Absolutely. Embarking on a solo journey can be daunting, and your concerns are entirely valid. Travelling alone, especially as a woman, does come with its risks. There’s no denying it’s an adventure.
However, solo travel for women can be safe and enjoyable—I’m living proof of that. Yes, risks and dangers exist, just as they do in your hometown. Yet, like anything in life, you can take necessary precautions before stepping into potentially risky situations. There are numerous ways to prepare yourself before embarking on your first solo trip.
Research Before Departure
First and foremost, conduct thorough research. Before visiting a country, gather all the information available. Read personal stories and experiences on blogs, ask questions in popular forums and Facebook travel groups. As a solo female traveler, it’s beneficial to seek advice from other women who have traveled alone in that country.
Understand crucial information about the weather, natural disasters, crime-prone areas, the current political climate, cultural norms, dress codes, scams, and other vital details about the country you’re about to visit. Comprehend that life may be vastly different and may even feel like a different world from your own.
Discard any fearful assumptions about a place (or advice from those who haven’t been there) and trust the facts.
Take cautious steps…
If you’re new to solo travel, it’s wise to start small and gradually acclimate to this style of exploration. For instance, before deciding on solo international travel, explore nearby cities and states. I, too, had previously left my country in a group setting (with EF College Break and Study Abroad programs) before deciding on solo international travel, so I was familiar with not having a culture shock.
Choose countries that are not too far from home, with well-established tourism infrastructure, or where the majority of people speak your language.
Starting small will help alleviate anxiety, ensuring a more enjoyable time and wiser decision-making.
Be Aware of Your Surroundings
I’ve encountered many people who admit they don’t pay attention to those around them when walking. Especially when traveling alone, consider changing this habit. Be observant of people near and far. This demonstrates to potential predators that you’re alert and helps you detect any potential threats.
Is someone walking several blocks behind you? Enter a store and see if they continue.
Is someone walking unusually close or matching your pace?
Does someone seem to be watching you?
Did a car just pull up beside you and slow down?
You should be able to notice all these things. If you enjoy walking with headphones, leave one ear unplugged to hear any footsteps or sudden noises.
When walking, I’m fully aware of what’s happening around me. I pay attention to vehicles passing by or anyone changing speed around me. I listen to footsteps behind me, watch shadows. If I’m walking on a quiet street and see a man about to walk past me, I might even cross the road to the other side to ensure safety. You never know. Looking a bit paranoid is better than facing harassment, robbery, or worse. Better to appear a bit paranoid than be harassed, robbed, or worse.
Print/Store Copies of Your Passport
Carry a printed copy of your passport in case it’s lost or stolen.
Store electronic copies on Google Drive or Dropbox for access from any computer in case these copies are lost or stolen.
Email copies to your parents/family so they can send you a copy if all else fails.
Avoid Carrying Your Passport
Carrying your passport on you may seem smart, but what if you get robbed or pickpocketed?
Lock your most essential travel documents (ahem… your passport) in a secure yet accessible place and carry them only when necessary. Invest in a TSA-approved lock to ensure the safety of your valuables when leaving.
No need to take it to the beach or the nightclub at night!
Sometimes, when shops or rental companies (bikes, cars, etc.) need to verify your identity and purchase, I only need to show them a copy stored on my phone.
Use Your Phone
Not just for Instagram or Facebook, but for safety. If you know you’re not great with directions, using Google Maps can provide you with a sense of security. Walking and being lost are two different things. Looking lost makes you a target. Here are some ways to use your phone for safety:
Maps: Download offline maps for the city you’re visiting to use without data/Wi-Fi.
Translation Apps: At some point, understanding what others are saying to you becomes a safety issue.
Drop a Pin: I usually drop a pin to let family or friends know where I am when visiting a new place. This way, they know my location in case of an emergency.
Ensure you purchase a portable charger to keep your phone charged for times when you get lost or need to contact someone urgently.
Get an International Phone Plan
Knowing you can call or text family or friends anytime can provide peace of mind. Luckily, I have T-Mobile, so international texts and data are free. If you don’t have T-Mobile, it might be worth purchasing an international plan, a data hotspot, or a SIM card upon arriving in the city.
Be Smart on Social Media
We all love showcasing on Instagram, but extra caution is necessary when traveling alone.
Don’t Post in Real-Time: Wait a while before posting photos after leaving a location or attraction.
Meet Social Media Connections Safely: If meeting someone from social media (Instagram, Facebook groups, Tinder), make sure to meet in public places.
Connect with Other Women
Seeing women caring for each other worldwide is genuinely heartwarming. If you’re wary of trusting unfamiliar men, it’s best to seek help from women when needed.
Stay in All-Female Dorms: Choose hostels with all-female dorms.
Use Female-Only Train Cars: In countries like Morocco, sleep in female-only train cars or sit in areas close to women on public transportation.
Need Directions? Have Questions? Ask Other Women.
Join dedicated Facebook groups that provide support for female travelers so you can seek help from the community when needed, such as Solo Female Traveler Network, Girls Love Travel, and Black Travel Movement.
Many other solo female travelers are willing to help because we understand what it feels like. I always make an effort to connect with other solo female travelers because I get it.
Never book a place without reviews. Whether staying in someone’s home (couchsurfing), hostels, Airbnb, or hotels, be sure to read reviews. Look for reviews regarding safety, especially those written by women.
Don’t Be Too Stingy
Saving money is always great, but not at the expense of your safety. Walking around during the day might be safe, but taking a taxi at night might be more conducive to safety.
If you genuinely feel unsafe, especially in someone’s home, spending a little more to stay in a safer place is entirely worth it for your safety.
Be Cautious at Night
The likelihood of danger increases at night when there are fewer people around.
Arrive/land in a city during the daytime: This allows you to familiarize yourself with the surroundings.
Avoid walking around at night: Opt for public transportation or a taxi.
Leave all valuables in the hotel: If going out at night, only carry the necessary cash.
If you want to go out at night, try to go in a group: Join bar crawls, go to the hostel bar, participate in daytime tours to avoid going out alone at night.
Know Your Limits
We all want to push boundaries, step out of our comfort zones, but sometimes our bodies can only go so far. Here are things you shouldn’t do while traveling alone:
Drink to the point of instability: Have fun, but ensure you’re always aware of your surroundings.
Overexert yourself and forget to nourish your body with food and water properly.
Venture into deep waters if you’re not a strong swimmer: I don’t mind admitting that I’ve requested a life jacket in certain situations. I know how to swim, but for longer swims, I’m not a strong swimmer, so hey… safety first!
Eat gluten-containing foods if you have celiac disease (or if you’re lactose intolerant): Research places that accommodate your diet or carry necessary medications in some countries.
Even if you’re showing signs of altitude sickness, continue hiking. Take a break if needed or turn back.
We often get excited while traveling, frequently wanting to keep moving. However, even when having a blast, we need to rest. I know several people who ended up in the hospital or fainted due to overexertion during travel. Get the sleep you need!
Vitamin C tablets can boost your immune system during travel, and electrolyte packs can work wonders when you’re dehydrated, hungover, food-poisoned, or experiencing altitude sickness.
Remember, the key to a successful solo journey lies in preparation, awareness, and trusting your instincts. While challenges may arise, the rewards of discovering the world on your own terms are immeasurable. Stay safe, be smart, and enjoy the incredible journey that solo travel brings!