Solo male travel: What you need to know if you’re worried
You’re a solo-travelling man and you’re about to embark on a grand adventure. But rather than being like Bear Grylls parachuting into a forest, or one of those angry people in SAS: Who Dares Wins, you feel a bit nervous. Heck, you might feel homesick, fed up, exhausted, doubtful, lonely, just all-round sad.
I’ve experienced them all. At one point on my travels, I had them all in one go, and then got food poisoning so spent 48 hours shuffling and sobbing between my bed and a toilet. But there are peaks and troughs. You’ve just got to remember the peaks. So if you’re a trough, here’s how to climb to that peak with some of the top questions people ask about travelling solo as a man. Keep scrolling or click/tap on a link to get there.
Staying safe when travelling solo as a man
Is it safe to travel solo as a man?
Generally, yes, it’s safe to travel alone as a man. Or at least, there’s no need to worry about it more than any other moment or place in life. Research it online or in guidebooks, and chat to your fellow hostellers, who will be less alarmist than the internet. You can ask them where they’re going. You might even travel a bit together. I made a lifelong friend (hi, Esme!) thanks to the slow boat between Thailand and Laos (which I was worried about). And if you end up out of your comfort zone, you’re not alone.
How can I stay safe and avoid dangerous situations?
You can’t guarantee you’ll avoid anything dangerous or dodgy, just like at home, but the fear is that, while travelling, you’re on the back foot. You can reduce your chances of getting involved in anything unpleasant.
- Avoid confrontation and don’t swear at anyone – not even under your breath, not even if you’ve been overcharged by a taxi. Accept it as a loss. In the grand scheme of things, it probably isn’t that bad.
- Know your landmarks – knowing where things are in relation to one another – and to your hostel – means you can keep your phone tucked away. Religious and government buildings are often signposted.
- Have a couple of debit cards – if you lose one or it gets stolen, you’ve got a backup. Keep them in separate places – like one in your big backpack, one in your daypack.
- Keep important things hidden away – pockets can soon be picked. Keep your passport, emergency cards and spare cash hidden away (but always within reach).
- Get travel insurance – even if you get in a spot of bother – if your bag’s stolen, or you get horrendous travel trots – it means you’ve got a way out or a way home.
- Book ahead – if you’re travelling from one city to another, have a room or bed booked for your arrival, and head there first. Settle yourself in, then explore.
- Have some money spare – easier said than done, but keeping some money to one side can act as an emergency fund. If you’ve got a one-way ticket somewhere, make sure you’ve got enough for a one-way ticket back home, too.
If you end up in a situation, it can be useful to think ahead to life in a few days or months or years, when you’ll be able to tell people about it. Like when a jungle guide took a revolver (he already had a rifle for shooting animals) and balaclava out of his rucksack on a three-day trek, I’ll admit I was worried. But I thought: ‘I’ll be able to tell someone about this one day if I don’t die’. I didn’t die, and I can finally write about it. Win-win!
Are there are special considerations for solo male travellers in terms of accommodation or transport?
Travelling solo as a man versus travelling as a woman should be identical. But they’re not. Men can, in general, go through a day without being approached, wolf-whistled, stared at and so on. Not everyone is so lucky. So, if you’re sharing your space with a woman, be extra considerate. Some common etiquette:
- Respect others’ personal space – chat to people. But if they’re not really engaging? That’s OK. If they want to talk, they will. This is even more true in hostels, where everyone needs to feel at home.
- Respect others’ privacy – dorms aren’t that private. Even so, if someone’s getting changed, don’t look. You don’t need to face the opposite wall or bleach your eyes – but just don’t stare or comment.
Meeting people and staying in touch
How can I meet other travellers?
There are two easy steps to meet other travellers:
- Stay at a hostel.
- Say hello.
- Get some food.
Hostels are often full of people wanting to meet other people, so step one immediately places you in the best possible location.
Step two can be nerve-wracking. If a conversation flows, excellent! If not, that’s OK. You’ve said hello to someone.
Step three – everyone needs food. Invite people to a market, suggest a cafe, buy snacks – everyone loves snacks. And even if they don’t like the snacks – like fried crickets and silkworms (the former are very moreish and the latter are a bit like mashed potato) – it’s a talking point.
How can I stay connected with friends and family while on the road?
Mobile networks exist in even the remotest of places – and if there’s no network, your hostel will still probably have internet. If you’re going to be in a country for a few weeks, get a local sim card. They can be relatively cheap, especially for data, with reasonable international call and text rates. Just make sure your phone is unlocked by your provider first.
What if I don’t want to do what everyone else is doing?
The first thing you can do is say no – people really don’t mind. If that full-moon rave isn’t for you and you’d rather sit in bed and watch a film or read a book or just sleep, that’s fine. You’ll also see that loads of other people have stayed put, too.
The second option is to give it a try and go with the flow. You can set a little rule in your mind to settle yourself – ‘I’ll try it for an hour then I can go back to the hostel’ – but if it’s better than you expected, you can keep going.
Trust your gut.
How can I handle homesickness?
Feeling homesick is horrible and it can take a while to get through. The best cure? Call home. There’s no point torturing yourself. You might cry, you might not cry, but you’ll feel better. The normality of home can be a steadying rock.
When I took a year out to travel, the best tonic for me was to call home. A typical call would start with my dad telling me what he was making him and my mum for lunch (usually soup) before he remembered I wasn’t in the same country and ask: ‘so what you’ve you been up to?’ It was lovely.
How can I handle loneliness?
Loneliness is rotten.
Sometimes, there aren’t people around to talk to. Sometimes, you just don’t feel settled. Sometimes, you meet people, but you just don’t click. You can be in a room full of lovely people – but you still feel alone.
Three quick ideas that could help:
- Say hello to people – try to strike up some conversations. Settle down in a communal area – if you want to sit next to people, just ask. People are usually lovely.
- Go for a walk – yes, you’ll be on your own, but when you know what’s outside the hostel door, it becomes more familiar. Yours to enjoy.
- Get some good sleep – maybe even treat yourself to a private room. A good night’s sleep can work wonders.
What are some things to keep in mind while travelling solo as a man in different cultures?
Be aware of the culture and respect it. That Chang vest and that pair of hiking shorts might be the cleanest things in your backpack, but it’s not right for a Thai temple. As I learnt. Everything depends on where you go.
- Research your destination before you get there – country, city or landmark, have a look on Google.
- Ask questions in your hostel – the staff and other travellers will be able to help you.
- Be willing to apologise – if you’re in the wrong – even if you think a rule doesn’t make sense – don’t kick up a fuss.
But most importantly …
Give it a try. You don’t even need to go far. Start small with a long weekend, but go for it. You won’t regret it.
Download the Hostelworld app to start meeting people from the moment you book
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