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amsterdam solo travel womanI recently returned from a marvelous trip to Amsterdam, where I toured museums, ogled tulips, sipped jenever, ate pickled herring and explored the city’s canals and historical monuments — by myself.

I was informed early on that I’d be on my own for the trip, which was my first to the Netherlands. To put it mildly, I was terrified. I’d heard horror stories about pickpockets and districts of the red-light variety, and I’ll do just about anything to avoid dining by myself. But, as someone who has an abysmal sense of direction, I was most worried about finding my own way through the city without the help of a travel companion.

Single Travel: Tips for Going Solo

Some people cringe at the idea of traveling alone, but overall, I was relieved to discover that in Amsterdam nearly everyone speaks English, maps are plentiful and the train system is easy to use. (I only got lost twice!)

The most important takeaway for me, however, was that I was able to do the trip at my own pace. In addition to spreading myself out in my non-shared hotel room, I went to sleep when I wanted, I woke up when I wanted, I walked everywhere, and I saw/toured/tasted more than 20 of Amsterdam’s most popular landmarks/museums/foods and beverages in just four days. The freedom to go at such a break-neck pace is something I probably wouldn’t have had if I’d brought a friend.

Have you traveled alone? If not, would you consider it? If so, what are some of the fun experiences you’ve had solo? Leave your comments below.

— written by Ashley Kosciolek

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30 Responses to “Solo Travel: Lonely or Lovely?”

  1. SLS says:

    Enjoyed every moment on my recent solo travels in Ireland. As soon as I got to my hostel, I put my bags down and EXPLORED! With a travel buddy, they may want to relax from the 12 hours of travel, shower, eat…I was ready to roam!! I love meeting new people and hearing about their experiences so while I may start off as a solo traveler, I am not shy and always find a fellow traveler that’s ready for an adventure.

  2. SLS says:

    So in the end… Solo traveling is LOVELY

  3. Swati says:

    I do it all the time and love it! I have made friends everywhere I have gone, some for a lifetime! The best part is meeting the people everywhere and learning about other cultures and then doing it all at your own pace! If you land and find yourself exhausted as I did one trip to Mexico City, you just lay down and take a nap. I woke up 4 hours later and finally went out to wander around for dinner around 10pm at night! It was great!

  4. James says:

    I’ve taken several trips alone. I spent 6 wonderful weeks in Paris and the surrounding area. Like you, I did what I wanted when I wanted. Some days were a marathon of activity while others were lazy days of pain au chocolate, espresso, lunch in the park, and wine and dinner. Traveling alone also encourages me to do things that force me to meet people. I’ve asked asked to be seated at the communal table, taken cooking classes, art classes, or gone to wine tastings. When in the same place for a while, I will go to the same pub or bakery or other shop. Becoming a regular, allows me to get to know the shop owner, bartender, or other locals.

    Although I still love to travel with a friend or partner, traveling alone can be a wonderful, exciting, self-indulgent experience.

  5. Charles Rahm says:

    I have been travelling alone for years. It’s easy and you meet new friends along the way. And as it was mentioned in the article it allows you to do everything at your own speed. And to do the things you like.
    For example I’m almost allergic to museums, especially if they contain modern art and so I never have to go to do a fried a favour. :-)
    I’m so excited about it, that I even started an own blog focussed on independent travellers. Maybe you want to check it out, see website, maybe not. :-)
    The important thing is, that I absolutely recommend to anyone to travel alone. The world is much friendlier than you would think by watching all those scary headlines every day.
    Best regards
    Charles Rahm

  6. PHP says:

    A few years ago I took my first solo trip to Vancouver, Canada and loved it! I could do what I wanted, when I wanted and did not have to accommodate my regular travel companion who enjoys freezing hotel rooms – even in winter! I enjoyed it so much that I leave for San Francisco next week on another solo trip. I booked a few tours to Muir Woods and a city tour and have other activities planned. No lonely time for me. Just relaxing doing exactly what I want to do!

  7. T. Brecht says:

    Not lovely for everyone! Some of us are shy and fearful. My first solo travel was with Globus Tours. Almost all of the others were couples but 2 who hooked up. The worst part was the free afternoon when the couple I was shopping with in Stratford disappeared. All those winding streets; I didnt even have street names of where the bus was parked to return to. Awash in tears, a young man helped me find my way back to the general area. The tour guide gave me a loud scolding for being 20 minutes late and had arranged for all on the bus to boo me when I boarded. Lovely??? Hardly!! Even more, for the extra $300 single supplement I was assigned rooms slightly larger than a broom closet.

  8. I have always traveled solo for the most part. I have made some real friends with people I met during my travels. However, the freedom to sleep and eat when you want and to indulge in activities a companion might not care for is exquisite. Also, that time during a trip when stress can lead to hurt feelings and perhaps an argument is avoidable when you are traveling alone and/or the only one occupying your hotel room. Dining alone is generally pleasant most nice places appreciate a person who will agree to share a table or eat at the bar. I have had lovely dinners with people whose language I did not speak and I have entertained whole tables with my attempts to speak French, Italian, Spanish and now I am currently learning German for a planned solo trip to Berlin which will be spent on Museum Island. Pergamon, Gates of Babylon here I come!!!

  9. Jean Dyson says:

    I have travelled on seven continents solo with a travel company or on cruises. I spent twenty-one days in China in April and May and had a wonderful time. Being with a group offers a sense of structure,security, and companionship if I want it. Vacationing on my own means that I can choose what I want to do mostly and when. There is always more room and the opportunity to be alone. However, I must try to fit in with the group, but since I regard it as a temporary society, it’s not difficult. I made friends and many people helped me tremendously.

  10. John says:

    I have traveled alone and with friends. Both were great. When I was younger, I always went by myself and got to do just what I wanted, when I wanted and loved it.

  11. John says:

    Single travel is great. I have traveled all over the world by myself. I have also traveled with friends and had a great time that way also.

  12. Mark says:

    I’m going solo on a trip to Singapore next month. Can’t wait!

  13. Terri says:

    I always travel alone, and have been doing so for the past 25 years. It’s so much easier to meet other travelers when you’re alone, and I most relate to other solo travelers, they are the more adventurous types than people who always need to be joined at the hip with someone.

  14. Deb D says:

    A few years ago I decided that life was too short to wait to do what I want to do just because I don’t have a “partner in crime.” So off I went, cruises, museums, botanical gardens, fine dining, culture, history… it was all mine and all at my own pace. I found that I wasn’t made fun of or ridiculed (oh that poor woman, all alone); quite the opposite. People were so friendly and so willing to help me out. So many said to me, “Wow, good for you!” when they discovered I was a solo. I’m often asked to join a group, often catered to by servers, bartenders, stewards, hoteliers, and cabbies (and not just for the tips). If you’re considering solo travel, do it!

  15. Daresha says:

    Bravo to you. I wish I had the nerve. I would love
    to go to Italy and Greece but no one I know
    is interested. I consider myself a people person
    but the thought of going solo equates to
    lonely in my mind!

  16. Mary says:

    I actually prefer to travel alone. I can do what I want – when I want and not answer to anyone but myself. Of course I’ve only done that locally (in the US. Travel with a partner has it’s perks too. Primarily companionship and like similarities AND, if both are willing to compromise.

  17. Fatih Aksoy says:

    It’s great that you traveled by yourself. There are times it is much better if you start your journey alone and later meeting with other travellers and traveling together. Every other year I backpack around the world and I do start alone, but I usually end up meeting with other backpackers which we end up exploring together. I was in Amsterdam for 2 months and I loved it. But on that trip I was traveling Europe with a bicycle and I bicycled Germany, Holland, Belgium, France, Spain, İtaly. It took me 7 months and it was fantastic. Hopefully while you were in Amsterdam you made it to Utrecht as well.

  18. Elinor says:

    I went to Australia with Overseas Adventure Travel no single s
    upplement and had such a wonderful time I have signed up to do it again to Burma [Myanmar]. On my way the plane stops in Tokyo, and I am thinking of going ahead of time on my own at age 72. Why not?

  19. Ray says:

    These days (divorced, grown children), I almost always travel alone and I love it. Despite what others think, I never feel lonely or weird doing this. Being outgoing and friendly helps. I always enjoy meeting and interacting with lots of new people, including folks on the beach, in the bars, restaurants, shops, on excursions, or at the hotels/condos where I stay. Also, it helps if you attempt to learn a little bit of the language of the host country. My philosophy: Strangers are just people that you haven’t been introduced to yet. As others have said, the freedom to do what you want to to do, when you want to do it, and go where you want to go, is the big draw to traveling solo. Not for everyone, I suppose, but for those who do not always follow the herd, it can be great experience.

  20. Victoria says:

    I started traveling solo about 5 years ago and I really enjoy the experience. I always book my arrangements completely independently–no group tours as they can get clicky. However, I do book small group day trips further afield from the city I’m exploring. Two years ago, I made the leap to non-English speaking areas. I found that most Europeans have some English and with a smile, a few rounds of charades, and key words–I get my meaning across. I also journal while traveling–I write down places of pictures I took, stories/facts from tours or museums, or odd happenings I observe. Some people described themselves as outgoing or not shy so they really felt they could join up with others if they wanted to. You don’t have to be outgoing to be comfortable traveling solo. Personally, I consider myself somewhat shy & reserved, but I’m okay dining solo or joining short group tours. You just do what feels right and you may push yourself to do a little more the next trip.

  21. rosalie says:

    I LOVE TRAVELING ALONE. I have had so many bad experiences traveling with friends (a couple who are no longer because of a trip). I wandered SE Asia alone for 2 months 20 years ago & enjoyed it all. Friends have spent 1/2 day getting dressed (I go to see not be seen), meet men they want to sleep with & expect me to hang around until they are ready to go again, don’t want me to leave them alone when they don’t want to do what I want to, expect me to do all the planning & then complain when they don’t like something, spend 45 min discussing how to get somewhere by bus or taxi with 3 friends in Istanbul (I walked & met them there), get upset if I am upgraded to first class as they are afraid to fly alone (I turned it down) & then she got upset because I can slept during a flight, upset with me because we were in a Hilton in Egypt & I wanted to go out while she stayed in the room & watched American movies. These are different friends & not all the stories.
    I have been to all seven continents (Antarctica w/National Geo) and many developing countries. I fly to countries & rent a car by myself (South & Central America & Europe) I don’t speak any language but English) or go on tours meet couples or other singles but don’t depend on them to mother me. I too pay for a trip & don’t want to have a guilt ridden trip because of someone who is too scared to be by alone when we have different interests.
    I am going on several trips in the next year one with a friend on a Christmas Market cruise on the Rhine but I insisted on separate rooms. Told her she is welcome to join me when she wants or do something else when she doesn’t want too. I hope we will still be friends when we return. It may cost more but I LOVE TRAVELING ALONE.

  22. Lee says:

    I have thought about doing some land tours alone but I’m also interested in
    single’s tours .. would love to meet a nice gentleman who loves to travel as much as I do. If anyone knows of any good Single’s tours please let me know.

  23. Melissa C. says:

    I enjoy traveling alone, but I also do value having someone to share the experiences with; as of now, I have not taken a fully solo international trip. Travel is something I love, and it amazes me to see the stress it will put on relationships. I am an introvert and very shy, traveling solo is a bit of a challenge to me, but so is always having a companion. The main reason I started looking into doing solo travel was because no one I knew wanted to travel and I was tired of sitting around wishing I could go and do some of the travel I wanted. So, I stopped sitting around and wishing and started traveling. Now, I just need more money and more time off!

    • Victoria says:

      I was in the same boat–friends and family could no longer travel as I could. I was tired of waiting for someone to have the right time off or money to travel. My first trip was to London–I was there 3 other times–so it was less stressful way to introduce myself to solo travel. Now I just go wherever I want.

  24. DC says:

    I took my first solo vacation last year. It was probably the best vacation I’ve ever had. I was so nervous about doing it before I went that I debated about it for a couple of weeks before I even made my hotel reservations. Even after the reservation was locked in, I thought about backing out a few times. But once I arrived at my destination I wasn’t nervous at all and it was awesome! I loved the freedom of traveling alone. On previous trips with other people, everything was a debate or an argument. We argued about where we were going to eat, what we were going to do, etc. For once, I was able to do exactly what I wanted, when I wanted, without consulting anyone else. If I wanted to walk 5 miles on the beach, then I did. And I’ve gotta say, it was incredible having a huge hotel room all to myself. I’m planning another solo trip next month.

  25. I travel alone most of the time and I’m better off with that kind of travel style.

  26. Since I was widowed five years ago I usually travel solo. I have actually come to prefer it. While I dislike the single supplement, I am willing to pay it for the privilege of doing what I want when I want without having to consider a travel partner’s likes and dislikes.

  27. Gail Kendall says:

    Hi, I am widowed and will be travelling to Amsterdam and Bruges solo over Christmas. I have travelled to France alone many times before and have loved it. Over Christmas is another story. If anyone has any suggestions for what to do for Christmas in Amsterdam, would love to hear them.

  28. Yusra hassan says:

    It sounds like ‘Ultimate freedom’ that should be the new phrase to describe solo travel. I’d definitely consider it, although I do still wonder if it would get lonely after a while. All the eating alone, and coming back to an empty hotel must be great at first but surely it must get lonely?
    I’ve always traveled among groups of family and friends so I’ve missed out on out on some really amazing sights and experiences because of it, but we’ve always still had a great fun plus I still get to reminisce about my holiday every time I see them.

  29. Fahad says:

    Travelling alone is amazing, you need to be carful in any strange country that’s all.

    Amsterdam is really amazing place to be in.
    I’ll give 8.5 of 10 as a recommendation

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