One of the most difficult things to do as a solo traveler is eating alone. I typically don’t mind solo dining while I’m traveling by myself, but sometimes it still ends up being a bit awkward.
I can walk into a restaurant and confidently ask for a table for one, book in hand, more than ready to eat alone…but then the servers start looking at you like you need special attention, or other customers glare at you as if you’ve just been dumped and now you’re left all on your own…
Well I’m here to tell you that all of that is bullshit!
Yes, those situations really do happen, and people might occasionally judge you. But you know what? Who cares! You’re on a solo vacation, seeing a new place that you’ve always wanted to see, and you’re having an incredible time!
Don’t let the fear of solo dining ruin your whole trip.
Don’t miss out on that restaurant you’re dying to try just because you’re eating alone.
Don’t skip dinner altogether because you’re too anxious to go eat by yourself at that place around the corner.
Trust me, I get anxious about going to restaurants to eat alone all the time, even though I am almost always traveling alone. Solo dining is one of those things that can be tough no matter how many times you do it. But honestly, you DO start to build up your confidence, and you start to understand what types of dining situations will make you the most comfortable.
There will always be people around to judge you (that’s human nature unfortunately), but for the most part, people aren’t actually judging you as much as you think they are. Servers are often told to pay special attention to solo diners, so they’re just doing what they think they need to in order to give you good service. Other customers might wonder why you’re eating alone, simply because they’re curious.
But remember that you are not the only one eating by yourself. People do it all the time. Because it’s NORMAL and there is nothing wrong with it. You don’t need someone to hold your hand while you eat dinner. And when you’re a solo traveler, you just gotta eat!
I think solo dining can often feel more difficult for solo female travelers than it does for men. I’m not saying that men don’t feel awkward about it too, but as women, we are often judged more harshly for doing things alone.
But that’s also the exact reason why some people look at us women traveling alone with pride and admiration. People often congratulate me or call me brave when they realize that I’m traveling on my own (which is actually a bit passive aggressive, but I give them the benefit of the doubt). I don’t think praise is necessary, but it does remind me that people are often looking not because they are judging, but because they wish they could do more things on their own too.
This has become the LONGEST intro, but I know how hard this part of solo travel can be. Which is why I’m sharing my top solo dining tips!
After years of traveling and eating alone in all kinds of restaurants and situations, I’m telling you what makes solo dining so much easier for me.
Table For One: Top Solo Dining Tips
Choose Casual Restaurants
Most of the time, I don’t eat alone at full-service restaurants. I typically choose places that are much more casual. I look for quiet cafes, self-serve restaurants, or places with counter service. These are the types of restaurants where people just pop in to get something to eat, rather than going for an entire experience. You’ll find plenty of other solo diners in this style of restaurant, and no one will blink an eye when you sit down to eat alone.
Check Out Food Halls and Markets
I’m not much of a foodie, but I LOVE eating at food halls and markets when I travel. That’s my favorite kind of food experience. It’s super casual, and there are tons of different food options to choose from. There is a variety of free-for-all seating options, you can come and go as you please, eat what you want, and sit where you want. And since you’re often surrounded by crowds of people, the last thing you’re going to feel is lonely.
Chat with the Server
When I do dine alone at restaurants with table service, I always try to chat a bit with the servers. They’ll usually ask about you anyways, so I just mention that I’m traveling alone (this is not always recommended for safety reasons; feel out a situation before telling someone you’re traveling solo). They often change their attitude when they realize I’m just visiting, and it takes away that weird “I’m giving you special attention because you’re eating alone” vibe. Plus it’s a great way to start conversations. I like to ask servers for local recommendations for other restaurants or places they like to go nearby.
Sit at the Bar
Asking for a seat at the bar is the go-to for solo diners. It’s often the best way to get in fast anyways if you choose a busy restaurant. Solo diners (whether they’re traveling or locals) usually end up at the bar because you don’t feel like you’re totally alone. You can easily start up a conversation with the people sitting next to you, or with the bartender. Things can get real lively over at the bar, so sometimes it ends up being the funnest option anyways.
However, if you want to sit alone and have your own table and get the full restaurant service experience, don’t let the hosts force you to sit at the bar. Just politely ask for a table if they steer you to the bar.
Try a Restaurant with Communal Tables
There are more and more restaurants popping up these days with communal dining options. Taking a seat at the communal table gives you the ability to dine alone, without actually being alone. How people interact at communal tables really depends on the restaurant’s vibe and the people, but it can definitely be a great experience.
Communal tables can be hit or miss if you’re eating out alone, though. As a solo traveler, you might really welcome the opportunity to meet other people or chat with locals. If you’re more of an anxious or introverted person, you might absolutely hate them. So just find out what makes you most comfortable.
Bring a Book to Read While You’re Eating
I pretty much always have my Kindle in my bag, especially when I’m traveling. I love to read, and I like being able to pull something out to occupy me while I’m eating. Or rather, something to occupy me while I wait for my food. Once the food is in front of me, it has my full attention.
If you’re not a reader, there’s no shame in scrolling through your phone, catching up on emails, or texting with friends while you eat. When you’re eating alone, there are no rules about putting your phone away!
Read Restaurant Reviews
Instead of walking into a restaurant blindly and hoping for a situation that you’re totally comfortable with, read reviews before you go. It’s hard to know what a place will be like, what the seating options are, how comfortable you will be there, etc. And that can really make or break your experience.
I’m typically way too anxious to walk into places I know nothing about, so I’m a big fan of reading reviews. Check Yelp, Trip Advisor, or Google Maps (they have photos and reviews connected to map locations) for solo-friendly restaurants. It’s nice to know what you’re walking into, so you can plan accordingly.
At the end of the day, you can eat alone anywhere, at any time, and there’s no reason to feel self-conscious about it. Some people may think it’s weird, but that’s because they don’t have the confidence to eat alone (you do!). It’s easy to feel awkward about eating alone at restaurants, but there’s really no reason to. Just go in, sit down, and enjoy your meal!
Other Dining Options for Solo Travelers
Okay, with all that said…I don’t usually like to eat in restaurants while traveling. The main reason is budget. I like to cook my own meals when I stay in hostels or Airbnbs, and it saves a lot of money. But besides that, as an introvert I often find the idea of eating in a loud, crowded restaurant to be very overwhelming. So I prefer having some alone time while I eat.
If cooking my own meals isn’t an option, sometimes I’ll go grab a takeaway or something prepared at the supermarket to eat in my hotel. Also, room service! It’s usually too expensive for me to indulge in, but it’s a fun option when you want food without leaving your room.
Another great option is to join a food tour. Instead of eating alone at a restaurant, you can join an organized group tour that takes you to some of the best restaurants in town. You have a group of people to eat with, and you get to try out multiple places.
I hope at least one of these tips or options is helpful to you. Solo dining can be really awkward at first, but I promise it’s not as bad as you think it is. Just keep these tips in mind the next time you’re eating alone on a solo trip. And if you don’t want to eat in a restaurant alone, try one of the other ideas I suggested.
There’s no reason not to eat good food while you’re traveling solo.
If you’re still nervous about eating out alone, I suggest you head to a local restaurant before your trip, ask for a table for one, and just try it out!
More Solo Travel Tips:
- 12 Things to Do By Yourself on Vacation
- 6 Life Skills You Learn as a Solo Traveler
- How to Make Friends When Staying in Hostels
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