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Is solo travel worth it? After doing it for 8 years, I’m here to share my thoughts on the pros and cons of solo travel… And believe me, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it – and doing it!
Since I run a blog about travelling alone, it’s kinda obvious I’m a big fan. But I have no motivation to pretend something is better than it is. If you’ve ever watched my Insta stories, I’m all about sharing the mishaps and disadvantages of travelling solo.
Read next: the ultimate guide to solo female travel
I wouldn’t persuade someone to travel solo if it wasn’t right for them, just like I don’t believe anyone should encourage you to settle down and live a more traditional lifestyle if that’s not for you.
To summarise, I want to paint a realistic picture of what solo travel is really like including the advantages and disadvantages of travelling alone. Hopefully after reading, you’ll have a better idea whether it’ll suit YOU.
Read next: 10 benefits of travelling solo
Solo travelling – the pros and cons!
In this post, I’ll break down the topic into the following…
- Financial pros and cons
- Social pros and cons
- Logistical pros and cons
- Wellbeing pros and cons.
Financial pros and cons of travelling alone
This section tackles the much-debated question ‘Is it more expensive to travel solo?’. Although you might assume the answer is yes, I’m not so sure.
Con: can’t split costs
To state the obvious, some things are more expensive when travelling solo such as staying in private rooms and taking taxis.
It’s not always the case, though. If you stay in hostels and travel to places with good public transport (or Uber/Grab scooters in Asia) then travelling solo won’t cost you any extra.
Some of the best places for solo female travel include Thailand and Vietnam in Asia because they’re affordable with great backpacker infrastructure, and most countries in Europe because public transport is efficient. Read my guides to Europe solo travel and Asia solo travel!
Buying groceries and cooking in a hostel/Airbnb can also sometimes be more expensive alone. Things like oil and condiments that you’ll unlikely finish really add up when buying for one. In cheaper countries, I feel I could have eaten out for the same price!
However, you can combat the problem by making two portions and eating one for lunch or dinner the next day. Cooking for one while travelling isn’t ALWAYS more expensive providing you’re happy to eat the same meal multiple times and not have so much variety. Plus, eating in restaurants doesn’t cost more alone.
Pro: manage your own budget
Despite not having anyone to split the costs with, a huge advantage to solo travel is being able to manage your budget. Often when I travel with others, I get sucked into having an extra cocktail or beer that I didn’t need, or going to a restaurant that’s above my budget.
Wrongly or rightly, I often prioritise being easygoing over counting my pennies. Especially on shorter trips with new friends or casual acquaintances, I don’t want to appear stingy or boring by staying in and eating supermarket pasta when others are going for yummy food and cocktails!
Another thing to note when considering the pros and cons of travelling alone? How difficult it can be travelling with someone on a different budget to you.
Whether you want to splash out (you’ve earnt it so why not?) and your companion can’t, or you need to keep it cheap but feel compelled to keep up with someone else’s spending, it can be hard especially as money is often awkward to discuss.
It’s just another example of how travelling with someone else can require compromise, while travelling solo doesn’t.
If you’re staying in hostels and travelling by public transit, it can be cheaper to travel solo because you can better manage your spending. But if you want your own room or to take lots of taxis/hire a car, then yes, a disadvantage of solo travel is that you need to budget more.
I certainly spend less money travelling solo than I do with other people, especially if they’re on ‘holiday mode’ when I’m on long-term travel mode.
Social pros and cons of solo travel
Next, let’s consider topics including meeting others, needing alone time, getting lonely, doing small talk and shaking off unwanted company. Of course, this topic is very subjective depending on whether you’re a social butterfly or more introverted. Still, I’ll do my best…
Pro: shaking off unwanted company
A major advantage of solo travel is that, if someone you’ve met is annoying you, it’s easy to shake them off. You’ve likely only met them recently and therefore don’t owe them anything. If you’ve signed up to travel with another person and it’s not working out, it can be much harder to arrange to go separate ways… Especially if you’ve pre-booked and paid for things!
Saying that, I suspect if you’re travelling as a couple or close friends, it’s easier to say to that annoying hostel tagalong ‘So we’re going our own way now’. Several times travelling alone, I’ve met other solo travellers (who weren’t enjoying the experience as much as me) who have latched on. Telling someone you’d rather be alone than with them is valid, but uncomfortable!
So, while I’ve listed the freeing ability to shake people off as a pro of solo travel, it may depend on the situation and how authoritative you’re feeling!
Con: feeling lonely
An undeniable con of solo travel is that you’re more susceptible to feeling lonely. Nothing is guaranteed: if you pick the wrong travel companion, you may feel isolated in their company. And you may never feel lonely when travelling alone provided you’re happy in your own company and/or make friends on the road.
But it IS more likely. I’m pretty good at making friends in a new place and I’m also content alone, but I’ve still felt lonely many times over the years. Sometimes you just don’t click with anyone in a new destination. Sometimes you’re fatigued by fleeting connections and just want someone who gets you. Someone who doesn’t need explanations and backstories.
Pro: meet more people
There’s some debate on this one because I find it easier to go to a bar or party and meet new people when I have someone to go with (particularly as a woman who feels less safe than a man would). However, all things considered, you meet a LOT more people travelling solo simply because you make more effort.
There are many ways to meet people when travelling solo such as staying in backpacker hostels, taking free walking tours and doing guided activities like cooking classes, day excursions and food crawls. I meet more people when I’m alone because I’m not distracted chatting with an existing travel companion.
Also, I find people are more likely to chat to you in cafes or hostels if you’re alone.
Con: doing all the small talk
If you’re the kind of person who gets fatigued doing the ‘What do you do, where are you from?’ chats multiple times a day, you may find that travelling (solo or not) drains your energy. I’d say that when you’re travelling with company, it’s easier because your companion(s) do half the chitchat work when you meet people.
Also, if a new friend joins your gang, you and your existing companion will likely be chatting freely giving the newbie more to join in on.
Pro: getting alone time
When weighing up the advantages and disadvantages of solo travel, I find it’s perfect for me because, when I’m feeling social, I can go into a hostel common room or sign up for some activity, but when I’m feeling tired and antisocial, I have no obligation to socialise.
I’m sure most reasonable travel companions will appreciate that you need time alone (and need it themselves too) BUT I have travelled with people in the past who have clung to me, possibly because they were feeling overwhelmed, and I haven’t been able to recharge my social batteries. If your itinerary is fast-paced, you won’t get much separation from whoever you’re with.
It’s an easy verdict on this topic. While there’s more potential to feel lonely from time to time, solo travel IS worth it because meet more people and become more confident. It’s a skill you’ll take through life with you!
Organisation & logistical pros and cons of travelling solo
Next, I’ll discuss the day-to-day difficulties of travelling alone compared to the positives.
Con: getting in your own photos
Without an Instagram husband/wife/bestie, it can be harder to make photo memories of your trip. Strangers take terrible photos, maybe because they owe you nothing. I worry some of my blog photos from past solo trips look like stock photos because I’m nowhere to be seen!
However, I wrote a blog post about getting in your own photos travelling solo to deal with this issue. From selfie sticks, GoPros, camera stands, self-timers and picking the right stranger to ask (spoiler – teenage/20-something girls and women!), it’s not game over. But it IS harder.
Con: no help with planning and booking
When considering the pros and cons of travelling alone, this is an undeniable con. Having to book every hotel/hostel, flight, bus and tour while also researching things to do in each new destination, where to eat and how to get around is TIRING. You’re literally doing double the work compared to travelling with a companion.
When I took a trip in Mexico with a friend recently, I researched where to eat in each new place (my fave topic!) and she looked up things to do and directions. It saved me so much time compared to my usual solo Mexico travels.
But this is only relevant if your companion WILL do half the work. I see and hear SO many women complaining or joking about planning an entire trip right down to the small details while their male partner doesn’t even know where they’re going. Taking the trip alone and not having to mother someone who treats you like a PA/1950s housewife sounds like a pro of solo travel to me!
Pro: complete control
While someone else doing research can be a pro, the natural flipside is that they’ll probably have preferences about the trip. Maybe they want to prioritise nightlife while you prefer to get up early and seize the day. Maybe they’ll choose expensive restaurants when you want street food… Or a million and one other possibilities!
Now I’m a seasoned solo traveller, I notice the compromises I make with other people. It makes me realise the sacrifices I made in the past were because I didn’t want to be alone. Now that doesn’t phase me, each trip is the Rose Show and I never miss doing, seeing or eating something I want. Honestly, being completely in control is the number 1 pro of solo travel for me.
Con: hiring cars
Another logistical disadvantage of solo travel relates to places without public transport. Hiring a car can be a great, time-efficient and cost-efficient way of seeing a destination, however, hiring a car solo is harder because you have to front the cost and do all the driving. Although you usually pay extra for a second driver, it’s still cheaper than hiring the car alone.
So, based on these logistical issues, solo travel IS logistically a bit harder. But at least doing all the organisation means you can arrange everything the way you want it!
Wellbeing pros and cons of solo travel
Now, let’s consider the personal impact of solo travel vs travelling with others, based on physical safety, mental health and more.
As soon as you announce you’re going away, your loved ones will probably be wondering is it safe for a woman to take a solo trip? If I had a dollar for each time someone’s said ‘You’re brave!’ regarding my solo travels, I’d be rich!
Although such comments are irritating and unsolicited, I get it. There are many places in the world where you’re less safe alone than with company, particularly if you’re a woman. It’s hard to even research solo female travel without ‘safety’ being the next word to pop up.
But, consider two things. Are you going to not live your life because of something that likely won’t even happen (thousands of solo women are enjoying trouble-free trips as we speak)? Also, are you reading the blog of a solo blonde woman who stands out like a sore thumb almost everywhere and who’s travelled the world for almost 10 years with no major problems? Feel free to use me as proof that you’ll likely be absolutely fine!
Pro: self-development & empowerment
It may sound like a cheesy bumper sticker saying ‘Travel far enough, you meet yourself’ but it IS true that an advantage of travelling alone is growing and developing during the trials and tribulations that naturally occur. Skills you learn from travel include:
- Life skills – endurance, problem-solving, navigation and organisation.
- Social skills – you’ll grow these by interacting with people of different ages, races, religions and backgrounds. Keep your mind open and you’ll learn a lot about people and humanity.
- New perspectives and outlooks due to additional time to think and fewer distractions from others. Taking a step back from your regular life, career and relationships can be a great way of putting them in perspective and reflecting on what you want.
Con: not sharing the moment
I’ve heard people say the number one reason they don’t do things alone is because they like to share the moment. Seeing or doing something wonderful and life-altering can feel flat if no one can relate.
I get it to an extent but I think part of this is social conditioning. Is a sunset less beautiful because it falls into one set of eyes instead of two? Does a waterfall roar less loudly to one set of ears?
But, saying this, if it’s how many people feel, I can’t dispute their feelings.
Sharing my experiences with my blog readers and Instagram followers (especially fellow solo female travellers who are invested in my adventures) has always helped me share my travel experiences and feel connected. Maybe you can also start a travel blog or share your photos on social media, even if it’s just for friends and family.
But I appreciate that sharing via the virtual world isn’t always enough. It’s a tricky one.
Pro: not waiting for people
A major advantage to travelling solo is that you never have to wait for anyone. I mean this in two ways:
1) You can depart on your trip without waiting for anyone else to quit their job/save up/finish their rental tenancy. Also, spoiler, they might never be ready to go meaning you miss out entirely.
2) While travelling, you can get up and go rather than waiting for someone else to get ready, call their mum, do their laundry, drink their coffee etc. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been ready to seize the day at 9am and not left ’til midday because someone was faffing around. My pet peeve!
Con: no help during the bad times
Bad times for me include being hospitalised on a drip during solo travel in India, robbed at night in Vietnam, and trying to get home in March 2020 through rapidly closing borders. In the first example, I was lucky to have the staff at my hostel to help me out and, during the second, a new friend lent me money to buy a new phone while I was waiting for a replacement bank card to arrive.
Yes, you might be lucky too and meet wonderful new people to help, but you can’t guarantee it.
Being alone during difficult times may increase your anxiety levels without anyone to help you out, logistically and emotionally.
When it comes to the emotional side of travelling alone, it’s pretty simple. Things can be harder. But you’ll grow and gain skills from that. You have to decide if you’re ready for that!
Other solo travel pros and cons
Here are a final few ups and downs of travelling alone that don’t fit in the categories of financial, social or logistical. These are…
Con: getting to try fewer foods
I’m SUCH a foodie and love trying as many new dishes as possible. My ideal group dinner would be everyone ordering something different and us all sharing. When you’re travelling solo, you can usually only order one main in a restaurant (although if you order more and finish, you’re a legend!).
I often get VERY full and spend a lot of money attempting to eat everything I want in a new city or try every regional dish in a country when I only have a week there. Especially if they’re big, hearty dishes, it would be preferable to share them.
Pro solo travel tip – if you find yourself in this situation, try food tours. Viator and GetYourGuide are consistent across countries, while A Chef’s Tour is fantastic in Asia!
Con: eating alone
I’m no longer bothered by this one but I’m giving it a mention because I hear from many beginner solo travellers that they feel awkward eating alone. My top tips are:
- Do some research, either on Google or by peeking inside a restaurant to assess the vibe. If it’s a dimly lit, romantic restaurant packed with couples, then move on to a more relaxed spot
- Bring a distraction like a book, journal or podcast to keep you occupied
- Eat a big meal at lunchtime when dining spaces feel less formal, then grab something snacky for dinner
- Order your food to-go or utilise local takeaway apps. If it’s a country with street food, even better!
- Make use of hostel kitchens or book an Airbnb with one
- Eat at the bar rather than at a table. Other solos are more likely to sit beside you, or you can chat with the bartender
- Keep doing it ’til it feels normal. And remember that no one is thinking about you; everyone is thinking about themselves. ALWAYS.
Summary of the pros and cons of solo travel
Pros of solo travel:
- Manage your budget better
- Meet more people
- Complete control
- Alone time when you need it
- Easier to shake off unwanted company
- No waiting for people
Cons of solo travel:
- Can’t split costs (taxis, private rooms etc)
- Feeling lonely
- Hard to get in your own photos
- More time spent planning and booking
- Safety issues
- Trying less foods
- Eating alone
- Not sharing the moment
- No one to help in the tough times.
To summarise, there are slightly more cons than pros on this list. Does this mean travelling solo is worse than with company? In my opinion, no! Small issues like having to put your phone on self-timer for a pic are TINY inconveniences compared to the wonderful, freeing feeling of living on your own terms and not waiting on or relying on others!
And, although the challenges of travelling alone can occasionally be overwhelming, I genuinely think you will learn and grow from them.
However, only you can make the decision based on your own personality, wants and needs. I hope this blog has given you some insight or at least food for thought!
Final thoughts on solo travel pros and cons
If you’re not ready for solo travel now, it doesn’t mean you’ll never be. Why not try a group tour instead of solo travel if you’d prefer to ease yourself in?
It goes without saying that the quality of travel with someone else depends on who it is. Some people are genuinely easier to travel with due to traits like being laid back or helpful with organisational and logistical tasks. And of course, if it’s someone you’re close to and get on super well with, then it’ll be a better trip.
These days, I won’t take a trip of more than 1-2 weeks with someone unless I KNOW it will go well. I usually do a test weekend trip with someone before planning a big backpacking adventure with them. If no one is available who fits the bill, I find solo travel more reliable than the possibility of getting stuck with someone whose company I’m not enjoying (and might not be enjoying mine!).
Read next: how to pick a travel buddy
Don’t forget travel insurance!
To reduce the problems related to solo travel, make sure you have protection for your valuables, flights and, more importantly, your health! This is crucial even if you’re travelling with a group but extra important to reduce the vulnerability of being alone.
I use True Traveller (for European residents including the UK) since it’s affordable but covers everything you need including valuables and pre-existing health conditions. The last time I claimed, they paid out within 2 days which I’ve never experienced with any other company! Get a quote now.
For travel insurance for other nationalities, I recommend Hey Mundo and for long-term digital nomad travellers, I suggest Safety Wing.
Thanks for reading!
If you’re still wondering should I travel solo?, check out my other blog posts…
Americas solo travel guides:
- New York solo travel guide
- Solo female Mexico travel
- Solo female travel in Belize
- Is solo travel in Guatemala safe?
- Travelling alone in Cuba
Asia solo travel guides:
- Solo female travel in Bali
- Solo travel in Thailand
- Guide to solo travel in Malaysia
- Solo Vietnam travel
- Solo travel in India
- Where to travel alone in India
Europe solo travel guides:
- Solo female travel in Croatia
- Guide to solo travel in Italy
- Solo female travel in Lisbon
- Is solo Romania travel safe?