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Waiting for a flight (Shutterstock: see credit below)

7 solo travel dilemmas and how to solve them

29th June 2016

Solo travel has plenty of advantages, but there will naturally be a few hurdles to overcome – some more predictable than others. Here's some advice for solving its pesky predicaments

Emma Higgins

1. Looking after luggage

You're all familiar with the golden rule to never leave your bag unattended, but with no companion to watch it while you pop to the bathroom in airports or on public transport, this leads to an irritating solo travel conundrum.

Strategically time your toilet break before you collect your bag from the carousel at the airport, or beeline for the disabled toilet for some extra room if you do have to haul it in with you. If you need to nip to the bathroom on a train or bus, do so just after a stop to give yourself plenty of time to report a theft if it does happen. Wedging your bag into an awkward position on a luggage rack can also deter people from even trying to steal it.

2. Taking photos of yourself

If you don't do selfies, you'll have to hand your camera to someone else to take your picture – a worrying prospect if you're travelling with an expensive one. Find someone with a better camera than your own to take the snap for you – chances are they won't want to steal your inferior model, and they'll probably know how to frame a decent shot too.

Taking photos on a cliff edge (Shutterstock)
Taking photos on a cliff edge (Shutterstock)

3. Applying sun cream

Unless you're a particularly limber person, there's always going to be that bit on the centre of your back that you can't quite reach with your sun cream. Asking a stranger to do it for you is a bit of an awkward solution, so retreat to the privacy of your hotel room or a bathroom to apply as best you can, saving you the embarrassment of twisting yourself into odd positions in public. And, of course, sprays are easier than creams.Wear high SPF, long-lasting protection to ensure you don't have to go through the whole ordeal again while you're out – some brands claim to stay effective all day long.


4. Single supplements

If you're planning on taking a tour on your solo journey, you might encounter the dreaded single supplement, but there are ways to avoid this. Fortunately, some companies run tours that are suitable for solo travellers, with no extra charge for going it alone.

Also don't be afraid to approach the tour operator before booking to see if they can help, either by buddying you up with another solo traveller, or with a little negotiation on pricing – a tactic that could work particularly well off-season when booking numbers are lower.

You may also find you're charged extra for the same reason when booking hotel rooms independently, and a little haggling helps in these situations too. Alternatively, look out for hotels that charge per person or offer bedrooms for one.

5. Dining alone

Saying “Table for one, please” is a little uncomfortable when you're not used to it, but dining alone is something you'll quickly adapt to. Many solo travellers bury themselves in a book or magazine at meal times, but this can leave you closed off to conversation. Use eating out as an opportunity to catch up on your travel journal or draft emails to send home – keeping busy and looking purposeful will not only help you to avoid pitying glances, but also leave you open to conversation with inquisitive staff or other customers.

Reading in a cafe (Shutterstock)
Reading in a cafe (Shutterstock)

6. Being scammed

It's not uncommon for solo travellers (women in particular) to be targeted for scams, as people can assume that you're vulnerable. Polish up your haggling and negotiating skills before you leave, and carry yourself with conviction – strong and confident body language can go a long way. Be charming and polite at first, smiling to try and diffuse the situation, but if problems continue, walk away and find what you need elsewhere.

If it's a situation that you can't walk away from, such as being charged fake fees, firmly stand your ground and kick up a fuss. You might even have to really overreact, but sometimes it's the only way to avoid being ripped off.

7. Solo sickness

Feeling under the weather while abroad is an unpleasant experience even when travelling with others, but when you're alone it can be very miserable. It's easy to be an introvert in this situation, but it's better to let someone else know that you're not feeling well – a member of staff at your hotel, for example. It's reassuring to know that someone else has their eye on you, and you'd be surprised by how many people are eager to help a traveller in need.

Make sure your travel insurance is up-to-date just in case things get worse – one less thing to worry about.


Main image: Waiting for a flight (Shutterstock)

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 Your Comments (8)

  • 5th March by carodragon

    I would like to start a campaign about single supplements.  Your sentence "Fortunately, some companies run tours that are suitable for solo travellers, with no extra charge for going it alone."  is not really applicable to a lot of these companies.  I have found they just include their extra charge within the whole package.  There may be a few of their holidays that are reasonable but others are very expensive.  One solo company quotes a four day in Paris for nearly £800 in an Ibis hotel.  Even paying a single person supplement in an ordinary tour company would not come to this.


    If you are single or even traveling with a friend - try finding a B & B which have twin rooms.  There are some but most have doubles.


    All the special deals and money off holidays are only targeted to couples.  If you check them out they are usually double rooms - useless if you are not a couple.  Plus the single supplement negates the special deal.


    I recently stayed in an hotel as a group booking which only asked for a £10 single supplement - not unreasonable.  Most single supplements are too expensive.


     


     


     


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  • 5th March by Georgie1990

    The toilet issue is the most annoying for me. I don't mind eating alone and I always stay at hostels so I get the opportunity to meet new people. The toilet, argh, there isn't much getting around it if you are travelling via bus or train. 


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  • 5th March by dparry

    This was a helpful article and covers the main difficulties of travelling alone. I'd also add, when you're really forced to leave your belongings in the care of others, e.g. in a room or behind the counter or bar, take a photo of your stuff and the people with them. It's at least a bit of a deterrent. Thank you for the article.


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  • 5th March by Hicksvera

    Have you noticed many overland tours only provide bed and breakfast, as a single traveller who are you to join in an evening to go out to dinner? especially the first night away when you do not know anyone and you are in a unknown country.


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  • 5th March by hazie

    Spray on sunscreen is great for solo travel. Only last year I took such a high SPF it only sprayed in clumps not a fine even mist on my back. But still easier to spread on than creams. 


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  • 29th June by mooseontheloose

    What bothers me is that 40-50% of the population (UK, US) - is deemed 'single', yet probably 95% of the travel industry is geared to couples, or the assumption that you are travelling with someone else.


    Here in Japan the mindset is still stuck in the '50s where the man works all day and/or travels for business while the wife stays home and looks after the kids, which means most hotels here are geared for single people, which I love. Of course, with all the tourists descending on Japan hotels are scrambling to have more rooms set up for couples, so it is changing. That said, I do hope they continue to charge by the person and not the room.


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  • 4th July by Ange

    These are useful tips - thanks. When it comes to getting someone to take a photo of you, it's also often a good idea to ask someone with kids, especially if there's just one adult with the kids. That person is unlikely to run off with your camera or phone and leave their kids behind.


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