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Tips for Dining Alone as a Solo Female Traveler

It was my first night in Barcelona, the second stop on my round-the-world trip. I had settled into my hostel near the Sagrada Familia basilica and it was time for dinner. I walked to a nearby street packed with restaurants… and I couldn’t bring myself to go inside a single one. I spent three hours walking up and down that one street, paralyzed by anxiety over dining alone.

I made a lot of excuses for myself, but really like so many new solo female travelers, I just wasn’t comfortable requesting a table for one. In the U.S., going out to eat by yourself isn’t common and sometimes even feels frowned upon. We often equate being alone with being lonely or worse, being unwanted.

But within a couple weeks of that three-hour dinner-less walk, I got over that anxiety and learned to love dining alone. You can too with just three tips:

Dining Alone Doesn’t Have to Be Scary

Pick a place in advance

The number of choices you have for eating out can be overwhelming, especially in larger cities. Do your research by reading articles and blogs about top restaurants in your destination. Ask for recommendations in Facebook groups specifically for solo female travelers. Being prepared can go a long way to making you feel more comfortable.

Eat outdoors

There’s a huge difference between a casual beachfront cafe and a restaurant where the only thing more heavily starched than the tablecloth is the waiter’s shirt. On another night out in Barcelona, I opted for the former. Being able to simply swing in and take a seat in a place where servers are friendly and easygoing goes a long way to easing a solo diner’s anxieties, but outdoor seating is also a big help. Find a restaurant with a balcony, a patio, or even just an open table by a large window. A nice view and plenty of people watching will get you out of your head.

If even that feels daunting, that’s okay. Dip your toes in the water by going to a market, ordering from a street food stall, joining a food tour, or taking a cooking class.

Treat yourself

Nobody does the art of dining better than the French and going out in Paris gave me a major breakthrough. The culture in Paris is all about enjoying food and wine for your own simple pleasure. Dining alone isn’t a bad thing there — it’s an enjoyable way to treat yourself.

As a solo female traveler, I’ve come to feel like dining alone is kind of like dating yourself. You have all this time alone with your thoughts. When you travel alone and eat alone, you’re getting to know yourself better. You’re treating yourself to a good meal and nice glass of wine. You’re growing to genuinely like the person you are.

Throughout the rest of my RTW trip, choosing roughly one night a week to go out and treat myself to a nice solo dinner out was a highlight of arriving in a new place.

So go forth and eat by yourself. You’re not alone.

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25 Comments

  1. Well I am happy to hear that you conquered that eating alone bugger! It took me many more years to get over it but over it I am! People watching can entertain me all night!

  2. This post makes so much sense. As a person who recently started solo travel, it was always a nightmare to go out to dine alone. During my last trip to the US, I used to be so wary of dining alone that I used to skip meals. Even though I had friends in most places, there were some instances when I had to dine alone. But by the end of that trip, I finally enjoyed my ‘me’ time. After getting back to India, I try going once every few months for a nice quiet buffet breakfast. So by the time I went for a totally solo 6 week trip across Europe, I was ready. It is really nice to get that ‘me’ time. In India, you rarely get that opportunity.

    1. I know exactly what you mean! I definitely skipped meals when I started college and a few when I was in Barcelona too. I don’t blame you for feeling the pressure in the States – solo dining is NOT popular there at all. But in larger cities, it’s starting to become more widely accepted.

  3. Oh my, I can so relate to this post from middle school all the way through. I think I’ve only dined out one or twice in my life. And I haven’t traveled alone. I’m right with you on the perfectionism and anxiety. But these are really great tips. People watching is a great past time. Sometimes they’re fascinating.

    1. I’m an introvert, so I’ve always loved alone time. I think it’s being perceived as lonely that makes dining alone so hard sometimes. I hope you find your own comfort zone!

  4. I dined alone in Paris and it was great. Food , of course but people watching. No one bothered me. It is not for everyone. In the states, i just sit by the bar. Always meet people there. Glad overcame it 🙂

  5. I remember my first solo trip (for work) and dreading eating out alone. I would order room service to avoid it, but finally after getting tired of room service I ventured out. It was so awkward at first, but I got used to it. I think the thing that still kinda bugs me is when people ask, “You’re by yourself?”. I see businessmen alone all the time and I doubt they get asked that question every single time they eat out alone!

    1. Ugh, what a double standard! I’ve been lucky enough not to get direct questions like that yet, but I definitely get some odd looks and way worse service as a solo diner in Greece.

  6. I know the feeling all too well! I traveled a bit for work on solo trips and it’s always a funny position to be in, especially when in a completely foreign place. I’d have to agree that American culture kind of paints a solo diner as someone who is lonely, rather than someone who is simply enjoying a nice meal to themselves. I am guilty of this judgement as a restaurant hostess during my high school years, I always felt a smidgen of sympathy for those dining alone, but as I’ve grown up I’ve really come to admire those individuals and enjoy meals by myself as well. 🙂 Happy travels!

    1. I think we’re all guilty of some host/server judgments. 😉 While I was saving for my trip, I hosted at a tiny Italian restaurant where there was an even number of seats at the bar. Solo diners always threw our numbers off. I would definitely be a lot more sympathetic now!

  7. I remember when I went to a beach side restaurant in Bali by myself and felt really lonely. I never had this feeling before on my travels as I love travelling by myself. However something in that atmosphere made my feel really sad. Like I needed to share that experience with someone. Probably because it was a very romantic place.
    Thanks for your tips about dining alone. I’ll keep them in mind on my next solo trip,

    1. I know what you mean. There have definitely been places I wish I had my boyfriend with me. But for the most part, since adopting this ‘dating myself’ mindset, I find I really enjoy going to more romantic spots alone. Hope you enjoy your next solo trip as much!

  8. I used to have the same issue as well years ago – dining alone. It was scary and uncomfortable, but with time I managed to overcome this. In fact, I actually began to enjoy my own company. It gave me a chance to reflect over the day, gave me a chance to get to know myself better…and plus people watching can be fun! I agree with you – eating outdoors is much more fun than indoors…especially if there’s a view. Great post

    1. People watching is great – I just try to be discreet about it. Part of why I like dining al fresco more. It’s easier to disguise the staring. 😉

  9. I’ve only travelled solo a couple of times and for short trips but yah, it was hard in the beginning even though I learnt to dine alone since young – it’s just different when you are not at home. But I’ve met nice people, mainly fellow travelers, when I dine alone when I’m abroad and it’s great sometimes that we just start chatting 🙂

    1. Yes! Depending on where you are, you can absolutely meet people while you’re out. I’ve come to enjoy the solo time, though. If I’m craving company, I usually invite someone from my hostel or hop on Couchsurfing to find fellow travelers.

  10. This is a really useful post. I cant say I had the same problems when I was traveling Europe by myself, I think hunger overshadowed those anxieties for me. I would think twice about eating out alone in my home town though… haha

    1. I’ve certainly had my share of utilitarian meals! But usually when I’m that hungry, I’ll opt for takeaway rather than a sit-down meal, which is far less stressful.

  11. Glad to here that you were able to overcome! Those are some good tips on dinning for one. I would also say that bringing something to read actually helps a lot. I always find that when you are doing an activity while dining alone puts you in a different space

    1. Good point! I do pretty much always have my phone out. I’ll chat with my boyfriend or browse Facebook or choose some reading material. One of my most recent solo meals was over a transcript of the Trump-Clinton debate. Having something to keep your brain occupied is great.

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