There are plenty of reasons why some folks travel alone. You may be single, your partner doesn’t share your travel passion, or you simply like your independence. Whatever the case, there’s no reason not to travel if you go it alone.
Those who roam the world solo say travelling alone can be a richer experience because it’s all up to you — where to go, how long to stay, what to see and eat…and when to change your mind.
7 tips for safe, experience-rich solo travel
- Do your homework. Before leaving, download local maps and buy a reputable travel guide for attractions and points of interest. Make a list of local authorities (including Canadian embassies or consulates), hospitals and clinics, together with their contact info.
- Travel insurance. Essential for every traveler — solo or not. Make sure you have enough of the right insurance, including coverage for emergency hospitalization and transportation home, if the emergency is big enough. Also consider trip cancellation and trip interruption insurance. Because stuff happens!
- Avoid the single supplement. Many hotels charge extra if you’re solo. Find a tour company that pairs up compatible travelers. Some hotels waive the supplement if you book late. Or consider a B&B or hostel. Less private but clean, safe and social.
- Travel safe. Common sense is your best defense. Research unsafe neighbourhoods and check out comments on your lodgings before you book. Avoid trouble spots, drink responsibly and frequent well-lit public spaces. At a café, keep valuables like your phone off the table. Take extra precautions if you’re a woman. Don’t label yourself a tourist: wear nondescript clothes similar to what locals wear, leave your expensive camera and jewellery at home and stride confidently!
- Stay in touch. Share your full itinerary with a family member or friend, and check in every couple of days. For both safety and travel utility, don’t rely solely on wifi, even though it’s widely available. Roaming charges for your smartphone can really add up, so ask your provider for a roaming package. For longer trips, it’s often cheaper to unlock your phone, buy a local SIM card, and use a foreign carrier. Then simply replace your original SIM card when you return.
- Embrace the experience. While taking some precautions, be open to meeting people, sampling the language, foods and culture. To encourage encounters, eat at the bar, frequent local cafés and lunch spots in reputable neighbourhoods. Remember to smile!
- Pack light. And don’t forget to leave room for shopping!
6 solo-friendly travel destinations
According to Travel and Leisure magazine, some of the world’s top solo-friendly destinations include:
Easy to get around in, packed with folks looking for a good time, and a storehouse of great cultural wealth — especially the architecture of Antoni Gaudí. Check out his weirdly beautiful Basilica of the Sagrada Familia (but buy tickets months ahead, if you want to go inside). Stroll the busy Ramblas, explore the Gothic Quarter, and explore the Mercat de la Boqueria — one of the world’s most colourful markets. And just try to find a bad restaurant! Overall safe for solo travelers, but take common-sense precautions against pickpockets.
Start at Pike Place Market and sample the famous coffee and food culture of the Pacific Northwest. Seattle’s compact downtown makes your visit eminently walkable. You absolutely have to see the iconic Space Needle, built for the 1962 World’s Fair, and ride the Seattle Center Monorail. A visit to the Chihuly Garden and Glass is also a must-do.
Stunning architecture and friendly, laid-back folks characterize this still-traditional city. Start your tour at the central Marienplatz to gape at the architecture and listen to the 43-bell Gockenspiel, which sounds out three times a day. Check out the famous and raucous biergartens (especially if you visit in October). The beautiful English Garden also beckons, with its trees, lawns and, ahem…nudists. A great city to visit in winter, too!
If Austin is already on your travel radar, it’s because you’re a music buff — especially of country, rock and roots. But Austin’s cultural breadth is even wider. Its biggest festival is SXSW, which covers movies, music and technology — and where you can watch world premieres while rubbing shoulders with celebrities. The capital of Texas offers terrific street culture, with food trucks, live music, raucous bars and restaurants, and real down-home hospitality. Pack wipes for that Texas barbecue!
The hiker’s mecca — and no wonder! Jaw-dropping waterfalls, active volcanoes, hot springs and glaciers in a land of wild, unearthly beauty. Tour the Lake Myvatn Geothermal area and visit the Skaftafell Nature Reserve. The capital, Reykjavik, also offers charming boutiques, cafés and shopping. Surprisingly affordable and ranked among the very safest destinations.
Widely regarded as a cultural powerhouse for its iconic architecture and world-class museums and sights. You can spend days in the Smithsonian museums alone — and they’re all free! But do check ahead, as many of the most popular attractions require timed tickets. The city is easily walkable and offers lively waterfronts and one of the country’s hottest restaurant scenes.
If you’re solo and have a passion for travel, there’s no reason not to indulge. Start thinking and researching your solo trip today!