11 Completely Awkward Solo Travel Scenarios (and how to cope)

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on Google+
Share on LinkedIn

As a long term solo traveller, I would be lying if I said solo travel is always easy – or even that it is easy more than half of the time. The reality is that it is hard work, but it also comes with great rewards of self fulfillment and feeling accomplished, not to mention realising you don’t need to rely on anyone else.

But what do you do when things go wrong (and they do)? Here’s a look at the most common awkward solo travel scenarios you will encounter, and what to do when they do occur.

beaune france

1. You jump in a cab without an address

Back at home you’re accustomed to your city enough to say a neighbourhood, landmark, or ‘its’ near….’. But when you’re in a completely new city and probably don’t speak the language, it’s difficult to get anywhere without giving your cab driver some instructions!

How to cope: Do your research before you go. Keep note of all your addresses and do your best to learn a few key phrases in the local language.

2. You’re sitting at a table set for two… alone

As a solo traveller, nothing hits quite as close to home as when you sit down for a meal solo, at a table set for two. To make matters worse there’s unavoidable dates like Valentine’s day or your own birthday to attend!

How to cope: If you’re not up for the challenge, treat yourself to a nice lunch and opt for a light meal at home in your apartment or hotel.

3. In Asia they ask “why no boyfriend?” because there MUST be something wrong with you

If I had a dollar……..

How to cope: Laugh it off!

4. You end up being followed by a foreigner thanks to your manners

When someone strikes up a conversation with you in public, it’s only natural to politely engage in conversation and answer questions. But sometimes this leads to bad results as a traveller…

How to cope: Never give too much away. Have a ‘cover story’ to tell if you’re worried you might run into trouble. Don’t divulge information like the fact that you’re travelling solo on the other side of the world or your hotel address.

5. You’re the only single solo person on a tour

A great way to break up long term solo travel is to book a group tour. However this soon becomes awkward when you find yourself as a 3rd, 5th and 7th wheel on what seems to be a couples tour (and you missed the memo).

How to cope:Leave it up to them to make you feel welcome — they will!

6. You ask “do you speak in English?” in English

It’s a common mistake… but a paradox at that.

How to cope: Learn to ask this phrase in the local language, at the very least.

7. You get on the right train… in the wrong direction

There have been many occasions where I have been uncertain as to whether I have boarded the correct train…. but more often than not I am worried about nothing. On the odd occassion you do board the wrong train, don’t freak out.

How to cope: Stay calm – there is always a solution. Take it as a chance for a new adventure – whether you get to your right destination later that day or the following day, it will happen eventually.

8. You ask for vegetarian but that definitely resembles meat

As an 8-year vegetarian, I’ve had my fair share of awkward scenarios surrounding food whilst on the road.

How to cope:Trust your instincts – if something doesn’t look as it should be according to your order, attempt to send it back. If language barriers persist, politely pay for your meal and venture elsewhere.

9. The hotel staff ask when your partner is arriving

A classic….. but it somehow never gets old. I’m unsure if this occurs out of curiosity or genuine confusion as to why a solo female 20-something year old would be thousands of miles by home.

How to cope:Stand proud! You’ve come all this way solo so good on you – tell them about your journey with pride.

10. When you have a charades conversation with the pharmacist (and everyone else in store)

This can get particularly awkward depending on the body part involved…

How to cope: Use google translator to ask for what you require before you get there.

11. You Optimistically ask “Have you been to….?”

In social scenarios you find yourself almost always wanting to talk about travel and asking your new friends if they’re been here, there and everywhere…

How to cope: Go easy. Wait til someone asks you – it will be far more impressive when you’re not boasting!

Buy the Complete Solo Travel Guidebook:


You Might Also Like

    January 4, 2015 at 4:06 pm

    great. If you are looking for a cheap online bookstore based in USA please visit

    November 16, 2014 at 5:43 pm

    The hardest thing is trying to explain that I’m Gluten free. Most of my friends have asked multiple times what it is, and sometimes I have trouble truly telling if something is Gluten free. Its always such a pain to have to explain what Gluten is! I’ve already had to explain it about thirty thousand times in the past!

    September 22, 2014 at 10:03 pm

    I faced most of these situations on my roadtrip to Bali.

    September 21, 2014 at 3:33 am

    I know a boaster! she is the most annoying person in the world, when I met her I thought she was so cool for traveling the world, now I could care less.

    September 12, 2014 at 11:37 pm

    Another great post Brooke 🙂

  • awanderlustblog@OUTLOOK.COM'
    September 10, 2014 at 8:04 am

    great tips!! will be using these I’m sure

    Clipping Path Outsource
    September 9, 2014 at 12:50 pm

    So great tips.
    Thanks a lot for that.

    September 9, 2014 at 5:43 am

    Oh my gosh. I haven’t been able to travel yet, but I can totally see every single one of these things happening to me within the first 24 hours I step foot on foreign soil. I am soooo glad I am not the only one!

    September 8, 2014 at 6:52 am

    OMG I always ask “do you speak in English?” in English, I never really thought about it!
    Funny article and great tips, love your blog!

    September 7, 2014 at 6:15 pm

    When I was in Rome, I took a small group tour to the Amalfi coast and yep, everyone else were couples. Can you imagine being in a whole day tour and you’re the only one without a partner? They were very nice but was really awkward because I was seated in the minivan next to a couple and across from another couple. Thank God for beautiful views out the window. Then when we got to Positano, I went in to one of the sea side restaurants to have lunch and the waiter said: “Table for one, just you?” Yep, way to make me feel welcome!
    It’s only awkward at that moment but after at the end of the night, I just feel so happy I got to see and experience something new.

    September 7, 2014 at 6:13 pm

    This is brilliant!

    Miles of Happiness
    September 6, 2014 at 11:16 pm

    Ahahah! Sometimes it’s good to have a mate indeed! 🙂

    September 6, 2014 at 7:09 am

    Reading your blog empower me to believe that nothing is impossible.

    alat pembesar payudara
    September 6, 2014 at 4:32 am

    awsome ….its very beauty girl?are you model??

    Clementine Buttercup
    September 6, 2014 at 12:21 am

    Haven’t taken a solo trip in yonks but I do think it’s something everyone should do once. I visited Paris with absolutely no French but got by, by being able to laugh at myself. A French friend told me before my trip to never just start speaking English because it appears very rude, so I tried speaking French and after a few false starts, people would laugh, I’d laugh too, and they’d invariably help. I remember trying to mime “drinking straw”. Still brings a smile to my face years later!

    September 5, 2014 at 11:34 pm

    Such great tips! Found myself smiling while remembering the times i’ve been caught in those situation. Love your blog!

    Tip for situation 6 is a GREAT tip that most travellers (solo or not) tend to forget, but so so so useful!


    Lea Hudson
    September 5, 2014 at 9:34 pm

    I get numbers 8 and 9 all the time, except that I’m not a vegetarian but I have a dairy allergy. I’ve learnt to laugh about it now, as long as I notice there are dairy products in my meal before eating it! If not, I have a good travel insurance 🙂

    September 5, 2014 at 8:27 pm

    I think when they ask you “why you have no boyfriend” it’s because you are pretty. It is not always because they think you should be married. I guess you can tell by their tone but I know, from experience it’s because they are complimenting you that you are pretty “why no boyfriend” . 🙂

    September 5, 2014 at 7:33 pm

    I am always so concerned when travelling Solo! You have written all the things that make me feel awkward haha! Thank you, I’m not alone.

    Rhi’s Adult Life || Fashion Beauty Lifestyle

    September 5, 2014 at 7:25 pm

    Funny article! I hate eating alone, but doing it gives you some sort of confidence

    September 5, 2014 at 7:00 pm

    Sounds familiar! I once had an officer at passport control ask why I wasn’t travelling with anyone, where my family was etc. People who haven’t travelled on their own just don’t seem to get it.

    September 5, 2014 at 5:51 pm

    Haha so true! Especially number 2! I usually take a book with me to shield me from the skeptical looks. 🙂 When I am in the right mood though I must say it can be quite a lot of fun to eat alone. You can observe everyone around you and enjoy the food.
    Also number 11 is so true! In almost every conversation you just feel like sharing all those amazing thing you did and make the person listening just as excited as you are. Most of the time it turns out to be either a battle of who did more cool stuff or the other person just zones out because they feel like you are bragging. So I totally support your tip of just holding it back and just telling stuff when being asked for it!

    Best holiday destinations
    September 5, 2014 at 4:11 pm

    thanks for sharing nice views.

    September 5, 2014 at 12:53 pm

    These are so great!
    Thanks for the advice on the vegetarian bit especially, I am a recent vego and am about to travel with new dietary needs for the first time ever. Daunting!

    Aoife Marie
    September 5, 2014 at 11:52 am

    I really love your tips, as a single woman AND a fellow vegetarian, I never thought I could go and travel. Your stories somehow make me feel empowered and it’s really inspirational! Thanks for sharing!

    Michelle | Lights Camera Travel
    September 5, 2014 at 11:21 am

    I can relate to all of these! After traveling extensively in Asia, I always had someone ask me “why you have no boyfriend?” This isn’t so much that they think there’s something wrong with you, it’s just that women get boyfriend, and get married. That is considered the norm. Anything outside of that is still mind boggling to them as it is not the done thing in their country. But yes, laugh it off is definitely the right response – explaining why you’re traveling solo just takes too long sometimes!

    September 5, 2014 at 11:00 am

    Ahhh when you sit down at a table for two and they immediately remove the other place setting. That’s super depressing and totally unnecessary!

    Betty J. Ogburn
    September 5, 2014 at 10:42 am

    …Ah–gotta love those awkward moments!!…Great tips, Brooke, :-)…

    Betty J. Ogburn (The Pumpkin’s Head)

    September 5, 2014 at 10:13 am

    Oh man. So many of these hit close to home. If I had a dollar for every time I tried to pantomime the word “gluten” for my allergy I would be a professional mime.

    September 5, 2014 at 9:06 am

    Great tips, Brooke!

    – Christina