Solo Travel: Pros and Cons: 2009
Many people are reluctant or nervous to travel alone. Share your tips on traveling alone safely, economically...and without being lonely.
- Please don't post questions here. Use our Travelers Helpline.
Great advise Betsey!! I too will be "mapping out" my trip to Europe. For my first trip last March, I did that and it really made things easier. I guess the difficult part for me on my upcoming trip is the feeling of not sharing the great sights and experiences with someone else.
Colorado Springs, CO USA Mon 12/28/2009
Alone in Scotand
Thanks Betsey. I don't have problems going to a city alone but the countryside terrifies me
Atlanta, GA USA Sun 12/27/2009
going it alone in Scotlad 2010
I really want to go to Scotland but am afraid, of what I don't know, of going. I have travelled to London on my own before but really wish to see the Scottish countryside. I don't have any friends over there. Any positive comments,reinforcement would be welcome.
GA USA Sat 12/26/2009
Visualize a trip
For Diane in particular .. you've been to London, then you will have lots of fun in Scotland! But I understand your feeling: My first solo trip was to Edinburgh, and I would have no trouble returning, but the thought of Glasgow has me nervous (it really is all just in the head, and it must be conquered). How did I conquer the heebie-jeebies for my first solo trip? I think the more I researched the trip to Edinburgh, using the web sites to the things I planned to see and do, also Google maps, the more comfortable I was. If you have studied the trip enough to know, "Take the #24 bus and it is on the right," you are more comfortable than showing up and feeling/looking lost. Knowing where you are going can give a lot of confidence. Enjoy Scotland.
USA Sat 12/26/2009
I can do it!
Wow!!! Okay...all of you have convinced me (although I'm sure I did some self-convincing) that travelling alone will be a good experience. I am used to being with a partner, but there's no time like the present to try something new. Still debating when to go, but the German Christmas markets sound fun for next year. Just not sure I can wait that long to head out to Europe - but this time on my own!
Colorado Springs, CO USA Wed 12/23/2009
Solo travel is the best(Until I meet that Special Lady, of course)!
Man, i couldn't agree more! Just got back from a week in Istanbul; a wonderful experience. I was honestly prepared to go the entire trip without meeting anyone. Funny, when your open to new experiences and willing to go halfway around the world, you're always going to meet someone. It happened for me (this time) on the Bosphorus cruise tour: I made fast friends with a Dutch couple at Yoros Castle, Robb and Pietra. Then on accompanying them for a quick meal, we met two French Candians, Stephanie and Trina. We were then joined by a cool New Zealander named Ben. The six of us spent the ride back to Istanbul in the best conversations, then decided to enjoy a bottle of Raki at a restaurant on the Galata Bridge. Great times! Even better, I went out on my own on Istiklal Caddesi the next night looking for a some club action--and ran into Ben, Trina and Stephanie coming from the opposite direction!! We had the best time that night, because Ben knew a guy there with in=the-know info on the cool authentically Turkish nightspots. What a night of dancing to Turkish music!
The point is, if your open-hearted and go out with a spirit of adventure, you will never be truly alone. It has to be more difficult for people that are used to always being with people, i.e. recent divorcees, empty nesters. But I implore you please, if you want to see the world, don't let anything, or anybody for that matter, hold you back! And yes, Istanbul is still great in November.
Houston, Texas USA Mon 11/23/2009
First Time Alone
My first trip to Europe in 1995 was tagging along on my wife's business trip on the QE2 to England, with four days in London at the end of it. Being a planner in her work, everything was "planned" almost to the minute. The second was a well organized international business class tour of Normandy and Paris as part of an MBA program in 2004 (at age 59). On the third (12 days in 2007) I took my wife and her mother to Tuscany (flew into Rome and out of Paris) as a PhD graduation present. I was the planner, financier, tour guide, security guard and pack mule. After three days I starting thinking about coming back alone, and after reading these posts I feel it is now my turn. I've traveled alone domestically for many years on business and see many similarities to those mentioned herein about Europe. I hope doing so in Europe will be in many respects like traveling solo in the US. I'm planning to retrace our steps and see and many of the things that three people traveling alone could not, as well as stand in front of Michelangelo's David as long as I want. A friend once told me that "when you're by yourself all decisions are unanimous". You've all made solo travel sound so good I can no longer resist making the leap. Any advice would be appreciated.
New Orleans, LA USA Mon 11/23/2009
Romance and friendships
Single guys: You will meet people left and right. Your trip will be full of memories and you will finish with a list of new friends some to look up your next trip, maybe? I started out with my roommate and his two cousins. four college seniors traveling, together. Right from the start we couldn't get anything done. We shared a room in London, argued and it took us hours to decide what to do and finally get out the door. One cousin had a shocking foot-odor problem and the rooms were small. After we agreed to part and rendezvous in two and a half months at Gatwick my trip really happened for me. I met people everywhere along the way that really made my trip outstanding. I was forced to interact with people for everything. I had the freedom to change direction at the drop of a hat when I met a companion. I also picked up on the following: if you are from anywhere else besides California say you are from California anyway. They will regard you as if you live in Disneyland and they will be more friendly to you than if you were say, from New Jersey, or, Arizona. I also found meeting girls when traveling alone very, very easy to do. Especially when you are from California! Also,(for you single guys) it seemed to me that if you have dark hair and you go to the Scandinavian (blonde) countries the girls will be extraordinarily friendly and want to meet you, get close, look at you and talk to you. If you are blonde dude, however, you will have to go to the darker-haired, southern countries like Spain, Italy or Greece to get that kind of reception from the ladies. In my Virgo estimation, single is the best way to travel because when you travel hard with a companion you start to get in each other's way and interpersonal irritations sour the incredible experience European travel can be. If you want romance and great friendships with really exciting, fabulous, beautiful new people travel solo, oh yeah.
San Diego, CA USA Fri 11/20/2009
I discovered this company back in 2006 and have since been back 3 times on their Italian cooking weekends . Held in their beautiful restored 15c palazzo in the Medieval hilltop village of Casperia. Three days of pleasure . From the moment we met until we left , it was fun and hands on ! I was a ' Solo traveller 'as were most of my fellow guests and we all got on famously well . A Taste of Rome , have a 'no single supplement policy ' . The lessons with Genni , Paula and Franco could not of been better . The wine and Olive oil tasting on the last night with Johnny and Carlo was the icing on the cake , magical. The palazzo and rooms are just wonderful , a perfect comfortable place to relax . The food , the wine, the lessons , Casperia , Mark and the people involved with A Taste of Rome were all special . They are a real find and best of all , the whole thing is a bit of a secret. Its the perfect bolt hole for the 'Solo traveller ' .
email : email@example.com
New York, NY USA Thu 11/12/2009
What a great site! I am 23 and saving up money to visit Europe for the first time this spring. I was hoping for some friends to come with me, but they are either still in school or unable to afford the trip. But reading this board confirmed my plans to go it alone if need be. From what I read it sounds like hostels are good places to meet other solos while traveling.
Austin, TX USA Thu 11/12/2009
Go! Don't wait for traveling companions! you'll meet people along the way. I go to europe often on my own, visit friends there and then take off again when I want to be alone. I love the freedom the most. No compromising or missing things and places you want to see or experience b/c someone else doesn't want to. It's great adventure.
waco, tx USA Fri 10/30/2009
First-time Solo trip at 26
I am a 26 year old female and I did my first trip to Europe this summer all by myself. I LOVED IT!! My trip lasted about 2 months and I went to Italy, Ireland, Belgium, and Amsterdam. The only thing I had planned when I left was my first hostel in Venice. When I got to Venice, I planned my next stop in Florence and that's how my whole trip went. If you are alone, I would DEFINITELY recommend stayin in hostels. Not only do you get to interact with other solo travellers, the reception staff is usually very helpful. I loved being able to go at my pace and not worry if my travel partner was happy. Of course, sometimes I was sick of making all of the decisions and trying to figure out if i'm on the right damn train! I would love for someone to go with me next time though. So many times I thought "man, it would be so cool if so-and-so saw this." Travelling is too good to experience alone! I guess I'm kind of mixed on solo travel. I would DEFINITELY do it again though. You can't wait for others to hold you back!
Minneapolis, MN USA Tue 10/20/2009
traveling solo at 74
My almost favorite book is "Female Nomad"...it is me to a T, almost. I started traveling in 64 after a divorce, with my 2 kids and after they have grown, I am finding that seeing other cultures and exploring are my passion. I love it so much that I wouldn't want anyone else along to deter me from my spontaneous detours! I travel on a shoe string and so don't eat at expensive/classy places (nor do I care to).Camping is my favorite as I meet other world travelers and we are all happy and on 'vacation', and it seems like instant friendships develope.
absarokee, mt USA Tue 10/06/2009
Europe in Sept. 2010
Currently debating the Rick Steves tour for Prague and Budapest in 8 days OR traveling alone to Germany and Austria. 51 year old recently divorced...did Europe with my aunt this past March and feel confident alone, but just seems like it would be SO lonely.
Colorado Springs, CO USA Sun 10/04/2009
Solo is easy
Solo travel is great! I went to Greece this summer for 3 weeks alone, whenever I wanted to be social I just hung out at the hostel, found out what people were up to and tagged along. Out of the 20 days traveling I was by myself maybe 3 days of it. Other solos love to met and exchange ideas and travel together, its easy to spot other solos at train stations, metro stops, etc.
Try to get the better hostels (higher ratings), even if they are a little more spendy they tend to be the more social ones (I have found).
As for dining alone, go to the busy part of town and sit facing the street, people watching never gets old!
Portland, OR USA Tue 09/22/2009
Gp ahead, DO it
I'm 65 and have travelled alone to Europe several times and love it. As to eating--just pull out a book! I plan on 2 1/2 months next year, and will use hostels whenever possible, both for price and to meet folks. Common rooms are a great place to get unlonely.
I have also driven across the country about 8 times (Seattle to NC and back)--not quite alone, I had two cats and a dog. I usually camped, with easy to put up tent, at KOA campgrounds, where there is always some elderly man in bermuda shorts to come to your rescue should you need it. I never did. But I met loads of interesting people.
Believe me, travel alone for a woman, even a senior one, is NOT scary. It is fun!
Seattle, WA USA Fri 08/21/2009
You should be fine traveling alone. You have to find a trip suitable to your style.
My previous comment to your post was deleted so you best bet is to go back to the http://www.ricksteves.com/graffiti/helpline/ to get more info from fellow travelers!
Los Angeles, CA USA Mon 08/17/2009
Solo Traveler advice
Emailed the travel avisors and no response so posting this here. Travelers helpline is not exactly helpful.
Greetings Rick Steves Crew! A long time RS fan, 1st time possible traveler. I am curious to know what would be the norm for a 40 yr old single guy who hasnt had a vacation in over 4 years. Reason I am inquiring is that well...basically I need a break from the work grind and figured that another country is a better vacation than actually sitting at home or visiting relatives for the 2000+ time. How normal would it be for someone in my shoes? What should I expect in a tour? Along those lines...how would I go about obtaining air travel arrangements.
I am currently looking at the Istanbul in 7 Days, Berlin, Prague & Vienna in 12 Days, Village Turkey in 10 Days and pretty much anything in Great Britian. I have been all over Europe when I was younger so want something that is new and refreshing.
I want to do this very soon, in 2009. Any suggestions would be sincerely appreciated.
Houston, Tx USA Tue 08/04/2009
The best part of travelling alone in Europe (or anywhere else for that matter) is that you can linger at museums for as long as you'd like without feeling rushed.
Los Angeles, CA USA Sun 07/19/2009
Solo travelling truly is the best. I've done many trips alone including driving across the US and two trips to England. I'm taking my next solo trip in October to Dresden Germany for my 40th. Eating alone, as everyone seems to agree, is the one drawback. However, It is a small price to pay for being able to experience everything you want to experience and not having to sacrifice.
Moretown, VT USA Wed 07/15/2009
I was solo on about half of my first trip to Europe last summer. I had almost a week in Budapest and then four days in Prague. I loved it. I could do whatever I wanted on my own schedule and see what I wanted to see when I wanted to see it.
I had no trouble at all with solo dining, but I tend to prefer sidewalk cafes and food carts over sit-down restaurants. In Prague, I had the best grilled sausages of my life from a food cart near Wencenlas Square. And if you're ever in Budapest, go to Andrassy Blvd., and look for a sidewalk cafe called Menza (near the Oktogon). Fantastic.
Portland, OR USA Sun 07/12/2009
I actually just traveled for the first time alone last year: two short trips to the Mainland USA. They were very short trips that started with a group both times, then I veered off on my own. I rented a car and although somewhat nervous, it was great. I have to say MapQuest is a livesaver! Never got lost. I do absolutely love the freedom of being on my own and doing what I wanted when I wanted, but because I've been on quite a few road trips with a friend in past years, did miss the shared experiences, as well as just talking to someone. I ended up making a lot more conversation with waitresses, cashiers, hotel personnel, etc. and I'm sure my mom appreciated hearing from me a lot more often than usual. Meals might have been uncomfortable, but I made it a point to eat before the usual busy hours, and that made it a lot more comfortable. I also ordered take-out a few times and ate in the comfort of my room. I'm planning on going to New Zealand next year to celebrate my birthday, and if I can't find a travel companion, won't hesitate to do it on my own.
Wahiawa, HI USA Mon 06/29/2009
I too enjoy the freedom of traveling alone. However, I agree with some of the other posters that dining alone can be uncomfortable. I have found that I feel more comfortable at a restaurant with bar seating. Many of the bigger hotels have restaurants with bars.
Phoenix, AZ USA Wed 06/24/2009
I've never truly traveled "alone" except for 5 or so days I spent in Amsterdam a couple of years ago. The best part was not having a set schedule, not having to worry about seeing or doing things for the sake of another person, or "meeting up" at specified times.
However, with that having been said, it is sometimes nice to have one person (be it a spouse or best friend) to share certain moments in travel with. There are some things you encounter while travelling, things so precious and beautiful, that you almost feel selfish for enjoying them alone.
San Leandro, CA USA Wed 06/10/2009
I was in Rome several years ago and I ran into the same problem - single diner and turned away. Rather "glad" to hear it wasn't just me. I am considering one of Rick's tours but the dinners on own are a concern. Has anyone tried to make a reservation for one rather than just show up and ask for a table?
Hastings-On-Hudson, NY USA Mon 05/25/2009
Women Solo Travelers
Wearing a fake wedding ring is a great idea! From now on when I travel, I'm going to pack a wedding ring because it never fails that I'm hit on by men whenever I vacation.
Washington, DC USA Tue 05/19/2009
I usually wear a "fake" wedding ring and if someone asks about my "husband" I tell them he's: taking a nap, ate too much of the good local food, doing some solo shopping, he's not feeling well, too much sun,etc. Keeps in being polite, and can ward off unwanted attention/potential problems.
USA Fri 05/15/2009
Solo through Spain, France and Italy
Hi. I am a Spaniard who lives very close to the France/Spain border, in the beautiful Ampurdán -Empordá in catalan- region. I have visited quite a few countries here in Europe -and the nice Eastern Coast of USA-, but, by far, my favorite trip experience is taking my old car and driving solo my wonderful Mediterranean "arch": from Ampurdán (Northern Mediterranean Spain) to Tuscany (Central Mediterranean Italy) and back. Of course, with stopovers in Provence, Cote d'Azur ... During the last years, due to circumstances beyond my will, I have been forced to travel alone and I discovered THIS WAY OF TRAVELING IS GREAT. Ok, it has some pitfalls, but experiencing FREEDOM throughout this beautiful part of the World makes me to live. This part of Europe represents no problem for solo travelers. Good accomodation, extraordinary food -the best restaurant in the Word, Ferran Adria's "El Bulli" is in Cala Montjoi, Ampurdán, close to my house, and from here to Lascio there is a chain of outstanding restaurants, of every price level-. I would like to explain you, step by step, all the "hits" and "must-see" of my routes, but this few lines is getting too long and, sadly, my English is too short. Best regards, and if you can, take or rent a car and travel through this varied and rosmarined and olive-oiled and charming and garlicly (?)and sunny part of the World.
Mestre de Cabestany
Girona, Spain Tue 05/12/2009
Being Alone & Making it Clear as Such
@Claire - I can relate to wanting to be alone and sometimes shunning unwanted attention from those who assume I want company. I do the old "I don't speak your language" thing. Of course, to make this work you have to know or feign another foreign language. For example, when in Holland I use Italian, "Mi dispiace, non parlo..." and the person who either speaks Dutch or English or German usually leaves me be. On the other hand, with men I just usually put on a confident front and act as much as I can like a local an I have never had too much trouble.
In regards to the comment about dining alone from earlier posts, I can say I have never been turned away from a cafe or restaurant BUT I have occasionally had the experience of the host of a restaurant trying to seat me at a table with strangers!
In some cases this has been quite awkward. Once in Amsterdam a host tried to seat me with a British couple who positively recoiled when they overheard the host's suggestion, as they were clearly enjoying an intimate meal with wine and candlelight. To their relief I was only getting a couple beers and take away so seated myself outside.
I can only assume that some countries take solo diners as in need of company? The whole family style concept I guess. Nice but terrible awkward for most Westerners!
Morgan Hill, CA USA Wed 05/06/2009
Remaining solo while solo
If solo travellers have suggestions for remaining solo, I'd love to hear them. Perhaps this sounds anti social-but when I travel alone, I really do prefer to travel alone. Why do people think it's OK to just come up and being talking to you (in fairness, I'm a young woman and these are generally young men, so maybe it's just the obvious). I really don't like having to brush them off-- I really just want to be left to myself. If anyone has suggestions for being seen as unapproachable, please do share.
Houston, TX USA Sun 05/03/2009
Traveling solo has its own rich rewards!
Ellen, by all means do it! I traveled solo to Italy last year, and it was an amazing experience. I stayed in Rome, Florence, and Venice and used Florence as a home base to explore some smaller Tuscan towns as well, including Pisa, Lucca and Siena. I use good common sense, but I've never felt unsafe anywhere I've been.
Feel free to read my travel journal if you would like to hear more about the freedom of traveling solo. It's at:
I've also posted tons of pictures from my trip on Flickr:
Best of luck!
Burlington, VT USA Mon 04/06/2009
Ellen, Avoid wearing flashy jewelry and carry your purse cross-shoulder. Be careful about going out alone at night in areas that are not frequented by other tourists. My nephew was mugged on an elevator in Switzerland last month - and he lives there, so it can happen to anyone. I'm sure if you take small precautions, you will be just fine.
San Diego, CA USA Sun 04/05/2009
I'm traveling alone for the first time since my husband passed away. I've read horror stories on the graffiti wall about scams, etc. I'm going to Florence, northern Italy, and Switzerland. Any suggestions? I have the Rick Steves' hidden pocket.
madison , wi USA Sun 03/29/2009
Im ready to go to Europe end of April for two weeks for my second solo trip- London, Krakow, Prague, Munich, Salzburg, Rome, Venice...there is NOTHING like the adventure of traveling alone...the solitutde of being alone, so far from home, in another land and culture...there is something so freeing about it...
New York City, NY USA Sun 03/22/2009
I'm surprised to hear the comments from a few of you re: getting turned away at restaurants as a solo traveler. I'm a veteran solo traveler, and have never been turned away from a dining establishment. Now I admit to getting a few odd looks from time to time, but never turned away. I always take a book or tour book with me or take my journal to do some writing. I go to a mix of cafes and some nicer places...nothing four star mind you, but nice for a "splurge" dinner.
Chicago, IL USA Sat 02/28/2009
Solo travel tips
I took my first solo trip to Europe last Oct for my 29th birthday and I have to share a couple of tips. One is that if you are uncomfortable eating out alone for dinner, I would recommend grocery shopping for a special meal in your hotel room/hostel. Most people are ok with eating lunch alone, I loved sitting in cafe's people watching and journaling while eating my lunch. Another tip is staying in places that you are likely to meet new people like hostels or hotels that cater to business travelers...that way you can go out to dinner with your new friends! As I stayed in hostels for my trip I was never alone and found fun people to sight-see with...FYI not just young people stay in hostels, I met quite a few people over the age of 40 who liked the social atmosphere of hostels. Solo travel is not for everyone; my basic rule of thumb is if you wouldn't do it at home alone, you probably would not do it travelling. I'm planning my next adventure to Europe and I will travel alone again for my 30th birthday! Happy Trails!
Tacoma, WA USA Thu 02/26/2009
...The absolute worst part of traveling alone! Restaurants will often refuse service to singles. Sometimes other American diners "rescue" me and allow me to join them. Other than that, traveling alone rocks!
San Diego, CA USA Thu 02/26/2009
Start with a short trip
I am a 47 year old wife and mother of 2 teenaged boys who has gotten my feet wet traveling alone--I have been to Maine to the coast 3 times and after the first nervous trip really began to enjoy it! I get to do what I want to do when I want to do it, and come back refreshed and ready to take on what life dishes out. My son's are at a point where they don't want to travel much with the folks and my husband doesn't get as much time off from work as I do. I have traveled with friends before and that is fun too but traveling alone leaves me so much at peace. This spring I am going to Disney World by myself--it will be my 12th time there but the first alone. There won't be any problems with who wants to do what and when. The only part about solo traveling i don't like is eating dinner out(breakfast doesn't bother me) so now I just order take out and bring it back to the room and am much more comfortable. So for anyone considering traveling alone but is nervous try a short trip at first and if you like it go from there. It's a blast!
VT USA Wed 02/25/2009
I know how you feel about eating alone. My last two trips to Florence and Paris were as a solo traveler, and the only negative experience is eating alone. I'm heading to Rome this Spring and will try to strike up a conversation with the patrons at a nearby table if close enough.
That's odd that you were turned away from restaurants because I always found being a solo diner to work in my favor--maybe it's because I'm a woman.
DC USA Sun 02/15/2009
I have traveled outside the US with groups of friends and with my girlfriend to Paris. While my preferred way to travel is with one friend, I mostly travel by myself. My only issue, and it's not a big one, is eating alone. I'm uncomfortable going to a nicer restaurant and occupying a table by myself; and sometimes I forget to bring a book or something to read. In Rome I was turned away from two cheap places, but usually I can find a nice place that's not too busy and is happy to have my business.
Anaheim, CA USA Sun 02/08/2009
Hi I am a journalist writing an article on solo travelers. Would anyone like to be quoted in an article. I love to travel, but have never done it alone. Does anyone have any tips?
Richmond, VA USA Thu 01/15/2009