8 Tips for Traveling Solo as a Woman (From Women Who’ve Done It)
For some women, there’s nothing quite as terrifying as the idea of traveling solo. For others, there’s nothing quite as liberating. No matter where you fall on the travel-solo-spectrum, though, keeping in mind the hardwon advice of women who’ve traveled solo everywhere from Nepal and India to Guatemala and Hong Kong is never a bad idea. Here are eight top solo travel tips from women travel writers around the world.
Trust your instincts
It’s really not a cliché.
“There’s a longstanding belief that women possess a nearly psychic level of intuition, and I definitely think there’s some truth to that,” says writer Margot Bigg, who’s traveled alone in Ethiopia, China, and Guatemala. “If a situation feels off, prioritize finding your way out of it as soon as you can, even if that means, say, buying a new train ticket or turning down an offer of unwanted company. Never prioritize money, or even manners, over your safety.”
Sort out a base beforehand
You don’t want to be hunting for a hotel in the early hours.
According to Swiss-based British travel writer Helen Shepherd, arranging your accommodation in advance is essential. “If you’re backpacking, arrange a base for when you arrive, so you can get a good night’s sleep and your bearings. Spending two nights in a rental apartment let me get settled and secure before adventuring onward.” And you don’t even need to part with any money to make it happen: “Take advantage of any friends-of-friends or distant relations in the region and keep in contact with the like-minded ladies you meet on the way.”
Stay safe in your hotel
Make sure you feel secure during your stay.
Kate Doyle Hooper travels frequently for work and has picked up plenty of hotel safety tips in her years on the road. “At check-in, if reception announces your room number, have them immediately change your room,” she advises. “Twice I received phone calls from men [offering to] buy me a drink.” She also requests hotel rooms near elevators to lessen the time spent wandering down hallways, keeping suitcases packed and padlocked, and leaving the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door at all times.
Don't forget the scarves and sarongs
They come in handy for more than you might think.
“A light scarf or sarong will be the most versatile item on your packing list,” per frequent solo traveler Zoë Smith, who currently lives in France. “Use them to cover your hair or shoulders when visiting temples or traveling in more conservative areas; layer them up to stay warm or act as a sunshield; sub them in for a picnic blanket or beach towel; and use it to protect your modesty when restrooms aren’t an option.”
Wear your valuables
And keep them safe at the same time.
“When traveling alone, there's no one to keep an eye on your bag when you run to the restroom or buy that bus ticket,” says Chicago-born, Madrid-based writer Lori Zaino, who’s visited more than 50 countries—often alone. “So, avoid theft by wearing your belongings. From special crossbody bags with secret pockets to scarves that double as passport holders to undergarments with hidden spaces for credit cards or money, having your items physically on you helps keep them safe.”
It’s not just the Boy Scouts’ motto.
True crime obsessive (and author) Mary Kay McBrayer knows that failure to prepare means preparing to fail, when it comes to traveling solo. “Any time I’m road tripping alone, I over prepare. I plan where to stop for gas, pack an extra phone charger, let someone know when I’m arriving, and I even queue up a playlist of cautionary tales for the ride.”
Befriend local women
They know all the best spots.
Tokyo-based solo traveler and writer Selena Takigawa Hoy says: “When you’re out seeing the sights or grabbing a drink near your hotel, consider chatting up cool-looking local women. They’re likely to have insights that you won’t find in guidebooks, such as which areas to visit and avoid, newly opened hotspots in addition to old standards, and the cultural context of whether that person smiling over there is being friendly or creepy. And of course, you can return the favor if they’re ever in your hometown.”
Don't listen to the naysayers
Not all the time, anyway.
“Women who share their plans to travel solo are often met with questions about the safety of the destination, rather than expressions of interest or excitement,” points out frequent solo traveler, Elen Turner, who’s gone it alone in India, Nepal, and beyond. With that in mind, “really consider where you get your travel tips and advice from before you’re scared off. I've found that most of the time, the people who have the most negative or fearful reactions have never been to your destination at all.”
“Experienced travelers, especially women who have traveled solo, are a much more reliable source of information than anyone else.” We couldn’t have put it better ourselves.