I am frequently asked questions about solo travel. Have I ever traveled alone? Where are the best places for female solo travelers? I even had one friend ask me how I could enjoy traveling alone, if I had no one to share the experience with. Quite frankly, that concern had never occurred to me. But here’s the other thing. I haven’t really ever traveled alone.
You would think, as a travel writer, I’d have ventured out on a solo trip by now. But for one, I’ve never had to. I also still have hesitations. I thought you might too, so I asked a few experts, women who swear by solo travel, where they’ve been and what their best advice would be for other ladies ready to take on the adventure.
“The main reason I like traveling solo is I create my own experience and emotions during the trip. I’m hyper-alert and present, and observe and appreciate things I would not have seen traveling in a group, with a friend or with my husband. I travel for work pretty frequently and have done domestic places solo, as well as traveled to Dubai by myself for a work trip, but my favorite place to visit is definitely Europe.” –Jen Cullen Williams
“Traveling alone is an amazing experience and I HIGHLY recommend it – I backpacked solo through part of SE Asia and I came back a totally new person. It really helps build confidence, and the best part is just being able to do what you want to do.” – Dheerja K.
“I’ve traveled solo a lot for business (including Tokyo for 24 hours!) and now I travel to spend time at our vacation house days before my husband joins me.” – Trudy L.
“Traveling by myself throughout Europe was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I started my trip in Florence, then went to Rome, Crete and Athens. I did some solo traveling around France as well. I could discuss how I learned about myself, blah blah blah… honestly the best part for me was that when I was hungry, I ate. When I needed to rest, I sat. There was no waiting for others, no holding me back from what I wanted to do and when I wanted to do it.” – Kelsey Robb
Where to go
“Spain (Barcelona + Madrid), Italy (Rome + Florence) and Netherlands (Amsterdam) are great places to travel solo, especially as a female because they are very safe, easy to get around and the culture/locals tend to be very friendly and welcoming. There’s a million things to do and see, so you’re never bored or lonely.” –Jen Cullen Williams
“I started out in England because I knew communications would be easier. You build confidence and then some colleagues in Japan made that seem doable along with a few English speaking tours. In Kuala Lumpur I hired an English driver through the hotel and he stayed while I shopped. Safer and helped me navigate. Since I love sushi I never minded dining at a sushi bar alone!” – Debbie K.
“I really recommend SE Asia – the local culture is very respectful towards women, I was never catcalled on the street or anything, especially compared to Europe or other places.” – Dheerja K.
“I LOVE solo travel. I’ve been to New Zealand, Mexico, and the Caribbean so far. It helps that I moved cross-country after college, so I quickly got comfortable with flying solo for trips home, and that my job required me to travel alone or with 1-2 others every couple months. Now, it feels weird to me to travel with others!” –Jennifer M.
“I did Ireland and loved it!!!! I didn’t have any bad experiences and made some really fun friends. The biggest challenge for me was I needed a verbal outlet for all that I was seeing and processing.” – Lacey B.
“I’ve traveled to Cuba, Tanzania, Croatia, Italy, Bosnia, Montenegro, and more flying solo. I loved Cuba. I traveled there on a people-to-people license in 2013. It’s truly the most authentic destination I’ve visited.” – Ashley O.
“San Sebastian in Spain- amazing, beautiful beach town that is so lively and fun. I recommend staying in a hostel if you want to meet people! You can also have a wonderful time by yourself climbing the mini mountain that looks over the water or bike riding through the city. It’s AMAZING I can’t wait to go back.” – Jessica T.
“I have traveled alone domestically to NYC and to Charleston. I absolutely loved it and plan to travel abroad to France alone in the spring. I plan to hop from cafe to cafe and espresso my way through the country! In terms of traveling alone, I am planning to take one carry-on bag and a purse. Mainly so I can get around easily! I also will have a plan in place with a friend so that I am checking in with them daily. Someone’s gotta know I am alive! I also don’t drink which makes me feel much safer alone.” – Mary D.
“I’ve traveled to Spain, England, Korea, and Thailand by myself. I don’t remember ever having any major problems. I feel like I’ve had more problems when travelling with other people. Though in Spain men are very persistent and don’t take a hint well. But eventually they will go away. I stand out though in both Asia and Spain. No blending in for me.” –Dani F.
Their best advice
“My best tip for women traveling alone is, number one, to just go do it, and to have very loose plans. One day my plan had been to just explore England for a few days until my Australian friend would arrive for us to head to Ireland. I stopped at a pub for a beer one afternoon and started chatting with some locals. An American overheard, sat down too and ended up inviting me to join him and his friends on the next boat to France. I cancelled my hostel and bought a ticket. They went to Spain after one day in Paris but I ended up meeting people in Paris who I spent the next two days with before returning to England. It was such an adventure since I had not even planned on visiting France!” – Jacque F.
“I have traveled all through Europe alone for the last two years. What worked for me was just researching the places I was going to, if needed, learning the language (at least hello and thank you), and doing as much as I could on my own. I was cautious about staying out too late after dark and if I did, I was sure that I knew my way back to the place where I was staying and was in a busy or touristy area.” – Yesenia A.
“I tried a hostel once and had a horrible experience. AirBnb allowed me to stay at places that were cheaper than a hotel but I also found some great deals for hotels as well, so I always researched both. For example, AirBnb isn’t so popular in the Canary Islands so I stayed at a 5-star hotel for less than AirBnb prices. Also, I wasn’t interested in traveling with RyanAir; I heard too many horror stories, so I traveled with Iberia. Sure the tickets were a tad more money but I earned so many miles, I was able to fly home on a direct flight for less than $300. So it worked out in the long run.” – Yesenia A.
“Keep an open mind, and realize that sometimes when things don’t go as planned is when you have your best opportunities for adventure. Remember that as long as you seem comfortable by yourself no one else is going to be looking at you with pity for being alone. Be confident! Make sure that you’ve downloaded some good reading materials to get you through any meals alone in a restaurant. Don’t be afraid to explore the city by yourself- ask directions, wander, take photos… I’ve gone to Berlin, Amsterdam, Tokyo, as well as many US cities alone for business, and have enjoyed every time!!” – Trudy L.
“I have traveled extensively throughout the US alone (albeit for work) – Boston, Nashville, Indianapolis, Miami… Never be ashamed to have lunch by yourself. It took me a while to get over that one. I would run into little cafes and get food to go because I was embarrassed. At one point I just decided to embrace it and I’ve found you meet the coolest people in the most unexpected places…I always bring my kindle with me so if I can sit outside, read and eat, I’m happy!” – Taylor L.
“I’ve never had a negative experience. But I think that sort of ties in with my tip: do your homework but be open to the experience. I always chat up the locals for places that are off the beaten path. It’s nice to go in and have a set itinerary planned but it’s also great to be able to switch things up if something unique or interesting is recommended. You are, after all, traveling solo! That means not having to make sure everyone’s agenda is completed- you are free to do what you want!” – Jennifer P.
And a few sweet, humorous and cautionary tales
“On our first date, I asked my boyfriend to describe his dream vacation. He said, ‘Well, I probably shouldn’t admit this on a date, but I’ve always wanted to go on a vacation by myself to Maine. I want to be alone, read, and just chill out.’ Right then, I learned 2 things: 1, He’s an introvert, and 2, I don’t have to worry about whether he shares my wanderlust, or if we find we have incompatible travel styles — he’ll be just fine if I venture off on my own.” – Jennifer M.
“This is way less exciting than the other solo travel written about here, but a few years ago, I went to a wedding in Rochester, New York, so I decided to take a few days by myself at Niagara Falls. When I drove to the border, I was questioned intensely by the agent there about why I was vacationing by myself. He made it clear that he couldn’t believe a woman would go on such a trip alone without some sort of suspect agenda. Any time I’ve traveled with others, I’ve gotten a fraction of such questions about why I’m traveling. So if you’re traveling alone, just prepare to be confident and secure in your interactions with such authorities!” – Julie S.
“Once in Miami I thought I would be adventurous and go to a bar alone at night. I ordered a gin and tonic and stupidly ‘befriended’ two girls in the bathroom & took a couple of shots. They were staying at the same hotel as me so I thought it would be fine. They both wound up meeting guys and leaving the bar without telling me. I attempted to walk home and wound up being followed by two men whispering really vulgar things to me. I walked all the way to Little Havana – a WAYS away from my hotel – and thankfully was picked up by an undercover police officer who brought me home.” – Taylor L.
“Truly the only downside [to solo travel] is the airplane lottery–I’ve been seated next to all kinds of crazy. But I’ve also been lucky and once sat next to a non-profit director who told the KLM flight attendants in Dutch it was our 10 year anniversary and we needed champagne. I think they caught on when they tried to congratulate me in Dutch the next morning.” – Ashley O.
Have you ever considered solo travel? Already done it? What advice would you give to ladies planning their first solo adventure?
I haven’t had to go solo yet, but I really want to give it a try. There’s something about it the seems so liberating and adventurous.
*First image via Tumblr. Masada and Niagara Falls photos are my own. All other photos courtesy of the adventurous and fun-loving solo lady travelers interviewed here.