-This post was written by Sydney! Check out all of Sydney’s guest posts here! Or learn how to write for World Embark!
So, you’ve decided to take your first solo-trip…. How Exciting!!
Traveling alone, as a woman, is one of the best decisions I have ever made, and even if you just travel by yourself once (It’s probably unlikely), the takeaways not only about the destinations you visit but also about yourself will last a lifetime!
Now, sometimes other blog posts focused on traveling as a solo, female traveler can be a bit too rosy. So, in the 26 tips below, we are going to mention both the good and bad. The great parts and the tough parts.
I really hope this provides some inspiration, with a healthy dose of reality, too.
Table of Contents
Why Should You Travel Solo as a Woman?
Before we get into this, let’s talk about why you should travel solo.
When I first started traveling solo, I was a bit apprehensive. (It’s only healthy to be!)
I did not know what to expect, what situations I would be placed in, how to travel around different countries alone, or even if I would like to travel solo. (It’s okay if you don’t!!)
In the end, it was the best thing I could’ve done. As a twenty-year old, it boosted my confidence. I found myself in unfamiliar situations and often in places with different languages. I had studied languages for years, but I’d been hesitant to claim fluency until I traveled alone to places where English was not the primary language.
When I returned home, situations that would’ve previously intimidated me suddenly seemed much more manageable. I was still introverted and shy (Contrary to what society teaches us, these are not bad character traits), but after traveling, I was a LOT less reluctant to speak up when necessary, and as I started as a freelancer, go after opportunities I wanted.
Learn About Yourself
Beyond boosting your confidence, solo female travel also provides an opportunity for reflection. (This goes for the guys, too!)
In a constantly busy world, the notifications and social plans may never cease. But when you are traveling alone and don’t have any cell phone coverage, you will have almost the opposite. (There is nothing quite like an 8 hour bus ride with nothing to do…)
Additionally, the change of location also allows you to examine your situation without anybody else’s opinion. (Even if they are well-intentioned!)
Maybe you’ve come to the conclusion that you need to search for a remote job, and need to start spending some time searching for remote jobs for beginners!
Or maybe you’ll start hiking again on your trip, and realize you wish to continue after you return.
It may not be life altering, but I guarantee that you will have at least one realization from this trip.
Have the Trip You Want
Whenever you travel with others, there’s always the need for compromise. From location, to lodging, and even where/what time you want to eat, you’ll rarely agree 100% of the time.
That’s where the beauty of solo-travel enters into the equation.
Don’t care to see the must-sees of your destination? Skip them
Rather hike all day than shop in the town center? Cool, do it!
Taking a trip means never having to check with anyone else, and you’ll come home with fewer regrets. (And maybe a few more selfies instead of regular pictures.)
As a woman, you are going to have access to different parts of your destination that other travelers wouldn’t.
People might ask questions, as they are intrigued that you are traveling alone. (But you’re never alone, remember that.)
Locals might invite you along with experiences that they might not invite a large, overbearing group to. Also, traveling as a group or pair often implies that you already have somebody planning, and you don’t need somebody to show you around.
Another interesting part of traveling solo that has often to me is older women going into “mom mode.” They will pepper you with questions that sound similar to the ones out of your mother’s mouth.
There is typically great advice given, such as what areas to avoid, what to eat (and not to eat), which places are the best for solo females.
And sometimes, I have even been invited for coffee and team by the people I have met!
Alright, so let’s get into some planning tips.
Solo Female Planning Tips
Whenever you travel, the most obvious thing to do is plan your favorite activities. (And try a few new ones!)
But here are just a few more things to consider as you get ready!
Spending Extra Time on Research Before Travel
As with any trip, I highly recommend booking a bit in advance. (You’ll avoid the last-minute convenience fees!)
But before you actually book that hotel, I recommend looking into the neighborhoods a bit more, and determine if you would be comfortable alone. (Use Google Maps Street View.)
Maybe look at public transportation routes, and see how far you are going to have to walk. And just spend some extra time such as learning the language and researching the town via other blogs and tourism boards.
Consider the Source
Whenever you start researching, though, you will need to be a critical reader and listener.
Is the write, friend, or random travel influencer on the internet writing from the experience of a solo, female traveler?
If not, take that into account.
A solo male’s trips on how to stay safe, no matter the destination, will differ enormously. Similarly, a group of women traveling (a la Wifi Tribe) would have a slightly different take than someone visiting solo.
Learn a Few Words and Phrases in the Local Language
It’s always polite to learn “Please,” “Thank You,” and “Hello, how are you?” when traveling to a different country. However, as a woman traveling alone, I think that there are a few more phrases and words you should use to communicate and protect your safety.
There are two primary ones, Do you speak English? and Help, I do not know this person.”
Those 5 phrases are just the beginning of your emergency phrasebook, and feel free to add as little or as many as you want.
Solo Female Safety Trips When Traveling
I am not going to sugarcoat it, in general, the world is a safe place compared to the United States.
And I firmly believe that traveling solo will only reinforce this fact. But there a a few basic steps you can take to ensure peace of mind and avoid worst-case scenarios.
Leave Valuables At Home
Whether this means leaving your valuables back at home or at your accommodation in-country, I don’t recommend bringing anything with you that cannot be replaced!
This includes jewelry, expensive and designer brands, and extra technology that you don’t need.
(Fun Fact: For a lot of travel couples on Youtube, you will notice a lack of gold, platinum, and other metal wedding rings. Instead, it’s always the rubber or silicone rings.)
Lock Up Your Stuff
Traveling means that you will have a few extra items that may contain some personal, identifiable information. This may include passports, extra bank or credit cards as international travel can be quite expensive without the right cards, and some electronics.
However, you do not need to bring everything with you on a day-to-day basis.
At most, I recommend bringing some (not all) cash, one credit or debit card that allows you to withdraw cash, and a non-passport ID. For most people, an international driver’s license should work. The rest of your valuables should stay locked in a safe or in your locked suitcase.
Watch Substance Intake
Unfortunately, as a woman traveling alone, you’ll be a target for the worst types. So, while you don’t need to be on high alert, still take the precautions that you normally would to avoid a potentially dangerous situation.
Drink less than you would at home, don’t accept a beverage from anyone who doesn’t work at the actual restaurant, cafe, or bar. Also, avoid drugs and other substances, period.
First, the legality is going to vary from country to country. And it may even differ in special districts within the country.
Washington DC is a great example, as the District of Columbia has legalized the possession, but not the purchasing of cannabis. (However, you can be gifted it. It’s weird.) But if you are on federal ground, cannabis is illegal.
Now, depending on your destination, there is no guarantee that you will be warned instead of cited, and you have no idea where the stuff is coming from, no matter how nice the person offering seems.
Exercise Caution with New People
Everyone talks about solo travel, but here’s a little secret. You are going to be constantly meeting or surrounded by people.
This might look like new friends you met on the beach, at the hostel, or even on the street.
While you don’t need to be overly guarded, just approach these new friends like the ones you would at home. If some nice women you meet at the bar invite you to the beach the next day, and you don’t get serial killer vibes, you are probably fine.
If you decide to go on a few dates during your trip as a way to meet people as a solo traveler, be sensible. Meet in public, don’t have them pick you up, and if something feels off, remember you have the right to leave whenever.
Spend Extra Money when Necessary
Budgeting is important while on the road…. but sometimes it’s worth it to pay just a bit extra.
If it’s late at night, maybe opt for a taxi instead of the subway. Or if you are going for a gastronomy experience, perhaps pay more for accommodations in a centrally located neighborhood.
Just also don’t be afraid to pay more for experiences, too, that may make your life a bit easier.
Purchase Travel Insurance
Some credit cards offer secondary or primary travel insurance. But if your credit card does not, I highly recommend you check out our international health insurance guide.
If you have a random accident or fall ill, you will want to have peace of mind that your stay is covered. (And you won’t be leaving your vacation with some extra, unnecessary charges.)
A Note on Racism while Traveling
This is important, no matter if you are traveling solo, or in a group, but you are going to feel the most vulnerable when you are traveling alone. And if you are a female that is not 100% white, this is a reality you will need to prepare for.
I’m mixed, Asian/white. And until my mid-twenties, I assumed I passed as a white girl who tans well.
Then, I went to various countries and my vague background prompted questions like, “Where are you really from?” or “Where is your family from?”
After revealing I was from the US, people would promptly ask or tell me I must be Chinese, Mexican, etc. This surprised me during the first couple of times, as I felt like I stood out as an American in most settings.
But it varies on the time of year and how much my skin has tanned.
Sometimes, a ruder person sometimes might insist “no you must be from XYZ”. Or I’ll be greeted in a different language than English, I reveal I’m American and apologize that I cannot speak their language well, and even then sometimes they’ll insist I must be able to speak “X, Y, Z,” language.
Now, the US is the only place time I’ve ever experienced blatant racism to the point where I was uncomfortable. And my experiences abroad is quite tame compared to other travelers of various backgrounds.
But it’s just important to be patient and be able to laugh things off.
If you are very concerned, research the destinations and try and get a sense if they’re diverse or if you’ll be an anomaly.
(One time, an Irish girl once told me that I “had a funny face.” Granted, she was three and her mom apologized and said she hadn’t ever met anyone with Asian background LOL.)
Be prepared when it happens (although it won’t make it any easier), and always leave whenever things feel off.
Wildlife and Nature
This section is not intended for all solo female travelers, so if you tend to stick to cities instead of hiking through the Swiss Alps, feel free to skip ahead.
There are just a few, basic tips that will help you have a good experience traveling through outdoorsy areas.
Mind the Wildlife
Don’t be the person who feeds the bears. Keep your distance, educate yourself in the local rules, and lock-up your camp trash. (Please be the person who packs-out their trash.)
Also, if you consider yourself a nature newbie, maybe think about taking a safety course on first aid or read a few books before your trip.
Altitude, Climate, and Extreme Weather
If you are planning on visiting an extreme climate, you should know that the things you bring and clothing you wear, matter a lot.
Hydrate if you are in the desert, humid places, or going to someplace with extreme elevation. (Denver, Mexico City, or Lima.)
Think about which destination and which season you are visiting. The southern hemisphere has the opposite seasonal calendar, some places have a rainy-season with impromptu flash floods, etc. etc.
Frequent Popular Areas
This could be said for cities, nature, and rural areas, if it’s your first time traveling solo, maybe stick to the more popular areas.
Crowds, big or small, provide comfort. And I don’t particularly recommend setting off to a new country on an intense backpacking trip in the wilderness, alone.
Stick to the popular trails and campgrounds (there is typically a reason they are popular), and meet fellow travelers that are in the same general vicinity as you.
Birth Control and Health
At the end of the day, your health is integral for a successful trip. So, please protect it the best you can in the case of accidents or random illnesses.
Abroad, you will find healthcare is more accessible than you had hoped for, but I still have two suggestions.
Bring Extra Feminine Products
These, depending on where you visit, could be hard to come by or different from what you are used to. Always pack extra and research/take note of where they are sold after you have arrived.
Pack Extra Meds
If you take a regular prescription, make sure to bring enough to last the entire trip.
But if you are going full-nomadic, you are going to need to know if your medications are easily obtained abroad, if they go under a different name, or even if you will need to make trips back to the U.S. to obtain your medication. (As a foreigner who likely is not on the local health insurance plan, this may be common if the medication is expensive.)
For birth control, either bring enough, see if it is possible to purchase abroad as a foreigner, or opt for a long-term solution such as an IUD.
Food and Drink Tips
A food tour of Italy, the wine region of Georgia, etc. etc. etc.
One of the many reasons we travel is for the food. It’s so much fun to sample new dishes, eat our favorite ones from the countries where they originated, or even tour local grocery stores.
One of the best parts of a solo-trip is you don’t need to compromise on anyone’s food preferences!
However, there are just a few things you to keep in bind as a woman traveling who is eating alone.
Check ahead to see if the tap water is safe, and then double-check with your accommodation provider.
Maybe the water is fine, but the lodging accommodation has lead or old pipes that are older than the building.
If you are traveling extensively outdoors. Sometimes, even purchase some sort of filter (some exist within water bottles) such as the Steripen, iodine tablets, or the lifestraw.
Listen to Local Recommendations
It is common knowledge that locals give the best advice where to eat, as they live there! However, residents are keen harbors of knowledge at they can tell you if a dish is spicy, how to remedy that dish or alter it so it’s even better, who as the best pastries and coffee, and most importantly, directions on how to get there!
Eating aline can be awkward at first, but after years of practice, it’s one of life’s little joys!
Maybe bring a book or e-reader to keep you company, learn how to start a conversation with a random stranger, etc.
Some restaurants don’t love to hear “Table for one, please.” However, you can always ask to be seated at the bar (if they have one) and often avoid a wait.
Tips on How to Dress as a Solo Female Traveler
You are probably not going to need as much as you think, and we have a list of all the things solo-female travelers need here.
However, here’s just a few things to consider.
I am a big fan of hiking or comfortable walking boots as my go-to travel footwear. But if you prefer to not pack boots (or will be traveling in warmer seasons), comfortable sneakers are always good options.
Don’t be those women in Petra that I saw hiking in flip-flops. (Spoiler alert: The walk from the entrance to the Treasury is over a mile away!) Or even those people I saw in a snowstorm wearing Converse in Montreal.
Think about the terrain, the weather, and plan for the worst. And please, invest in snowproof/waterproof footwear if you are headed to someplace with a brutal winter.
A Good Purse
Nothing cute, high-quality, or even designer.
A good purse is one that is difficult to open, it isn’t a backpack, and something that has no brands or labels.
If you insist on a backpack, lock it with a luggage lock at the zippers. It will keep it from opening accidentally
Match the Locals
From your pre-trip research, you will come across ideas of how people dress in your destinations. And while you don’t need to purchase an entirely new wardrobe, it’s a good idea to draw less attention to yourself.
Clothing in More Conservative Countries
First of all, please be respectful.
The previously mentioned woman I saw hiking in Petra also had on short shorts and a tank top.
Perhaps they felt more comfortable, as they had male travel companions. But it was quite jarring for me and others in my party.
Now, each climate and country is going two vary.
If something goes awry, I will always pack a scarf or two for emergencies. Plus, it helps as extra protection from the sun in hot climates.
But there are two different rules that always help me.
- Cover-Up (Chest, shoulders, and from the knee up)
- Wear Loose Material
Finally, let’s get into my four final recommendations for solo female travelers.
Use Common Sense
You don’t need to be on guard to the point of not enjoying yourself. Just take everyday safety precautions that you would back home. You might up you alertness a bit, as you will be in an unfamiliar place.
However, don’t be petrified to go to a bar by yourself or take a hike if they are already things you regularly do.
Trust Your Gut
A cliche but true for a reason. If something feels off, and you cannot pinpoint why, don’t wait for a reason to make itself obvious.
Generally, these unexplainable feelings come up for a reason, and you can remove yourself from the situation before it gets too bad.
Travel fatigue is a real and normal phenomenon, and it will have a large impact on your experiences in a destination.
If you have a growing set of negative feelings towards a destination, take a few days to examine the potential reasons behind this.
Maybe you’ve gone non-stop for several weeks between remote work and traveling to different sites and you are exhausted.
If that’s the case, a stay-cation might be in order. (Or maybe even a vacation at home!)
And if that doesn’t solve it, just know that not every day will be the “best ever!” and you may not love every destination you visit. (Contrary to what a lot of travel writing implies)
The entire reason you are traveling solo is to do whatever you want, whenever you want, and without factoring anyone else’s wishes.
Pack appropriately, do your research, exercise caution, but not to the point that traveling is not fun!
After you have gone on a couple of trips, the easier it will be, and the longer you will stay out there on the road. But hopefully these twenty-six tips make your first solo journey awesome!
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-This post was written by Sydney! Check out all of Sydney’s guest posts here! Or learn how to write for World Embark! Europe is a dream
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