For both the new and seasoned solo traveller, city breaks are the ideal choice. They can be long enough to pack in a variety of activities and sightseeing but short enough so as not to feel even a hint of homesickness. You can be as solitary or as social as you want, forego the usual tourist attractions and design your own trip according to what you would like to do. It’s your holiday! That’s the beauty of solo travel – the only person you have to please is yourself. With a packed itinerary, there’s no time to feel alone. The key to making the most of a city break is to plan efficiently, taking into account that you may just want to spend time wandering, so make sure you allow for some flexibility and downtime (sightseeing is exhausting!).
1 Be spontaneous
Flights from the UK to European cities on low budget airlines can be fairly inexpensive. However, one of the most frustrating things about travelling with other people is trying to schedule everybody’s diary and find a period where everyone is free. This can often mean paying a premium for flights and accommodation. If you’re travelling solo, you can be more flexible and keep an eye on skyscanner.net to check out cheap last minute flights, and be ready to book as soon as they drop in price.
2 Location, time and practicalities
When booking accommodation, pay careful attention to the location. Weigh up cost vs distance and time taken to the sights you want to see – this is especially important if you only have three or four days to play with. Who wants to waste time spending hours on public transport? To estimate travel times and fares, use global trip planner Rome2Rio which will display flight, train, bus, ferry and driving options.
The budget conscious traveller may wish to book a hostel or a room with an AirBnB top host instead of a hotel. However, always ensure you read the reviews on TripAdvisor very carefully before booking.
3 Lone wolf or social butterfly?
Social or solitary? It’s entirely up to you. Your accommodation type will dictate how likely you are to meet sociable, friendly people to chat to – hostels or an AirBnB room are best for this. To meet like minded individuals outwith your accommodation, sign up for small group tours featuring whatever interests you have – history, food, culture etc. It’s relatively easy to break the ice if you are taking part in a group activity such as a walking tour, so it can be an ideal way to make new friends. Browse viator.com for a huge variety of tours in cities around the world. To meet locals, try couchsurfing.com to find a host who can show you the city and give you an insider’s perspective or meetup.com for arranged events such as bar crawls or dinners.
4 Table for one
Most cities have a huge variety of places to eat so you need never sit in a stuffy fine dining restaurant solo if you don’t want to. Pull up a chair in an elbow-to-elbow tapas bar, grab some local street food, get a burger, or ask a barman to recommend a place favoured by the locals. The options are endless. Read our article on dining solo.
5 Finances & personal safety
With nobody with you to bail you out in an emergency, being careful with your cash when you’re travelling solo is extra important. Carry a separate debit/credit card and a small amount in cash hidden separately from your wallet (an inside pocket or a money belt, for example). Photocopy all your documents and cards (passport, visa, driving licence, travel insurance) before you go and also email copies to yourself so you can access them whenever you have internet.
Leave a note of where you’re going in your room each day or evening and carry the card of your hotel with you so that you always find your way home easily – even if you can’t tell the driver where it is in their own language.