BY Justin Ocean
March 10 2011 5:00 AM ET
Arranging travel with even the most well-meaning partner, friends, or family can be phenomenal — or a chore. Sometimes you just have to strike out on your own.
In many cities double-occupancy rooms cost nearly as much as single-occupancy, so consider a locale (China, Thailand, Cambodia, much of South America) where cheap lodging is plentiful. Or look for alternative options like hostels, or check out EBAB.de (“Enjoy Bed and Breakfast”), a German service that matches gay travelers with hosts who rent out rooms in their homes at half (or less) than the cost of a hotel. Your host can give you tips on sites to see, bars and clubs, and suggestions on how to meet locals, in a way a hotel concierge might not be able to.
Taking a free or guided tour, asking someone to take your photo, or carrying a lighter — even if you don’t smoke — can all be your entrée into a conversation with a budding acquaintance. Regional social networks often list LGBT calendars of parties and events. And there’s one signal that’s universally recognized — buying a soon-to-be friend a drink can launch a great conversation.
Sampling from street food carts or stand-up cafés can be cheaper than dining at white-tablecloth eateries, and it frees your time for other adventures. When you do need to rest your feet in a diner or brasserie, sit at the bar. You’re more likely to have a barkeep or other patrons to talk with. Dine early or late in busy restaurants when you’re less likely to wait for a seat than at peak hours.
Make sure people at home know where you’re headed, and check in periodically, especially if rain in Paris or migrating wildebeest in South Africa changes your plans. Be cautious about telling strangers you’re traveling alone. Ask your host or hotel whether it’s safe to go on foot or if you should hire a taxi to get around town: Neighborhoods can change drastically when night falls. Solo travel means stepping outside your comfort zone, but you should never abandon your instincts.