How to eat alone while travelling solo

One of the many questions I get asked by people considering solo travel, or who have just embarked on their first solo adventure, is how do you eat alone? Do you not feel uncomfortable sitting alone in a restaurant, cafe, or bar? Do you have any tips for getting around this issue? Having travelled solo now for the entirety of my travels, I’ve managed to find a lot of ways to making eating alone, or finding people to eat with much more easy.

Confidence is key

First and foremost, just having a little bit of confidence can go a long long way. If you walk in looking nervous, or sit there looking around you to see if anyone is staring, then people are going to notice that. If you walk in and sit at your table like it’s completely natural however, you’ll find 9 times out of 10 nobody even bats an eyelid, and waiters, bar staff, and other people where you are eating/drinking will be more likely to talk to you as they will naturally feel more comfortable in your company. Nervous people make other people nervous. Chilled out people make other people feel relaxed! Sounds so simple, but it really is so true!

The same goes for finding people to join you for lunch or dinner. Sometimes the best way to get over eating alone is to find other people to eat with! A lot of the time this just comes down to biting the bullet and asking people to have dinner with you. If you’re staying in a hostel this is really easy, as you can just rock up to a table somewhere in the kitchen/eating area and just ask if you can sit there. In hostels it’s expected that random people will just come up, say hi, and strike up a conversation, so there is no reason to feel nervous about this. If you find someone sitting on their own even better, as usually they are a newbie solo traveller too, and haven’t had the confidence to go up to someone else due to feeling similarly under confident!

Create a distraction

Often when you arrive into a restaurant, you’ll have to wait a little while on your meal getting cooked. If you’re eating with someone you usually don’t notice this so much as you’ll usually be chatting to them plus having a drink at the same time. Sitting on your own however, these are the moments that you really do notice how long it takes for your food to arrive! Sipping on your drink will soon feel like an eternity! This is usually the time that most people feel most uncomfortable because when you’re eating you’re usually concentrating on your food! Whip out your mobile(cell) phone, bring a book, or even a laptop if they have free wifi. Anything that creates a distraction for you and helps to take your mind off the fact that you’re sitting alone with no-one to talk to is good! You’ll find your food has arrived in next to know time, and you can eat and leave!

Sit at the bar

If I’m eating anywhere with a bar I will always pull up a bar stool and eat my diner there. The reason for this is that bar staff will more often than not talk to the people sitting at the bar, particularly if it’s quiet and they have nothing to do. If you’re sitting further away at a table this is less likely to happen as once they’ve served your meal they’ll tend to go back to the bar ready to serve the next person. Many times I’ve become really good friends with bar staff while eating a meal, and they’ll usually be able to give you tips on where good to go in town, or where the cheapest bars are in town that the locals go to. Taking my trip to Prague as an example, after the bar closed at midnight, the bar staff got on with me well and invited me out with them after their shift finished. They took me to 3 local Czech bars which served the cheapest Czech beer in Prague, followed by a really cool 24 hour bar in the city. I can’t guarantee something like this will happen to you just because you sit at the bar instead of a table, but I have many instances where something like this has happened just by choosing where I sit wisely! Also, it’s more socially acceptable for some reason for people to sit on their own at a bar rather than a table. I have no idea why, but for some reason this seems to be the case!

– Eating alone is one of the major hurdles it seems for people considering solo travel. From personal experience however, I can honestly tell you it’s really not that bad. If you are ever travelling alone, and are feeling a bit uncomfortable eating alone, then hopefully these tips will help you!

5 Responses to “How to eat alone while travelling solo”

  1. Karen says:

    Thanks for this post, Jane. Eating alone is such a hang up, and there’s really no reason for it. I’ve travelled around quite a bit by myself, which has meant many meals alone. I have met people I otherwise wouldn’t have met, and I’ve also found that wait and bar staff tend to be extra friendly if you’re on your own.

    When I eat alone, I worry others see me as lonely or pathetic. But I always remind myself that when I’m in a restaurant and notice someone – especially a woman – eating by herself, I always think “Good for her!” and think she’s confident and awesome! Solo travellers should recognize that a lot of people respect them, and even envy them, for being comfortable enough to do that.

  2. T Roach says:

    I agree, it’s not lonely and pathetic. Bring a book or, even better, a local newsletter or periodical. Great chance to people-watch and meet strangers. Plus a traveler’s gotta eat!

  3. Nicole says:

    Thanks for the post Jane. It really is a good question that I have never worked out the answer too.

    I ate my first solo meal in a fancy gastronomic and micro-brewery in Dublin, Ireland. With everyone floating in and out in groups or couples I decided to make the most of it. I caught up on my twittering/emailing/facebooking. Ordered the most awesome cocktails on the menu I could find. Annnnd talked to all the waitresses/barmen. Ah the Irish are a friendly bunch. 🙂

  4. Danielle says:

    I really liked this post. I actually found this to be one of my greatest challenges while travelling. I’m fairly introverted and a lot of the time was content to not mingle with rowdy people at the hostel; but I know I missed out on cultural experiences from the fear of eating alone. I did it three times – I did the journal in a restaurant in Budapest, laptop at Applebees in Milwaukee and sat at the bar eating deep dish pizza in Chicago. Felt strangely nervous every time but it made me feel good when I walked out at the end and I was still alive and no one threw anything at me!

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