I may have journeyed through Europe for four or five-months, met a heap of new people, stayed in dorms, and made lots of friends while travelling alone, but don’t be fooled – I am not an outgoing person. 

The thought of meeting new people makes me really anxious, and I find myself saying really weird and awkward things in the heat of the moment, like the time I accidentally told my friend’s parents there was no recycling system in town (there was…).

I had no intention of lying, I just panicked, and I had this huge fear that a similar thing would happen if I went travelling alone, and that I’d never make friends.

How wrong I was.

I basically realised just how many solo travellers are out and about in the world as soon as I hopped off the first plane, which made striking up conversation really easy – some people even looked relieved when I started chatting to them because they were too anxious to approach someone themselves.

The thing to keep in mind is that when you’re travelling alone is that no one knows who you are. They don’t know how much courage it takes for you to get up and talk to them, they don’t know if you’re an anxious mess, if you lack confidence, suck at small talk, or if you’re actually terrified of the city you’re in and want to explore it with someone – all they know is what you communicate. If you feign confidence, smile, and ask them about their experiences, you’ll most-likely make a friend.

Whether you’re like me and have social anxiety or not, if you want to travel solo, you probably have a bunch of questions and concerns, so I’ve compiled a list:

1. I’m terrible at meeting people.
Lots of people who travel alone want to meet other travellers – travellers like you! You don’t have to be really outgoing to make friends on the road, all you have to do is sit somewhere social (like a backpacker bar, or a hostel common room), strike up conversation with someone, and it will probably work out.

Whether you’re in a hostel, on a tour, or sightseeing, approaching someone and saying ‘ hi’ is almost always welcome. I did a lot of Free Walking Tours (everyone should get in to those!), and I never came away from them without a new friend. And I say that as someone with social anxiety – if you’re like me, I guarantee talking to random people is nowhere near as hard as you think it is, and the rewards far outweigh any consequences.

TIP: If you want to meet new people, the best thing you can do is download the Couchsurfing app to your phone. You don’t even have to couchsurf, all you have to do is go to the dashboard, click ‘hangout now’, type in what kind of hangout you want to have (eg: have a beer; explore the city; go hiking; have coffee), and you’ll have access to a range of people in the area who want to do what you want to do. I used it a few times, and recommend it to anyone.

2. Don’t you get lonely?
Short answer: No.
Long answer: It depends on the kind of trip you’re doing, but if you’re ok with the idea of approaching people and starting a conversation, you won’t get lonely. Travelling alone is great because you can be socially active when you want to be, and plug in your headphones and watch a movie in bed when you don’t feel like it.

If you’re a social animal, try and stay in hotels/hostels with common rooms – I can almost guarantee there will be others there ready and willing to meet someone amazing like you (hint: the probability increases if the common room has a bar).

3. Did you ever wish you were travelling with someone?
If you’ve ever travelled with someone, you’ll understand that it can be really trying – everything is suddenly a negotiation, and even deciding where to eat can take hours, let alone deciding where to travel, and how to get there.

The wonderful thing about travelling alone is that everything is up to you – you don’t want to stop to eat until four in the afternoon? You don’t have to. You want to forget about your budget and travel on a first class train one time? No one is stopping you. You want to cancel your trip to a castle because the Sunday sesh pub-crawl sounds better? Great idea! No one is there to make you feel bad for not doing touristy things. It’s liberating. 

4. Is travelling alone as a female dangerous?
If you’re as cautious as you would be at home, then no, no it’s not, but the media does a great job of making it sound dangerous. For example, there’s one ‘travel’ site that lists 50 (!!) places women shouldn’t travel alone (many of which I’ve been to), while another of their articles lists the best destinations for single men. Some places in each list are exactly the same.

I’m not saying women don’t have to exercise more caution, but the idea that solo travel is really dangerous for women is incorrect, and unfair. Of course there are some places where women have to be wary, but those places are generally a little more risky for men as well. Do your research, don’t follow strange people down dark alleyways, and you should be ok.

6. Is eating alone awkward?
Not at all! I ate out a lot in Eastern Europe and had the best time – you can eat what you want, when you want, in the quantity you want, look at your phone the whole time, read a book, or people-watch to your hearts content, without being rude, having to negotiate, or being judged because you ordered half the menu. 

It only got a bit weird for me when I wanted wine or something because I don’t like drinking alone (I turn in to a conversation machine), but I had a glass or two a couple of times, and it was fine. If you look around, lots of people are dining alone as well, so it’s really not weird, and no one is judging you.

7. Is accommodation more expensive?
It can be, but it depends on what you’re looking for. A private rooms will almost always be more expensive than a dorm bed, and a lot of places will charge you a flat-rate whether you’re travelling solo or with another person because you’re still taking up a double bed, but having said that, other places have lower rates for solo travellers – look around online and find a deal that works for you.

My go-to site is booking.com because they have a range of hostels and hotels (as opposed to Hostel Bookers or something where they only show hostels), but it’s worth using Expedia or Trip Advisor as a search engine to find the best deal.

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The thought of travelling alone can be daunting, so I've compiled a bunch of tips, apps, and sites that helped me travel solo in Europe for 5-months.

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  1. Having worked overseas I traveled solo a lot. It is kinda nice just being able to pick up and go where you want without having to make plans with another person. If you get somewhere you don’t like or decide to cut a stay short at a location you just move. I never had a problem meeting people.

    • Charlotte Reply

      I completely agree – there’s something very freeing about being able to just pick up and leave when you want. Sounds like you’ve had some great experiences.

  2. A great post and good insight to how you feel. The more you travel and the more you are outside your comfort zone, the easier it is not to feel lonely, scared etc and become more outgoing.

    • Charlotte Reply

      Thank you 🙂 That’s definitely what happened in my experience.

  3. Hi Charlotte! Like you, I get really anxious meeting new people. And I’ve figured out why. Most of the time, I think that people already had a judgment of me before I even say a word. I’ve started traveling solo three years ago and it has changed my perspective since then. I have learned that if I smile to a stranger, almost always they will return with a smile and that can be the start of a great conversation. I still get anxious, by the way, but I now have experience to tell me I’ll be fine. A note on #6. I did felt awkward when I ordered beer for myself in Nepal. I didn’t know till my order came that the smallest bottle was like 1 L big which for me is just too much. 🙂

    • Charlotte Reply

      Hi Jing! I used to think the same thing, so I’m glad travelling has helped you reach out to people the way it helped me. And yes the beers in Nepal are enormous! I only ever ordered a single glass of wine when I was alone, but I would have felt a bit awkward drinking a whole litre of beer by myself.

  4. Great post. I had a similar experience on my first solo trip to Europe. Free walking tours are definitely one of the best ways to meet people. I think it’s also okay to remember that you don’t have to meet new people every day. I got tired of the same conversations with people and sometimes I just didn’t bother, you need time to yourself as well!

    • Charlotte Reply

      Thanks Sarah, I know exactly what you mean. Sometimes you really do need to be that person at the hostel who doesn’t talk to anyone haha, but then get to know everyone at the next place.

  5. Love this blog! Really great and honest advice! Even though we travel as a couple a lot of your advice can still apply to us too. Because we tend to stay in apartments or hotels rather than hostels it can be a lot hard to meet people so will definitely check out the couchsurfing app! Thanks for the tip!

    • Charlotte Reply

      Hi Rebecca, I’m so glad you found it useful! It could absolutely apply to a couple. I can actually see how it might even be a bit harder to meet people as a couple because people assume you’re doing your own thing and don’t want to interrupt. The Couchsurfing app is amazing, I hope you meet some amazing people 🙂

  6. These tips are amazing, especially for a fellow introvert. Sometimes just getting out of your own head is the best step you can take!

    • Charlotte Reply

      Thanks Adria! I hope you take that step and have some incredible experiences.

  7. Awesome tips! I agree with you. Though I have to say, that when I started travelling alone, I had to get used to being alone and doing some of the things you mentioned alone. It wasn’t natural to me right away, but in the end, it was totally worth it. travelling with family, as I do now, is much different and at time much more difficult, than when you are going solo 🙂 Enjoy your travels, and best of luck!

    • Charlotte Reply

      Thank you Jes! Travelling alone really didn’t feel natural for me right away either, but as you said, it’s great when you get in to the swing of it. Happy travels x

  8. I had my first experience traveling solo to Guatemala when my travel buddy had to leave back to the US from Nicaragua. It was nerve-wrecking and my anxiety was sky high but I am glad I did it. It’s truly a whole different experience that really helps open my eyes and I felt good to know that I was capable of being alone. I’ve met so many new friends along the way but also, I learned to enjoy my own company. Glad you had a great experience of traveling solo

    • Charlotte Reply

      It’s great you had such an incredible experience! I agree, it’s really rewarding when you figure out you can do it alone. Plus, Guatemala would have been unreal – glad you had such an amazing trip!

  9. Great post. I travelled to Scotland on my own a couple of years ago and loved it. I am quite introverted so I had no issues but sometimes it would have been nice to share the experience with. But it makes it easier when you are deciding what to do for the day!

    • Charlotte Reply

      Haha absolutely – I think one of my favourite parts was deciding on things alone, with no opposing opinions.

  10. Great tips on how to deal with nervousness about traveling alone. I’ll admit that even after a year of traveling solo I still get anxious about social situations, but I’ve always been that way – traveling or not. I definitely agree with the free walking tours tip. It’s a great way to meet people!

  11. I loved this post! Thanks for sharing. I also always travel by myself and I am not an outgoing person at all. I still always manage to met new people somehow, usually just in the dorm rooms or by joining activities 🙂

  12. Oh yes, everything becomes a negotiation when you’re not travelling as one – exhausting! I love the freedom travelling solo, though I have to make do with researching and deciding everything by myself.

  13. Loving your posts at the moment Charlotte! I felt soooo sick this morning as I left my house and travelled to Greece for my first solo trip! You’re absolutely right though – it’s not as daunting as it can seem! I’m only on day 1 … six more weeks to go!!

  14. Such an informative post! Great tips especially the walking tours. It is definitely daunting traveling solo to new place everytime but the excitement takes over and each journey turns out to be awesome.

  15. Such an inspiring read! I can’t believe there are articles about 50 most dangerous places for women and best places for single men. I also am not outgoing and deal with some social anxiety, so I completely relate to this experience. While I haven’t traveled alone yet, I’m hoping to someday soon.

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