There has been a huge increase in women travelling solo in the past few years. Whether they travel for pleasure or business, more and more women are choosing to venture into the world alone, and on their own terms.
For most women, safety is a major issue. Keeping that in mind, these 21 tips are here to help you feel safer on your solo journey. While many of these are useful for any solo traveller, regardless of gender, a woman travelling solo faces some dangers that don’t necessarily affect a solo male traveller to the same extent.
1. Research your Hotel/Airbnb
It is always better to do a little bit of research on your hotel or Airbnb locality. That way you get to know about the locality of the hotel you will be staying in and that way you can manage things better. Check the reviews of both the actual hotel you’re staying at, as well as the neighborhood it’s in. This will help you see what areas are safe and what aren’t. Also try to keep a backup accommodation in mind, just in case.
2. Tell someone your itinerary
You might be on the go or you might not have network accessibility, make sure someone has the exact idea of where you are going to be on a particular day. The best way to do that is to give at least one person at home, who won’t be traveling, your itinerary, or a general idea of where you’ll be and when, just in case they need to get in touch with you.
3. Keep in touch
While you don’t need to call your friends and family every day, try sending regular updates. Whether you keep in touch via text message, or through Instagram posts is up to you, but it is important to create a digital trail of your whereabouts.
4. Back up your documents
Take pictures of your important documents (passport, IDs, ticket numbers, reservations, etc.) and either email them to yourself or put them on a locked site like DropBox. This way, if you lose them AND your phone/computer, you can still have access to them. This is the best way to keep your documents safe. But make sure you don’t lose them. It might be a pain to revive the originals back.
5. Consider investing in travel insurance
Travel insurance can take care all sorts of unexpected costs. It will not only help cover medical and dental emergencies, but can also reimburse you for lost baggage, cancellations, or delays, rental car damage, and so on.
6. Remember to pack light
While this is practical advice, so that you don’t have to lug around multiple suitcases alone, it’s also a safety tip. Smaller bags allow you to be more mobile, and call less attention to yourself and your belongings. Always pack light! This will help you and save a lot of your time. Count your days and pack one outfit for a day and for the night. Do not pack extra, you know you will not wear everything.
7. Don’t keep all your money in one place
Keep some money (and you card) spread out on yourself and in your bag, but also keep some at your hotel. Pro Tip: Store some money in any empty sanitary napkin cover (in a bag), or a tampon applicator (in your pocket). No one will think to look in there, nor is a pickpocket likely to steal it!
8. Keep a fake story ready
If you feel alone or unsafe, start using “we”, or refer to a travel companion. This also works when somebody slightly unsavory comes up to you and asks you where you’re from, who you’re with, etc. You can also consider keeping a fake wedding ring in your pocket to slip on in emergencies.
9. Be aware of your surroundings
Remember that you’re the only eyes and ears looking out for your safety, and the safety of your belongings. So always be aware of what’s going on around you. For example, if you’re listening to music outside, don’t wear both headphones, so you can stay alert. When you are solo you need to activate all the senses including that 6th one.
10. Don’t get wasted/high/drunk on your own
This may seem like an obvious point, but it’s still an important one. While it may be OK for you to have a drink or two, keep your wits about you. Don’t cross your limits when in a new place and among strangers. It doesn’t always end well. Make sure you are back, safely and take complete rest.
11. Dress like a local
Research, or take note of what the locals are wearing, so you can blend in, and not attract a lot of unwanted attention as an obvious tourist. This may mean dressing conservatively or covering up in certain countries, even if is the height of summer!
12. Try to reach your destinations by nightfall
Always try to get wherever you’re going by nightfall. This way you can familiarize yourself with your surroundings, and even buy any supplies you’ve forgotten before it gets dark. It also means that you won’t be walking around the streets in the dark while slowed down by your luggage. If you don’t want t rely on cabs, take a self-drive car but don’t roam around on the streets alone and late.
13. Carry a safety device
Carry pepper spray, or a whistle with you for self-defense. While mace or pepper spray may be considered a concealed weapon in some countries, use a substitute, like a hairspray. Also, try to carry a flashlight at all times. A Swiss knife is also an option but make sure you know how to use it. Also, a spray is more convenient so you might not need a swiss knife.
14. Bring emergency contraception with you
Even if you don’t plan to be sexually active on your trip, it doesn’t hurt to be prepared. Contraception can be incredibly hard, or even impossible to get in some countries. Carry them with you just incase.
15. Check if your hotel/hostel has lockers
Check if there is a place to store your valuables in your accommodation. If not, you can bring along a sturdy lock and keep your things in your bag. Also remember to keep your key on your person, in case your bag is taken. You can also leave some cash in there too, in case your stuff gets stolen. Most of the hotel rooms do have lockers. Do ask, if they don’t have.
16. Always keep your bag with you
This may seem like another no-brainer, but it’s an important one. Always keep your bag with you, even when you go to the bathroom, or go up to the counter to buy something at a cafe or restaurant. NEVER, leave your bag or hand it to a starnger to hold. that might not end well for you.
17. Don’t fall asleep in public
Avoid traveling by public transport at night, and always stay awake when in public. This may seem like an extension of the “be aware of your surroundings” tip, but this is very important, especially when traveling from place to place on your own when you might get bored and nod off!
18. Account for the use of taxis in your budget
Sometimes, when you’re tired or feel unsafe walking in a certain area, you just want to take a taxi back to your accommodation. Try to use services like Uber, which have built-in SOS buttons, and track the cab. Also, try to snap a picture of the license plate before getting on. You can also opt for self-drive cars if required, but make sure you don’t exceed your budget.
19. Make friends
Making friends with locals is often the best way to see the things you might not have found on your own. They can also tell you what places to avoid, and give you great tips for transportation. It also gives you someone to rely on in the case of an emergency. It is always good to interact with new people. Plus since you are alone, it is not harmful to make some friends.
20. Trust your instincts
Listen to your gut. If your instincts are telling you that something’s off, it just might be. Don’t worry about being told you’re ‘overreacting’ to a situation, your safety is the most important thing. If something makes you feel uncomfortable, just leave. It’s also OK to be a bit rude if it means feeling safe. Don’t let politeness and courtesy override you instincts to say no, or to accept help.
21. Enjoy yourself!
At the same time, you don’t have to feel that everyone you meet is ‘out to get you’! Keep an open mind. Enjoy your time alone, do what YOU want to do, whether it’s going for a walk, sitting in a cafe, or visiting a museum. You’ll soon learn to enjoy your own company. Wasn’t that the reason for you to travel solo in the first place?
If you have already travelled alone, do tell us about your stories in the comments section, and please mention any safety measures that we have missed. We would love to know.