Overcoming Solo Travel Anxiety

anxiety nerves solo travel

This post may contain affiliate links to things like tours, hotels, Amazon associates and products. These help me earn a small commission at no additional charge to you.

I write this while feeling solo travel anxiety before my next big trip. Whether you’re travelling alone for the first time or the 100th (like me! I can’t count how many solo trips I have done by this point), the dreaded nerves kick in every time.

Even if you’re comfortable with solo travel, the nerves can come out anywhere especially if you’re taking a trip to somewhere culturally different, or a physical or mental challenge be it hiking or learning a new language.

I think it’s also generally the fear of the unknown. It’s hard to imagine a country you’ve never visited and people you’ve never met so it’s hard to get excited. I always feel nervous instead… Then the joy and excitement kick in when I’m finally there and know everything’s ok!

Travel anxiety can happen regardless of who you’re travelling with but I write this specifically for those travelling solo.

Before we begin, something I want to note is that anxiety when travelling alone is normal. Feeling your feelings is not a bad thing. However, when you feel too anxious, it’s just horrible and in no way productive. So, these upcoming solo travel tips are to help tackle it!

The inevitable lifecycle of booking a solo trip

  • Umm and ahh about booking said trip
  • Bite the bullet and book it!
  • Start getting cold feet and, a few days, before wonder about cancelling altogether
  • Push through and get on the plane racked with solo travel anxiety
  • Have the time of your life!
  • Do it all over again…

Even as a very experienced traveller, I still feel nervous before a trip alone. I’m not sure that’ll ever go away and that’s ok. By now, I’m accustomed to managing my nerves and reducing my stress before travel…

Travelling solo in canada
The world is too amazing to miss!

Tackling solo travel anxiety BEFORE travel

So you’ve booked that trip and it’s getting close… Now the nerves are kicking in! Here’s what I recommend…

Do plenty of research to feel prepared

In my experience, this is the number one thing that reduces my anxiety. By doing your research, you have a better idea of what to expect and the fear of the unknown is reduced. Research can include reading blogs and watching YouTube and social media videos to get a feel for your upcoming destination.

Be sure to read up on common scams and specific advice for those travelling solo rather than just general travel advice. It’s easy to find solo female travel advice about your destination via Google and social media. Follow bloggers and message them if you have specific questions. They may not always reply but it’s worth a try.

Portugal guide to solo travel anxiety

Things to do and think about to reduce solo travel anxiety:

  • Your itinerary: Research which places you want to visit within the city or country you’re visiting and consider whether you have enough time to do them all justice. Research distances and travel times; you don’t want to spend half the trip on a bus. Check my travel itineraries and see if I have one for your destination!
  • Visas: do you need a visa based on your nationality? Can you apply online? It would be awful to be turned away at the airport.
  • Vaccinations: are any required to enter the country? Even if they’re not, consult your healthcare provider about which ones to get. Leave enough time especially since some require multiple doses.
  • Travel insurance: don’t leave home without it! True Traveller is my insurer of choice, covering you even if you’re already travelling and/or don’t have a return flight booked yet. They’re for European (inc UK) residents so I suggest Hey Mundo for other nationalities.
  • Get a SIM card: I suggest Airalo for e-SIM cards you can download before travel and activate as soon as you land. A game-changer compared to the old SIM industry!

Saying that, one of my top travel tips is not to over-plan and overbook. If you get sick, burnt out, like a place and want to stay longer, or meet people you want to travel with, it’s best to have some flexibility. I aim to be prepared but not tied down to strict plans I can’t change.

Set aside time for planning: one of the downsides of solo travel is having to do all the admin and planning single-handedly. It can be overwhelming with so many things to think about. So I recommend setting aside chunks of time for travel planning. Grab a coffee or lunch and get comfy! Once you’re done…

Distract yourself

As I said before, there’s nothing wrong with feeling your feelings. But it’s not healthy or helpful to agonize over them!

Once you’ve done your travel planning, you’ve done all you can do. If you’re still feeling solo travel anxiety, it’s time to switch off and think of your upcoming trip as little as possible. Try to distract yourself by seeing friends and family, watching movies, playing sports, going for a long walk… Whatever leisure activities you enjoy!

Travelling to mexico
Feeling calm during solo travel in Mexico

Ease yourself in

Some people go from having never travelled solo to diving straight into a 6-month solo backpacking trip on the other side of the world. Sure, this will work for some but if you’re feeling anxious about travelling solo for the first time, I recommend starting small and building yourself up.

Start by going to cafes solo: get used to the feeling of being alone. To start, you could bring a book, laptop or other distraction if you’re feeling self-conscious. On trip two, reduce distractions and try people-watching.

Try dining out alone:
I know this is one of the hardest parts of solo travel for some. It IS possible to avoid it to some extent while travelling by getting takeout food, street food and cooking in hostels but I suggest you tackle it at some point! You don’t want to miss out on delish food during your trip. Start by eating at a casual restaurant at lunchtime.

Take a trip in your own country:
overcome solo travel anxiety relating to a first big adventure by building yourself up. Why not take a weekend trip in your home country? You’ll be used to hostels or solo hotel stays by the time you depart on that first big, international adventure.

Going to cafes alone tackling solo travel nerves
Going to cafes solo is a great place to start

Pick your first destination carefully

If you’re keen to ease into solo travel, consider picking an easy destination not far from home. If you’ve followed my advice above and taken a trip within your home country to start, the next step is a trip abroad. Some of the easiest places to travel alone for women – that are less likely to induce solo travel anxiety – include:

  • Solo travel in Portugal – with plenty of English spoken, efficient public transport, a positive safety rating and amazing hostels, this is one of the easiest places in Europe for solo female travel. Enjoy the main cities of Lisbon and Porto or beach-hop in the Algarve.
  • Solo travel in Thailand – although there are lots of great places for solo travel in Asia, the friendly locals and well-developed tourist infrastructure (from hostels to tourist buses and affordable tours) make Thailand an easy place to travel alone. Although you may experience culture shock, it’s such a rewarding place to travel.
  • Solo travel in New Zealand or Australia – if it’s a relaxed country you’re after with English as a first language, I recommend either. Both offer working holiday visas for young people.

Identify specific worries & solutions

There can be general overwhelm relating to a solo trip but I find that, usually it’s coming from specific places. A handy tool for fighting solo travel anxiety is identifying the source of your stress and having a plan in place.

Next are two of the most common concerns that people have before travelling solo: safety and getting lonely.

Overcoming fears about safety

One of the biggest concerns of solo travellers is safety. Especially for women, the world can be more dangerous for us so it’s understandable to feel concerned.

India solo female travel anxiety
Travelling solo in India gives some travellers cause for concern (but I loved it)

Read next: my safety tips for solo female travellers

  • Wear a secure bag – I suggest a cross-body bag for valuables, one that goes around your waist or chest. If you’re really worried about safety, wear one under your clothes
  • Research good and bad neighbourhoods in a new city – you can do this online or ask hotel/hostel staff on arrival
  • Know how to get around and when to be cautious – in some of my favourite cities like Cape Town and Mexico City, it’s recommended not to walk at night. Take Uber instead. It’s best to know this information in advance so you can plan to finish your sightseeing excursions by sunset and have the right apps downloaded to avoid solo travel nerves
  • Be aware of common scams – give this a quick Google or see if there are any YouTube or social media videos about your upcoming destination
  • Check the dress code and bring appropriate clothing – while I wish we could always wear what we want as women, it’s important to cover up where appropriate for your own safety as well as to honour the culture you’re in
  • Understand that sometimes the fear you feel in new countries is culture shock and discomfort rather than the likelihood of actual danger
  • Cyber safety – avoid getting your banking or personal details copied by using a VPN when using Wi-Fi networks abroad. I use Nord VPN.

Overcoming the fear of being lonely

After safety concerns, I suspect that the fear of not meeting anyone and feeling lonely is a close second when it comes to solo travel anxiety.

Consider how important constantly being with people is to you. If very important, I recommend you utilise the below tactics for meeting others. But if you like your own company (or come to love it – you never know!), think what’s the worst that could happen. You spend a day alone reading on the beach? Have time to linger in cafes and museums? Sounds divine to me!

Making friends travelling alone
There are always friends to be made while travelling

How to make friends travelling:

  • Stay in hostels – often they have daily events and bars so there are loads of ways to meet people. If dorm life isn’t for you, book a private room in a hostel orrrr…
  • Couch surf/stay in a local’s home on Airbnb – I can understand solo women have concerns about staying with a male host on Couchsurfing but you can join the FB group Host A Sister and stay with female hosts. Or book a room in an Airbnb rather than a whole apartment. You’ll likely meet other guests and the hosts
  • Go on free walking tours – these are everywhere!
  • Join the right Facebook groupsHost A Sister and Girls Love Travel are good places to start along with groups related to your destination
  • Meetup events – this website and app hosts events in cities around the world
  • Take a day group tour or do activities – from hikes to cooking classes, I like GetYourGuide and Viator for these. When doing activities related to your hobbies, you’re bound to meet like-minded people
  • Try a guided bar crawl – a good for solo travellers to experience the nightlife
  • Volunteer – stay longer in a destination to help with a project on Worldpackers or Workaway (if you decide to sign up, I can offer you a discount code for both Worldpackers and Workaway).

Read next: is Workaway worth it?

Flight prep

Flying can be an anxiety-inducing situation. Even if you’re not scared of air travel, this is the time when you have to deal with customs and arriving alone in a new place. Often you don’t have a SIM card yet, haven’t been to the ATM and have to find your way to your accommodation alone.

When I’m at the airport, I’m often worrying I’ve forgotten something. Also, the environment of bright lights and no fresh air in airports never makes you feel relaxed!

So, I totally relate to how stressful this first bit of any solo trip can be.

Solo travel anxiety tips for flying:

  • Bring enough to do – I’m talking books, podcasts etc. Get them downloaded before you’re offline.
  • Have ear plugs and an eye mask in your hand luggage – you never know how noisy your seatmate is gunna be especially if they’re a baby!
  • Bring a reusable water bottle – once you’ve tipped it away at security you can usually fill it at a water machine or by asking at a cafe
  • Have a folder with all your documents (like visas and flight tickets) printed out
  • Ask the staff anything you want to know at check-in such as whether the flight includes a meal, so you’re well-prepared
  • Pay for seats if you think a window or aisle will make you feel better. A middle seat is always the most claustrophobic and anxiety-inducing if you ask me!
  • Have a plan when you land whether it’s a pre-booked taxi, Uber if available (always cheaper than an airport taxi but requires getting online; usually airports have Wi-Fi but I’ve had occasional problems in the past) or pre-researched public transport.

Tackling solo travel anxiety DURING travel

For me, the bulk of my nerves kick in before a trip. But, like many seasoned travellers, I have experienced the odd bout of nerves while already on the road. Here are some tips and things to remind yourself of…

Belize solo travel anxiety
Travelling solo in Belize

Remember you’re not the first person doing this

Remember that many, many people before you have done what you’re doing now without problems. Hundreds of solo women are taking successful solo trips as we speak. Thousands of tourists visit the location you’re in every year without problems.

You got this! Don’t let the solo travel anxiety win.

Think of a time before you were scared and it went fine

I find this is a useful technique to put things in perspective. Statistically, all the things that COULD go wrong probably aren’t going to. It can be useful to think of times in the past when you were worried but everything turned out just fine.

This gets easier the more you travel. Now I’ve travelled solo tens of times, I have proven experience that things go better than expected almost all the time. If you haven’t travelled alone before, I suggest casting your mind back to a non-travel situation whether it’s an exam, social situation or physical challenge! You’ve done hard things before; this is no different!

Travelling Guatemala alone
Ticking off UNESCO sites during solo Guatemala travel

One step at a time

Make your first few days as easy as possible. Whether that’s staying in nice accommodation or taking a taxi tour for the day rather than navigating public transport, go easy while you adjust to being alone, being abroad, the time difference, culture difference etc. There’s a lot going on so no need to push yourself more than necessary!

Don’t judge yourself (or let anyone else judge you) if you’re not ready to jump in the deep end! If eating things you would at home or hanging out in a familiar space like a mall gives you the calm you need whilst getting into the swing of solo travel, don’t fight it.

There’s no wrong or right way to travel (as long as you’re not disrespecting or harming the local people or environment, of course).

Home comforts to tackle anxiety travelling alone
Nothing wrong with some home comforts

Meditation and deep breathing

If you’re feeling actively anxious on location, prioritise your mental health by doing the same exercises that you would do anywhere.

Deep breathing always calms me down when I’m feeling solo travel anxiety. I also like to do morning meditation while travelling to put me in a calm headspace.

There are some useful apps you can download like Headspace and Calm.

Get some exercise & nourishing food

I’m not suggesting you only eat healthy while travelling… Some of the most delicious foods around the world are a bit naughty! As a foodie, eating is one of the most joyful things about travelling for me.

However, if you’re feeling anxious, nourish yourself a little. Exercise and healthy food can do a world of good. It might also be a good idea to avoid alcohol: I’m sure we have all experienced the anxiety that comes with a hangover!

Find your travel style (slow down or splash out)

Don’t be afraid to experiment and see what style of travel suits you best. If staying in hostels, moving every few days and constantly meeting new people is emotionally draining, change it up. You may find you prefer to travel slower and more meaningfully (in which case, a Workaway may be worth it for cultural immersion or why not house-sit for free accommodation?).

Likewise, a more luxurious style of travel (hotels over hostels and taking day tours rather than always DIYing it on local transport) may be better for your mental health. If so, perhaps shorter trips suit your style better than backpacking for months.

There’s only one way to find out! Be mindful and adapt your travels as you go to ease your solo travel anxiety.

Know you can always go home!

This may sound strange but I find it can help to know that this isn’t an endurance test. Travel should be enjoyable and rewarding. If you’re miserable, home is only a flight away. Knowing the option is there can be reassuring even if you don’t need to take it… And I suspect you won’t!

Oaxaca mexico solo travel aniety

Final words of wisdom/things to remember

I called out to my Insta followers about how they overcame solo travel anxiety. Here are a few words of wisdom to finish this post!

  • Think as much about the best-case scenario as the worst one – Chloe, 27, UK
  • Talk to someone who has already been where you’re going – Lara, 40, Italy
  • I tell myself ‘All you have to do is step on that plane’ PJ, 28, Poland/Canada
  • Think of Future You enjoying a glass of wine in paradise! – Daniella, 30, USA

Thanks for reading!

More solo guides:

Guides to solo travel in Europe:

Solo Asia travel guides:

Solo Americas guides:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *