I’ve traveled solo in Europe and Australia, but not much in my country. It’s easy to road trip with family and friends, but not as easy for the solo traveler. I spoke with Christine Amorose towards the end of her USA road trip about what it’s like to travel in the United States, the frustrations and difficulties. So I started to wonder: can you travel solo in the USA?
Hostels are few and far between in the United States, especially when compared with places like Australia, Southeast Asia and Europe. They’re mostly in big tourist stops like Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Las Vegas. The few hostels I’ve stayed at in the United States range from high-end to dumps, so you never know which you’re going to get. There are a few, however, I can recommend, like the USA Hostel Hollywood, Charleston’s Not So Hostel and Sweet Peas Hostel in Asheville. Check out Hostelworld for more hostel options in the USA.
Instead, there are more budget hotels, like the Motel 6, Holiday Inn and Courtyard Marriott. While the accommodations might be nicer in the budget hotels, they are not nearly as cheap and it’s more difficult to meet other people.
Camping is an option for solo travelers, especially with the dozens of campgrounds scattered throughout the country. It can be relatively cheap and you can meet other travelers at the shared kitchen and bathrooms.
Couchsurfing is one of the best tools for solo travelers in any country, especially the United States, because it offers free accommodation and introduces you to locals in every city. I couchsurfed in Los Angeles before I left for Australia and it was a positive experience for me. You can also go to the many CS meetups in cities throughout the country.
Apartment rentals also offer the “local” experience to solo travelers, but you also don’t have as much of a chance to meet fellow travelers.
In Australia, I found it very easy to travel alone on the Greyhound Australia bus network, which stopped in every city and small town all up the East Coast. And in Europe, I’ve used countless Eurail passes to get around alone. But America is the land of cars and that doesn’t come cheaply.
Buses like Greyhound and Megabus run through most of the United States on popular routes like the East and West coasts. Greyhound is somewhat sketchy in places, but Megabus is often broke college students, especially on the routes around New York.
Amtrak offers train fares at a higher price, around $70 one way for coach fares, but it is often a more scenic way to travel, even if it takes longer. Trains run from coast to coast and in a loop around the country.
Flights within the United States are costly, unless you fly with the few budget airlines, like AirTran, Southwest, JetBlue and Spirit. If money is no object, however, it can be the easiest way to get to your destination.
Car rental is popular for travelers in the United States because of the many movies and television shows featuring the Great American Road Trip. But car rentals are not cost- efficient for one person and laws in the country allow only those aged 26 and older to rent.
Rideshares are posted on bulletin boards at hostels and online on CouchSurfing forums. Many people need someone to split gas costs with and are looking for extra travel companions.
If planning your transportation through America seems daunting, a few tour operators have adventures throughout the country. Trek America is devoted to the USA, with tours through the national parks, up through New York and even a few down south. Contiki, the king of 18-35 travel, also has tours in the United States.
The United States is no more dangerous than any other country, but solo travelers, both male and female, should use common sense in bigger cities. Look out for pickpockets and if something feels off, it probably is.
Couchsurf where possible and stay in hostels where they are available. Take and rideshares between cities in order to meet as many people as possible. Stay alert in big cities and enjoy your visit to the United States of America!
If you’re planning your solo adventure through the United States, I highly recommend adding the some of my favorite cities to your itinerary: San Francisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, New Orleans, Atlanta, Charleston, Asheville, Washington DC, Boston, New York and Bar Harbor.