While the prospect can sound daunting, travelling alone can offer a unique experience and be a rewarding way to travel. Read our top tips for single travellers to help you get the most out of a solo holiday.
Being a single traveller can be a liberating experience. It offers you the freedom to only visit the places and do the things that interest you. Nevertheless, it can seem daunting, and not everyone will enjoy the experience.
Before embarking on your big adventure abroad, it may be worth taking a short break in the UK first. It will allow you to see how comfortable you feel in your own company. If you don’t like the experience, you can go home with minimal stress and without feeling like you have wasted your time and money.
Alone or in a group?
It may seem obvious, but think about what you would like to do on a holiday and where exactly you would like to go. You may have spent a lot of time on past holidays on the beach or in restaurants with a companion, but this may not be as much fun while travelling solo. You may instead prefer a group holiday on which you can be with people with shared interests, such as on a safari, hiking trip or visit to a cultural site. It doesn’t have to be an active holiday either. Many spas and retreats are popular with single travellers.
If you would like to travel as part of a group, think about who your companions would be. Would you prefer travelling with fellow silver travellers or people of all ages? Some companies specify age ranges, so do check what works for you. Some tour groups also have singles as well as couples in them. How do you feel about this?
Share these preferences with your tour company before you book because they should be able to steer you in the right direction. And if you book late – not normally advised because you don’t always get the best deal – you could always ask the agent to share some information about others in the group.
Your tour operator will be able to offer excellent, specialist advice, but they may not necessarily have first-hand experience of being a single traveller. It’s often possible to join a forum attached to your holiday company before you leave the UK, which enables you to discover more about travelling alone from people who have done it. Reading the comments and posts from others can be highly informative and very useful.
It can be a bit daunting working out where to go and what to do at the airport if you’re unfamiliar with solo travel, so keeping an eye out for baggage labels from your travel company can help you pick out fellow travellers, even if you don’t talk to them directly.
If you do however want to break the ice and are feeling a little nervous, have a few pre-prepared conversation gambits ready. Chatting about your journey or other travel experiences are easy and inoffensive subjects to get the conversation started. Food and weather (both home and abroad) seem to be universally acceptable too.
Tours often have a manager or director who is a fount of knowledge, as well as the group’s facilitator. They can often suggest others for you to join up with if you fancy a new restaurant or an additional visit somewhere. Every group will have some folk you really enjoy, and some you are happy never to meet again. What’s more, this is, thankfully, usually mutual!
There may well be a moment or two when you just want to be on your own. At mealtimes, if alone, a magazine or paper can disguise any awkwardness, and it’s probably easier to find a casual eatery too. Formal dining can be somewhat threatening by yourself. It is also a good idea to revisit restaurants and cafes where you had good service because there is a good chance the staff will remember you and be more engaging.
While alone in a bar or restaurant, you may come across some over-friendly interest, which can be upsetting. It is best to avoid reacting angrily to these approaches because this could make the situation worse. Tell the person that friends are arriving any minute and you would like to be left in peace. If they do not take the hint, explain your situation to a member of staff, who will most likely be supportive.
You should plan your days out in advance, but even the most organised person can lose their bearings. You should ask for help, but pretend that you are on your way to see friends. Don’t immediately let on that you’re alone, and it is better to ask someone at work in a shop or restaurant rather than someone wandering the streets. Similarly, whipping out your guidebook can mark you out as a tourist.
As a pre-caution, it’s always a good idea to let the tour guide or reception staff know roughly where you are going and when you aim to return. They can advise if there are any unsafe places to avoid and know where to look if you are running late.
When you get home, do take a moment to visit a solo traveller forum and leave tales of your happy memories, which may be just what inspires a first timer to go it alone!
Note: The information given is by way of suggestion only. It is correct, to the best of our knowledge, but we cannot be held responsible for any errors or omissions on our part.
This article is brought to you by our partners, Silver Travel Advisor.