Whether you find yourself traveling alone by choice or necessity, it can be a unique and satisfying indulgence. No compromising on where to go, how to spend your precious time, or where to eat for dinner. Still, it can be a little intimidating – especially if you’re a woman traveling alone. To help make your next solo travel experience a singular success, we’ve assembled our 9 best tips on traveling alone. Read on traveler; your very own special adventure awaits!
1: Avoid the dreaded “single supplement.”
Tours and cruises are a great way to enjoy the benefits of traveling alone, but also offer the chance to connect with other tour-goers. Many operators, however, charge on a per-person basis assuming double occupancy. If you’re on your own, you’re typically charged a “single supplement,” essentially a fee to compensate operators for lost revenue from one fewer person on the tour. This can be weighty – from a few hundred dollars to several thousand.
Nevertheless, there are things you can do to avoid the single supplement. Look for tours that will match you with a roommate. Not only will you dodge the supplement, but you can often share expenses as well. Some companies will match you based on age, interests, and other criteria; others will match randomly. Singles Travel International, Road Scholar (for older travelers), and Intrepid Travel (for younger travelers) provide roommates for tours, cruises, and other adventures. For women-only tours, many of which provide roommates, see our tips on travel for women.
Alternatively, look for operators that don’t charge a single supplement. These are generally referred to as “single-friendly” companies and include Overseas Adventure Travel, Uniworld, and Grand Circle Travel, among others.
2: Plan an itinerary and include basic logistics.
Winging it in a far-flung destination can be frustrating, if not dangerous – especially when traveling alone. We recommend doing a little homework ahead of time on whether visiting alone is generally safe, and if so, how to get around. This includes transfers from the airport to the hotel; getting to and from attractions; and longer, inner-country travel. Are taxis likely to take a single passenger “for a ride” fare-wise? Is ridesharing appropriate? (See this article on basic rideshare safety tips.) Could taking a train or bus alone across the country attract the wrong kind of attention? You get our drift.
While the whole trip doesn’t have to be planned down to the minute, having a sense of what to expect allows you to focus less on planning while on the go, and more on enjoying your time abroad.
3: Leave a copy of that itinerary with a family member/friend before you depart.
Share your travel plans with family and friends. (Source: Shutterstock / DUANGJAN J)This is fairly straightforward advice, but important to follow when traveling alone. If you need to be reached from home – or contacted in the extremely unlikely case that something happens to you – you want friends/family to know where you are. Leave a detailed itinerary, including hotel and contact information, with someone you trust back home.
4: Arrive during the day.
If possible, arrive at your destination(s) during the day. This gives you an opportunity to get your bearings in the daylight and will typically be a lot safer. Bus and train stations are likely to be empty at night, making the solo traveler stand out and potentially more vulnerable. Trust us – even the quaintest mountain village can seem menacing in the dark.
5: Consider staying in accommodations with a 24-hour concierge on duty.
We understand that this may not be possible or preferable in many instances, but all else being equal, we think it makes a lot of sense. Having an extra layer of security at the hotel is reassuring. Your local concierge can also provide recommendations on local attractions, eateries, and tips on getting around.
While we’re talking about accommodations, here’s another rec: As an added precaution for a woman traveling alone, avoid rooms that require long walks down dark or deserted hallways or paths. Get a room that’s near the elevator or management office, or has good outdoor lighting.
6: Keep your solo traveler status to yourself around strangers.
When out and about, try not to disclose to strangers that you’re traveling alone. If you have to ask for directions – or if someone asks if you’re traveling alone – say you’re meeting up with friends and excuse yourself promptly, after getting the information you need. A person traveling alone can make for an easy target, so it’s best to avoid drawing undo attention to that vulnerability.
7: Consider (cautiously) meeting up with other solo travelers.
While exploring new sites and sounds on your own can be enormously satisfying, it can also be fun to share the experience with someone else. These meetings can range from one-off afternoon museum visits to sharing several days of your journey with another traveler. And while there are countless ways of meeting people, there are a handful of apps that can help facilitate the process for the traveler on their own.
SoloTraveller connects you with other solo travelers in your location in real time; to help you find the right partner in travel, you can filter by age, gender, and interest. Eatwith and BonAppetour offer a variety of culinary-themed experiences, like meal-sharing opportunities with locals and travelers, cooking classes, food tours, and more.
For the woman traveling alone, there is Tourlina and Chirpey which connect you to other female travelers heading to the same destination. You can input itinerary details ahead of time to arrange meetups and outings once on the ground. For more, see this article on apps for solo travelers.
Of course, it goes without saying that all meetings should be approached with an abundance of caution. Consider meeting in public first and leaving details about your meeting with family/friends. If something doesn’t seem right, it’s best not to go through with it. If you find yourself in an awkward or troubling situation, excuse yourself promptly.
8: Check in with family/friends at least occasionally.
For peace of mind for you and your loved ones back home, check in periodically to let them know where you are and that you’re OK. You can do this by cellphone, though this may be expensive and challenging depending on where you are. Apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Viber allow you to message from just about anywhere if you have a WiFi connection. Of course, message recipients must also have the app to receive your messages.
9: Bring along a few personal safety tools.
While it may sound old fashioned, your basic loud whistle can do a lot to alert bystanders if you’re in trouble. Naturally, there are gazillions of whistles on the market, but we like this sturdy brass whistle from Amazon. It’s relatively small, inexpensive at $6.99, and can be worn around your neck, on a keychain, or belt buckle. Oh yes, and it’s realllllly loud.
Finally, TripWhistleGlobal is a mobile sort of a whistle – and more. It allows you to contact local authorities (fire, police, and ambulance) directly from the app without having to input local phone numbers. The app also shows your exact location with a map, including latitude and longitude, and a street address (where possible) to make locating you easier.