchen that can be used by its guests. Buy ingredients at the grocery store and cook up a quick meal instead of dishing out money to dine-in for every meal
- Go to local restaurants. If you choose to go to a restaurant, avoid the touristy places. Venture off the beaten path and find a home-y restaurant that the locals go to. Chances are the food will taste better and it’ll be much cheaper too.
- Last but not least, ALWAYS research the places you are travelling to. Having some prior understanding of the culture and language of the place you are going to can prevent you from being scammed. Make sure you have an idea of how much money something should cost and know the basic language to communicate numbers and basic ideas.
Where Can I Travel Solo as a Female?
Two travel bloggers, Ashley and Lyric Fergusson, have compiled a variety of sources to create a Women’s Danger Index for the most dangerous places for females to travel in 2019. According to their index, the most dangerous places for solo female travellers are South Africa, Brazil, Russia, Mexico, and Iran.
Despite this, a quick google search will show that solo female travelers have been to all of these places, and many of them have had successful experiences. According to many of these women, while there is no limit to where to travel, good preparation is key.
For a first solo trip or for someone less experienced, it’s best to stick with the easier destinations as listed earlier, and then work your way up to the more nomadic routes.
How do You Travel Solo but Not Alone? Is it Easy to Meet Other Solo Travellers?
Focus on doing the things that you want to do, and you will naturally meet people.
For example, if you hate museums but you go to a museum because it was in the TripAdvisor list of things to do in Italy, you probably won’t have anything in common with the other people in the museum, and you probably won’t meet anyone memorable. However, if you are exploring your Buddhist nature and decide to visit temples throughout Asia, you are more likely to meet people you can share the moment with.
In places with a large tourism culture, you are likely to bump into other solo travellers either at a hostel or during a tour, without having to try very hard. Other solo travellers are usually looking to meet other people as well so they are typically friendly and easy to talk to.
How Can I Enjoy Night Life Alone?
First, scrap the idea that you need to be with other people in order to have a good time.
Next, enjoy night life alone.
Okay, to be fair, depending on where you travel to, this might not exactly be safe. The reality is that going out alone at night can be dangerous in many areas in the world, especially if you are a single female and/or planning to get intoxicated. In these places, it is wise to meet other travellers or even locals that you trust to accompany you on your nightlife adventures. You can also find bar crawls in the local area. Bar crawls organize group “tours,” with locals and tourists, that visit multiple bars throughout the night. They provide a safer setting to enjoy the nightlife and allow you to meet new people.
If you do choose to venture out alone, always have a plan on how to get back to your hostel/hotel safely, and let someone know where you are.
Does Solo Travel Get Lonely?
Being alone feels different for everyone. Some people, like myself, bask in alone time. It can be a way of practicing self-love to ourselves. For me, being alone is like a warm cup of tea on a cold morning. But just like a hot cup of tea will eventually turn cold, alone time will eventually turn into loneliness.
Loneliness is what happens when the threshold for social connection has been surpassed. Depending on what your threshold is, and how long you’ve been alone, solo travel can definitely get lonely.
While we do have the convenience of modern technology to call a friend or send a message, I invite you to see loneliness as less of a plague, and more like an old friend.
Loneliness can be a great catalyst for introspection and creativity. Bringing along the right tools during your travels can help you navigate through your mental space and allow you to make the most out of your loneliness. Bringing a journal, like the Wakeful Travel Journal, can help you organize your thoughts and feelings in a purposeful way.
How do You Start Traveling Solo?
Book your trip.
Well, not yet. With the covid-19 pandemic still amidst us all, we probably won’t be booking any flights anytime soon. For now, travel plans are best left unplanned. This doesn’t necessarily mean we can’t explore, but it does mean that we need to keep it local.
Parks, including Provincial and National Parks, have reopened to the public. While it may not be as alluring as a trip to Peru or Asia, a Coronavirus road trip may be the only form of travel we can safely do right now. A hike in the wilderness is a quick remedy for the wanderlust. And for first time solo travellers, a solo coronavirus road trip can be a great stepping stone for the real deal in the future.
Keep in mind that while coronavirus restrictions are lifting, it's still very important to stay cautious and safe. It’s best to limit the amount of stops you take on the road and avoid small towns while travelling. Small towns have limited resources and cannot support the needs of tourists at this time.
While we can’t travel the world just yet, the Wakeful Travel’s weekly printables give us the opportunity to start a different kind of journey at home - writing, manifesting, and doodling our little wanderlust hearts away – until we can.
*Photos by Sandra Seitamaa