Six common solo travel dilemmas

Solo travel comes with its share of challenges. Sure, there are safety and security concerns; the possibility of being bored by yourself; not having company on whom to rely when the chips are down and not having someone with whom to share costs, but there are also a few minor annoyances that you would probably wouldn’t have predicted before hitting the road.

Here are six common solo travel dilemmas we often hear about. We list them and, hopefully, solve them for you.

1. Leaving luggage unattended
You should never leave your bag unattended, but what happens when you need to go to the loo? The best thing would be to take it with you, which works when your bag is small enough to fit in the cubicle. Maybe you’re a bit germ conscious – and fair enough – some toilets are pretty icky. If that’s the case, you may need to wait. Other alternatives, if the toilets are too dirty or luggage too big, is to use the end toilet cubicle, leaving the cubicle door open so you can sit and keep an eye out on your luggage. On the outside, people will see the luggage and realise what’s going on, so you can relax. You could also stash your luggage at the rest stop desk, or with reception or, if you’re at the airport, the flight desk may be accommodating. If you have none of these options, don’t try to find a hiding spot (you’ll only alert the anti-terrorist authorities), but you could pay someone to watch it for you (no, don’t do that either; they’ll just run off with your money and luggage, or, worse, report you for being weird and, once again, alert the anti-terrorism squad).

2. Applying sun cream
Bet you didn’t think about this one before now. While you may be able to do your arms and legs with ease, there’s always that spot in the middle of your back that’ll miss out on sun protection. The best solution is to ask a passer-by, but that can also be a bit awkward. If you haven’t done yoga or been to contortionist school, then you’re probably better off buying spray-on suntan lotion and hoping for the best or wearing clothing with a high SPF rating.

3. Paying single supplements
This is always a costly exercise for solo travellers, so look out for companies that specialise in solo travel. Some will not charge the supplement, and some will pair you with likeminded travellers, so you can split the cost of cabins and rooms. Some hotels even charge more for single stayers, so make sure you call the front desk and get the best rate. Booking off-season or shoulder season is also a good way to skip single supplements, and there are always deals around that cut out the extra costs for solo travellers. Kay O’Sullivan also has some suggestions for avoiding the single supplement.

4. Dining alone
Some people like dining alone, but for those who don’t, use the opportunity to start a conversation with someone near you, or catch up on your travel journals, take notes, read a book or plan your next day. Have a chat to the wait staff or bartenders and see what’s hot in their hometown, or try our tips for eating alone when travelling solo.

5. Being sick
Even with the utmost caution on your food choices, water intake and being around bugs and other nasties, there’s always a chance you could fall ill when you travel. It’s then you realise how much you rely on people close to you when you’re sick at home. If this happens to you on holiday, don’t be afraid to tell the hotel staff, tour guides or cabin crew. It just helps to know that someone else knows you’re not feeling well. And if your illness gets worse, at least you’re more likely to have someone prepared to assist.

It also pays to make sure you have travel insurance in case of such an instance.

6. Being scammed
Solo travellers, especially women, are a popular target for scams and scammers. You may also be ripped off on price at restaurants, stores and markets. So, practice your haggling skills, project confidence and carry yourself with conviction. If a situation becomes tense, disarm them with a smile and if the issue continues, either walk away or pay and cut your losses. If you really feel you’re being ripped off, it may be awkward, but kicking up a fuss and letting those around you know you’re in a pickle could mean you win the fight.

Again, having travel insurance is a good safety net for these situations.

Related articles:
Paella for one
Solo travel conversation starters
Solo traveller safety

Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.
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