Tips for Traveling Alone for the First Time: A Beginner’s Guide to Getting Started

General Tour Advice

  • Smaller is better: Go with the smallest number of people your budget will allow. The smaller the group the easier it is to build camaraderie and receive personal attention. The larger the group, the less intimate the experience.
  • Consider the mix: Avoid tours that cater to couples. When you speak to the tour operator, ask them how many solo travelers they tend to have per trip.
  • Read the fine print: Be sure to look through all the information thoroughly, especially where it talks about what’s included in the tour and what additional costs you’ll be responsible for. For example, international flights are typically not included.

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Single Supplements

Be mindful of single supplements (the extra fee many companies charge to offset the cost of accommodations which are priced at double occupancy).

A number of tour companies — including Rick Steves’ Europe, BackroadsIntrepid Travel and G Adventures — attempt to take the sting out of single supplements by offering a halfway measure, they will waive the supplement if solo travelers agree to be matched with a roommate. In some cases, if the travel company cannot find you a roommate, you get the room to yourself. Singles travel companies like AllSinglestravel.com offer roommate matching. No matter what, be sure to read the fine print. For instance, SinglesCruise.com notes that it “accepts no responsibility for roommate matching incompatibilities such as sleep patterns, snoring, noise or age differences.”

If you’re speaking to a company that charges a single supplement, don’t take it as a fait accompli, ask the representative if they’ll forgo the charge or at the very least reduce it. You may be pleasantly surprised.  (Hint: Tours looking to fill up their slots are more likely to be flexible closer to the departure date.)

Susan Portnoy, The Insatiable Traveler at the top of Wayna Picchu
Me after a climb up Wayna Picchu looking down over the lost city of Machu Picchu

A Great Resource

Solo Traveler is a wonderful resource for anyone interested in traveling on their own. Janice Waugh, author, public speaker and one of the nicest women I’ve ever met and her partner Tracey Nesbitt, have put together a comprehensive site that offers advice on trip planning, personal stories, and great travel deals, many with little to no single supplements.

She put together a wonderful handbook you may find useful.

General Travel Tips if You’re Going Solo

  • Provide a friend or family member with:
    • A copy of your itinerary and the contact information for the places you’ll be staying.
    • A copy of your travel insurance policy in case you can’t access your information.
  • Check in periodically with people back home.
  • Take photos of your passport, credit cards, and insurance information for easy access. Be sure to keep print copy versions with you too should your device run out of juice.
  • Never keep all your money in the same place.
  • Don’t take stupid chances or drink heavily when out and about.
  • Write down the address and phone number of wherever you’re staying and keep it with you in case you need to find your way back and you don’t speak the language. If you’re at a hotel, just grab a business card from the front desk.
  • Because dinners can sometimes feel more lonely than other meals, choose restaurants that cater to travelers and, if possible, have big bars you can eat at. It’s less solitary than sitting alone at a table, it’s easier to chat with strangers you think are interesting, and bartenders are good conversationalists if you feel like a chat. Plus, always have a good book on your phone (or in your luggage) that you can indulge in to keep yourself occupied if there’s no one around that you want to talk to.
Susan Portnoy, the Insatiable Traveler and fellow travelers on a photographic tour
Me and some of the other guests on a photographic tour in South Africa.

Travel Insurance

I’m a big fan of travel insurance, especially if I am going someplace remote and want to be confident that I gave proper medical care or flown out should I have an emergency. My dad and stepmother canceled a trip to Russia at the last minute due to a close friend’s illness and received full reimbursement. It’s just a smart idea.
To find the right coverage, I recommend insuremytrip, a site that enables you to compare policies from multiple companies at once. Medex is worth checking out too if you only want medical and evacuation assistance. Note: Medex does not provide policies to recoup trip expenses.

Don’t Travel in a Bubble

Don’t be shy: Proactively engage in conversation with those around you, especially locals. Ask them what activities they love to do in the area. Where they like to eat. Are there any special festivals or events taking place you should know about.

Get an insider’s view. (Don’t let not speaking the language inhibit you. Ask those who are likely to speak your language: A concierge, a staff member at a museum or other popular tourist attractions, taxi drivers.

Connect with tradition: Try at least one new cultural something every day of your trip. It can be large or small: a new type of food, shop a unique store, try a traditional activity.

For more ideas, check out my piece Best Travel Advice: 10 Tips to Help You Break Out of Your Bubble.  

The Most Important Advice I can Impart for Traveling Alone for the First Time.

Have fun. Embrace the adventure. Take things in stride. Yes, something will go wrong but whatever it is it doesn’t have to ruin your trip. Truth be told, some of my fondest memories are the result of getting lost, missing a flight or my car breaking down.

It’s all part of the journey both inside and out.



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110 thoughts on “Tips for Traveling Alone for the First Time: A Beginner’s Guide to Getting Started

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  2. AHMED IJAZ says:

    Awesome post Susan. That’s a lot of good travel tips and advise. I have done many solo travels, but found many I could add to plan future travels from your post. Thank you!

    • Susan Portnoy says:

      I’m so glad to hear it! What a wonderful compliment. Thank you for checking it out and for letting me know. 🙂

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  4. Adventurous Kate says:

    Lots of great advice for first-timers here! I love your tip of planning one big activity for each day. That’s something that I should have done more often, to be honest, and I’ve planned some trips way too long (a full week in Medellin, WHY?!) and way too short (two weeks in Macedonia, Kosovo, AND Bulgaria? No). Now that I’m based in NY and traveling less often, I try to plan my trips with a scalpel — no endless days of free time, but plenty of cool activities packed.

  5. Paolo says:

    So far, I’ve only had two trips alone. Both lasted 3 days: the first in Venice and the last in Tuscany.
    I will definitely follow these tips because I want to make a longer travel.

  6. louresa says:

    Oh wow! One day I will travel solo! But for now I love traveling with my twin sister. But when the time comes this post will be very very helpful so thank you!

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  8. carlamcgill says:

    So much valuable information here, Susan. How nice of you! Thanks for the suggestions and perspective! I am not currently traveling much, but I enjoy vicariously traveling through your photos.

  9. thewanderingdiabetic says:

    Solo travel is the scariest, most liberating thing I have ever done. You have just inspired me to book another trip away!
    Thank you for the inspiration 🙂
    Looking forward to following your journeys.
    Aislinn

  10. spreefirit says:

    Hey Susan,

    Great deal of writing on the things you need to be aware while you are solo travelling. Keep up the good work. Looking forward for more works from you.

    Regards,
    Ramjith

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  12. sapphirestone315 says:

    Hello! This is such a great post!
    I’ve recently started travelling solo (alone with a tour), and I’m loving it! And your post just opened up a whole new set of things for me to think about and experience!
    Can’t wait to read all your other posts! 😀
    Cheers!

  13. mirang12 says:

    yy On Mar 10, 2017 9:56 PM, “The Insatiable Traveler” wrote:

    > Susan Portnoy posted: ” Congratulations! You’ve thought about traveling > solo for a while now and you’re finally going to take the leap. That’s > awesome! You won’t regret it. You’re probably thinking, now what? Where do > I go? How do I go? No worries, I’ve got you covered. Fi” >

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  16. marieryan says:

    Hi Susan…Great post.
    I’m a bit of a ‘solo’ traveller too and can agree with absolutely with all of your tips.
    I’ve found that a big friendly smile goes along way and that often other ‘solo’ travellers are always happy to team up.
    Regards. Marie.

  17. jazminej11 says:

    This is super helpful, thank you for sharing your knowledge! I have been contemplating traveling solo and this guide gave me the push to take the plunge.

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  19. Jolien says:

    I’d love to travel solo with my dog (so I guess it’s not totally solo). With an animal by my side, I have more courage to visit remote places.
    I don’t know if you have experience with that, but thanks for the tips anyway!

  20. vadettevanderhaar says:

    Thanks great article. While I love the idea of travelling solo, my head automatically goes to everything that can go wrong (I’m a little obsessed with crime shows). I have a holiday club and almost every year have to forgo hiking.

    • Susan Portnoy says:

      Ok.. I totally get that you have concerns about safety in general and you’re probably exacerbating that perspective by watching crime shows. Try going on a tour by yourself. You’ll feel safer and it’s a great way to start and then maybe the next time you’ll feel better about doing it by yourself. You don’t have to go to a third world country, by the way. Try baby steps. Go on a long weekend somewhere in your home country (not sure where you live) and make it easy on yourself.

      All that said: Why do you have to forgo hiking?

      • vadettevanderhaar says:

        I live in a 3rd world country 🙂 South Africa. My group prefer spa’s and 5 star hotels etc, we have a majority rules policy. I love outdoors and don’t really care if there is someone to wash my dishes and clean my room. As long as I get to leave in the morning and return at night. So exhausted but knowing that I experienced or saw something that I will not again. I think that luxury accommodation is so well refined in terms of their offerings that you get the same experience as everyone else. Will try baby steps. Thanks

  21. wallaceadventure says:

    Great tips, even for me travelling with my hubby. We’re going for a 2 week trip to Ireland for our anniversary in August. I’m doing all the planning and have decided to combine group tours, one private tour and time to explore on our own. Hopefully will achieve a balanced & memorable experience! Thanks for sharing the insurance website…definitely gonna check that out!

  22. Simply Splendid Food says:

    I jumped in to read your blog. I am thinking about traveling alone. The main thing I worry about is the feeling lonely. You want to see the faces of your friends and loved ones and talk to them about your days experience. Thank goodness for the internet. Skype may be my new friend! 🍀

    • Susan Portnoy says:

      I won’t lie, every now and then I get lonely, but it’s brief. Really brief. Sure, social media is a great way to feel a connection as well as Skype. There’s so much to get out of going alone. Consider it a gift to yourself. If you feel like it would be difficult to go totally on your own, definitely find a great tour that’s connected to a passion. Looking at your website address, you might adore a culinary trip of some kind. You’ll make new friends who “get” your passion for food. You won’t regret it.

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  24. francetaste says:

    Don’t limit yourself to English-speaking tours, especially if you speak a foreign language. I did two weeks of trekking in Morocco with Nouvelles Frontières. It was wonderful. Well-organized, plus intensive French practice (I was the only non-French person).
    When traveling alone, especially solo women, consider hiring a guide just to have peace. I would be beseiged the instant I set foot outside my hotel (in any country). I would pick the youngest candidate, explain that I was calling the shots, and as soon as the other guides saw me with this child, we would be left alone. The price was very low, even though I never haggled. And every time, the kid turned out to be great company.
    I also made many friends, both other travelers and locals, whom I never would have met had I been traveling with companions.

      • ColorMeLocal says:

        Sorry for the very late reply – I was about to travel when I commented on your post. I traveled through Scotland and Wales, staying mostly with friends of friends. It was so wonderful. =) In many ways I enjoy traveling alone and meeting people along the way. I do wish I would have been able to have joined a group hike or something like you suggested, but I did get to meet some locals in addition to the friends of friends. =)

  25. lilisar says:

    Great advice, thank you! I’ve been travelling solo for years now and quite like it. Also, I like to make a “menu” for sightseeing, divided into “dry weather options” and “rainy day options” with, like you’ve written, all the opening hours. That saves a lot of precious travel time!

    • travelwithclem says:

      Lilisar, I agree. I have been traveling solo for a few years now. At first, it was a burden, but now I am enjoying it and in fact,I feel like I prefer traveling solo. I have been independent for so long that it feels difficult to revert back to traveling in groups! Of course, an occasional travel partner would be great here and there, but I do love traveling solo.

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  28. Dacian says:

    Awesome article! Thank you for the tips and lists!
    I always find myself wondering if I want to travel somewhere alone or not. How would I enjoy and experience that location best? Nice to find someone else who also thinks about these things, and organizes them so neatly haha
    Great photos as well! Thanks

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