5 Top Tips for Eating Alone while Traveling Solo

two bowls of pho
Eating solo doesn’t have to be uncomfortable. Go ahead, order two bowls of soup. Just enjoy the experience. Photo by Charish Badzinski.

Traveling Solo? Dining solo is often necessary.

Because the dinner table is often the center of our social lives, eating alone can be intimidating, and even sometimes sad. It’s no wonder: we eat to celebrate, we eat to explore, we eat for comfort in times of grief, and we eat to soothe in times of stress. And sharing our joy of food–whether by trading plates, sharing meals, or eating tapas style and then discussing the food, is often an essential part of the food experience.
Simply put, dining alone can feel awkward and lonely. I know a lot of people will bring a book to avoid the awkwardness, but as a traveler, that actually prevents you from being present to your journey, so I recommend doing that only occasionally, when you really, really need that crutch or are feeling incredibly introverted but have to dine out.
Dining solo on board an overnight ferry in Scandinavia
I dined solo on the overnight ferry between Helsinki, Finland and Stockholm, Sweden. The food was wonderful, and wine was on tap. I couldn’t afford to waste time on conversation! What’s not to love? Photo by Charish Badzinski.
To be completely honest, eating alone used to be uncomfortable for me, but over the years I’ve grown to appreciate it and even enjoy it. It allows me some down time when I’m traveling solo, so I can relax, get off my feet, be quiet and actually observe what’s happening around me. I also feel like it gives me the chance to appreciate my meal on a deeper level.
So here are my tips for making “table for one,” fun!

Here are my 5 top tips for eating solo when traveling

Cowboy Hat Lady of Chiang Mai, Thailand, a suitable place to dine alone
The famous Cowboy Hat Lady serves up some of her equally famous pork leg stew. Photo by Charish Badzinski.

1. Think outside the traditional table.

Sitting alone at a table with a bunch of empty chairs gives you a visual reminder that you’re dining and traveling alone. So consider ditching the traditional restaurant scene.
Instead, dine at local cafes, and pull up a chair at the counter. Or pull up a bar stool and dine next to other solo patrons. As a bonus, you’ll be able to listen in on conversations and hear what the local buzz is all about. Or, pack a picnic, take it to the beach and watch the waves while you eat. You could even hit up a food struck or street stall and grab a piece of curb. And after a day of travel, there’s nothing quite like the comfort and solitude of a meal in your own room and a favorite show to put the cherry on the top of the travel experience.
Schnitzel in Tallinn, Estonia, with a beer
Eating alone can be fun if you do it right. In my solo travels, I enjoyed this schnitzel in Tallinn, Estonia at a table for one. The schnitzel was big enough for two. Photo by Charish Badzinski.

2. Eat mindfully.

Feeling alone or sad while eating is a clear indicator that you are not living in the moment, which is exactly what you should be doing to get the most of the travel experience. And putting your nose in a book or your phone is sure to make the experience less memorable and enjoyable than if you are truly present to it.
So instead of feeling sorry for yourself, really focus on the tastes, smells and textures of the unique and new foods you are enjoying. When your mind wanders back to how alone you are, gently nudge it back to the present moment.
wine and chocolate before Abramovic Method for Treasures
Another solo traveler purchased a ticket for me to see a Marina Abramovic installation in Copenhagen, Denmark. I opted for a glass of wine and desert beforehand. Photo by Charish Badzinski.

3. Think of your dining experience like a foodie or influencer.

If you don’t buy into the whole mindfulness thing, go the other route. Create an ongoing conversation with your social connections. Ask them about places they recommend you eat. Find out their favorite dishes in the country you are traveling, and seek them out.
Then, snap photos of your food, taking care to capture the finest of details. You may even want to capture video. Post the photos and videos to social and engage with your followers. For good or bad, you’re never truly alone when you’re connected and engaged via social media.
the heurigen tradition in Austria
In Austria, wineries often also serve a meal. I enjoyed this heurigen tradition among the grape vines while in Austria, with a fine glass of white wine. Photo by Charish Badzinski.

4. Really spoil yourself.

Pick a place your significant other, kids or fellow travelers might never be open to visiting. If you go to a great restaurant, and you truly love food, you can relax into simply enjoying the experience.
Then, go all in. Order a great glass of wine or two. Get the appetizer. Splurge on the most expensive entree. And yes, get desert. Remember throughout the experience that you are spoiling yourself, that this is a treat just for you.

5. Instead of going out to eat, take a food tour or cooking class.

Cooking class in Belize
A local cook showed me how to make Belizean stewed chicken, in a private cooking class. It was a great way to enjoy local specialties. Photo by Charish Badzinski.
Food tours and cooking classes are are widely available and can be a really fun way to both experience a city through its food and meet other travelers.
If you can’t find a cooking class on offer where you are traveling, develop your own self-guided tour by researching what food bloggers are saying about the city. Eating then becomes a bit of a scavenger hunt and adventure in itself. I did this in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and here’s the self-guided food tour I put together.
Cooking class in Chiang Mai, Thailand
I have taken a couple of cooking classes in Thailand. It’s so fun to work with ingredients we don’t normally see locally, and it’s a great way to bypass dining solo. I especially like working with big knives. Photo by BackpackMr.
cooking class in Chiang Mai, Thailand
A cooking class can not only introduce you to the art of local cuisine, but you can meet new friends who are also interested in food. No need to sit alone. Photo by Charish Badzinski.
I’ve taken food tours in several countries–it’s a unique way to test several dishes over the course of several hours, and transportation is typically included.
I’ve also taken cooking classes in Belize, Vietnam, Thailand and in the U.S., and I can tell you from first hand experience, you never leave a cooking class hungry. Best of all, when you get home, you have a souvenir of your travels that’s actually a skill: you can prepare foods from the places you visit, for your friends you missed while you were away.
Use these tips to enjoy eating alone in your solo travels
Eating alone doesn’t have to be depressing or lonely. It can be whatever type of experience you want. It can be a high-end treat, a scavenger hunt for the best food in a city, a beachside picnic or a quick bite at the counter of a local cafe. Because you’re eating alone, it’s a choose your own adventure book. So, pull up a chair (or a curb!) and get ready to dig in. Because dining alone can become a memorable and fun part of the solo travel experience.

Charish Badzinski

Charish Badzinski is an explorer and award-winning features, food and travel writer. When she isn’t working to build her blog: Rollerbag Goddess, she applies her worldview to her business, Rollerbag Goddess Global Communications, providing powerful storytelling to her clients.

Posts on the Rollerbag Goddess travel blog are never sponsored and have no affiliate links, so you know you will get an honest review, every time.

Find Charish on Twitter: @rollrbaggoddess, on Facebook at @rollrbaggoddess, and on Instagram at @rollerbaggoddess. You can also read more about Charish Badzinski’s professional experience in marketing, public relations and writing.

Rollerbag Goddess travel blog by Charish Badzinski is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.


4 thoughts on “5 Top Tips for Eating Alone while Traveling Solo

    1. Oh, Scott, that schnitzel was so good! I ate every last crumb. Who knew Tallinn, Estonia would have such a treasure?!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s