Travelling solo is one of the most exciting, mind-expanding things you can do – so why don’t more women try it? Often, fear holds you back: the worry of being lonely, or isolated, or being vulnerable to scams and attackers.
Remember: things going wrong is part of travelling – but a much bigger part of it is seeing the world and having a great time! If you’re undecided, we hope these tips for solo women travellers will change your attitude from “can’t deal with it,” to “can too.”
1. Plan your arrival
Always arrive at a destination prepared. You should know where you’re going as soon as you get off your plane/boat/coach, with a hotel or hostel already booked and a map for how to get there in your back pocket.
Also note down the bus numbers or metro stations and lines you need to use to get from A to B. If this seems a bit dull, ask yourself who’s more vulnerable: the purposeful woman striding out of Departures or the one meandering round the taxi rank in bleary-eyed confusion?
2. Pack like a girl scout
Be prepared, always. You should take:
- A ‘just-in-case’ pack with numbers for local police and medical services, your travel insurance details and contact numbers for your folks back home (separate from being saved in your phone).
- Multiple purses, so you can store money in different places when you’re out. If worse comes to worse and you get robbed, you’ll still have a back-up fund in your sock.
- A capsule wardrobe that includes a long-sleeved top, a light scarf and trousers or a long skirt. This means you can cover up – including your head – where local dress requires it. Dressing more conservatively when you’re on your own is also a quick-fix for killing unwanted attention and helping you to blend in.
And leave behind:
- Anything you’d be sorry to lose. Kindles, iPads, smartphones, digital SLRs, jewellery, designer bags and sunglasses and wads of cash can all stay at home. You won’t be able to totally blend in everywhere you go, and these items make you a more attractive target.
3. Do your homework
Is there an official, licenced cab system? How do you say ‘please,’ ‘thank you,’ and ‘hello,’ if not in English? Are there social or religious rules for dress and behaviour you should bear in mind? Any notorious neighbourhoods you should avoid? Arm yourself with knowledge and you’ll navigate the streets feeling confidant and capable.
4. Scan like the Terminator
With every new environment and situation, turn your internal scanner on like Arnie in the Terminator. Assess threatening situations and eliminate them. Leaving a bar after dark? Take the well-lit, crowded route back to your hostel. Notice a shifty-looking group? Trust your internal scanner flashing red and move away from them.
This doesn’t mean you can’t relax and enjoy yourself, it just means staying more alert and aware than you probably would in your hometown. Which brings us to…
5. Talk to strangers, smile and meet new people
When you’re on the road, the cheesy saying “a stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet,” never feels truer. Start talking to people as soon as you arrive by hanging out in your hostel common room or going on an organised tour. Be open to conversations struck up on public transport, at attractions and in cafes: you never know if a chance meeting will lead to a wild adventure or a friendship for life.
As well as having fun, this is great from a safety point of view, too: you’re less likely to appear isolated or vulnerable if you’re seen talking to people or in a group. It’s also important for checking in with people: if you’re going off on your own, you’ve someone to tell when you’re meant to be back.
Flickr image, with thanks: 1