Now that I’ve been traveling on my own for several months, I’ve realized quite a few things that make solo traveling easier, and things that have worked for me.
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10. Request bottom bunk when you book hostels
There is usually a “special request” box when you book online, and in there you can write that you want a bottom bunk. Top bunks SUCK– so do what you can to make your life easier.
9. Ask where people are going to save money on taxis
When you get off of buses or trains, always ask around to see if anyone is going the same way as you. Taxis can be expensive, and splitting them with just one or two other people can seriously help cut down costs.
8. Embrace the solo dining experience
It can be nice to sit alone. Bring a book or headphones if you don’t want to feel totally alone/bored. People may even join you.
It’s happened to me many times: in Pai I chatted with a yogi (full story here); in Bangkok I sat across from a stranger and ended up going to Chatuchak market and spending whole day him; In Ho Chi Minh City I ate with a Swedish girl who was also dining alone and invited me to join her (full story here).
7. Don’t be afraid to ask people to take pics of you
Selfies don’t always cut it, and those memories are more important than those few seconds of embarrassment/hesitation.
6. Know that there is no one way to be a “good” solo traveler
There are a lot of times when I second-guess myself, wondering if I’m spending too much time alone or if I’m doing this whole solo travel thing “correctly.” However, I’ve come to realize that those are just my insecurities talking, and there is no right way to do it. Everyone who solo travels has the same anxieties, and you are not alone. Just observe your anxieties and let them go.
If you’re feeling lonely, go try to make some friends. Start by smiling, and the rest is easy.
And if you’re not feeling lonely, than keep hanging out by yourself!
5. Stay at hostels with a good atmosphere
Bars are usually a good thing. Look for hostels with big, inviting common areas. Don’t stay somewhere that looks too new/sterile/modern: it usually doesn’t make for good social environment. Look for phrases like “easy to make friends” or “good for socializing” when looking at reviews.
Or alternatively, you can stay at a quiet hostel and just go to other hostels to make friends, although this requires an added layer of confidence because you’re entering an unknown hostel and you just have to sit there and make yourself known.
4. Don’t be afraid to approach big groups or other solo travelers
This will take you a while to get used to, but with time you will realize that it’s no big deal to talk to complete strangers. Even if that big group in the corner looks like they’ve been friends forever, chances are they just met five minutes before you walked in.
And that girl eating by herself probably is seeking friends just like you, so just go say hi!
In Cambodia, on Koh Rong Samloem, I met a girl on my way to Clear Water Bay by asking her if she was going the same way. She ended up joining me and we became friends (full story here).
In Ninh Binh, Vietnam, I spent a couple days with a Swiss girl because I saw her renting a bike alone and I asked if I could join her (full story here).
And most recently, in Laos, I ended up traveling for 2 weeks with 3 guys I randomly appraoched on the street (full story here).
When people are in groups playing cards or other games, ask to join them. I guarantee you they will let you.
3. Smile and say hi to everyone
This is so important when you enter your dorm. It will let people know you are friendly and they’ll be more willing to talk to you. Say hi to staff. Say hi to people when you get on a bus/van. Say hi to people at breakfast.
2. Do group tours
This is the EASIEST way to make friends because you are forced to talk with one another. They also make for great memories.
Join tours for things you enjoy, like hiking, trekking, biking, motorcycling, walking, running, pub crawls, sunset boat tours.
1. Say yes to everything
Walking around town, going on motorbikes, seeing a temple, trying a new food, volunteering. A big part of solo travel is just getting to know yourself more. The best way to do this is to just do whatever comes your way, and you will learn more about yourself. I didn’t realize how much I enjoy trekking/being in nature until now. I didn’t realize how much I enjoy big cities.
For example, when I was hanging out at my hostel in Bangkok, I started talking to one guy who was just about to go ride around the city. He invited me to join– I was hesitant at first because we had just met and it was just an aimless ride, but I went anyway and had so much fun (full story here.)