‘Is there anything, apart from a really good chocolate cream pie and receiving a large unexpected cheque in the post, to beat finding yourself at large in a foreign city on a fair spring evening?’ travel writer Bill Bryson once asked.
‘Loafing along unfamiliar streets in the long shadows of a lazy sunset, pausing to gaze in shop windows or at some church or lovely square or tranquil stretch of quayside, hesitating at street corners to decide whether that cheerful and homy restaurant you will remember fondly for years is likely to lie down this street or that one?’
Most of us would agree that there are, indeed, very few feelings which beat the one the award-winning writer so deftly articulated in Neither Here, Nor There. It sounds utterly idyllic, and it’s almost certainly where you’d rather be right now, correct?
Now imagine you’re experiencing it alone.
If it suddenly doesn’t sound quite as enticing, you’re certainly not alone – pardon the pun – in your reservations when it comes to solo travelling.
What is it about travelling alone that scares us?
For many people, the idea of travelling alone sounds lonely, and more than a little daunting. After all, travelling is surely meant to be a mutual experience; seeing new sights, savouring new food, and sharing new memories. Right? Well, not necessarily!
Travelling alone is among one of the best ways to discover a new destination, and for countless people it’s the only way to properly connect with a new city.
Think about it; when you’re travelling by yourself, it’s nothing but you, a new city, its people and its stories. The sights, the food, and those memories can be seen, savoured and created whether or not you have another person by your side.
But with so many of us maintaining the notion that travel requires the presence of another person, and worrying that an experience is somewhat incomplete if enjoyed alone, we’re missing out on one incredible adventure… or multiple incredible adventures!
So, let’s suppose you do decide to bite the bullet and embark on your first solo adventure; what do you need to keep in mind?
Here, we’ll take a look at the most commonly asked questions on the subject of solo travelling and address the queries and concerns which tend to come up ahead of a solo trip!
Should I try travelling alone?
The answer – in most cases – is yes! Everyone should go on at least one solo adventure over the course of their lifetime – as long as it’s for the right reasons!
With that in mind, you need to ask yourself why this particular question came to mind. Is it because you genuinely want to experience a solo adventure, but feel a vague sense of apprehension? Or is it because you feel obliged to take a solo trip – in response to a misplaced rite of passage – but have a gut instinct that it’s truly not for you?
It’s important to interrogate your thoughts on this one, acknowledge that the prospect of solo travel can feel daunting, and ascertain whether your uncertainty comes down to nerves or a definite and undeniable instinct that it’s simply not for you.
Remember, it’s about enjoying a trip, not enduring a trip, so make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons!
Is it safe to travel alone?
Travelling – whether in a group, as a duo or by yourself – requires you to make sensible decisions when it comes to personal safety. This is a given, and should always be taken into account, regardless of how you travel and who you travel with. However, it’s true to say that travelling solo throws up extra questions when it comes to safety, security and peace of mind, so it is very important to consider this aspect of the process.
Travelling as part of a group often provides an in-built sense of security so it can be easy to let your guard down, safe in the knowledge that your group are looking out for you. Unfortunately, while travelling by yourself you aren’t afforded the same luxury, so it’s important to keep your personal safety your main priority and you can do this by keeping the following in mind!
Put very simply, preparation, research and instinct will serve you well as a solo traveller.
As we all know, travel requires preparation, and it’s a good idea to advise those at home about your plans ahead of time, as well as keeping them informed of any changes to your itinerary throughout your trip.
Research is key to keeping yourself safe while travelling alone, so take care to book well-reviewed accommodation and familiarise yourself with the areas of a city you would be best to avoid.
Over the course of your solo travels, it’s very important to trust your instincts meaning that if you feel unsafe or unsure, you should listen to your gut, remove yourself from the situation and make alternative plans.
Read more: 7 Things You Wish You Knew Before Visiting Italy
How do I prepare for a solo trip?
Research, research, research!
Choose your destination carefully, read reviews, research accommodation, familiarise yourself with the public transport system, study maps and – as previously advised – keep a friend or family member at home informed of your plans!
Remember, there are some things which you just shouldn’t leave to chance, and there are some things which you can certainly leave open to a little spontaneity!
If you’re new to solo travelling, do not leave neighbourhoods or accommodation to chance. It’s important to feel safe and comfortable in your place of stay, so do your due diligence and inform yourself of the city’s options. And, if possible, time your arrival during the day, so as to ensure a smooth beginning to your solo adventure!
While you need to be strict about certain parts of your itinerary, you don’t have be too rigid when it comes to other parts! Take cafes, restaurants, and bars, for example!
You may feel compelled to stick to a certain list of establishments if it’s your first time traveling alone, but allow yourself a little fluidity in this regard as stumbling across the perfect little eatery, and enjoying one seriously memorable meal can often become a highlight of your adventure!
Is it more expensive to travel alone?
Well, this all depends! If every other trip you’ve ever taken has been paid for it in its entirety by your travel partner, then yes, travelling alone will be more expensive!
However, if you’ve always paid your way in the past and do your due diligence ahead of a solo trip, then there’s no reason why travelling by yourself should set you back financially any more than it would when travelling with others.
Prioritise what you want from your trip, and invest your cash accordingly! If eating out (and eating very well!) is your main goal, create a gastronomy fund. If you’re less invested in fine dining, but want to visit every museum the city has to offer, establish a culture fund!
Regardless of your vacation goals, it’s advisable to set yourself a budget that you plan to adhere to, put aside an emergency fund because, you know, life happens and it certainly happens when you travel, and make sure you make sensible financial decisions…. for the most part!
Read more: How to Get Around Italy on a Budget
What are the benefits of travelling alone?
It’s all about you; what you want to do, what you want to see, what you want to eat! Really, what’s not to love?
For many people, travelling alone is about challenging themselves, testing themselves and stepping outside their comfort zone. For others, it’s simply about suiting themselves and meeting new people! For more, it’s about both!
Travelling alone can help clear your head, provide a much-needed confidence boost and remind you that when it comes to memory-making, you’re often the only person needed in order to do so!
How do you meet people when travelling alone?
Sure, it’s always nice to have a little me-time, but most solo travellers will also feel the need to make connections with new people while exploring a new city.
So, how do you do that on your first solo adventure?
There are many ways to connect with the people and places around you while travelling by yourself; hang out in the communal areas of your accommodation, take local-led tours, and attend events aimed at visitors to the city!
Small group tours and experiences are perfect for connecting with other visitors to a new city, as you are much less likely to get lost in the melee while following the crowd!
Rambling around Rome by yourself? Why not learn how to make pasta from scratch with a small group of like-minded foodies? Or maybe you’re meandering Madrid alone, and fancy a walking tour followed by a tapas tasting?
Are there any apps aimed at solo travellers?
There are countless apps aimed at travellers – solo or not – so be sure to take advantage of them!
From translation tools to review sites, why not make a list of the apps you feel would be helpful during your solo travels, and add them to your device prior to setting off?
Here are just a few which will certainly prove handy throughout your solo travels!
Ideal for anyone who has lost days to jet leg, and wants a handy plan for navigating it as neatly as possible!
Most of us would be quite literally lost without it.
TripWhistle Global SOS
This app provides you with international emergency numbers needed depending on location.
This app can translate between a staggering 103 languages.
XE Currency Converter
This app will do wonders if you’re determined to stick to your budget!
Read more: The Best Travel Apps to Use in Italy
- Provide those at home with the address of your accommodation.
- Make a note of the address yourself, and remember to carry it with you!
- Carry a battery-pack. Heck, carry two!
- Carry a paper map for those moments when technology fails you, and /or your battery pack has decided to take an unscheduled hiatus.
- Don’t panic if something doesn’t go to plan – sometimes minor inconveniences can pave the way for truly memorable moments!