Traveling by yourself can seem scary if you’ve never done it before. It might even make you nervous on your second or third or tenth time. But often we have amazing experiences while traveling solo, and for many, it ends up being their preferred way of travel.
We talked to the wonderful ladies in the HPLWorld community, and they shared with us some of their best and worst solo female travel experiences. We hope that these responses can help you get a more well-rounded perspective on what to expect when you travel alone.
>>Read more about solo female travel and interviews with women who travel alone.
Best solo travel moments
Robin K: In Amsterdam I made friends with a hostel staff member, who invited me to her favorite cafe. I know I’m usually quick to say no and stick to my own plans, so I decided to make a different choice this time. I ended up visiting a quirky coffee shop I never would have found on my own, having a great conversation, and making a Facebook friend whom I met up with again when we crossed paths in another city two years later!
Laura H: I am a huge fan of solo travel, it’s made my relationships stronger and allowed me to see so many places the way I want to see it. To deal with the isolation, my favorite way has been to make trips a mix of solo and group travel. Like when I went to New Orleans with school I spent the free day on my own. I don’t think solo v group v friends travel has to be so all or nothing.
Andrea L: I spent most of the day walking through the streets of Lucerne not worried about “ticking off a list” of everyone’s things to see/do. Wandering through Greenwich (London) up and down little alleyways and finding a market to eat at. Sitting on the hop on/hop off bus in San Francisco and enjoying the vibe of the city.
Vanessa L: Some of the best experiences were for me were when I hired a moped in various places and travelled around by myself listening to a Spotify playlist and driving to see off the beaten track areas. I spoke to people in Sarawak, Borneo using the public bus to get to the jungle areas and having 3 hours to trek in and out before catching the last bus of the day.
Ali from HPL: One of my best solo travel experiences was also my first. I went to Greece after finally realizing it was silly not to travel just because I didn’t have anyone to go with me. I did a volcano tour in Santorini on my first full day there. I ended up pushing myself to climb the steep paths up two islands, despite being way out of shape, instead of taking the easy way by donkey. I was so proud of myself for doing it, and that trip spurred me on to take many more solo trips.
Caroline from HPL: I get upgraded more often when I’m solo. This has happened to me a lot at concerts, and most recently, I was upgraded to the VIP section at a Sia concert. I’ve also found that it’s easier to bypass long waits at restaurants when I’m solo. Because I’m by myself, I can sit at the bar or a community table while larger groups have to wait for a free table.
Brooke from HPL: Traveling alone always results in me meeting people I wouldn’t otherwise. One time in a hostel in Riga, I made friends with two other solo travelers and ended up country-hopping with them for the next couple of weeks! I’ve even met up with one here in Australia years later.
Worst solo travel moments
Robin K: A best/worst moment: I arrived in Edinburgh sick and exhausted, so I more or less spent the first two days in bed half-asleep and recovering. I didn’t enjoy it, but I did give myself a break knowing it was an investment in the rest of the trip and that I wasn’t holding anyone else up.
Laura H: I have had some odd moments solo traveling. I felt in Cairns that it was really hard to make friends because it felt like most people were there in groups. This came to a head when in my all girls room one of my roommates brought her hookup to spend the night and he didn’t leave for 24 hours. I had to fight with him when I had showered and didn’t want a guy in the room while I was changing. The girls in my room were friends, who got mad at me when I said no more friends could come after that. I felt like if I hadn’t been solo it would have not felt so isolating to say “you are being unreasonable.”
Andrea L: Wanting to spend some time photographing some buildings at night and worried about the safety. Wanting to catch a local city bus through a dodgy area to watch the sunrise on the beach…again a safety thing. No familiar hugs to keep me going on very rough days.
Vanessa L: I didn’t particularly enjoy feeling vulnerable walking around cities such as Saigon, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok at night but if my flight had got in then or I wanted to explore a market, etc. I had little choice. I did hear stories of people being mugged first hand, raped and beaten up, which all made me more the weary, but didn’t stop me doing things. These things happen in my hometown, but when you are alone on the other side of the world, it’s a worry.
>>Check out these priceless safety perks that are worth the splurge.
Ali from HPL: I’ve had a lot of solo trips where I wished I had someone with me, but one of my most vivid memories of really not wanting to be solo was my first trip to Cambodia. I signed up for a cooking class in Phnom Penh, but it turned out no one else signed up for that day. I thought for sure they’d try to reschedule me, but they did the class anyway. All of the recipes were for a large group, and we were making the full amount for just me and one instructor. I found myself trying to scarf down several people’s worth of food because he kept telling me to eat more and I felt bad saying no. I was painfully full by the end of it, and I didn’t even like most of the food!
Caroline from HPL: I’ve had some awkward solo travel moments. One night in Frankfurt, I sat down for a quick dinner, but the waiter told me I couldn’t sit at the 4 person table. Instead, he took me to a smaller table in front of the door. It was next to a guy sitting alone, and it ended up feeling like an awkward first date. I spent the entire meal quickly eating while avoiding eye contact because I was afraid he might ask me to join him.
Brooke from HPL: Traveling alone as a woman, and an unmarried one at that, can put you in some awkward conversations to say the least. One experience that really stands out as “not cool at all” in terms of solo female travel was when I was in a taxi to the airport in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. My flight was insanely early in the morning, and when my normal, pre-booked taxi didn’t show, I had to get a random taxi from the street… or else miss my flight. The drive took FOREVER as the airport is a ways outside the city. It was dark. Nothing was outside the window except fields. And I was alone with a Kyrgyz man who started to ask me some really personal questions about sex. I felt so completely uncomfortable; I was watching the clock tick by slowly until finally getting to the airport!
>>Check out our advice for first time solo female travelers.
When the group was asked about best and worst experiences, a number only shared their best! While we really wanted to show both sides of solo female travel, we couldn’t leave these responses behind.
Shawn R: I usually love meeting people when I travel alone, but my favorite moment of solo travel was spending the night by myself in the Bauhaus dorms in Dessau, soaking up the artistic history of the place and drinking tea on my room’s tiny balcony. I got to totally indulge my love of German modernist art history in a way that would have felt selfish or silly if I was traveling with other people.
Ellie D: Learning I have gut instinct and knowing when it’s needed! I hitch-hiked solo for the first time last year and it was wonderful! Quite a few of my lifts, and even some buses, were only possible because it was just me and my little bag. It forces me to talk to people, which I still find difficult sometimes, but the more you do it the easier it gets, and usually by the end of the journey it’s like saying goodbye to a friend.
>>See why solo female travelers should pack carry-on only.
Ellie G: I love my solo travels. The longest was 10 days in Spain (also my first trip abroad). It gives me the freedom to see exactly what I want and to go at the pace I want. I got pretty lost in Granada trying to find my Airbnb but since I was by myself I quickly learned that I can do it on my own!
Megan B: My first solo trip was to New York City. I think my best experience was just the ease of public transportation. The only thing that wasn’t very good was I got lost a few times, but it turned out to be pretty fun. I stayed in a hostel, and the girls I stayed with were really cool. I love solo travel because it just gives me the freedom and independence to do whatever I want, whenever I want to.
Lindsay S: The moment in my hostel where I realized I can throw away the plan I made and make up a new one. I was so tired when I arrived in Tokyo and found the hostel, and I didn’t want to do all the awesome things I had planned for myself. A nap was a much nicer alternative, and because I was traveling by myself, I had the freedom to choose that decision. I didn’t have to ask anyone or coordinate with anyone.
Jill Y: I traveled Australia and Hawaii for 4 months alone but I was always surrounded by people because I was usually staying at hostels. I loved traveling alone because I was on my own agenda. If I didn’t want to do something, I wouldn’t do it. If I really wanted to do something, I would find some buddies and make it happen! I was never on anyone else’s terms. I could sleep in or I could wake up at 5am! I could stay in Sydney longer than I expected or I could hop on a train to the next destination!
Benefits of solo travel
When we spoke to the women in the group, one thing was clear: the benefits of solo travel outweighed the negatives. Some of the benefits that came up again and again included:
- Gaining confidence
- Freedom to do what you want, when you want
- Flexibility and spontaneity
- Meeting interesting people
- Not having to compromise about how you spend your time
- Ability to go at your own speed
What are your best and worst solo female travel experiences?
I spent a month in Paris alone in 2015. The freedom decide what to do each day, as the articles say is the best part of solo travel. If I wanted to spend the entire day in the Musee D’Orsay and look at the art in random and repeated order, it was totally OK. I could also stay in bed reading (I like to call it a “day at sea”) without worrying about putting a damper on someone else’s day. I travel for work a lot, so eating alone at restaurants was already second nature to me. I actually find restaurants to be more attentive when you eat alone.
Sounds like you have some great experiences traveling alone! 🙂
Barbara Lee says
None of my relatives or acquaintances are loony to join me on a 3-day weekend in Great Britain. Day 1: I:crawled through a Welsh Bronze Age copper mine, in a hard hat;some of the passages were only about 4 feet high. Late in the day and there I was all alone 60 feet below ground level, enjoying every moment. Day 2.: hiked up a small mountain to pay a friendly visit to Queen Victoria’s Middle Eastern rams/ewes, or more precisely their descendants, followed by a concert by a Welsh Men’s chorus, 100% American Show Tunes, including “five foot two, eyes of blue” from South Pacific, followed by a steaming bowl of garlicky mussels. Day 3: About 75 percent of the towns in Wales have names starting with LL ….. Hopelessly lost at roundabouts, arrows pointing to 5 o6 6 LL towns, missed train to London, arrived barely n time to make Tosca at the opera, running up 3 flights of stairs behind an agile young usher despite my 75 year old disintegrating left hip. Finally I enjoyed 2 glasses of wine at a Peruvian restaurant, and slept till noon the next day. Yes, I gained some self confidence and pushed myself satisfactorily way beyond what I thought I could do. P.S. my fledgling hip is marvelous!
Barbara – What an awesome and well planned trip! Amazing! Glad the hip is doing well 🙂
Best : excellent memory from a weekend in Berlin. I was visiting a museum when a guy started to talk to me about the exhibition (very small japanese houses). We first went through the museum togther, and then I showed him the city because I knew it from a previous travel. I’m French, He was a Texan artis student in an European tour. Going thoug a city I love with a first timer is great, It was pre-facebook so we did not keep in contact. Just a fun day.
Also good solo experience in Roma. I ditched the group to go explore, and found out the Thermae build by Michelangelo. Mystic discovery.
Worse: last summer I planned to spend 4 days in Rotterdam, The Nederland. First day was during a heat wave, and I got blisters in the feets. First thing I did was look for band aid in the train station.
Unfortunately I did not bough enough, and totally forgot about disinfection.
The blisters got worse and worse. I did not saw pharmacy in the streets, and dit not want to stop walking and exploring the city. I was lucky to find a ride (well impose myself on a car passing by) to go to the artificial port, but my feet were bleeding. I was walking like a very old and very sick woman. But I still walked, still wanting to go see the next beautifull house/museum/building.
I tried to find new band aids, and nearly cried when I realised that they were at the counter and not in the alleys. I still walked because I did not want to miss out during this short vacation.
When I came back from this trip, a friend picked me up a the station, admonished me severely and drove me to a doctor. I had an (bad) infection and stayed home 3 days (sleeping).
Had I not been alone, I would have get disinfection and REST. (but a much less crazy experience) I have learn my lesson: I now have a full safety kit in my bag.
Pay attention to your feets ladies !
Shen - Travel Parlor says
Come to think about it, I also get upgraded more often when I travel alone. Maybe what Caroline mentioned (the upgrade) does happen more frequently for solo travelers.