Top Safety Tips for Women Traveling Alone
Posted by Elaine Tu on Mar 21st 2019
If you're looking to go solo for whatever reason, there are many like-minded women out there looking to do the same. If it's your first time on a solo travel adventure, keep reading to find great tips for safety for women traveling alone, other resources for solo female travelers, and tips you need to know before you embark on your solo travels.
Safety Tips for Women Traveling Solo for the First Time
When it comes down to it, solo travel is a matter of knowing yourself, doing your research, having a plan, and erring on the side of caution whenever possible. Hold onto the idea of prevention to keep you safe when you're traveling abroad alone. Before you embark on your first solo trip, make sure you check out all the top safety tips for solo female travelers--or solo travelers in general--below.
Daria Salikova on Unsplash
Whenever you travel, always do your due diligence and study up on your destination--solo or not. It's always good practice to find out if the country you're traveling to speaks your language, or if most shops and restaurants only take cash. Thanks to the internet, it's easy to find answers to all your glaring questions about whatever destination you are curious about.
Planning also means mapping out all the places you want to visit. Google Maps is helpful for finding out where Notre Dame is in relation to the Sacre Coeur in Paris, what time either attraction closes, and will provide images so you know whether or not you're at the right place.
When booking your flight, try to arrive at your destination during the day. It's harder to navigate at night, and there are probably fewer people on the road. Here's a list of things you should research before you take on your solo traveler journey:
- Culture - Read up on the culture at your planned destinations so that you don't stick out like a sore thumb or offend anyone. Sometimes cultures will prefer bowing over handshakes, or conservative attire rather than exposed limbs.
- Travel insurance - Janice Waugh of Solo Traveler dubs this a solo traveler must.
- Transportation - How will you be getting around? Public transportation? Taxi? Uber or Lyft?
- Reputable tours - Don't wait until you arrive at your destination to book a tour. It may end up being more expensive, or unreliable.
- Lodging - Whether you're staying at a hostel, hotel, or Airbnb, make sure you have proper addresses and ways to contact the host if you have trouble finding your way. Most hosts and front desk agents are friendly and helpful--this isn't their first rodeo. There aren't a ton of women-only hostels, but if you were interested in staying in some, The Hostel Girl has a great list of female-only hostels in a few places around the world.
- Costs - Try to estimate the costs of your trip and locate any ATMs in your area before you leave for your trip. Not every country will accept credit cards as readily as the U.S. You want to make sure you have enough local cash to get you by at least the first few days of your trip--if not the entire trip. In some countries, ATMs can be harder to come by or have high rates for international travelers, so plan ahead.
- Tipping customs - Not every country accepts tips--some even take the gesture as disrespectful, and vice versa. Don't get caught in an awkward or hostile situation. Plus, the more you know about, the less likely you’ll be hustled. If locals know you're American, depending where you are in the world, they may take advantage of you.
- Local convenience stores - try to find out if there are convenience stores close to where you're staying in case you forget to bring body wash, tampons, or anything of the sort. You can find out from your lodging host ahead of time and mitigate any panic from your travels.
- Places to visit - It's worth mentioning again that you should plan and map out all the destinations you have in mind to visit--even if they're maybe's. Be diligent in planning an itinerary so you can maximize your vacation. Plan mini day trips, hikes (make sure they're safe ones!), and even food stalls or restaurant options along your routes. Plus, if you're picky with food, it might be worth doing a little extra digging or asking around for recommendations before your travels.
Pack for your destination
Customs and social climates differ all over the world. Study up on what locals wear so you can blend in. Oftentimes, tourists will stand out and become targets for pickpockets and swindlers.
It's also of utmost importance for safety as a female solo traveler to generally err on the more conservative side. Some countries frown upon exposed legs or shoulders--take the Vatican for instance, which requires all women to cover their shoulders and knees, no matter how hot it is. It's probably a good idea to avoid unwanted attention by ditching those tight-fitting tank tops and short-shorts when traveling to countries like India, Istanbul or even Dubai! A great piece to bring along with you is a sarong or a large scarf which can easily be tied around the body to cover up.
This seems like a no-brainer, but it's worth touching on, especially when it's so easy in this day and age to keep your head down and eyes glued to your phone's screen. Not only should you open your eyes to your surroundings and soak in the culture and views of your travels, but you should also be aware of what's going on around you, the faces you're seeing and keeping an eye out for pickpockets or people who seem suspect.
As women, we tend to feel apologetic or afraid to accuse someone of wrongdoing--even if it is just in our heads--but when you're a solo female traveler, it's a matter of safety and our own well-being.
People-watching can be a great way to start your day in a new country. You can practice staying alert and getting to know your surroundings. Stop by a cafe to relax and watch as things are happening around you. It might make you more comfortable studying the interactions of locals around you, and allow you to blend in better. Local coffee shop workers might also know a thing or two about other great local spots to visit while you're there, so it’s a win-win.
Be open to meeting new people
Since you’re traveling solo, try to make friends with other travelers. You might even meet another woman traveling alone! It'll make your travels a bit safer if you have another set of eyes on you and your things--even if it's only for a day. However, you can’t trust just anyone. Make sure you remain cautious and really get to know someone before you ever trust someone to watch your things for you. This is where your women’s intuition will serve you well.
Carry money and documents in different places
You never want to carry all your money, credit cards, passport and other important documents in the same place. Instead, keep small amounts of cash dispersed in different areas such as in smaller coin purses (for when you're shopping around in a marketplace), in slightly larger forms of cash in a different pouch, in a money belt for emergencies, and even sprinkling cash here and there in different pockets of your bag.
When you're in a safe and private place, count the cash you have left, and do a quick check of all your important items to make sure they're all there each night. You want to have a general idea of how much cash you have so you don't go searching in all your secret places for money when you want to pay someone. You'd also want to check to see if maybe something like your passport was taken from you so you'd have proper time to figure out a plan to replace it. Is there anything worse than realizing you don't have your passport right before your flight?
Documents and passports, if possible, should be stored separately from your wallet, which you may be using most frequently. This will prevent you from pulling them out too much in public and potentially dropping something or leaving them somewhere.
Don’t be weighed down by having multiple pieces of luggage that are difficult to maneuver on your adventures. A part of a solo journey is to be more independent, so plan to carry your own bags everywhere you go. If you can fit everything in a carry-on suitcase and a personal item, this is a great way to keep your items close, cut time waiting at baggage claim, and avoid your bags mysteriously going missing. Of course, some places are suitcase friendly, but if you're staying in non-urban areas, your best bet may be to use a sturdy backpack instead.
If you plan on backpacking, avoid packing a bag that is too heavy for traveling. You don't want to hurt your back or be literally weighed down by your backpack, which can cause unnecessary exhaustion or cut your days shorter. Bring what's necessary, but do your research on the weather conditions at your destination. Even if it's hot where you're going, it's always good to bring a light jacket and a pair of long pants just in case.
Leave the valuables at home. Your wedding ring can be left behind, or replaced with a silicone one. There's no need to bring your diamond earrings either. The fewer valuables you bring along with you, the more stress-free you'll be.
Tours are a great way to meet fellow travelers (and even other women who are traveling alone). You'll be safer with a group of people, and one or two tour guides who know their way around. You'll learn a lot more about the history and culture that way too instead of wandering aimlessly. Some tours will allow you to explore a bit on your own and give recommendations on local restaurants or advice on the best times to visit major tourist attractions.
Take the time to find a tour company that has reviews from other travelers so you'll have some peace of mind when you're there. Also, be sure to ask questions before departing your home country about where to meet, and how they will communicate with you if a tour is delayed or canceled.
Photo by Michael Discenza on Unsplash
Don’t drink too much
If you choose to consume alcohol during your trip, make sure you pace yourself, eat beforehand, and always watch your drink. Alcohol can dull your senses and make you more susceptible to harm. Make sure you know your limits and stay within them. If possible, try to befriend the bartender, a group of women, or other travelers that you’ve gotten to know while sober. This tip goes for your trip abroad as well as at home.
Have a plan or safety net in place
If it's possible, share your location with a loved one back home and plan a scheduled time where you'd send a message or call to let them know you're safe. If you aren't able to contact a loved one regularly, let them know your general location, where you're staying, and share a detailed itinerary just in case.
If you won't have cellular service, or if you're unsure about the network coverage where you'll be going, it's always a good idea to screenshot maps of your destination, routes to and from important places like from the airport to the hotel, and keep addresses and names of places you'll be visiting handy on your phone. The images won't take any time to load and you won't be using up any data to pull them up. Just make sure you have a good external battery with you so you’ll always have a charged phone.
Are you ready?
The list of safety tips for traveling alone is endless, but keeping these top safety tips in mind, you’ll be ready for an extremely rewarding solo trip. It’s okay to be a little nervous traveling all by yourself, just take it one step at a time, and trust your instincts.
You got this!