Leaving home and going off to see the world can be a scary prospect for any of us, but it takes even more guts to go it alone. Travelling alone has its own set of challenges and you’ll need to be extra vigilant to stay safe – and sadly that’s doubly true for women. It might require toughening up and building your instincts, but knowing you can look after and fend for yourself will give you the confidence to keep going!
These are our 20 top safety tips for solo female travelers.
1. Research before you go
First and foremost, do your research. Learn everything you can about a country before visiting. Read personal stories on blogs, ask questions on popular forums and Facebook travel groups. As a solo female traveler, it's best to ask other solo female travelers about their experience visiting a country. Read up on weather, natural disasters, bad areas, current political climate, cultural norms and dress, and other relevant topics to know about before visiting a new country. Understand that life may be very different to your home country and may even feel like another world rather than just another country.
2. Know yourself
We cannot stress enough the importance of knowing yourself when you travel. Do you tend to be late? Are you forgetful? Are you easily trusting of others? Knowing the answers to these questions may mean the difference between the perfect Instagram vacation and a hellish trip filled with disappointment or worse. Self-reflection is not easy, often it takes years to hone. When venturing out by yourself as a woman, make sure you take some time to consider your personal strengths and weaknesses. This will help you know what to avoid and when to exercise extra caution.
3. Trust your instinct
Your instinct is your biggest asset when you travel. Does a situation feel unsafe? Walk away. Does the stranger you’re talking to seem too pushy? Just walk away. Say that you’ve got stuff to do – or even better, say that your friends or husband is waiting for you or meeting you. You know when you don’t feel safe and secure, you know when you’re out of your depth or feeling vulnerable. The world is vast and complex places learn to trust your instincts!
4. Book things in advance
Always be organized, know where you are and where you’re heading. Get all your flights, hotels, and tours booked ahead of time so you always know what’s happening next and when it’s happening. The more organised you are, the less lost and vulnerable you’ll feel. You have a plan, and you’re confident in that plan!
5. Pay a bit more for accommodation
Three things to look for in accommodation when you want to travel safe are:
- A central location;
- A well-lit area of town;
- A front desk that operates 24/7.
If you have to pay a little more to get these things, so be it. Well-lit central locations are the safest places to stay when you travel alone, and no matter when you return to your hotel, the streets are lit, there are people around, and the front desk has people there who can help you.
OW-Travel Tip: You can use Google Maps to have a look at the streets in and around the hotel to see what the area is really like. If you need to catch a bus or subway to the hotel you can even rehearse the route using Google Maps.
6. Plan transportation and navigation
When you’re on your own, make sure you know how to navigate your surroundings. This means understanding how public transportation works and how to get to and from major points of interest. Whenever possible, arrange to arrive in new places during daylight hours. If this isn’t possible, organize transportation to your hotel or destination prior to arriving. If you need to take a taxi, have your destination address clearly printed and easily accessible. Ask your hotel or host how to write the address following local customs and what the approximate fare should be from your point of arrival. Finally, download an offline map in case you don’t have access to the internet or a cellular network.
OW-Travel Tip: In some countries taxi drivers are illiterate so if the driver does not understand the address you have written down this might be why.
7. Avoid walking alone at night
Make a schedule, and make sure that you’re always travelling in daylight. Daylight means safety, and also there are people around to help if you get lost. Travel safe by keeping to the daylight. Enjoy a dinner and a drink out, but head back to your hotel when the sun sets. Get all your exploring done in the daytime.
OW-Travel Tip: If the sunset is relatively early it might be a good idea to get up earlier with the sunrise to have more daylight hours to visit your destination.
8. Know your limits
We all want to push the limits and step outside of our comfort zone during our travels, but sometimes our bodies can only go so far.
Here’s what NOT to do when you’re traveling solo:
- Drinking until you can’t stand. Have fun, but make sure you are always aware of what’s happening around you.
- Never accept food and drink from strangers, especially in a bar
- In a bar always hold onto your drink and never give it to someone to look after while you go to the toilet
- Doing so much that you forget to properly nourish your body with food and water.
- Remember to stay hydrated. The place you are visiting might be much hotter than what you are used to so you have to drink much more than usual. Not going to the bathroom is a sure sign that you need to drink more and having headaches is another sign of dehydration
- Don’t go waving your money around as what might seem
- Going into deep bodies of water if you aren’t a great swimmer.
- Continuing to hike higher even though you experience the signs of altitude sickness. Take a break and turn around if you need to.
- Going until you can’t go anymore. You need rest though, even when you're having a blast. Travelers often end up in hospital or pass out from sheer exhaustion during their travels. Get the sleep you need!
9. Keep emergency numbers close
When you get to your hotel, ask them for a business card first, before striking up a friendly conversation. Also make sure to note down the local emergency numbers for the police and ambulance services, jot them down on some paper or in your phone, and then you always have someone you can call.
10. Let someone know your travel plans
This could be a friend or a family member. Just make sure to note down your itinerary, your hotel addresses, and a phone number, and give them to someone you can turn to in an emergency – someone who knows where you are at all times. This is essential when it comes to solo female travel safety.
11. Dress conservatively
We all know that the responsibility is on men to be better, but when it comes to your own safety, as well as being respectful of other cultures and customs. Dressing conservatively can go a long way. Consider where you are and how the women there typically dress. You don’t have to disguise yourself, but just try to match their way of dressing. Cover your legs and your shoulders if it’s the done thing. It helps to get some respect from the locals, and more respect means less staring or harassment. Being treated with kindness by the local people goes a long way when it comes to solo female travel safety.
12. Fake it till you make it
You may feel scared on your solo trip, but you should try your best to carry yourself with confidence. If you look lost, disheveled, confused, or scared, you become an easy target for predators. Walk with intent and purpose, looking people directly in the eyes and being fully aware of your surroundings. Bring sunglasses if that helps!
13. Talk to local people
If you’re heading somewhere you don’t speak the language, make a point to learn a few basic phrases. You’d be surprised how happy people are to see you trying to meet them halfway. Strike up conversations with other women. In most instances they’ll be receptive to your inquiries and eager to help you navigate the local environment. Women know the issues facing women, so don’t pass up an opportunity to talk to and learn from those best positioned to understand what you’re up .
14. Make friends
We confess this one is hard for us. Meeting people along the way can enhance your overall travel experience and keep you safe. Hostels and guest houses are great places to find fellow travelers. You might try and link up with a buddy when you’re out exploring major attractions. These encounters don’t have to extend longer than you want them to, but you’ll appreciate the peace of mind knowing other people are around.
15. Use your phone
Not for Instagram or Facebook, but simply for safety purposes. If you know that you are no good with directions, it may bring a sense of comfort and safety for you to use Google Maps. Wandering and being lost are two completely different things, looking lost will make you a target.
Here are some ways you can use your phone for safety purposes:
- Maps - You can download the offline version of maps for whatever city you’re visiting to use without data/Wi-Fi.
- Translation App - At one point or another, understanding what people are saying to you becomes a safety concern.
- Drop A Pin – you can drop a pin for your location to family or friends when you visit a new place, so that they can know exactly where you are during an emergency.
16. Pack feminine hygiene products
Traveling as a woman is hard enough as it is. The last thing you want is to have to use unfamiliar sanitary products when your preferred brands aren’t available. Even when you’re planning travel to developed areas, you can’t count on finding what you need. You know your body best and you know what works for you, do yourself a favor and bring a supply in case you need it in a pinch.
17. Invest in good travel gear
Gear is important and can make all the difference if things get dicey. We all know women’s clothes have shallower pockets making it harder to safely carry your items. Get yourself a RFID Card protector sleeves, this is a card protection against electronic data theft by thieves who skim card and steal personal financial information. Make sure your luggage has a TSA-Approved lock. If you’re staying in a hostel, have a lock for the storage compartment in case one isn’t provided. Of course nothing is foolproof; but good gear helps!
18. Get travel insurance
It’s so tempting to skip out on the extra cost of travel insurance when a trip is already expensive. We're telling you though; it could save you thousands in the long run on potential health risks, emergencies, theft, and more.
19. Check in with family
If you’re traveling to remote destinations or anywhere the least bit concerning, establish a designated person with whom you check in regularly. This can be as simple as making a point to contact a family member at least once in some predetermined timeframe. Most of us are doing this anyway, so go the extra step and ensure your family will reach out to you if you happen to forget and let an interval slip. This small act can help keep you safe while you’re traveling solo.
20. Have fun!
At the end of the day, travel should be enjoyable. Don’t overburden yourself with anxiety or worries. If you spent all day reading about bad travel experiences, you’d never leave your house. Take it from us, the world is generally a fun and safe place. If you use good judgment and follow the tips we’ve outlined here, you will do just fine. Being a woman is hard, we all know that. Don’t make things harder on yourself by internalizing all the reasons you can’t or shouldn’t travel by yourself. Grab your gear and head out the door! Conquer it like the confident, self-assured woman you are!