FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions Travelling Solo
I wanted to start an ongoing series that answers questions relating to solo travelling and provide answers with a solo traveller in mind.
It is important to keep in mind that there are many ways to answer any question and there is definitely more than one way to do anything.
I’ve answered these questions, as if I were sitting with a friend having coffee and I’m providing her with some thoughts about her upcoming solo trip. I care about my friend’s experience and my follower’s experience. Solo travel is unique. I want to be sure to support this community and provide guidance that help you have the best experience ever.
Do you have a question? Please send it to me and I’ll provide my best answer.
I have a list of 99 questions so here we go.
1. Don’t you feel awkward doing everything alone?
I’ll be honest there are times when I feel a bit awkward or out of place and that’s okay. The feeling doesn’t stay long because you always have lots of things to do and see, so you really don’t have time to feel awkward. I absolutely suggest planning ahead and have some strategies all ready to go when any of your feelings go sideways. Be sure to get enough rest, especially if you’re dealing with jetlag because being tired can magnify those feelings.
In my case, street photography is my focus and passion when I’m travelling and I always am excited behind my camera. Always remember your purpose for taking your trip and remember that you have already planned on how to handle any potential challenges that may come up while you are travelling on your own.
For example, one of the times that I feel awkward is usually around dinnertime and waiting in line for a table at a restaurant. A restaurant is in business to make money and they might prefer to seat more than one person, I understand that but I still want to eat. I will look for restaurant recommendations through my Rick Steves Guidebook or online and I’ll look for a restaurant with a community table or a bar overlooking the chefs and the kitchen. Now that is great entertainment.
2. What are the best locations for solo travel?
The best locations for solo travel really depends on the traveller and what kind of experience you want to enjoy. In your case, some questions to ask are as follows:
- Do you have a lot of experience travelling?
- Where do you want to travel?
- Do you speak other languages?
- How far do you want to travel?
I like to keep my travel fairly simple unless I’m going on one of my “Bucket List” trips. I like direct flights to wherever and depending on how much time I have, maybe keep to 10 hours or less travelling time. If this is your first solo trip or you are feeling apprehensive, then you want to choose something easier, familiar and very safe.
My top 10 would be London, Paris, Amsterdam, Rome, Venice, New York City, Barcelona, Quebec City, Victoria and San Francisco but honestly, there are lots of choices.
My favourite places to travel solo have always been the smaller sized towns, they are a bit harder to get to but the experience is so special. Some of my small town finds include Giverny – France, Vernazza – Italy, El Cuyo – Mexico, Procida – Italy and Bruges – Belgium. Okay, Bruges isn’t a small town but the old town feels small and it’s a wonderful place to enjoy.
If I were to solo travel to more exotic places like India, Africa or China, I would join a tour group because the culture, language and the huge populations are just very unfamiliar and I would feel uncomfortable.
3. How do I travel solo and stay safe?
Remember that safety is an issue in your home town too, so bring that common sense with along with you. The key to staying safe while travelling solo is all about planning. Travelling solo and being in your hometown is very similar. Use your common sense, be aware of your surroundings and choose after dark activities thoughtfully.
My website is all about being safe and being travel aware. My website is new and I’m adding content all the time, take a look around and see if I’ve written about your particular concerns. I’ll provide a few safety items to consider as you plan your itinerary.
Arrival and Getting to your hotel
If you are arriving at an unfamiliar destination, arrange for a car to pick you up at the airport. Most hotels have recommended car services or advice on how to get to their hotel. The hotel will have an excellent business relationship with this service and it’s in everyone’s best interest to ensure that the tourist (you) arrives safely and quickly to the hotel.
If you are arriving in one of the big European cities, there is always an easy and cheaper way to get to the city centre. London has the Heathrow Express and Gatwick Express, Oslo has the Flytoget Airport Express, Amsterdam has the Amsterdam Express, Paris has the RER Train (not express).
Choosing Your Hotel
One of the most important decisions that you’ll make for your solo trip is accommodation and its location. Choose a room that is central to your destination and where you want to be. This will make it so much easier especially in the evening. If you are at the theatre for an evening show, a short walk, cab ride or public transport is always preferred over a long trip to get back to your room.
Awareness, Common Sense and Scams
It’s really no fun to think about challenges or potential scenarios when you are planning a solo trip. It can easily make the adventure a lot more intimidating and scary than it needs to be.
Common sense, paying attention, knowing where you are and planning carefully for your evenings out or activities after dark will go a long way to avoiding any unwanted issues.
Check a few online resources for any unique safety issues or scams that are prevalent at your destination. Your government website is a good resource. The media is important to check but remember that the media is all about negative media and often the issues are made bigger than they are in reality. Another good source is checking some blogs where the blogger has recently visited where you are travelling, they will have more insight into how a destination feels for the traveller.
I have shared a few of my top safety issues to consider but there is so much more to consider. It’s interesting because when we are at home, in a familiar environment, we subconsciously consider safety issues. Bring that common sense with you on your trip and you’ll be well on your way to avoiding any unwanted issues.
4. What if I don’t speak the language?
The answer is “it depends”. Are you travelling off the beaten track? Are you travelling to an area that has lots of tourists? Language is not really an issue in most places in Europe because English is learned often at a young age.
If you have absolutely no experience with reading, hearing or speaking another language or are travelling to villages where there are fewer tourists, or spending time in a place where the population is older then you will have some challenges.
There are a few steps that you can take to deal with any language issues:
- Learn the language by taking a class before you go. You will become familiar with words, be able to read signs or order dinner.
- “I was in St. Petersburg and the signs were in Cyrillic script and well, I couldn’t read a thing. I learned about the Google translate APP a few days later where you can take a picture of a sign or whatever and it’s translated through the APP.”
- Destinations that don’t have English readily available, you may want to consider hiring a guide or choosing to travel with a tour company.
- I hesitate to suggest going to another destination because of language but it really depends on your personal comfort level.
My experience with languages is all over the map. I learned a bit of French in school but living in Canada, we see and hear French often so that is helpful. I have studied both Norwegian and Spanish so I have familiarity with both languages and there are lots of words that are similar between languages. The truth is that unless you are fluent in another language the experience will never be as “local” as you may have wanted but that’s okay, enjoy the experience for what it is.
As a traveller, I can definitely get by easily in Europe but Eastern Europe and off the beaten track is a bit more challenging. I enjoy hearing different languages and I enjoy the language challenge so it never deters me from travelling to different places. I know my limits and I will hire a guide or go on tours to ensure that language is not a huge barrier.
5. What if I really don’t like travelling solo?
So you’ve started your solo trip adventure and after a few days you realize that you are not enjoying yourself. Now what?
I would first take some time and think about what your expectations are about this experience and start to figure out why this solo experience isn’t working. If this is your first solo trip and the first time that you’ve spent any length of time on your own in years, it could be that the experience is not familiar.
This is where planning before you leave home will be very helpful. In the comfort of your own home, you’ve already thought about how you might feel, lonely, scared, bored or any number of other feelings. What strategies did you or can you come up with to feel the feelings and then move on? Some ideas that come to mind for me include:
- going for a walk
- go to the nearest coffee shop or tea house and read a book or people watch,
- go to a nearby market,
- write in your journal,
- take a bus/metro to somewhere different than on your schedule,
- go to a movie in another language,
- take you camera on a photo safari
- or just go sit in the sun with a drink and enjoy the moment
There are so many options and ideas out there. I really suggest that you have this list created while you’re still at home so that you don’t waste any time trying to move on from your feelings.
There are always options to change your plan and do something different. If you are on your solo trip and it’s completely not your thing, then I would suggest that you join a group of some kind. Do not waste your travel time by being unhappy with the choice of travelling solo. Look for local walking tours, day tours or classes. I’ve even joined meetup groups to meet people and experience some local activities.
Questions 1 to 5 Answered
As I mentioned at the beginning, there are many ways to answer any of these questions. I hope that my answers have provided some insightful ideas and have provided support as you plan for your solo trip.
Did one of these questions or answers bring up another question? Please let me know your question and I’ll provide my best answer.