Last updated on February 4th, 2024
Eating alone: ‘if you can travel solo, you can do it’ women say
Curated by Carolyn Ray
One of the most common questions from solo women travellers is how to eat alone. Contrary to what we might think, eating alone can be one of the most enjoyable things we can do for ourselves. We shouldn’t let the fear of stepping into a restaurant alone stop us from solo travel. While you might be tempted to stay in your hotel and order room service, eating out can be a wonderful way to spend quality time with yourself, practice mindful eating and learn how to stop worrying about what others might think. After all, you’re travelling solo for you, not for them. As one of the quotes below says, if you can travel alone, you can eat alone. Bon appetit!
30 tips on eating alone, and how to do it at your own speed
In celebration of our 30th anniversary in 2024, we’ll be publishing a ’30 Tips’ series every month that covers a topical issue in solo travel, with advice from members in our private Solo Travel Wisdom Facebook group. We hope that these first-hand tips inspire you to take that first step into dining solo with comfort and enjoyment.
1. I was nervous at first. I worked alone and on the road and traveled solo. Once I did it a couple of times by bringing a book, or newspaper it became second nature. You strike up conversations with people you likely would never meet if you were dining with others. Rip off the bandaid and do it…write, listen to podcasts, people watch, read, draw, answer emails. — Doreen S.
2. I don’t mind eating alone. But I do mind when at a restaurant they try to put you at a table near the kitchen or at the back. When they do I tell them ‘no way’ in a voice others can hear and they move me. – Marion B.
3. I’m okay during day and love to do my own thing but sometimes I find evenings are long. Certain countries will ask if a couple can join you at dinner, if they are full and you are taking up a table for 4. Sometimes they have spoke English sometimes it’s charades. Always entertaining. — Mary Ann K.
4. I enjoy eating alone. I also have my phone and a book in case I get bored while waiting for my food. — Trang T.
5. I love eating alone. But then, my greatest joy in life is writing and if I’m not writing, I’m thinking of things that I can write about. If I’m with somebody who’s talking, it interferes with my thoughts. Ever since I first forced myself to learn how to eat out alone back when I was in my twenties, I have preferred it. — Julie D.
6. I don’t mind eating alone but when I don’t feel like doing it I get takeout from a nice restaurant. — Linda B.
7. For some reason, even though I have travelled solo all over the world for many years, I am not comfortable planning dinners solo. Lunch is fine, even in a higher end restaurant. But I usually talk myself out of dinners alone, often because of cost and as a very light eater, many evening meals are just too heavy for me. I tend to eat a late lunch, then picnic in parks, piazzas and beaches for dinner. — Lois P.
8. Love being a solo traveller including the dining experiences. I had a friend once say to me she couldn’t imagine walking into a restaurant alone for dinner–she said she feels like everyone would be looking at her and pitying her. I tried to explain it was nothing like that at all…I was basically trying to say what you just put so beautifully and perfectly! – Marilyn Mc.
9. I bring a book. But if I were in an exotic place, I might do some people watching. A previous comment reminded me that I used to write at restaurants as well. Hard to do while eating but good for after meal coffee or tea. — Naomi T.
10. Eat early, bring a book or your phone-tablet. People watch. Do your journal. Make reservations. Check out what else to do. Work on language skills using an app. I worked out of town for a couple of years and ate by myself a lot. You get used to it. — Marilyn T.
Eating in a market is recommended by JourneyWoman readers / Photo by KostiantynVoitenko on Envato
11. I’ve been doing it for so long I think nothing of it. I was a single Mom for all of my son’s life. Whenever he was away for example at overnight camp, I was eating alone. I also work full time and often eat alone since people go to lunch at different times. — Laura T.
12. In larger cities, I sometimes take a foodie tour if I want company. Many of them are available in the evening. This way I have some company to eat with and usually they go to great restaurants. Research what is available in the places you’re going to. Sometime there are options to join locals as well for meals or a cooking class etc. — Julie I.
Find a local tour here on Viator or Get Your Guide.
13. I also love eating alone. Years ago when traveling solo, I’d journal and write all about my experiences… now I work on my laptop keeping notes & catching up. And when the food’s delicious, I don’t have to share 😃. You can also bring a book, and sometimes there are Community tables, which are always fun. Scan the room quickly when you arrive, so that if a place tries to shunt you to a less desirable table, you can politely pipe up and say, I’d much rather sit there, thank you! — Claudia W.
14. I used to be afraid to eat alone and would go without eating instead of eating alone. I decided I had to get over my fear and forced myself to go to lunch alone at a Wendy’s near my work. I took a book and, ….surprise! I survived! Now I love eating alone! I often will grab a late lunch when out doing errands. It is quiet & peaceful in mid-afternoon and I can read or people watch. It did take some getting used to but now I don’t give it a second thought. Just keep at it and it will get easier and easier! — Kay T.
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15. I travelled on my own for 9 months and was used to doing many things on my own. However, I never liked having dinner on my own. I usually looked for a casual diner or street food as I was uncomfortable eating in a nice restaurant for dinner. In some places, there are places to sit at a bar where one can order small dishes, especially in Spain. The answer? Not easy, but often a stepping stone to a new friendship. In Vietnam, I ordered an assortment of dishes. I realized how ample the portions were and invited a man who had asked me about the wifi connection. 15 years later, we are still in contact! — Diane O.
16. I eat alone all the time– traveling, and at home. I like it as much as eating with others. Sometimes I get angry if they stick me at the bar because they don’t want to waste a 2-top on one diner. If I protest, and they don’t give me a table, I just leave. But eating alone is not terrible. You get used to it. — Gin R.
17. One night in Vietnam, I headed to a restaurant that was beach front. I was solo traveling. On arrival all tables closest to the sea were taken. One large table had a guy sitting. I asked him if he’d mind if I joined the table. He was reading. He said, “Sure”. As often happens, we ended up chatting the entire evening. This was 2016 and we are still friends to this day. — Monique G.
18. I prefer it. No one to negotiate when, where, and what to eat. No one with distracting habits, or complaints about the food or their day. I treat it as a time to relax, reflect on the day and think about the possibilities for the following day. I may make notes or journal while doing so. Or just allow my thoughts to wander. Maybe people watch, looking for differences (from home or culture) in the way people dress, eat, or engage in conversation. If I feel like ‘working,’ I might cull and edit photos from the day. Or tap into the restaurant’s Wi-Fi (using my VPN) to research, book travel, manage emails, or surf social media. I tend to enjoy the food more when eating alone as I can concentrate on the meal rather than conversation or the company. — Anne B.
19. I think there are ‘baby steps’ for new solo travellers. And one of them is practice eating or going out for coffee alone in your hometown or nearby. When I was a young woman in my 20s, I practiced doing this with some regularity in a nearby big city. I don’t think twice about doing this now. I also have food allergies and sensitivities. This can be challenging at the best of times but even more so if my new dinner companions want to eat at a restaurant that has limited food options for me. I can socialize at home. When I travel, I want to manage my time so I get the most out of my adventures. And while I occasionally enjoy joining new people for dinner, I don’t want to get stuck sitting at a table eating and drinking when I could be out exploring. — Jackie H.
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Bringing a book can be helpful
20. I don’t mind eating alone but when I don’t feel like doing it I get takeout from a nice restaurant. — Linda B.
21. Eat at markets. From Seviila to La Boqueria in Barcelona to Halles des Lices in Vannes to the indoor market in Frankfurt. You get either a real plate served at a table from one of the stands so cannot be fresher, a glass of wine, or disposable ware, get the ambiance, share tables and have an impromptu conversation. Small price, no tips, quick meal or stay longer. — Daniele H.
22. I don’t mind eating alone, and I actually enjoy it. Years ago, I had a job that required frequent travel, and I learned to deal with eating by myself. — Cathie Mc.
23. Personally, I love it. I love to sit and people watch — but then I’m a travel writer so everything captivates me. I find eating solo to be relaxing … a time to reflect on the day with me, myself and I, to gather, and to enjoy the ambiance and good food I’m there for. I always ask for an out of the way table facing the room if possible – it gives me a broad perspective:) — Ani M.
24. Evelyn Hannon – the founder of JourneyWoman – used to travel with a Toronto newspaper to read when she was eating alone. Said it sparked conversations with fellow Canadians and/or English speakers. — Martha C.
25. Sitting up at the bar area (if they have one) is a great way to meet new people. — Janice L.
26. I always carry a small travel journal and while eating it’s often the right time to put down ” memories ” of that day. — Céline B.
27. I used to always ask to sit at the bar when dining alone. I’d have a book with me, but always end up being talked to, and not getting to read my book. Now I ask for a small table with good people watching or I have reading material if I want solitude. If I do want to meet strangers, then I sit at the bar. A good bartender will chat you up if you’re into it, which then gets other bar patrons involved. Or they’ll leave you alone if that’s the vibe you’re giving off. Plus, it’s entertaining watching bartenders do their work and interacting with other guests and coworkers. Plus, they know stuff about the area and can recommend activities, sights, other restaurants, etc. — Elle M.
28. I usually dine at fine dining only once or twice in a week. I tend to go to pricy places for lunch, and then dinner at easer places like cafe. I found in Europe I am not uncomfortable as there are many women who dine alone. But here in the States, I am often slightly uncomfortable. Dining on your own lets you choose wherever you wish to dine or what to eat. Also found that places like women only guest houses or hostels give great opportunities to connect with another solo traveler and meet up for dinner. — Sandra K.
29. Don’t let them put you near the kitchen or under a brightly lit table. I usually pick a window or in a corner so I can people watch. Also, I’ll sit at the bar for a glass of wine and appetizers, visiting with the bartender and others sitting there. — Karen C.
30. You can also book a Eat With dinner. Great way to meet people who live where you are visiting, have a good dinner and share it with other people. It’s available in many cities. — Karen G.
Bonus tips on eating alone:
31. Get some food from a market or some takeaway and eat in a park. Even if you think you SHOULD try eating in a restaurant alone. Or go to that same restaurant you enjoy and feel comfortable in for every meal. Even if you think you SHOULD try new foods. Solo travel is for YOU. You get to do whatever you want. It’s amazing how much you will connect with yourself when you add comfort to your experience. — Jennifer C.
32. I eat most meals alone—not a big deal to me. I do judge places by how they treat me, though. Some of my favourites are when they have managed to squeeze me into an otherwise full house because I was by myself. — Connie C.
33. I entertain myself by making up stories about the people sitting around me. This couple is having a torrid affair, that man across the room is the private investigator that’s been following them for six days, the woman that looks bored with her dining partner is actually the daughter he hasn’t seen for 20 years – she knows it, he doesn’t … yet, the child that’s screaming is a prodigy with the Metropolitan Opera… This is why I ask for a table off to the side. — Sue J.
34. The way I see it is if you’re strong enough to travel solo, you are strong enough to dine alone wherever you want in a restaurant. — Marion B.
35. I like eating lunch alone more than dinner, especially since dinner is later in many European countries where I travel. If you rent an apartment or studio and have a kitchen, you can have fun shopping in local markets or supermarkets and sometimes prepare your own evening meal, often that doesn’t require much “cooking.” You can also relax in your casual “at home” clothes. And when I’m in one place for a more extended stay, I like returning to a cafe or restaurant I enjoyed. The staff gets to know me, and that makes it more comfortable. — Kathy W.
Above all, enjoy yourself
I love and prefer eating alone. Bring a book, write, people watch, talk to others only if you want. — Gloria B.
I love eating alone but I do tend to have long conversations with the waiters! 😂 — Shelley F.
No problem eating alone. Sometimes strike up conversations with other diners. — Linda M.
I love to eat out… even at home here in Toronto… but especially when on vacation etc etc.. I don’t actually enjoy eating very late in restaurants.. in cozy settings…especially in an indoor setting..I prefer outdoors..most times the staff is very accommodating… and try to get me a table of my choice.. Sometimes ..after entering, I just tell them I am very hungry, and long for a drink…and that yes single people do get hungry too…
A few times a very young person may say ” Just one ?.” And then I jokingly would reply. ..that I apologize for being ” just one” .and that unfortunately we singles can get hungry and love to eat out too… Very rarely have I felt uncomfortable…But if I am given a crummy table especially if the restaurant is not busy, I just leave. Thanks, but no thanks. However very rarely have I not been welcomed. I love to eat in outdoor Cafes etc … I decided a long time ago ..after my divorce that I would continue doing the things I love as a single person and enjoy myself. And I do. — Lenna N.
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