I recently travelled to New York and Boston by myself. I was excited to explore two new cities, but I was also apprehensive that I'd feel lonely and uncomfortable. So I read up on solo travel before I went and I decided to put the tips I read to the test.
How did I get on? Well I'm very pleased to report that my fears were unfounded and I had an incredible holiday. I explored New York and Boston on my own terms, made new friends along the way and am already planning my next solo trip.
Here are my tried-and-tested tips:
Be a savvy booker
When you're looking for a solo deal, it's easy to get stung by high single supplements, so make sure you read the fine print. You should also have a think about the type of holiday you want. Are you happy to sit on a beach alone for a week? Or would you like some company occasionally? I found that staying in smaller hotels and B&Bs made it easier for me to strike up conversations with strangers.
Plan before you go
I didn't want to wake up in a strange city and feel overwhelmed, so I read my guide books thoroughly and I made an itinerary for each day. I didn't stick to my plan religiously, but I'm convinced that I covered more ground than I would have done without it. My plan also helped me to feel more comfortable before I travelled, because I already felt familiar with the places I'd be visiting.
Arrive during the day
Nobody wants to arrive in a new place on their own in the dark, so try to get there during daylight hours. I arrived in both New York and Boston in the middle of the day, which meant that I was happy to negotiate the streets and the subway systems solo. However I wouldn't have felt comfortable doing this by night. If it isn't possible to arrive in the day, then make sure you've planned how to get to your hotel or resort before you fly.
Always have a book with you
You might not be a big reader, but I would always advise a solo traveller to carry a book. I found that having a novel with me helped me to kill time when I was travelling long distances. It was helpful when I had down time in coffee shops and I also read while waiting for activities to start. My book provided me with a distraction, it kept me company and it helped me to blend in with the crowd.
I was worried about this before I travelled, as eating out alone isn't something I'd normally do and I was convinced I would stick out like a sore thumb. However, the first time I dared to do this I realised that dining alone is actually quite common, and nobody made me feel uncomfortable because they were too busy doing their own thing. My advice would be to get out there, try the local cuisine and be confident in the fact that you're exploring alone. Eating clam chowder in an award-winning fish restaurant is much cooler than eating a sandwich in your hotel room.
Smile and say hi
If you find that you want to strike up a conversation, then do it! If you smile and say hello, you'll get a pleasant response. I made friends with people from Birmingham, Brazil, Portland, Sydney and Melbourne on my holiday, and each instance started with a simple smile and a hello.
Go on organised tours
Group tours are a great way to meet people and they also provide a safe way to see the sites. During my holiday, I went on an organised tour of Brooklyn and on a gospel tour of Harlem. I found these trips really informative, I got to chat to people and I felt safe because I was touring with others. We've got some great activities, treks and tours.
Meet up with a friend of a friend
If you happen to know somebody who has friends in the place you're visiting, why not arrange to meet up with them? When I was in New York, I caught a baseball game with a friend's cousin and I drank steins and ate bratwursts with another one of her pals. It was great seeing a familiar face (of sorts), we had our mutual friend in common and nobody knows a destination quite like a local, so it was really interesting too!
Get out and enjoy yourself
Be confident in the fact that you're doing it alone and enjoy yourself. Go out in the evenings, visit restaurants, drink in pubs and watch theatre shows. Just make sure you keep your wits about you and plan your route back to the hotel.
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