Travelling solo as a woman is one of the most exciting and empowering things you can do. It brings a whole new perspective to the travelling experience. The benefits are varied and extensive – from making life-long friends to building confidence and, ultimately, having the time of your life.
But one of the biggest barriers to many women considering solo travel is the safety factor. It’s completely understandable and it’s not helped by the countless online articles warning of all the dangers. There will always be a risk associated with travel and adventure – whether you’re travelling in a group, with a partner, or by yourself. It’s part of the fun and excitement!
I am really passionate about encouraging women to set off on their own solo adventures. There’s too much unnecessary scaremongering out there. I’m not suggesting you should be complacent or ignorant of the dangers. It’s a case of being armed with the right knowledge, being prepared, and using a bit of common sense.
In this post, I share my top tips for how to travel solo as a woman. From planning and packing to safety and socialising, I want you to feel confident that you’ve got this. Every woman should be able to enjoy the benefits of solo travel – and here’s where to start:
1. Put thought into choosing your destination
The first step in any adventure is choosing your destination. While you may have an urge to go somewhere on a whim, it’s best to be a little more considered when travelling solo.
This doesn’t mean you should only opt for countries which are generally deemed ‘safer’ for solo female travellers. But it does mean you should consider what you want to achieve from your travels and the type of adventures you want to enjoy. Are you looking for beaches and partying or culturally rich travels? Are you looking for a more relaxing trip or an adrenaline-fuelled one?
Think about the time of year you’re travelling, as this will affect your plans. You’ll of course need to factor in costs too. Safety should always be a consideration, so make sure you feel comfortable with your chosen destination.
2. Start with a location that isn’t too overwhelming
If it’s your first time travelling solo then choose a destination that’s closer to home and not as much of a culture shock. For example, for someone who lives in the UK, I’d suggest a short solo trip to a familiar European country, rather than a month long trip to India.
Get a feel for solo female travel in a place that isn’t too overwhelming. It will give you the confidence to book more adventurous solo trips in the future.
3. Research your destination
Whether travelling solo or not, researching your destination prior to travelling is always helpful. But it’s particularly important if you’re travelling alone, as you can be more prepared. Read travel blogs and watch YouTube videos. Buy a travel guide or reach out to friends and family who have visited the place you’re going.
If you arrive prepared then you will feel more confident and comfortable. You can be armed with any handy hacks and tips you’ve picked up in your research – from public transport and money tips to safety advice and restaurant recommendations.
4. Plan the first couple of nights
Arriving somewhere new on your own is exciting but daunting. That’s why it’s a good idea to book somewhere to stay for at least your first couple of nights. This will save you any immediate planning headaches and a considerable amount of stress.
5. But leave the rest open
Planning ahead certainly has its advantages. But it doesn’t leave room for spontaneity, new friends, and just going with the flow. I struggle with this one as I feel a lot less stressed when I have a clear plan. I’m slowly learning though that leaving plans open when travelling can be a lot more exciting and fulfilling.
6. Pack light
A good piece of advice for any traveller, but especially important if you’re going solo. Lugging around heavy baggage is going to get exhausting pretty quickly. Pack smart so that you have everything you need without unneeded excess. It will make your life a whole lot easier when travelling from place to place.
7. Plan to arrive during the daytime
Arriving in an unfamiliar place at night can leave you feeling a little on edge. Plan ahead to ensure you arrive at each new location during daylight hours, where possible. It will give you a chance to scope out the area and familiarise yourself with the location.
8. Make friends with other female travellers
Travelling solo doesn’t mean being alone. You’ll be amazed at the amount of solo female travellers you will encounter on your adventures. It’s the perfect opportunity to connect with like-minded people and make new friends.
This is hands-down my favourite part of solo travel. Travelling in a group or with a partner or friend often means you don’t take the time to chat with others. When you’re travelling solo, it’s so easy to make new friends and you all have a common interest.
9. But also chat to the locals
Don’t just limit yourself to forming connections with fellow travellers and tourists. Get to know the locals where you can – it will enrich your experience of a place.
This is one of the beautiful advantages of being a solo female traveller. We’re not quite as ‘intimidating’ to the local women and children. So approaching the locals is often more accessible and welcomed.
10. Take a step back from technology
Travelling solo is all about immersing yourself in the adventure. Technology is great for connecting us to other people and helping us feel safer. But it can also distract from the wonderful experiences of travel. Try to be more present and enjoy the moment away from a screen.
11. Check accommodation before staying
We all need a good night’s sleep – and even more so when we’re travelling. You’re bound to sleep better if you feel comfortable and safe in your room.
Do your research before booking a place to stay. Check the location, ask people who are familiar with the area, read reviews, and look at Google street view. Get a feel for the location and make sure you’re happy with what you find.
12. Don’t be afraid to step out your comfort zone
I get frustrated when I see a lot of tips for solo female travellers which focus purely on staying safe. Of course safety is important. It’s incredibly important. But sometimes it leaves women cautious to do the things they want to do.
So, please, don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. Afterall, that’s what travel is all about. You just need to exercise due diligence, use your common sense, and don’t ignore gut feelings.
13. Be kind and considerate – but also be rude if you need to
Most of the time, locals will welcome you with open arms when you travel. It’s nice to return their kindness with your own kindness. Be considerate and respectful of other cultures. Be nice to the locals and any staff. But you can also be rude if you need to.
Being a Brit, we’re all too familiar with being a bit too polite for our own good. If someone is harassing you, or won’t take no for an answer – give them a no for an answer. Never do something you don’t want to because you’re scared of offending someone. Be courteous but if you have to be brusque and abrupt with someone, then do.
14. Try to blend in
When you’re travelling solo, it’s usually best to avoid drawing unnecessary attention to yourself. Try to blend in when you travel and be aware of the culture. If it’s a place where women have to dress conservatively then you should too. You may not agree with it but you’re the visitor and you shouldn’t go offending anyone.
15. Pack a sarong
Sarongs have impressive versatility. They can be particularly helpful in places where you may need to cover your shoulders or your knees. Aside from a useful cover-up at temples and in other scenarios, they can double up as beach towels, beach dresses, blankets, or bags!
16. Don’t pack expensive jewellery
There are so many reasons not to bring expensive jewellery when you travel. First up, it’s one less thing to worry about. You risk making yourself a target for robbery if you bring pricey jewellery with you. And you also risk damaging or losing it on your adventures. So it’s best left at home.
17. Be confident, even if you don’t feel it
Looking confused or lost could attract the wrong kind of attention. Being confident will help you navigate your travels much easier. And if you don’t feel confident then fake it till you make it! Just remember that confidence doesn’t mean arrogance or complacence. It’s about looking like you know what you’re doing, even if you’re blagging it every step of the way.
18. Avoid getting blind drunk
It does kill me a bit to write this tip. Because I hate telling women that they shouldn’t drink too much to avoid putting themselves ‘at risk’. I hate it. But, unfortunately, it really is a bad idea to get blind drunk when travelling solo.
There’s no getting round the fact that it makes you more vulnerable and less in control of a situation. By all means enjoy some drinks and have fun. Just try not to let it go too far.
19. Make a note of emergency numbers
This is good practice for any traveller, solo or not. Always make a list of any key emergency numbers – from medical emergencies to insurance. If you’re using a phone specifically for travelling, save them in there so they are easily accessible.
Also make sure you write them down somewhere in case your phone goes on its own little adventure. You’ll probably never need to use them, but better to be prepared.
20. Reassure family members
Travelling solo can be incredibly stressful for your friends and family. I think this is especially true for older generations, who are less likely to have experienced solo female travel. If they are worriers by nature then they will latch on to the negatives and potential risks.
First up, don’t let them put a downer on your adventure. But do listen and try to understand their concerns. Try showing them blogs or vlogs of the places you’re travelling to which have been created by people who look like you. Aim to get them onboard with your excitement and reassure them that you are smart, sensible, and well-prepared.
Be sure to keep them in the loop while you’re travelling too. And if you’re going to a place where you may not have access to the internet for a few days then give them a heads up. Dropping off the face of the planet without warning will not be helpful for their nerves!
21. Be safety conscious, but don’t be scaremongered
There is a lot of advice out there for solo female travellers. Too much of it is focused on what you shouldn’t do. Don’t walk alone, don’t go out at night, don’t be too friendly, don’t be too rude, don’t drink, don’t eat, don’t breathe. It’s exhausting and completely unnecessary.
Add to that the fact that many big media outlets love a good click-bait title. They love to shine a light on the absolute worst case scenarios, or only the bad parts of travelling solo. It’s essential to be safety conscious when travelling solo as a woman. But there is no need to be scaremongered.
I really believe this is what stops most women from travelling solo – the idea that it’s fundamentally dangerous. There are always risks associated with travelling and that’s part of the fun. Do your research, be prepared, and be sensible. But don’t be scared into staying at home. There’s just no need.
22. Pack a power bank
Your phone can feel like a bit of a life line when you’re travelling solo. It’s your connection to your family and friends. It’s a means of getting help should you need it. It helps you navigate, book taxis, get travel inspiration, and take photos.
So you really don’t want it to be running out of battery when you need it most. Pack a power bank or two so that you always have some back-up power.
23. Don’t overshare
When travelling solo, be careful not to overshare with people you’ve just met. If someone asks where you’re staying, don’t give them an exact hotel. Be vague and say something like, ‘I’m staying in a hotel in [region]’. Even if you trust the person you’re talking to, it’s not worth the wrong person overhearing.
The vast majority of people asking will be genuinely curious and only have good intentions. But it’s good practice to avoid oversharing. It’s the same with social media. Don’t tag yourself at a location until after you’ve left.
24. Make connections with those around you
An extension to my earlier tip of making friends wherever you go. Aside from making friends, get acquainted with those around you – for example, the staff at the accommodation you’re staying at or in the local cafes and restaurants.
If you have a network of people looking out for you then you’ll feel a lot safer. So despite the fact that you’re travelling solo, you’ll never feel alone.
25. Keep your possessions safe and secure
Again, this is a universal travel tip. Never get complacent with your belongings. Keep your possessions safe and secure at all times. If you’re out and about, wear a bum bag so that your valuables are not easily accessible to pickpockets.
I’d also recommend getting a money belt – a small pouch that you wear as a belt under your clothing. It’s useful for storing cash, back-up cards or your passport.
26. Join Facebook groups for solo female travellers
There are so many amazing communities of solo female travellers out there. It is so rewarding and inspiring to connect with like-minded people. Join Facebook groups like Girls Love Travel and engage with these networks of bad-ass women. It’s reassuring to have a group of people you can rely on for genuine advice and support. You may even make some life-long friends.