COVID-19 (Coronavirus) may impact your travel plans. Wherever you're going, you'll find the latest advice here.

News Solo travel: What is it really like?

All articles

Solo travel: What is it really like?

Thinking of planning an trip on your own? While solo travel often conjures images of a lone adventurer exploring the world, the truth is that travelling alone can be as social or solitary as you wish.

Solo travel provides a sense of freedom unmatched by few other experiences in the world. You can go wherever you like, whenever you like, without having to consult other opinions.

While I often wish I could travel with my partner, family, or friends, our schedules, preferences, and budgets rarely align. Instead of waiting for the right conditions to align for a dream holiday together, I venture alone. I have travelled solo to over twenty countries within the past ten years.

Here’s what travelling alone is really like.

Please note: Travel restrictions can change at any time. Before planning your journey, consult official local travel advice as well as Smartraveller.gov.au.

It’s easy to make friends as a solo traveller

Solo travellers are quickly growing as a demographic. In many parts of the world, it’s rare to stumble into a hostel or sign up for a tour without encountering fellow travellers who are also a party of one. I met one of my best friends in a hostel while travelling solo through Thailand. Since then, we’ve been to Indonesia, Tonga, and Fiji together.

The best thing about meeting other solo travellers on the road is that they’re oftentimes looking for a travel companion without the full-on commitment. Hopping in and out of plans is part of the solo travel culture.

As a solo traveller, you’re often seen as approachable to other travellers. Don’t be surprised if you end up being more social and making more friends than on trips you’ve been on with a travel mate in tow.

Solo traveller making friends on a rooftop

When loneliness is a concern, pencil a group tour into your itinerary. Prioritise staying in hostels over hotels. If you’re hesitant to snooze among snorers, many hostels have private rooms as well as guided tours, group activities, and common areas where travellers intermingle.

Solo travel might be safer than you think

All travel, including solo travel, inherently comes with risks. But by following general safety rules and precautions, solo travelling can be a safe and enjoyable experience.

If it’s your first trip travelling alone, choose somewhere where you’re likely to feel confident and comfortable. For example, New Zealand, Singapore and Canada make for exciting first time solo travel destinations and score top marks in the Global Peace Index.

Solo travel woman sitting on a rock and admiring the sunset
Parc National du Bic, Quebec, Canada

You’ll want to plan ahead more as a solo traveller than you would if you were travelling in a group. Arranging transportation and accommodation ahead of time will make you less susceptible for rushed decisions, and keep you further off the radar of opportunists.

When you’re alone, you’ll want to stick to the same travel advice you would even if you’re in a group. Avoid leaving your drink unattended, walking alone at night, and having your valuables on display. Act with confidence, and duck into a shop if you need to check your phone or look for directions.

Travelling alone fosters interaction with locals

With nobody to bounce ideas off of or to translate directions, you’ll likely end up relying on locals for help. Once the conversation gets rolling, you might learn more about an area from a shopkeeper than from the pages of your guidebook. Locals are oftentimes happy to bring a solo traveller as a plus one to a cultural performance, family dinner, or event without feeling overwhelmed at having to cater to a larger group.

Solo travel doesn’t have to cost a fortune

The dreaded ‘single supplement’ follows solo travellers around like a mafia member, charging anywhere from 20% to 100% extra activities like group tours and cruises. Fortunately, many tour companies now offer trips catered to solo travellers and some cruises sell single occupancy cabins. Other travel companies will match solo travellers in a room with one another, squashing the single supplement issue.

Fortunately, travelling on your own means you can splurge and skimp wherever you like. It’s rare to find a travel partner who aligns perfectly when it comes to interests and finances. While I’m not one to throw money down on a luxury hotel, I’m happy to eat street food and blow my budget on pricey experiences like whale watching excursions, zipline tours, and surf guides. When you’re on your own, you don’t have to spend extra money on something just to please the other person.

Solo travellers are also better suited for the sharing economy. A single person can easily squeeze into a spare seat on a rideshare or couchsurf without causing a burden.

You’ll return home with newfound confidence

On every trip, there’s bound to be at least one snafu. On my solo trips, I’ve been pickpocketed, missed buses, lost my camera, and gotten majorly lost. Other travellers have lost luggage or have fallen for scams. When you’re travelling alone, you’ll have to overcome each challenge using your skills and intuition.

Solo traveller climbing up coconut tree in Fiji

Even the act of travelling in a new environment might make you feel out of your comfort zone. But, once you overcome these obstacles and navigate new terrain, you’ll gain a sense of confidence you didn’t have before.

There’s no excitement quite like the feeling of stepping into a new destination and having the freedom to do whatever you want, whenever you want. With no travel companions to distract you, you’ll be immersed in the place and the present. While you might encounter bouts of loneliness or doubt, you’ll likely find that travelling solo is one of the most fulfilling experiences you can have.

Where can I go?

Making plans to get back out there? Find out whose borders are open with our interactive global map, and sign up to receive email updates when your top destinations reopen.

Want to read more?