This post may contain affiliate / compensated links. For full information, please see my disclaimer here.
Last Updated on 23/12/2020
Staying safe abroad is the number one priority, especially when you’re travelling alone and the responsibility rests on your shoulders.
So, when it comes to experiencing the nightlife as a solo traveller it’s understandable if you want to choose the life of a hermit instead. It’s certainly the easier option, but you might find yourself getting more than a little stir crazy staying in the confines of your dorm or hotel room every evening.
Engaging in the nightlife abroad doesn’t have to be intimidating just as long as you stay safe. Whether you’re a party animal or you just want to get out and about from time to time, there are ways to make the most of your evenings. And you may even find yourself learning something new about the culture too!
So, if you need some inspiration about how to negotiate the nightlife abroad while travelling solo check out these activities below:
1. Safety First
First of all, we can’t talk about nightlife abroad without mentioning some key safety tips. Before you even consider an evening out make sure you feel comfortable with your location. Some destinations are straight-up dangerous after dark and the last thing you want to do is make yourself a target.So, do some research about the area you’re staying in and make sure to heed any advice from the locals. Use your hostel as a safety sounding board. Ask yourself if you feel safe there and in the neighbourhood it’s situated in. If you’re unsure of anything make use of the hostel reception and don’t be afraid to ask them for a reputable taxi number for when you end up on a really late night.
If you’re planning on having a drink then it’s worth reading up on the laws of the country just in case. You might find that a legal practice at home could cause you to spend the night in jail abroad, or worse! And, as always, know your limits and remember to stay vigilant at all times.
It’s also worth noting that some countries will only accept passports as valid forms of ID unless you have a driving license from there. So, I’m sure I don’t need to remind you of the importance of watching your bag like a hawk.
A holiday can turn into a disaster very quickly when your phone and passport take a little solo trip of their own.
2. Visit the cinema
Okay, it’s time to break the taboo about going to the cinema alone. Absolutely nothing bad happens to you and you don’t draw nearly as much attention to yourself as you might think. In fact, solo cinema trips have a lot of unsung advantages: you get more seating choices, you can kick back and relax, and no one will steal your popcorn. What’s not to like?Going to the cinema is a good excuse to get out and about if you’re not sure what to do with yourself on a rainy evening. Granted the language barrier can impact the experience, but if that isn’t an issue then it’s an activity worth considering.
Look out for discounted deals on tickets and quirky independent cinemas when you’re on the road because you may be surprised with what you find. I found this out on a particularly stormy evening in Wanaka, New Zealand where the only option was to go to the tiny cinema across the road from the hostel. It turned out to be the best decision!
Not only were the seats giant squashy sofas, but there was an interval halfway through the film to get hot freshly baked cookies. Sometimes even something as simple as the cinema can give you the best night out. (You can read all about travelling solo in New Zealand here).
3. See a show at the theatre
Similar to the cinema, the theatre gives you a purpose to your evening (ideal for the lonely solo travellers) and it also allows you to experience a new side to your destination.
It doesn’t necessarily have to be a five-act play if you’re not feeling that sort of thing, but you could opt for a cultural performance instead. From dancing to singing and acting there’s bound to be something on in the local area unless you’re staying somewhere particularly remote.
Have a chat with the staff at the hostel reception, or maybe a friendly server in a local cafe about what’s on. You might find something which gives you new insights into the country’s art and culture and it will enrich your stay even more.
4. See stand-up comedy
I’ve found that going to a stand-up comedy gig is an ingenious excuse to go to the pub as a solo traveller without feeling odd that you’re drinking alone.It had never even occurred to me to go to one abroad until a particularly lonely evening in an unsociable hostel forced me to find some kind of entertainment to stave off the travel blues. And it so happened that there was a show in a bar around the corner from me.
Stand-up is always a gamble, even back home. You never know what you’ve let yourself into or if the comedians will actually be funny. Stand-up abroad has that extra layer of contending with a different culture and sometimes even language.
You run the risk of sitting there bemused in a sea of laughter…but sometimes it’s worth it if you do have a grasp of the language, and you can end up having a fun night. After all, laughter is infectious!
So if you want an excuse to go to a bar but you don’t want to feel self-conscious about it go to a stand-up comedy gig if there is one. Just don’t sit near the front unless you want to be part of the act!
5. Listen to some live music
Live music is a great one because you don’t need to understand the language to enjoy it. You don’t necessarily need to seek out a big concert. Plenty of local bars and pubs have open mic evenings or host the occasional band which is ideal if you’re looking for something low-key social to occupy yourself with. All you need to do is sit back, relax and enjoy the music.Like cultural performances, you may even be treated to some real traditional music of the country you’re visiting or find yourself humming along to some well-known tunes.
Either way, listening to live music is a great way to experience the nightlife for solo travellers because you get to see the local talent and you feel like you’ve done something productive with your time.
6. Enjoy the night markets
I love night markets. That bustle of the crowd and those delicious smells of all the different street food stalls enticing you in with warmth and comfort from the dark. Or when you take a wander down by the stalls of trinkets and treasures to see if anything catches your eye enough to be a souvenir or a treat for yourself.There’s nothing like a night market to experience the sociable aspect of the community after dark and feeling completely safe within its masses – just watch out for pickpockets!
Markets are exciting at the best of times but there’s something about visiting one at night that makes it all the more special. Perhaps it’s the added twinkle of the lights or the toe-tapping tunes of a band playing in the background which makes it that bit more magical.
Another wonderful perk is that you have a chance to eat out with the pleasure of affordable prices and an extensive menu to choose from. For one special night, the pesto pasta is left on the kitchen shelf and you have the chance to indulge without feeling too guilty about the expenditure. A backpacker’s dream!
7. Join organised and casual hostel socials
If you’re a solo traveller who likes to be social in the evenings then staying at a sociable hostel helps a lot. Most backpacker hostels do make an effort to accommodate the nightlife scene, particularly in the cities.A lot of them have drinks deals and discounts or a backpacker bar nearby. They sometimes even have a calendar of events for every night of the week from bar crawls to game nights and movie marathons.
There’s usually something for everyone, and it’s a great way to meet fellow travellers and make new friends. But understandably, popping along to the backpacker bar by yourself can still be intimidating.
Luckily, you can often find a sociable group in the common area, particularly on weekends. You can usually worm your way in by starting a conversation with an individual member of the group. Or offer around a sharing bag of sweets. Yes, sure, it’s bribery, but you’ll certainly make an excellent first impression!
8. Join a tour
You don’t have to go travelling with a big gang of you in tow to appreciate the party scene abroad, so party animals rejoice, you can still be solo and get your night out fix! What’s the secret? Just join a tour group.I can tell you from experience that there is always a gang who is unfailingly loyal to the sesh and you’ll be checking out the party scene wherever you go. In fact, you don’t have to be a party person to enjoy the sociability of a tour, so for the ones who like a casual night in with a few mates, that’s entirely possible too.
Tours are just immediately social whatever your style as you’re essentially a group of people who will spend more or less 24/7 with each other. If you’re worried about being alone on your solo travels then booking a tour is a good way to give you some confidence (read up on the pros and cons of a tour group here).
9. Experience some local festivals and events
When you’re researching an area to visit, don’t forget to make a note of the local events and festivals coinciding with your stay as there is bound to be something going on in the evening.If you’re lucky enough to arrive on a cultural holiday or special event it can be a great opportunity to see the country in celebration and watch the local community come together. It will help you to get to know the place you’re visiting on a deeper level and you may even learn about a new tradition.
I find that experiencing a local festival or celebration brings out the best in the country you’re visiting as everyone is out making the most of it. You can’t help but have a good time. So, do some research before you go and don’t forget to pay attention to the evening events as you might be rewarded for your efforts.
10. Go out for dinner
Of all the challenges of solo travel, dining alone seems to be with the ones at the top. At home eating out is usually associated with a special occasion shared with friends and family and so it’s hard to shake that feeling when you decide to do it by yourself. However, dining out is a great way to get out and about and experience your destination in the evening without too much effort. So, in order to avoid cringing with discomfort at the thought when you’re abroad, think of it as a treat you owe yourself. After all, you deserve it, and at the very least, your body deserves a break from pasta and hostel kitchens.
You deserve to eat good grub, particularly if you’re in a place that’s famous for it! So shake off your inhibitions, take a book, magazine, iPod, or something to stream and find your happy place amongst the food and entertainment.
You don’t even need to worry about what people might think as they’re always far too engrossed in their plates in front of them. Eating out is a great opportunity to experience the evening at a more leisurely pace. And it’s a good excuse to have a good old people-watching session – so go!