Think of solo travel and you may think that travelling alone has to be done on a budget but solo travel doesn’t have to mean sharing a dorm room with numerous others, travelling on rickety transport or only being able to eat street food.
I’ve stayed in my fair share of hostels, and travelled with livestock and as much as it is an adventurous way of travelling, sometimes I prefer the comfort of luxury travel, staying in a swanky apartment, sitting down in a posh restaurant and admiring the view from a rooftop bar with a cocktail or two. Luxury travel doesn’t have to mean expensive travel or more time alone. It gives you just as many opportunities to meet other people whilst on the road. Just this time in comfort.
So how can you experience luxury travel as a solo traveller?
Choose Your Country
Firstly, if you’re travelling to New York, Switzerland or Japan, luxury travel is going to cost you so pick countries where you can get much more for your pound or dollar. If you travel to Thailand for example, you can stay in a 5 star hotel for the price of a 3 star in your own city, so you can experience being treated like a queen for a fraction of the cost. If you visit countries such as parts of Asia, Northern and Eastern Europe and certain countries in Latin America, you can experience more luxury travel than you could in other countries.
The cheapest countries to travel to are:
Asia: Cambodia, Indonesia, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam.
Europe: Albania, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Poland.
Latin America: Bolivia, Honduras, Nicaragua.
If you thought staying in a penthouse was out of your reach, there are really affordable ways to stay in your dream apartment and live in luxury as a solo traveller. During my trip to both Colombia and Panama, I was able to stay in the most amazing penthouses which I booked through Airbnb. Not only did a night in this luxury accommodation only cost me £20 a night or less but I met the most welcoming locals who hosted me during my stay and gave me insiders tips for both cities. Airbnb offers you the chance to stay overnight in luxurious accommodation that you may not have even considered. My tip - choose a city with an amazing skyline for travelling in style.
If you’re not really a rustic travelling kind-of girl, then glamping is a more luxurious way of experiencing camping, providing hot water and even a proper bed to sleep in, so you can experience the great outdoors in comfort. Glamping on a safari in Africa is the perfect way of experiencing luxury when you travel, and you get to avoid most of the creepy crawlies too.
If you time your trip just right, you can save money on your accommodation too. Travel when the seasons begin to change and you find great discounts. During a trip to Bulgaria, I stayed in a studio apartment with a communal pool, bar and restaurant, just 15 minutes from a sandy beach for only £12 a night. Less than half of the price that it was just two weeks before if I had booked during high season.
Travel in Nicaragua and you can experience the best hotels whilst swimming in their pools. Every Sunday, an event called Sunday Fun Day takes you on a hotel pool crawl around Managua, which not only is a way of sampling luxurious hotels but also a great way to meet other solos too.
Nowadays you can practically stay anywhere from stunning eco lodges to magnificent castles. For me, nothing oozes luxuriousness more than a desert hotel. Waking up to the silence of a red desert in Abu Dhabi was the most amazing experience I have had to date.
Restaurants / Bars
A dining experience doesn’t have to cost a fortune. You don’t have to eat a three course meal and a glass of wine to be able to dine at a fancy restaurant. Just ordering a main meal and a soft drink is perfectly acceptable, or dine early to catch any early bird offers that may be on offer. For some solos, the thought of dining alone fills them with nerves, so eating early and avoiding a full restaurant later on can avoid that awkward feeling that some would rather avoid. Or choosing a lunchtime buffet at a nice restaurant can give you a luxurious dining experience at a fraction of the cost.
Look for revolving restaurants in the cities you are visiting. In Colombia, I dined at the only revolving bar in Medellin with a 360 degree panoramic view of the city’s skyline and saved 30% off my meal because of the special weekly offer. Listening to live piano music whilst admiring breathtaking views was simply incredible.
Nothing beats a view like a rooftop bar so look for hotels on your trip and ask if they have a bar or a rooftop terrace. Not only do they offer a great viewpoint of the city but they are cheaper than observation decks. Havana in Cuba has stunning rooftop terraces and even if you’re not staying in the hotel, you can still enjoy a Mojito whilst watching the world below. Other cities with great rooftops are: Shanghai, Bangkok, New York, Panama and Colombia.
Dubai is known for opulence and if you order airport transport here, you usually receive a limousine to take you to your chosen hotel. Air conditioned and with a driver who will open the door for you to enter, you’ll feel totally pampered before you even check in. You could even order a limousine ride from your house to the airport so you can begin your travels in style and avoid the busy commuter trains.
Instead of taking a taxi, see if the country you are travelling to has Uber. Uber is a transportation service which offers a ride in comfort so you’ll be upgraded from your usual taxi ride experience and feel safer if you’re travelling alone, as each driver is vetted beforehand and you receive the number plate and driver’s name before the car even arrives.
If you’re travelling through the Alps, upgrade your train ride to a carriage with a panoramic view or take an iconic train ride on the Rocky Mountaineer, Orient Express, or the Trans-Siberian Railway. Waking up to a spectacular view each day then meeting others in the dining carriage is a great (and safe) way for solos to travel. I took the Trans-Mongolian from Beijing to Ullanbator in Mongolia and as well as experiencing the most amazing desert scenery, I met some great people with whom to continue my onward travels with.
If flying Business class is out of reach, there is always Premium Economy to consider. Airlines such as Virgin or British Airways have an upgraded economy class with larger seats and a personalised service so you experience a taste of luxury during your flight. Having a hot lemon-scented towel, a complimentary glass of bubbly and real cutlery can make all the difference during your travels and it doesn’t have to costs thousands either.
You don’t have to be a business traveller to experience an airport lounge either. Lounges are for anyone and instead of spending hours sat amongst the airport crowds, you can spend your time lounging in a comfy leather chair, drinking as many cappuccinos as you desire and eating brownies to your heart’s content (and even get a massage or pedicure before your flight).
Whether it’s the Serengeti or the Fairytale valley of Cappadocia, taking a hot air balloon ride and watching the sunrise whilst floating silently in the sky is one of the most luxurious and magical experiences you can have when travelling. Some even provide a champagne breakfast so you get a chance to mingle with others in your group too.
If keeping your feet firmly on the ground is more your thing, nothing feels more luxurious than being smothered in aromatherapy oil with the scent of jasmine wafting around you. If you’ve been travelling alone for a few days and are feeling a bit homesick, just having a massage or reflexology treatment will re-balance you and give you that connection that you need. Either look for massage treatments in hotels, independent salons or even on the beach.
There are so many ways to incorporate luxury travel into your itinerary. Travelling solo doesn’t have to mean sacrificing luxury just because you’re alone, In fact, it’s the best reason to treat yourself.
If you love these tips on solo travel, there are plenty more in A Female Guide to Solo Travel, the most comprehensive travel guide for women travelling alone, by Girl about the Globe, a travel resource site for solo females. Sign up to Girl about the Globe to receive a free guide on how to avoid the travel scams abroad.