‘It’s about getting out of your comfort zone’: 10 tips for solo travelers | Travel alone

YesYoung adults, new remote workers and empty parents on “gap” years are all fueling a post-lockdown boom in solo travel. Figures from the Solo Traveler website suggest that most of them are women and many of them are in a relationship: single is not the same as single. Google searches for solo travel have quadrupled since 2020. Going on vacation alone means you are in charge of your schedule and have a better chance of making new friends. Here are 10 things that can make travel even more fun, provide structure, security, and companionship (for those who want it).

Stay in a hostel

YHA Stratford Upon Avon is in a splendid Georgian mansion

Hostels range from the lowest budget to luxury, but they usually have common areas such as bars, kitchens and lounges, where travelers can exchange tips, food, books, trivia and even agree to team up for a while. Beautiful Dolphin Inn (double rooms from £44) hostel in Dunbar on the East Lothian coast, I shared a takeaway with the woman on reception. Klara Zhao from Sydney, who has traveled alone to a dozen countries, says: “In Helsinki, I stayed in a hostel on the edge of the woods with a cafeteria where guests had breakfast. I met a nice German family and another girl my age and spent a few days walking around town with them.

Hostels don’t necessarily mean sleeping in a dorm; many now have private rooms. Some hostels in the city are famous for their parties, with happy hours and DJs. But the hostel could also involve board games in a Georgian mansion in YHA Stratford-upon-Avon (private rooms from £29), communal saunas at 7 Fells hostel in Finnish Lapland (private room from €65) or surf and yoga at sunrise on the beach of salted pelican in Portugal (three-night package €349).

stay in a house

Klara also recommends staying with family (good for “cultural and language immersion”) through homestayin.comor by booking a Airbnb room where you share the rest of the premises with a resident host, who will often be “a source of many local tips”. Couchsurfing is a well-known program for free sleeping on spare beds and sofas around the world, and many cities are hosting weekly coffeehouse meetings for people wanting to tune in. nomadic sister is a couchsurfing community for women.

Urban exploration

Janice Waugh, of Toronto, founder of solo traveler, contains many tips on planning and safety (prevention is key). She recommends booking a tour with Greeters from around the worldwhich offers free initiation walks in 130 cities around the world.

Tours of all kinds are ideal for solo travelers. Tours with tips only, such as those of freetour.comcan often be more stimulating than a prepaid alert guide to historic sites.

On a recent free walking tour of Amsterdam, anthropology student Katjalisa (who has since joined a sustainable guide company Visits that matter) used the cityscapes of Amsterdam to introduce tourists to Dutch concepts such as gedogenic (illegal but officially tolerated) and gezellig (user-friendly). There were three of us on the tour traveling solo and we joined forces afterwards for a pub crawl.

Hop on a tram

Helsinki Tram No. 2 serves many of the city's sights.
Helsinki Tram No. 2 serves many of the city’s sights. Photograph: Taina Sohlman/Alamy

One of the best ways to get a feel for the layout of a new city is to spend time exploring by public transport, where traveling alone is the norm. Rather than wandering dark alleyways alone or navigating a bizarre one-way system by car, sitting on a bus or tram can be a relaxed and affordable way to see the sights.

Driving a tram through a new city is often a mini-adventure in itself and there are always routes that pass by the main landmarks of the city. In Helsinki, for example, tram 2 is the best tourist route and a day ticket is also valid on the ferry to the island fortress of Suomenlinna.

Great Amsterdam itineraries include tram 14, which skirts the Hortus Botanical Garden and heads towards the reeds and willows of Flevopark. On the way, he passes one of the old city gates and a huge octagonal wooden windmill that sits at the junction of several waterways.

Go for a walk

Descendant of Craig Fawr, Swansea.
Descendant of Craig Fawr, Swansea. Photography: Domnc Vacher

The RamblersBritain’s energetic walking charity, provides free Wellness walks as well as longer guided walks for members. Non-members are allowed to try three of the Wellness Walks for free before joining (from £38.50 per year). For members, there are 50,000 group walks each year across Britain. Public Relations Manager Jardine Howlett says it’s a great option for solo travelers who want to confidently explore spectacular scenery off the beaten track.

In Carmarthenshire, Lisa Denison runs a business called Quiet walks (from £10 per person). It caters to less outgoing walkers who may not want to socialize all the time, but still prefer to be in a small group. “Most of my clients come alone,” she says. A favorite is the five-mile round-trip hike to Garn Goch, one of the largest Iron Age hill forts in Wales.

Find your tribe

The website To meet is a great source for group walks around the world, and can include winter hikes, but also ice skating in Stockholm’s popular Hellasgården park and year-round sea swimming in Barcelona. Enthusiasts will be able to find like-minded friends at activities ranging from chess clubs and rock climbing walls to jazz bars in many cities.

Eat and drink

Deanston Distillery.
Deanston Distillery. Photography: Go to the Cotswolds

Eating and drinking together is often a shortcut to friendship. Cooking classes are always a good bet, as are foraging classes. Kerry Bowness of Foraging Course Company leads lively walks, with samples of hawthorn ketchup or elderflower jelly, in areas from Norfolk to Gloucestershire.

Gourmet walks have emerged all over the world. Tours of breweries, distilleries, and wineries are also fun, especially once the tasters start pouring in. There are hundreds to discover in the UK alone, including user-friendly hydroelectric installations. Deanston Distillery near Stirling (£15) or fun tours all year round at Heart of Yorkshire vineyard, in the countryside between York and Knaresborough (from £25).

Views by minibus

By sharing a 16-seater mini-coach, Edinburgh-based Rabbie’s Tours makes travel affordable and sociable while taking guests through spectacular scenery. Among his many visits is a 12 hour round trip from Edinburgh which packs in plenty of spectacular scenery, including Glencoe and Ben Nevis, the UK’s highest mountain (£59).

The Cotswolds in a day (£55) is a small-group minibus tour that departs from train stations and kicks off with stunning views from Dover’s Hill, followed by towns and villages full of old stone bridges, rose-crowned cottages and beamed pubs . Lisa and Tom Benjamin, who founded the company Go to the Cotswolds, met while each was traveling alone in South America. Lisa says: “Later, when we started our business, it was very important to us that our tours were welcoming and affordable for independent solo travelers, because that’s where we came from.

Be a pilgrim

The Camino de Santiago.
The Camino de Santiago. Photography: Guillermo Casas Baruque/Getty Images

More than half of the 350,000 annual walkers on the Way of Saint James are women. Many of them set out on their own and form lasting friendships along the way. Carolyn Gillespie is the author of Pilgrim, a book about walking the Camino. Lots of pilgrims, she says, are walking through a transitional phase in their lives, and going solo is part of the plan. “It’s about getting out of your comfort zone and seeing what you’re made of.” At the same time, it’s reassuring to be part of a “traveling caravan of people” all having the same destination. “We laughed, we talked, we put the world in order, but we were just as happy with silence, listening to the cuckoo clock,” she wrote. Camigas is a Facebook page that connects the women of the Camino.

Keep a diary

Not only will it help you remember the details of all your experiences, but it will also give you something useful to do when sitting alone in a restaurant. “I always keep a diary while traveling,” says Zhao, “as a way to jot down impressions, observations, little sketches of the moment. It is also a beautiful memory of a trip to see again.”

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