Going Solo in Oz

A lot of folks ask me about traveling solo, especially in Australia–which amuses me only because Australia must be the easiest place on earth to travel solo, at least if you speak English. People are friendly and helpful. You don’t have a lot of political unrest. Crime is low. Food is safe (and, in many instances, spectacular). Unlike the US, Bed & Breakfast places are usually a bargain, and there are myriad accommodations at even lower prices, from backpacker cabins to low-cost hotels. Plus Aussies are keen on seeing their own country, so there are loads of great tours that will carry you into even the remotest parts of the continent–and supply the tent, sleeping bag, and other gear needed for such adventures.

I’ve traveled alone lots of other places, and while large urban settings are pretty easy to negotiate while traveling solo, from London to Istanbul to Beijing to Tokyo, I haven’t been anywhere else where the countryside is so easily accessed, even by those on their own. Driving on the left is a bit of a challenge for an American, but the roads are generally good, and I’ve found accommodation ranging from pleasant to quite wonderful even in the smallest of towns. And because there are a lot of solo travelers, you can often find places in popular destinations that have rooms for singles.

Granted, I have a rule about going into trackless wilderness–don’t do it without a guide–but in Australia, guides into the trackless wilderness areas of the continent are multitudinous and generally reasonable priced. Also, as noted above, they supply the gear, so you don’t have to worry about overweight luggage on the flight over.

If you don’t want to drive, Greyhound and Ansett buses cover the country well, plus there are trains and airplanes, of course. (And if you’re coming from the US, you can get discount passes for just about all of these.) Public transportation is good in the cities–and I actually prefer public transportation when I’m in crowded urban areas.

The friendliness of the locals is not to be underestimated as a factor in happy solo travel. I travel alone because I don’t always have anyone to travel with, not because I’m antisocial, so I’m delighted that, in Australia, people will sometimes invite you to join them when they see you’re on your own. In restaurants, some will just come over to your table and ask how you are and what you’ve been up to, and depending on the level of interest you express, will pull up a chair and chat for a while. This is usually other solo travelers, but is also sometimes someone who works at the restaurant. I’ve stayed at B&Bs where, because I was the only guest, they invited me into the kitchen with the family, rather than leaving me alone in the dining room.

So of all the places I’ve been in the world, I’d say Australia is probably most ideally suited for solo travelers. It’s so open and welcoming, but it’s also easy to get around. Hope this removes your last excuse for not going!

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