Several important decisions go into making a solo trip a satisfying adventure. Not only do safety concerns and language barriers come into play when planning a vacation, but questions of how to dine alone and make the most of a city's nightlife scene by yourself also arise. To help you tackle potentially awkward, lonely, and stressful situations, we rounded up some fool-proof tips and tricks for flying solo. The following approaches will help you take advantage of your solitary status while ensuring that you don't feel too isolated.
1. Eat at Communal Tables
Many hostels and bed-and-breakfasts are geared toward hosting solo travelers. Communal breakfasts make it easier to meet other guests. If you’re on a budget and don’t mind bunking with other folks, you can even crash in a shared room. Striking up conversations will feel natural in this type of shared setting. For those who prefer a hotel to a hostel stay, many restaurants and cafes also offer communal tables. Avoid lonesome meals but turning to your neighbor and asking for food recommendations.
Speaking of communal dining, some cities even offer food meet-ups that are specifically organized for a group people who want to try a new restaurant. EatWith.com is a site designed for booking shared meals, including ones with a master chef or at a private house.
2. Go on a Food Truck Binge
Another way to avoid feeling isolated during a meal is to hit up a food truck, if the city offers them. In many destinations, like Austin, food trucks congregate in one place and ravenous locals and visitors sit at nearby picnic tables noshing on delicious fare. It’s a great place for single diners to meet new people and get recommendations from locals. If you’re feeling up for it, buy extra treats and share them with your new friends, too. Bonus: no one will judge you if you want to down a burrito, onion rings, and a dozen deep fried Oreos in one sitting.
On the other hand, if you’re looking to try an upscale restaurant, we recommend going for a weekday lunch instead of dinner. Depending on the location and popularity of the eatery itself, it may be easier to score a reservation (not to mention, slightly cheaper) for a midday meal than in the evening. If you tend to feel uncomfortable while dining alone, a smaller weekday afternoon crowd might just make you feel more at ease, too.
3. Bring a Book
Reading a book in a cafe or restaurant will help pass the time so that you don’t have to look up from your food to awkwardly stare at others. Sifting through a page-turner in English in a foreign country might also tip patrons off to the fact that you’re traveling alone, and they might even approach you to make conversation.
4. Make Friends With the Bartender or Fellow Clubbers
Clubbing sans friends can be an uncomfortable experience. If you still want to enjoy the nightlife, it might be worth scanning the line at the venue to meet other foreigners. Who knows, they might be more than willing to have you join their clique without too many expectations. Alternatively, if you’re at a smaller venue, post up at the bar. Not only is it more social, but you’ll have the opportunity to chat up your bartender. We recommend arriving early enough so that you can stake out a prime seat. But no matter where your nighttime plans lead, it’s important to be safe, tell someone where you’re going beforehand, and avoid getting too intoxicated alone.
5. Enjoy a Movie, Concert, or Play
If a rowdy club or bar isn’t your scene, try a movie, concert, or play after a day of sightseeing. Sure, attending a show with pals can be fun, but traveling alone allows you to focus on the entertainment, whether it’s a 3D film or punk show. Other perks: you need not worry if your travel companion is enjoying themselves and can meet other like-minded folks. Plus, it’s often easier to score a last-minute ticket to a play or dance performance when you’re solo.
6. Consider Taking a Train or Bus
If you can get to your final destination (or day trip excursion) via a train, it can be an excellent transportation choice. Not only will you see some beautiful scenery, the dining cars on board can be a great place to meet other passengers. Many bus rides also come with a great view, but be wary of how long the ride may take.
7. Study Maps
Concerned about navigating a city alone? Get familiar with the routes you plan to take as well as public transit before you leave for the day. Or, put the directions on your smartphone and watch the dot move on the map to ensure you’re on track. Of course, asking for directions is always a great way to learn about your surroundings. Signing up for a walking tour is another safe and fun option, if you don’t want to get lost while sightseeing. An interesting fact dropped by the guide could even spark a chat with a stranger.
8. Pack Light
If you’re worried about lugging a bag around alone, pack the essentials and that’s all. Can you get away with a carry-on? Doing so will open up plenty of options during a trip. Feel like jumping on a cheap, last-minute flight from Paris to Amsterdam? Invited by a pack of new friends to hike up a mountain range in Nepal? The less you bring, the easier it will be to grab and go.
9. Choose a Busy Hiking Trail
When going on a hike (or tackling another adventurous activity) alone, it’s important to tell someone of your whereabouts before venturing out. Remember to call them when you return so that they don’t worry. It might also be helpful to choose a busy trail, as they can often be safer and close to other trekkers, in the event that you might need them. This leads us to our next tip: make sure to stick to the path so as not to get lost and know your limitations from the get-go.