Dread Dining Alone? Advice for Solo Travelers

Some people enjoy traveling solo but dread the thought of dining alone. I have put together some tips and advice for solo travelers to help people get more enjoyment out of dining alone.

 

Travel tips for dining solo. You don't need to be anxious about eating alone when traveling

 

I acquired the skill of feeling comfortable while dining alone when I was on my first solo trip in Southeast Asia. Spending seven months traveling alone I had to get used to dining solo. I also became comfortable with walking up to another solo traveler and asking “do you mind if I join you?”. And I recall many were grateful to have some company.

But what if you are all by yourself and there is no way you are going to ask to join others at their table? Will it feel awkward to sit all by yourself while eating dinner? According to an article by Guardian columnist Oliver Burkeman you’re the only one who will notice that you are dining alone.

One of the benefits of dining in solitude is that it gives the solo traveler an opportunity to observe the local culture. This can help you get a better understanding of the cultural norms in a new location.

Watch how people greet each other, how they interact, and how they say goodbye. My favorite place to dine alone is at an outdoor café in a busy neighborhood or plaza so that I get to enjoy some time just  people watching.

 

Dread dining alone? Advice for solo travelers - visit a place with great ambiance like Café Tortoni in Buenos Aires Argentina

Enjoying brunch and reading my travel book at Cafe Tortoni – Buenos Aires Argentina

Solo travel tip – talk with your neighbors

On many occasions I have been dining alone and someone at an adjacent table starts a conversation with me. Having someone to talk to passes the time and I often get travel tips from them too. While I was in Barcelona I was just finishing up my lunch at Clemen’s Bar in La Boqueria when someone sat at the stool next to me. We started talking and it turned out  John was from Austin, TX but moved to Barcelona  a couple of years ago.

From a meal alone to a guided tour

I ordered a cortado (espresso with a bit of steamed milk) and John ordered a meal and all the while we were talking about travel and various sites in Barcelona. He told me that if I didn’t have any definite plans for the afternoon he would be happy to take me on a walkabout around Barcelona. Wonderful! My own private tour guide.

We spent several hours walking around the neighborhoods. We visited Montjuic. Also to the top of the old bull fighting ring for a wonderful view of Plaza Espana and the surrounding area. A splendid afternoon walking around Barcelona and learning about some of the history and culture from someone who lived there.

Restaurant staff can make solo dining enjoyable

My experience in Barcelona was not the norm. Usually I am on my own so I make the best of it and hopefully I enjoy a good meal. Sometimes the wait staff are not particularly attentive but other times it is quite the opposite.

While dining alone in Miami around Christmas time I went to the Italian restaurant Hosteria Romana. Every waiter that walked by either chatted with me a little or flirted with me. It was a memorable meal not just for the food but for the enjoyable time I had at the restaurant.

I took a solo road trip to Port Aransas on the Texas coast and enjoyed dining at Roosevelt’s at the Tarpon Inn so much that I went back again on my second night in town. It was off-season so it was easy to get a table and the staff were kind and welcoming.

 

Advice for solo travelers - choose boutique hotels - dining solo at Roosevelt's at the Tarpon Inn - Port Aransas Texas Gulf coast

Cheers to dining solo – Roosevelt’s at the Tarpon Inn – Port Aransas Texas

Advice for solo travelers – how to enjoy dining alone

  • Read a book, magazine, e-book
  • Write in a journal
  • Review photos on a digital camera or mobile phone
  • Make lists – things to do, places you want to see, etc
  • Read/send email, surf internet, text, chat online
  • Photograph the food and the location
  • Ask someone to take a photo of you at the restaurant
  • Do puzzles, word games, etc
  • Write postcards
  • Draw/sketch
  • Study
  • Bring a laptop and do some work online
  • People watching – sit at a busy outdoor café

Not sure you are ready to travel solo? Read my post Traveling Alone – Tips for Solo Travel for some encouragement and advice.

Dining alone – do you dread it or enjoy the solitude? What tips or advice do you have for solo travelers when dining alone?

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About the Author

Susan Moore spent 7 months traveling around Southeast Asia back in the 90's. Returning to Canada she found a job working on rotation in Siberia Russia. She later moved to Austin Texas where she started a bookkeeping business, allowing her to work remotely. Currently Susan is in year 4 of living a nomadic life, roadtripping around the USA and Canada and writing about her experiences. Read all about Susan » You can reach Susan Moore at Facebook or Twitter or Instagram

19 Replies

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  1. ellen b says:

    Great tips Susan. When traveling with my sons for sports tournaments I started the process of being brave enough to eat alone. Now it’s not an issue for me. It’s fun to look around and see what’s going on when dining alone…

    • Thanks Ellen! I enjoy the people watching too, and just watching how the restaurant functions – some places have counters around the kitchen which turns the dining experience into a sort of cooking theater. I quite enjoy watching the kitchen staff zip around preparing the dishes.
      Cheers,
      Susan

  2. It’s not that I mind eating alone. It’s that the service tends to be less attentive.
    ROG, ABC Wednesday

    • I have felt invisible sometimes when I am dining alone. But other times I feel like I get extra attentive waitstaff – often times they seem to make a point of chatting a little simply because I am alone.
      Cheers,
      Susan

  3. Reader Wil says:

    You’re a great traveller and can dine alone without feeling lonely probably. When I have to travel alone I always find some one to talk with. But I prefer to travel together with somebody.
    Great help is to speak a bit of the language.

    Wil, ABCW Team.

    • Yes, speaking the local language helps a lot! I couldn’t speak anything but the very basic greetings in Spanish when I visited Buenos Aires and I felt my experiences were limited due to the lack of interaction with locals. Now I can have some basic conversations in Spanish so that helps a lot!
      Cheers,
      Susan

  4. Diane Westwell says:

    I’ve dined alone when I was a singleton, many moons ago. I don’t get the opportunity now, but I rather enjoyed it when I did.
    Having a husband, three daughters and their husbands, plus four grandchildren, I am seldom alone.
    After reading your story, I must confess to feeling rather envious… but then don’t we often want something that we haven’t got that somebody else has !
    I love reading about your adventures, so beautifully written and interesting.
    Thank you for sharing you life with us, a pure joy to read.
    Best wishes,
    Di.xx

    • Thank you Di! You always make me smile :)
      You are right, we often want something that we haven’t got – too bad you and I couldn’t just trade every now and then – you could dine alone and I could dine with a nice big group!
      Cheers,
      Susan

  5. Leslie says:

    My first experience dining alone made me feel self-conscious, but now I really do enjoy it. I can go wherever I want and do whatever I want. I do find that if you’re really friendly to the wait staff they are usually friendly back and make an effort to make you feel comfortable. I’ve taken books, pamphlets about the area, etc. so I do have something in case there isn’t much to see. Also, I have found that by travelling/dining alone, you get to meet many more people than you otherwise would if you were with someone. I have no hesitation about making my own plans to travel now.

    Leslie
    abcw team

    • Leslie, I feel the same way about meeting more people when I am traveling or dining alone as compared to when I am with someone. Glad you enjoy the experience of dining alone and feel comfortable traveling solo!

  6. I can dine alone in a restaurant. What I cannot do is go to the movies alone.

    • I don’t mind going to movies alone. Years ago I had a boyfriend that would always talk during movies so ever since then I have enjoyed going to movies by myself for the simple reason that I know I won’t have someone interrupting my escape from reality by talking to me :)

  7. Msdemeaner says:

    I rarely dine alone, but when I do I try to choose a restaurant with a lot of character; interesting artwork or chachkis (sp?) on the wall. Sitting at the bar in a casual pub feels a little less awkward and usually there’s a tv to watch or the bar staff will engage you in conversation.

    • Yes good point – sitting at the bar in a pub is a great choice when dining alone – the TV and the bartender can be good company – and they are often a great source of info for what’s going on in the area.
      Cheers,
      Susan

  8. Vidhya Rao says:

    Thinking of it, I have NEVER had the opportunity to dine alone, except when I am at home…oh does the coffee shop stops count?…I think I want to try it…Great tips Susan….
    I just remembered this episode from “Friends” …oh well so much for some one who hasn’t watched TV in a long time :)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PXuYIQD_RIQ

    • Vidhya thank you! I never watched the show Friends but I am pleased you shared this clip – I’m sure I wouldn’t make it through a whole episode! I enjoyed it – thanks for the laughs :)

  9. Margy says:

    I actually like to travel alone and dine alone. I meet more people that way and have had some really interesting experiences along the way. Now I travel mostly with my husband, and he enjoys making most of the travel plans. That’s OK, but there’s something to be said to doing your own thing when and where you want. – Margy

  10. It’s been a while since I dined alone…fast food joints is where I’ve ended up which is not great but does get me fed!….great tips♪

  11. Mags says:

    Great tips. I’ve yet to travel solo, but it’s something that really intrigues me. Dining alone however, is my one big fear about it and I’m not sure why. This was an encouraging read.

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