Solo Travel. Dining Out.

Solo travel can throw us into many situations where we find ourselves tackling new experiences for the first time. Even if there are things we may have done before, we may not have navigated such situations alone. Dining out is one of those things, which comes with the solo travel territory. I mean we’ve all got to eat right. Some travelers don’t put much thought into this, others embrace it and for some it can be an intimidating prospect.

Ok Away has put together a few safety tips and things to consider, before you head out to eat alone.

Firstly, make sure you research the location to ensure it’s not in a ‘dodgy’ part of town. You need to be clear on how you will get there and how you plan to return to your accommodation, especially if you plan on dining out after dark.

If you are walking, be clear on your route and what this might look like after dark. Will it be well lit? Will there still be people around? If you decide to catch public transport or an uber/taxi, research that this is a safe option for travelers in your location. Make sure you are clear on public transport timetables so you are not waiting alone for too long.

So let’s break down some of the apprehension around dining out alone.

I’m afraid I’ll look like a ‘looser’ by myself

Quite frankly, who cares what people think. You’re in a different Country and you won’t bump into any of your regular judgy locals. It’s time to be you or think about creating the best version of who you want to be. Solo travel takes bravery, curiosity and independence. Remember your dining experience is just an extension of the traits you already possess.

It might look like I’ve been stood up

You might be waiting for someone or you might be a food critic scouting out the restaurant. No ones really knows and people are probably too consumed with their conversations and dinners to notice. It might also be helpful to ask the waiter to remove any additional place settings at your table. This also serves to inform the waiter that you’re dining alone, which will be a cue for them to take your drink order or go through the daily specials with you.

What if people think I’m trying to ‘pick up’?

More people are dining out alone these days, especially travelers. Many solo travelers actually like to sit at the bar and talk to the bar staff or meet other people. This can be a fun and informative part of travelling. It doesn’t mean you are trying to ‘pick up’.

If you feel uncomfortable or threatened by anyone you have the right to ask a person to move away, inform the wait staff or move away yourself. It might be better to sit on a small (non-communal) table, where you can voice your preference to dine alone, if anyone tries to sit with you.

Some solo female travelers wear a ‘fake’ engagement ring as a deterrent to counter situations like this whilst traveling. Even to point at the ring and gesture to avoid engaging in a conversation. This is also a good alternative if you are married, rather than traveling with diamonds.

What do I do while I’m sitting there alone?

Sitting at a restaurant or café creates a good opportunity to people watch, take in the foreign accents, random conversations and watch a very different world go by. You could take this time to write in your travel journal if you have one, reflect on your day or make travel plans for the future. Books, kindle, music, pod casts and magazines are all good props to take along if you like. But you might just find you’re busy enough looking at the menu and tasting the food.

I have concerns around my safety.

You need to keep your wits about you when traveling. And traveling alone can sometimes make you a more vulnerable target. We’ve put together a few extra safety tips around dining out alone to help keep you safe.

1. No Bags

Be mindful about taking bags with you. It’s certainly easier for a bag to be snatched while hung over your chair, placed on the chair next to you or on your table. You might want to look at investing in a small credit card holder that you can keep hidden on your person. These are great if you want to take a couple of cards with you, such as a credit card, I.D and some cash. Best to leave wallets, bags or passports in a safe or with accommodation security.

2. Don’t leave your drink unattended

If you need to go to the bathroom, finish your drink before you go or take it with you. Solo travelers can be a target in a bar, club or restaurant setting for drink spiking. If you’re concerned about someone taking your table, inform the wait staff before you go to the bathroom and don’t leave any belongings behind.

3. Keep alcohol to a minimum

Drinking can certainly affect our choices, judgment and our bearings. When you’re out alone you need to stay switched on, so keep alcohol to a minimum.

4. Request people speak a language you understand

This may sound like a strange tip for a traveler in another Country. By all means practice the local language with people and make an effort to embrace the culture.

However, not only is it universally recognized that it is polite to speak in a language every one in a group can understand, you need to consider this from a safety perspective.

If you do meet a couple of people, establish what the common language is – most people can speak English, so perhaps bring it back to that. If they branch off into private conversation in a language you don’t understand, you’ve got to be wary.

It might be that they just find their native language easier, but if you feel uncomfortable it’s ok to remind them to keep it inclusive. You have no idea what they are saying or what they could be planning.

5. Check you are not being followed when you leave

Most solo dining experiences go off without a hitch. But bear in mind, it’s probably clear now, that you are there alone. Always check you are not being followed when you leave a restaurant or bar. Don’t be distracted on your phone and have your wits about you. If you feel you are being followed go into another busy looking place and inform the staff there.

If you can’t find a place or double back, make your way to somewhere busy or a police station. As a last resort, choose a random house with a light on and bang on the door.

It is also a good idea to carry a personal alarm. These will act to scare away attackers and draw attention in an emergency situation.

At the end of the day, travel and dining out alone should be fun and liberating. It is something millions of people do on a daily basis without issue. Go confidently, keep these tips in mind and enjoy the experience.

Here are some other tips for solo travellers.