(PHOTO: Marisa Crous)
Travelling solo has its perks and pitfalls. Getting used to always getting a sunburn on your back because there's no one to help you apply sunscreen to this hard-to-reach area, is a definitive con. Doing whatever you want, whenever you want, is again a big, big pro.
But it's not for everyone. Loneliness could come into play, especially if you are someone who loves to say things like "Wow, isn't that beautiful?!" referring to almost every ancient ruin, view or cute little Parisian café. So be sure to consider whether you'd miss that element of sharing before opting to hop on a plane solo.
READ: Handy solo-parent travel tips & tricks
There are, however, ways around these obstacles faced by solo travellers.
Eating alone in restaurants
Usually sequestered to a table positioned just outside the kitchen, the toilet or at the counter, singles are rarely given the 'nice romantic table by the canal'. What a waste it would be, right?
No. There is nothing wrong with sunset, wine and delicious food for one.
Luckily, solo dining is becoming more and more popular, with an Amsterdam-based restaurant even designed solely for single diners. Project EENMAAL is a creative project on loneliness in society, with individual tables and place-settings, it challenges the norm of couples or group dining as there is no open space or spaces at the table for extras.
Dating and social apps
Maybe not everyone's cup of tea, but many solo travellers are now using apps like Tinder to meet locals when passing through cities on their own. Not necessarily meant for engaging romantically, travellers meet up with Tinder matches for a local perspective. (Just remember to always meet in public, for safety reasons).
READ: #FindYourEscape: Solo female traveller's bucket list
Reddit users have discussed this concept at length online, with entire threads dedicated to the topic: How to tinder as a solo traveller
Here is one comment on how to adjust your bio for passing through a city on your own:
Even if you don't meet up with the person you've matched with, it's a fantastic way to gain local knowledge of the place you're exploring - for free! Ask your match about which sights to see, which ones to skip and how to avoid tourist traps.
For example, a great tip I recently got in Athens with using this strategy was to visit The Panathenaic Stadium, a multi-purpose stadium and one of the main historic attractions in the city - but from the backstage. All tourists visit it from the front, which costs multiple euros I don't have or want to necessarily spend, and the views are pretty bland compared to the backstage view where you can take in the stadium and entire cityscape.
The Panathenaic Stadium, Athens. (PHOTO: Marisa Crous)
Solo Traveler World reported this year that 25% percent of their survey respondents said that they were planning to take a trip alone over the next few years. And of these respondents, a whopping 85% are females. Safety, being catcalled or harassed, is a huge concern for women who choose to travel alone. And often, it could even deter women from travelling solo altogether.
Apps like Abbey assist travellers with finding travel buddies in their area if they feel unsafe venturing into certain regions.
You can also use the app Solo Traveller. Which includes many great features, like ways to:
* Meet local people nearby and find travel partners.
* Search for nearby backpacking destinations.
* Use the Care To Share feature to share your travelling experiences like places, food, culture and more.
* Build your own traveller community.
* Instantly locate nearby hotels, restaurants, attractions and museums to meet your new backpacker buddies.
* Stay updated with your backpacking friends experiences and locations in the News Feed.
* Find a travelmate nearby with age, gender, location and interests.
READ: FindYourEscape at these relaxing solo getaways in SA
A (single) room with a view
Tour companies and cheap travel deals, like a resort holiday in Zanzibar or Bali, often cater exclusively to couples or pairs as budget deals are usually based on people sharing a room. Singles are often left out of this equation, as they end up having to pay for a pricey twin room or double room, as many resorts don't offer single room options. TripAdvisor is lit with solo travellers complaining about the travel industry cold shoulder to singles in this regard.
But there are some solutions, like Airbnb shared stays where you can book a couch or room in someone's house or flat, CouchSurfing allows you to stay for free in someone's home with the added bonus of your teaching your host about your culture and learning about theirs; and websites like SoloTravelerWorld.com, who cater exclusively for those looking for single beds in hostels, shared apartments and hotels filtered by country.
TIP: Use a sunscreen with a mist formula that you can easily spritz onto your own back. The Optiphi Solar Spritz SPF 30 recently changed my life. Find Your Escape by searching and comparing flight prices here. You can also sign-up for the Traveller24 Weekly Newsletter – Subscribe here. Or download the News24 App here, to receive expertly curated travel ideas and deals directly to your mobile.