Many people believe solo travellers are plucky, intrepid wanderers with fearless spirits. Maybe we’ve developed these perceptions due to blockbuster films such as Into the Wild and Eat Pray Love.
But the thing is, you don’t have to be an outrageously confident individual to travel solo. Nor do you have to pack your hiking bag and take to the wilderness for months of solitude.
There are many different types of solo travellers out there today. So, why do they do it? How do they do it? And is it something you’d benefit from experiencing?
Despite what many think, travelling solo isn’t the sole domain of single people. Individuals with partners, families and other attachments choose to book a solo holiday. The main reason? Freedom.
We’re talking about freedom to do whatever you want, whenever you want. You can wave goodbye to compromise and follow the “you do you” mantra.
Tired, exhausted and feeling unsociable? You can hole up in your hotel room and watch local TV for an entire day without feeling bad about it. Want to hike all the way across the city to seek out the best coffee shop instead of going to a museum? Fine, it's up to you.
You can see why travelling solo may be attractive to people in long-term relationships or parents with young children. Or for that matter, anyone whose life is intrinsically linked to the needs and wants of others. No matter what your relationship status is, solo travel is an opportunity to rediscover your own joys, passions and interests without interruption or influence.
Are you single and unable to find a travel buddy with similar interests to your own? Are you itching for a holiday, but your partner can’t get the time off work? Perhaps you booked a trip with someone only for them to back out at the last minute. There are many scenarios where you're faced with the option to travel solo or not travel at all.
Solo travel may not be for everyone. But you don’t want trepidation to hold you back from discovery. Especially in a day and age where holidaying alone is accessible and full of possibilities.
Remember, you don’t have to do everything by yourself unless you want to. If you’re embarking on a trip alone and feel uneasy about navigating foreign places, you can consider joining a guided tour. It’s a fantastic way to meet like-minded people and socialise without the obligation to spend every waking moment together. You’ll also experience the peace of mind that comes with travelling as a group and knowing someone will be looking out for you if anything goes awry.
Group tours are particularly beneficial for first-time solo travellers who may be nervous about going it alone. However, people who have travelled solo for years also book group excursions to enjoy the balance between solitude and socialising.
Solo travel today is totally different to what it was like twenty years ago. You don’t need an impeccable sense of direction, the ability to memorise 20 phone numbers, or a friend who can speak five languages fluently.
Technology has provided us with increased independence during travel. In many ways, it’s also given solo travellers improved security.
Many solo travellers aren’t too worried about getting lost in a city or running out of phone battery. But if you’re feeling anxious about your first time holidaying alone, we understand. Here are a few of our top tips for travelling solo and stressing less.
It’s always wise to gather your general bearings and learn a few essential phrases in the local language when you reach a new city. But you can’t be expected to hold entire metro maps in your head. And as much as we wish we could, mastering several languages is a tricky endeavour. Which is why map and translation apps exist. If anything, they’re for peace of mind when you get lost, or stuck trying to order food at a restaurant. Choose apps that can be downloaded and used offline, such as Google Maps and Google Translate. It’ll save on data if you have a sim card or allow you to travel without one.
Whether you keep it on your phone or on a piece of paper, you should always carry emergency contact information with you. This includes the contact number of your local embassy, your travel insurance provider and your bank.
If you have a smart phone, ensure your emergency contact (next of kin) can be reached from your locked screen (you should be able to configure this in your phone settings). An ICE (in case of emergency) app is also helpful to download, as it’ll allow you to enter your blood type, allergies, ongoing health conditions and the medications you’re taking. All this information can be reached from your locked screen and greatly assists paramedics in an emergency.
Not sure of the emergency services number in every country you’re travelling through? The TripWhistle Global SOS app stores the emergency numbers for every country in the world.
This brings us to our next point. Always. Get. Travel. Insurance. If you need convincing, here’s one compelling reason: It reduces stress and prevents you from inventing elaborate ‘what if’ scenarios, so you can focus on having a good time.
We all value privacy but keeping loved ones up to date with where you are is a sensible idea. Especially if you have worried parents. Send them a copy of your travel itinerary or consider downloading something like the Find My Friends app onto your smartphone.
Alternatively, you can let the person at the front desk of your hostel know where you’re headed. Many solo travellers tend to do this if they plan on going on a long hike without phone reception, or out by themselves at night.
When travelling solo you may come across instances where you have to pay extra money to book a hotel room with a double bed or a cruise package for one. This is called a single supplement and is often charged when a tour operator or accommodation provider takes bookings on the assumption that a room or cabin will be occupied by two people.
Look out for this in the small print when you book. And if your tour operator organises your accommodation, ask them what options are available for you. They may be able to arrange for you to bunk with other solo travellers on your tour. Some BnB’s also have private single rooms. The important thing is to ask as you never know what kind of deal you might score.
We have solo travellers of all ages and sexual orientations embarking on our tours of UK and Europe every day. We offer small group tours because we think it provides a friendlier atmosphere, especially for solo travellers. If you want to know a bit more about the real experiences of solo travellers on our tours, have a read of the following links.
Sonja, a female solo traveller reviews her experience of our 2-day Loch Ness, Inverness and the Highlands tour here.
Tim reviews his experience of our 1-day Oxford and Traditional Cotswold Villages tour from the perspective of a LGBT solo traveller here.
Alternatively, you can browse our TripAdvisor reviews by ticking the ‘solo’ box under ‘traveller type’ to see what other solo travellers thought of our tours.