Top tips for solo travellers
It doesn't matter if you've travelled alone a thousand times or you're researching your first solo getaway, these tips are vital for having a hassle-free holiday.
Solo travel is more popular than ever, and it's easy to see why. Nothing gives you the same sense of freedom, excitement and discovery than venturing out with nothing but yourself and a suitcase. But if you've never taken the first step into travel independence before, it can be a daunting prospect.
Fret not, as we've got the lowdown on everything you need to know to enjoy your own solo adventure!
If you're going it alone, you have to be especially careful to ensure your safety. Make sure you select destinations and routes that are considered safe for travel (find out more on the government website), and above all make sure that someone knows where you are at all times – this could be family or friends. It's also worth having the number of the local embassy to hand in case you need more immediate help.
It also makes sense to book your travel insurance early, giving you the peace of mind that wherever you venture, you're protected.
Learn the language
In our experience, most destinations will cater for English speakers, particularly in larger cities. But, if you're planning on venturing down the proverbial road less travelled, it's sensible to have a basic grasp of the lingo. Besides, whether you're in the capital or the middle of nowhere, locals will appreciate the effort.
Apps like Duolingo offer free tutorials to get you started on most of the world's major languages, meaning you'll be able to say 'hello', 'thank you' and 'one beer, please' in no time! Take the time to download the Google Translate app too, which has a nifty camera feature that'll translate text in real time with surprising accuracy. It's essential for reading menus and navigating road signs.
Join a tour
If you're visiting a location for the first time, it's worth seeking out local knowledge. Whether a day tour or a longer excursion, a tour group is a great way to learn more about your surroundings than you ever could by yourself. You'll also benefit from the safety of numbers, particularly when exploring more remote areas.
A tour group is also an easy way to meet like-minded travellers who could very well become lifelong friends!
While tour groups are invaluable, make sure to leave some time for yourself too. Embrace the spontaneity of solo travel and enjoy the unexpected. This could be something as simple as taking an extra hour to recover after a hectic morning, to completely changing your plans should you find a new group of friends to travel with.
Remember, it's the journey, not the destination that's important.
Take your time
Similarly, solo travel means you needn't rush to accommodate others. Take the time to truly absorb a new location, its culture and sensations. It's very easy to become burnt out if you try to squeeze too much in, and it's often more satisfying to enjoy fewer locations more holistically than just ticking off as many things as you can.
Top locations for solo travel
Now you're clued up on the basics, it's time to take a look at some of the best locations for solo travel:
We think these are the best places to visit but some may not be practical to visit right now due to covid restrictions – check gov.uk for all the latest travel guidance.
The Republic of Ireland
Looking to start somewhere with home comforts? Look no further than the Republic of Ireland. With friendly locals and plenty of opportunities to go off the beaten track, it's perfect for anyone looking to take their first solo trip, or just want a weekend retreat.
A short flight or ferry ride from the UK, Ireland is steeped in history, culture and good food. Quiet roads are easy to navigate if you're looking to get about in a hire car, meaning you can explore the width and breadth of the island in a relatively short amount of time.
Queenstown, New Zealand
The best destination for thrill-seeking solo travellers, Queenstown is an adrenaline junkie's dream. With a variety of extreme sports on offer, ranging from bungee jumping, skydiving, parasailing, and much more, if you desire to push your personal limits, look no further.
On top of this, Queensland also celebrates its progressive, forward thinking values, meaning solo travellers from around the world will find a warm welcome.
Fancy a new city break on your solo tour of Europe? Try Krakow.
The second city of Poland, Krakow has a fascinating history that's definitely worth exploring. It's also fairly cheap for a major European city, meaning a solo traveller can visit and eat on a modest budget. Couple this with a fantastic public transport network and a plethora of inner city hostels to meet up with fellow travellers, and you may find it hard to leave this enchanting city.
Vibrant, exciting and safer than you might think, Vietnam is the perfect destination for solo travellers looking more longhaul.
Budget-friendly with some of the best cuisine found anywhere in the world, not to mention the awe inspiring landscapes – Vietnam is a hidden gem worth discovering. From sunbathing in Da Nang to rowing through the limestone karsts of Halong Bay, there's plenty to see and do no matter your speed.
The Mecca for backpackers, of all ages, worldwide, Thailand is a great place for meeting new people and sharing experiences. From the stereotypical youth hostels of Bangkok to elegant 5-star hotels, you'll find a path that suits your style. Not to mention gorgeous beaches and eclectic nightlife.
Tokyo is consistently voted one of the safest cities in the world – you'll be made to feel welcome and can travel the streets with confidence. It offers the familiarity of western cities with a touch of the exotic, making for an unforgettable experience.
Travelling solo for the over 40s
Solo travel has a reputation for attracting younger people. Thoughts of gap year revellers, club nights and grubby hostels can put off the more refined holidaymaker from considering a solo break. But this is a very limited view on what solo travel can be, and whether you're 24 or 54, there are lots of compelling reasons to consider planning a trip for yourself, by yourself.
Solo travel can be as glamorous as you want it to be. Whether you want to camp under the stars or cocoon in a king-size bed, you and only you pick where and when you go. We highly recommend booking an airport lounge - it's a great way to kick off your big adventure in style, without breaking the bank.
Booking a trip by yourself can be a great way to meet like-minded people and escape the day-to-day. It can be so easy to fall into a routine, but sometimes it's a good idea to break the mould and explore outside the confines of your comfort zone. Solo travel challenges you in ways that are likely to change you forever, and gives you the chance to make memories that'll last a lifetime.
There are packages tailored around your needs and interests that cater to solo travellers. Companies like Solos offer holidays exclusively to single travellers over 40, giving you the opportunity to navigate new destinations independently while making new friends.
What can solo travel teach you?
Solo travel is one of the best ways to 'find yourself'. It may be such a groan-inducing cliché, but that doesn't make it any less true. You can learn what YOU enjoy, without being encumbered with the needs/desires of others. Only you steer your destiny, and this mindset can help with mental wellbeing long after you return from your trip.
You can also take the time to hone more practical skills that you wouldn't have time to do at home. From picking up cooking tips for an entirely new culture, to riding a Vespa through winding Italian streets, you'll come away from your trip with more than souvenirs.
In our experience, solo travel highlights that the world is a much smaller, nicer place than you'd expect. In an age where headlines would have you believe life as we know it is ending on a daily basis, actually going out to see the world demonstrates that there's a lot more good in it than bad, and our neighbours aren't so different from us.
Reasons why you should never travel with your friends
The only trade-off when you set off on a solo trip is that you may never be able to travel with others again!
Once you hit 21, making plans with friends on a weekend is impossible, let alone an excursion to foreign lands. Not only will everyone have a different opinion on what you should all do on the trip, it only takes one person's luggage to go awry to derail the entire holiday. And don't even attempt to plan a trip your friends who still have small kids, that's a can of logistical worms that isn't worth opening! Once you get over the initial nerves, travelling when you only have to worry about yourself is much more relaxing.
It's much easier to be spontaneous when you fly solo. Whether you fancy an early night or want to stay out until the sun comes up, you only have to ask for yourself for permission.