Hi there…I am Sam (at the risk of sounding too movie-ish or book-ish) and I am a regular traveler. Similarly, I know there are so many women out there like me who travel solo and really love the entire experience. However, if you’re all new to this solo travel business, it could become a bit too daunting.
So, this is something I wanted to do from my side: collate my top 13 tips for female solo travelers and share them with all you wonderful women.
- Being friendly is ok – just don’t let yourself be too trusting: I may not need to explain this one to you. I mean, we all know this, right? But I’ll state this here anyway, as I think this is really important for all of us solo travelers.
So, please never forget this one: NEVER reveal where you stay – to ANYONE you meet during your travels. This is especially true if this involves someone who you aren’t too comfortable talking to. You know what they say about women’s intuition, right?
You could, of course, meet up with someone from that country, but why would you want to tell him the name of your hotel? Let’s just try and not do that. If you want to meet them up, just decide on another location and then meet up. And have some good fun.
I know this is being really cautious and, often, most people are harmless. However, being a little cautious never hurt anyone. That’s why I believe – strongly – in “better safe than sorry.”
- Have multiple backup plans: I know we all love to plan and then have it all go well. A seamless experience is the best. This holds true for our accommodations as well. However, this could get tricky at times. Sometimes, you walk into your planned accommodation and find that the reviews were not completely true or that the neighborhood is seedy or the other people lodged up in the accommodation don’t exactly inspire confidence within you from a safety perspective.
What works best in such a case is a Plan B. What’s the second-best place you found online? If that isn’t good either, you should be confident that you have another place as a backup. Since you are traveling solo and it isn’t exactly safe everywhere to travel alone at night, you need to have at least three backup plans for each place you intend to visit. Trust me, this tip is going to come in handy for you.
- Share your itinerary with someone at home – This could be someone in your family, someone at work, or a close friend. I usually find it easier to leave all my accommodation and flight details and dates to someone at home. This way, I know that if – God forbid – something unforeseeable happens or even someone from back home needs to contact me urgently, they will know where to reach me.
- About your room: When you are picking a room to stay in for the night, ensure that the room has a minimum of two locks (if there’s more, wow!). Ensure that one of these locks is a deadbolt. What I also have found to be undeniably essential is a peephole – you need to be able to see who is knocking on your door when you least expect it. My personal tip – carry a can of pepper spray with you at all times and also have some rubber door stops– just for added security.
Are you carrying your laptop or other valuable possessions with you that you don’t want to lug around while sightseeing, lock them up securely in the front desk safe. It’s safer than you expect.
Another tip: if you are leaving your valuables behind in your room when you step out, just leave that Do Not Disturb sign hanging outside your room – this gives the idea to people outside that you are still inside and should not be disturbed.
- Learn extensively about the country before you visit: Different countries have different ideas about modesty. Yes, we need to be comfortable in what we wear, but we also need to pay special attention to what local women wear around the area and just follow their example. It’s all about being respectful of their culture. For example, in Thailand and Indonesia, someone told me that it is thought to be indecent of women to wear outfits that show off their knees and shoulders. That’s a small price to pay when you get to visit such beautiful countries.
Another tip you need to take note of is to avoid getting too sloshed when you are out alone and avoid those dark, lonely streets when you walk back to your accommodation.
- When people ask for a photo with you: While this can be an innocent exercise in some countries, it definitely isn’t in some others. I have had my friends tell me that some of these random strangers like to show photos with females from another country and boast to their friends that they (yuck) managed to sleep with her. So, um….no. Please don’t play along, unless it’s a mixed group of males and females.
- Keep real-time information sharing to a minimum: I am talking about personal information, of course. Apps like Foursquare are exciting, and I do admit I use a lot of it back home. But when traveling solo, that might not be the best idea. It’s definitely safe to post about the general place that you are in, like say, hey, I am in Queenstown at the moment. But don’t go saying I am at this gelateria right now and all alone. You know what I mean, right? Let’s be wise here, dear ladies.
- Be aware at all times: I have seen so many female travelers who do not bother to pay attention to the people around them when they walk around. This is a big no-no in my book – especially when you are traveling solo. You need to cast an eye around you at all times. Never look lost. Have that confident look in your face and walk confidently ahead.
At the same time, watch out for anyone who might have been following you (this happens). If you suspect that someone has been following you, step into the nearest shop and see if they stop as well or continue to go on their way. Don’t worry about looking silly. Safety comes first.
Also keep your eyes peeled for those cars that sometimes slow down as they approach you. Keep a considerable distance from these and keep walking as fast as you can. Walk toward crowded places and just blend in well. We don’t want to play victim to any of these potential predators. I take all these steps and am always doubly cautious when I am out alone. It’s always paid off and it will for you too.
- Some general tips that you should never forget: First things first: Don’t carry too much money on you. Always have your money stored in a travel money belt with RFID block that properly sits under your clothes without looking too obvious or opt for a secure money belt that houses hidden, handy compartments. I have been using these for most of my travels and I really can’t complain.
Also, look for lightweight medium crossbody bags – as opposed to the normal handbags, purses, and backpacks. These are less likely to get nicked when someone tries to make a go at your bag and take off.
I am an advocate of traveler’s checks. There’s no safer way of carrying “money.” However, remember to have your card on you as well – for all those possible emergencies.
Lock your bags at all times if you are stowing them somewhere while you travel. Also – and this is most important – remove your passport, money, and all those essentials from it before you stow it.
This tip is actually a lifesaver – if you feel lost at any point while you’re out alone, step into the nearest cafe or store, chin up, and ask for directions. No one who looks at a confident lady could doubt that she can take care of herself.
- Pack light: I know this is easier said than done, but we often tend to pack too many things into our one piece of luggage that we intend to lug around the most. At least a week before you need to depart, try packing all your things into your bag. You might find it a little too heavy to lift.
Rethink, repack, repeat. It’s only after multiple trials that you will be able to figure out how much to take and how much to leave back at home in order to make your luggage just comfortably heavy.
- Rape Whistles: This is mostly self-explanatory, but highly necessary. Carry a personal alarm/rape whistle with you at all times.
- The time of arrival: Taking costs and availability of flights into consideration, I know this is not always possible, but if it is, do opt to arrive at your destination during the day. This way, you can feel safer while you take any form of transportation to your accommodation.
- Take time for yourself: This is more a friendly tip than a safety suggestion: utilize this time of solo travel to learn more about yourself and grow from within. When you travel to new countries solo, you not only end up learning about their cultures, but also get some time to reflect on your own life and values. While you might find your first solo travel experience intimidating, once you’re at it, you will find yourself feeling empowered. You understand that the world is your oyster and you can travel to anywhere you want and do anything you wish to do. It is truly a liberating exercise and one you’ll really enjoy.
Happy travels, lovely ladies!