Solo travel abroad?

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Unless your fortunate to have a partner or friend who enjoys long distance rail travel and wandering around foreign cities and towns while carrying your own backpack (and if you do have consider yourself very lucky),if you want to travel you either go solo or don’t go,I’m sure we’ve all read those travel books were our intrepid author travelling alone only has to walk into some lonely cafe/bar/waiting room etc to be made into one of the family and treated like a local and every minute of every day is full of adventure and fun thing’s happening but what is the reality?
Little things like eating alone in a restaurant at night,not having someone to share the ticketing/which platform/missed connection hassle and I guess just the sheer loneliness of being in a beautiful place and having no one to share it with.
Basically what I’m asking is what are the advantages of travelling abroad alone and even if your comfortable with your own company if there are low times and how you deal with these?.
Thank you.
 
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I've always been a very sociable person but like traveling alone. Trains arent to everyones taste, so I would quite happily 'get all nerdy' and fit in a lot of travel during the day, and stay in a hostel and go out with everyone at night. Very fun but not for everyone. Best done at an age where hangovers last hours rather than days.

My other hobby is learning languages, so part of the fun of travelling is getting to practise that with the locals and other travellers. Ultimately it is 100% up to the individual as to what they make of it. Having multiple interestes and sources of passion while travelling will help distract yourself if you have a tendency to get lonely sometimes. Everyone does from time to time and thats normal. On the rare occassions that happens to me a quick call to a friend at home or a good book can do the trick (plenty of time for reading in trains).

I could continue rambling on but I better stop somewhere. I would always encourage people to travel whether alone or not. The one heartening thing I have found about other cultures (in general) is if you make just the smallest effort to adapt or be interested in other people, you will find most people fantastically welcoming. Notable mentions for this for me were Spain, Germany, Poland and France.
 

LSWR Cavalier

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I travelled alone a lot in countries where I could more or less speak the language, no trouble, things might be even easier now because so many people learn English. If your home town has a twin town on the mainland you could go there, that is what my school exchange group did.
 

chubs

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Not rail travel specific but I have travelled alone extensively and would recommend it to anyone hesitant. I've met people of all ages and genders solo travelling. I really don't care about solo dining either, I like to sit at the bar if there is one then you can have a chat with the staff or other diners but if not i'll happily have a table for one and enjoy a meal. If you're staying in tourist places you'll meet other people everywhere anyway, in Asia I stayed in slightly nicer hotels that the 18 year old backpacker ones (as I'd passed that point in my life!) and would just arrange tours through the hotel or agencies in the touristy areas in each place which 99% of the time means you'll get put together with other tourists.

Go and enjoy yourself, you only live once. If you don't enjoy it you can always come back.
 

175mph

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I've traveled to Paris, Brussels and Luxembourg solo and to various cities on the east coast of Canada and the US, starting from Toronto, finishing up with Washington DC. In a way, I was glad to do it without my family after the shinanigans I experienced when we went to Russia together.
 

route101

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Often travel alone. Do get asked why? from acquaintances, guess its not their thing. Do love the freedom. I find solo dining easier abroad if you can sit outside.
 

Bletchleyite

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Often travel alone. Do get asked why? from acquaintances, guess its not their thing. Do love the freedom. I find solo dining easier abroad if you can sit outside.

Anyone who has done a lot of business travel, as I have, is well used to solo dining and it needn't be awkward at all - in normal times most business travellers end up dining alone, so restaurants are used to people asking for tables for one. The key is to take a book, newspaper, tablet or whatever to occupy you in the time you'd normally be talking to your companion while waiting for your meal.

As for the advantage of travelling alone - you can do whatever you like.
 
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I mostly travel solo. I am a pensioner without savings or private pension, so my oap Govt pension means I pretty much need to travel economically too!
I tend to use hostels to make my cash go further. These are not salvation army or "down and out" places, but are specifically for travellers, of all ages, thankfully! I enjoy meeting folk from all over the world in these places, which helps to alleviate some of the lonliness of solo travel for me. I am not a "foodie", so am quite happy to eat at MacDonalds if needs be, or buy sanwiches from a shop. I often buy food and cook in the hostel kitchens too. I have travelled extensivly in India and America by train, alone, and found it easy to chat with local people. I am not good with languages, so countries where English is known,makes that a little easier.
I would love to have a girlfriend to share my travels, but at least going solo, I can do exactly as I please, without any earache. ;)
(Although I have used hostels in Europe and America, as someone else has mentioned, it is better to use hotels in India, etc.)

If folk are interested, there are a couple of "trip reports" from my old bloke travels on Indian trains, a sort of "what not to do" guide! :D

https://www.indiamike.com/india/journal.php?do=showentry&e=1396&enum=1

https://www.indiamike.com/india/journal.php?do=showentry&e=1405&enum=2
 

Bletchleyite

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Hostels are a good option if you do want to be sociable with strangers - typically people who stay in them and use the bar are likely to want to mix to some extent.
 

LNW-GW Joint

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I think the more you put into research for a trip, the more you'll get out of it.
I've always been interested in the geography and history of a country (and its railways), and it makes all the difference if you can link it with the various travel and tourist threads together during a trip.
I also get fascinated in borders, how things differ on each side and why, and Schengen has made it very easy these days (once you get in).
I'm interested in science and classical music too, and that opens cultural doors everywhere, eg museums and concert halls - opera in Tallinn, anybody, or in Naples, Kyiv or Budapest?
It gets you through otherwise possibly tedious dark evenings and opens up another avenue for study and enjoyment.

I set off a decade ago to travel the major European rail routes, but have ended up as a side-effect studying Silesian heavy industry, Moorish Spain, Viking longships and the end of the Austrian, Russian and Ottoman empires - and the railway consequences.
People deride Wikipedia, but I've found it excellent for getting a briefing on all sorts of detail on European countries that don't reach the guidebooks.
And there's huge resource there on Europe's railways, history, operation and the rest, especially if you dive into the local language railway web sites.
And an evening in A&E in Budapest's Honved hospital tells you a lot about the Hungarian version of the NHS (all positive).

I wouldn't call it loneliness exactly, but I have felt non-plussed and rather miffed and anxious when things haven't gone to plan.
Getting lost in Seville's old town maze (in the dark) was a bit scary (my own fault for not having a good enough map).
Finding the metro closed at what I thought was an early hour in Naples and Berlin was also disconcerting.
And the occasional delays where you don't know what is happening (mostly at airports rather than stations).
But the benefits of the experience (good and not so good) always trumps the brief downsides.
 
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PupCuff

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I must admit, I prefer travelling by myself. I can get up when I want, if I want to change plans I can do it, if I want to go off the beaten track a bit I can do, most of my friends don't share my passion for foreign beers so an evening in a beer bar doesn't tend to suit them, if I prefer to spend a bit more and stay in a nicer hotel I don't have to worry I'm pushing someone else's budget up unnecessarily etc. My other half doesn't like much foreign food, and doesn't drink beer, so while it's lovely to go on holiday together and explore, finding somewhere to eat that accommodates both of us can be a nightmare.

When I travel I tend to be more interested in seeing the local culture from the locals' point of view rather than the tourist traps and I find that kind of exploring easiest to do on my own.
 

peters

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The advantage is you do what you want to do. If you've been at a historical site for 1 hour and you think you've spent enough time there then you can leave. If you're with other people they might not been keen on visiting the site, they might want to leave before you feel you've properly seen it or they may want to spend 2 hours there and then it prevents you from having time to visit somewhere else you want to visit.
 

30907

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If I am doing pure railway stuff, I prefer to travel alone. My first experience was a bit mixed (I was extremely shy, and short of cash - having discovered this one-year-only thing for under 21s called Inter Rail 1972 at the age of 20, it was now or never) and I cut the trip short by a day or so - but I went abroad again solo a couple of years later so....

I would now tell my younger self not to be so tight fisted - or more seriously, to go for comfort over economy (and sleepers not seats on night trains!).

One suggestion - evenings in hotel rooms can be tedious, so I prefer a hotel with a pool (and sauna) so I can get a little gentle exercise and unwind instead of spending hours in front of a tv or online.

PS my daughter has inherited the gene for solo travel....
 

takno

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I like travelling with company, and when a friend is up for a trip I prefer to tag along with them rather than doing it alone. It's not an issue for me though. Here's a couple of thoughts:

Planning is easier than ever before - even phones with relatively cheap data packages will give you in-package data access across half the world, and more or less everything available for internet booking now. This also helps with loneliness and boredom because if you want to you can stay in touch with home and consume all your regular media, including Netflix.

Eating alone is a significant issue for me. I tend to either eat at a bar with snacks, fill up at breakfast where being alone is more normal-feeling, or eat sandwiches on the move. Between those I haven't had to sit down for a solo restaurant experience since 1997. Included breakfast buffets (fingers crossed they make a full return) and shop snacks can also be a good way of keeping costs down.

I like staying in hostels, purely for the opportunity to meet and hang out with random people, which again relieves the boredom. I've taken to alternating hostels and hotels when I'm on the move though, just because I'm not as young as I was and I need a decent night's sleep some of the time. Obviously being at least a little bit outgoing helps a lot with that, and if you can stagger by in a few other languages it gives you some options.

The worst problem I used to have was panic-travelling. I would have made general plans to swan around an area like the Balkans, staying 2 or 3 nights in various places, but I'd land up off a sleeper train at 7am, bleary eyed in a tatty part of town and with no hostel booked. Before I'd had time to look for a hostel the panic had started to rise, and before I knew it I'd booked on the next train out. I've still basically never seen Bucharest at all for this reason. My take on this now is to always book the first night anywhere, even if you only do it the night before you travel, or even on the train on way there.

Barely-planned travel, either solo or with people I'd randomly met on the journey, represents many of my fondest memories, and I hope to carry on doing it for many years yet.
 

philosopher

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I have found some places are a lot more solo travel friendly than others. I went travelling solo around Greece a few years ago. Athens I found really easy for solo travel. Restaurants and bars there almost always had other travellers by themselves making it easier to fit in and meet others. Santorini on the other hand was more difficult, the place had a romantic vibe to it which did not fit that well with solo travel. That said there were still some solo travellers there.

I did visit Japan six years ago as part of a group, however it did strike me as a particular easy place for solo travel. Restaurants there frequently have tables or booths set up just for one person, it is very easy to get around and there are lots of activities to keep you busy whatever time of the day.

I think the trick is to do research and visit places that tend to attract solo travellers. The more solo travellers there are the easier it is meet other solo travellers and fit in.
 

peters

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things might be even easier now because so many people learn English.

When I went to the former East Germany over 10 years ago I was told if you need assistance it's best to ask someone who looks under around 40 because they will have learned English at school, whereas the older people who attended school when East Germany was still a country won't have. I guess it's probably people under 50 now which is going to be more than half of the population.
 

185

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Seen most of the world on my own over 25 years, went alone several times across USA, three times across Australia and a fair few times the length of both NZ islands. Whilst I met a few great people travelling, I mostly enjoyed the peace and solitude of looking out of the window and watching the world go by, on my own. Now with the advent of better internet, things are even easier if you're travelling alone. Who says you have to sit in some organised tour - you see more on your own.

Would also say a key consideration in keeping costs down, and avoiding restaurant costs is using rental apartments, plenty of places to buy nice food to cook. Whilst I'm always keen to try the local food... i've even found shops selling British foods in places far afield as Seoul, Wyoming, and the top of Norway.

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stuu

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I did visit Japan six years ago as part of a group, however it did strike me as a particular easy place for solo travel. Restaurants there frequently have tables or booths set up just for one person, it is very easy to get around and there are lots of activities to keep you busy whatever time of the day.
I went to Japan by myself about 10 years ago. As you say, it is very easy to do solo, there is/was a culture that business meetings happen in person far more than here, and coupled with the preference for rail travel means most larger stations have a number of hotels with lots of single rooms nearby. I stayed in a variety of those and they were all very good, if cramped, and only £30-40 per night, except in Tokyo.

Solo travel is fine if you are happy on your own at home, you will be fine travelling alone. It does get a bit lonely occasionally but in most places you will encounter other people doing the same thing
 

WestCoast

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I have found some places are a lot more solo travel friendly than others. I went travelling solo around Greece a few years ago. Athens I found really easy for solo travel. Restaurants and bars there almost always had other travellers by themselves making it easier to fit in and meet others. Santorini on the other hand was more difficult, the place had a romantic vibe to it which did not fit that well with solo travel. That said there were still some solo travellers there.

I did visit Japan six years ago as part of a group, however it did strike me as a particular easy place for solo travel. Restaurants there frequently have tables or booths set up just for one person, it is very easy to get around and there are lots of activities to keep you busy whatever time of the day.

I think the trick is to do research and visit places that tend to attract solo travellers. The more solo travellers there are the easier it is meet other solo travellers and fit in.

Definitely. As a big fan of solo travel, I find the absolute worst places for it are holiday towns and resorts popular with families and couples, regardless of the country. Those are the type of places I’d go with friends to, but I’ve felt out of place on the odd occasion I’ve ended up in such places alone.

I much prefer larger cities and smaller towns with locals as it kind of feels natural to be doing stuff alone. I’m also quite a fan of apartments and aparthotels rather than hotels as you’ve got the option to cook something if you don’t fancy going out solo.
 

Aictos

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I prefer travelling solo, I can set my own pace and do stuff in my own time without worrying about others.

The freedom this brings is liberating as you're more dependent on yourself then others eg organising your own travel including tickets etc...

It's also nice to be able to think on your feet and be put in situations that aren't always going to be as easy to deal with especially if there's a language barrier.
 

takno

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Would also say a key consideration in keeping costs down, and avoiding restaurant costs is using rental apartments, plenty of places to buy nice food to cook. Whilst I'm always keen to try the local food... i've even found shops selling British foods in places far afield as Seoul, Wyoming, and the top of Norway.
Due to time constraints, the only food I found in the north of Norway was Burger King. I guess that's kind of British
 

JRT

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Just a couple of comments from me.

Daytime doesn't make much difference solo or accompanying.

Evening seems better if you're with someone.

I tend to book a twin room at a hotel etc as is usually not much more and gives more room, this means someone could share free or share cost. Also some train tickets eg länder are slightly more for two.

Learning languages is easier solo as you tend to talk to locals rather than a companion.
 

185

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Due to time constraints, the only food I found in the north of Norway was Burger King. I guess that's kind of British
Ha, that's in Tromsø, been in there... no, this was further north up in Alta, in the back corner of an independent minimarket.
 

LNW-GW Joint

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Eating alone is a significant issue for me. I tend to either eat at a bar with snacks, fill up at breakfast where being alone is more normal-feeling, or eat sandwiches on the move. Between those I haven't had to sit down for a solo restaurant experience since 1997. Included breakfast buffets (fingers crossed they make a full return) and shop snacks can also be a good way of keeping costs down.
When I first encountered Berlin Hbf and its umpteen eateries, I found them overcrowded and with no obvious easy menu option.
I ended up at what was really the taxi-drivers' snack bar under the Stadtbahn viaduct, where there were just a couple of lunch options and I enjoyed a cheap and filling stuffed-peppery thing.
I've also taken to finding small convenience stores near stations which often have a wide variety of microwavable meals and the cheapest wine around.
I never discovered why those in Poland always seemed to have cheap wine from Chile.
Apartments with self-catering facilities booked on Booking.com are often very good value, though often quite hard to find on the ground!
For major stations there's generally a pizza house nearby.
I found myself in the queue at Domino's in Rotterdam behind a posse of police, ordering their evening meal.
All part of the cultural experience!
 

route101

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I have found some places are a lot more solo travel friendly than others. I went travelling solo around Greece a few years ago. Athens I found really easy for solo travel. Restaurants and bars there almost always had other travellers by themselves making it easier to fit in and meet others. Santorini on the other hand was more difficult, the place had a romantic vibe to it which did not fit that well with solo travel. That said there were still some solo travellers there.

I did visit Japan six years ago as part of a group, however it did strike me as a particular easy place for solo travel. Restaurants there frequently have tables or booths set up just for one person, it is very easy to get around and there are lots of activities to keep you busy whatever time of the day.

I think the trick is to do research and visit places that tend to attract solo travellers. The more solo travellers there are the easier it is meet other solo travellers and fit in.
Yes Japan and Asia I found great for solo travel. I didn't find people would you judge there. I would say beach resorts are not as welcoming to an extent in Europe. I used to meet all sorts, you would meet people on the train then go and stay in the same hostel.
 

Polarbear

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I often travel alone abroad. The advantages for me are that I can do things that I expect other people may not be that interested in doing & I also have a lot of flexibility.

Hotels aren't an issue, though if you do want to meet people for a chat & drinks in the evenings, I'd suggest going for hostel type accommodation.

As for solo dining, I used to be somewhat self-conscious about this, but having been over to Europe a few times now, I'm getting more used to it. There are usually plenty of other options though, such as fast food or taking a supermarket picnic back to the hotel room.
 

Iskra

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I do the vast majority of my rail international rail travel solo.

I enjoy the peace and quiet, I like that I can do things at the pace I want and not have to consider anyone else- I can get more done in the time available and early starts/late finishes aren't an issue and extreme periods on trains/sleeper trains aren't an issue for me. I also think it forces you to be a little more adventurous and engage with local culture and people more if you are on your own. Also you probably notice/appreciate more because other people can be a distraction, or they might just wanna get drunk like some of my friends who go abroad do, but I generally think you can do that in England so why bother...

Like others have mentioned the experience of eating alone varies from culture to culture. However, you can control it by choosing where and how you eat carefully. In a business-y hotel restaurant, station concourse or dining car, no one will bat an eye lid. Nor will anyone in a cafe level establishment or fast food place. You might even find someone to talk to. I think it is a good point raised that touristy places are less solo traveller aware, but also it varies by nationality- Italy for example is generally a nation of extroverts and food is a very social thing for them, so they might be a little confused (although I ate solo perfectly fine in a touristy restaurant in Florence once) but they will still serve you! In somewhere more introverted like Sweden or Ukraine however, nobody would even question it.

You can also still partake in touristy group events in many cities if you want, such as guided tours etc where you can get talking to people. There are also websites out there that can help you find other travellers in the same situation that may want a drink in the evening (although I have no idea how wise and safe this is).
 

ChiefPlanner

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Over the years , for various reasons loads. The most impressive being NYC to San Francisco by rail in 1984. Superb as I met so many interesting people. (with a priv rate on Amtrak it was less than a £100)

I think the base level is having at least one conversation a day - but overall a good experience as it often gives you a time to reflect and enjoy any special things you want to see and do. Nice to get some "me" * time - but then I have a full and busy social time at home.

My family would not appreciate being dragged up to some obscure graveyard in Dresden for example , to pay homage to a very great writer , let alone "obscure" bits of transport systems or architectural wonders in working class Vienna for example.

Being alone also forces you to have some interaction where you are , or travelling. Might not happen otherwise. Mix and matching with some "solo" travelling and a meet up with friends works very well. If you can do it.
 

Davester50

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When I was younger, I much preferred the holidays where I'm travelling about easier when on my own.
Holidays in one place was better with friends.

Now the kids are away, I'm looking forward to trips with just the other half again.
 
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Over the years , for various reasons loads. The most impressive being NYC to San Francisco by rail in 1984. Superb as I met so many interesting people. (with a priv rate on Amtrak it was less than a £100)

I am a great fan of Amtrak travel, both in the roomy coach seats and the sleeper car options. Most long distance Amtrak trains have a sightseer lounge car, with huge windows. which is great for meeting other folk. I even got invited to stay on a Menonite farm by a chap I got into conversation with in the lounge! Still very good value, Chicago to San Francisco in coach seats is still only about $150.
 

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