Finance & Money
8 Tips for How to Travel Alone as a Woman
Travel is too important to miss out on -- here's how to do it solo while staying safe and happy
Women are traveling alone now more than ever before. Nearly 25 percent of female travelers do so independently, and women travel solo at three times the rate of men. Solo travel can be a trip you arrange and take on your own, but it can also mean one where you leave home alone and join a group of people on a trip.
As an owner of a company that creates small trips for women (and coed trips too, if you have special people of the other gender who like to travel), I have traveled alone to more countries than I can count on my two hands. This means often going out to eat alone, and finding adventure as I go. You can visit my website to check out my upcoming trips. I am adding trips to India, Croatia, and Africa for 2024 soon!
Women can and should travel solo, with confidence, while always keeping safety in mind. It’s true that women face unique hurdles when traveling alone, but it’s manageable if you think ahead and take a few precautions. It’s wonderful when you don’t have to depend on the destination choices, timing, and interests of others! Don’t wait; plan a solo trip now! Here are a few suggestions to keep you safe and happy.
1. Arm Yourself with Information
- Before you jump in and start booking flights…wait. Take time to research a destination and make sure it’s the best trip for you. Look into the current political environment, weather, religious customs, and holidays in the country. Check if you’ll need visas or vaccinations to enter. A great place for country information is the U.S. State Department or the CIA World Factbook.
- Buy a good local guidebook like DK, Lonely Planet, or Rick Steves. They’ll help you plan your visit to the best sights, gauge how much time you’ll need, and give you insight into safe neighborhoods and the most convenient lodging locations.
2. Use Technology
- Today’s technology is amazing! While it can be a hassle to learn how to use new apps, it’s smart to take advantage of these great available tools. Technology helps you be independent and empowered. If you have a working phone, you can map where you’re going, arrange transportation, and book restaurant reservations. Plus, your friends and family at home need to hear from you. Before you leave, sign up for your carrier’s international plan and get unlimited calling and texting. Most carriers have a $10-a-day plan for unlimited calling and texting.
- Download the following apps onto your phone and familiarize yourself with them before you leave home:
- WhatsApp: Outside the U.S., people connect using WhatsApp because it’s free across international boundaries and allows you to text and call for free. Regular texting or calling on your cell phone plan is charged according to your service and can be costly if you don’t have your daily international plan. In-country guides and others will expect to reach you by WhatsApp when you are traveling.
- Uber: It’s often cheaper and safer to use than local taxis. With Uber, you can track and reach the driver if you leave something behind in the car. No cash changes hands since your credit card is directly charged.
- Citymapper: Available in most major cities. It pinpoints your location and gives you walking directions as well as all the mass transit options to your destination.
- TripIt: A free app that keeps all your travel documents and arrangements organized in one place. It also allows you to send your travel plans to friends and family.
- Your Airline: Download the app for any of the airlines you will use on a trip. It will store your reservations and keep you posted on flight or gate changes.
- Kindle: You don’t need to carry heavy books with you, or even take your Kindle. Instead, use the Kindle app on your phone and download all your guidebooks and reading material beforehand.
3. Get Quality Trip Insurance
- Even if you have trip insurance coverage through your major credit card, check to ensure you have medical evacuation and trip cancellation “for any reason” coverage. Hopefully you’ll never need it, but if you do you’ll be happy you thought ahead. A great resource to check and compare policies is provided by Forbes.
4. Be Friendly, but Discrete
- Meeting and talking to new people is one of the best things about travel. If you are eating alone, someone may want to share your table. Say “yes” since it’s a great opportunity to meet local people, talk about where you are and where you’re going, and get local tips. That said, there is no need to share personal information or where you’re staying.
- As women, we can let courtesy override our gut instincts because we’re raised not to be rude. But trust your intuition. Don’t worry about what other people think, and be nice when it’s warranted, but feel free to hold out your hand and say “stop” or “back off” if necessary.
- If you find it difficult to say, “That’s none of your business,” practice a one-liner response when someone asks a direct question you don’t want to answer. Make it into a little joke to make it less awkward, such as, “My best friend doesn’t even know that about me!” Joking can make things less uncomfortable and help you retain your privacy.
5. Protect Yourself and Your Valuables
- Don’t travel to impress others. Leave your expensive jewelry at home; don’t set yourself as a target for theft. Concentrate on blending in and try not to look like a tourist.
- Do some research and think about the clothes you’ll wear so you don’t stand out or dress inappropriately for local customs. For example, don’t wear your cute camouflage jeans in Egypt — only the police wear camo there.
- Attach your phone to a body strap rather than constantly opening your purse and pulling it out. It’s harder to grab your phone when it’s attached to your body. Check out Bandolier for fashionable phone strap alternatives that allow you to keep a card and some cash in the attached wallet.
- Many hotel rooms do not have secure deadbolts. Pack a simple rubber doorstop in your bag and use it to wedge under the inside of your hotel door. It’s almost impossible to push open a door with a doorstop in place.
- Use a money belt. Keep small bills in your wallet but use a money belt for the bulk of your cash and credit cards. Order a little silk money belt from RickSteves.com, and you won’t even feel it tucked inside your slacks against your skin.
- Carry a whistle on a little cord around your neck. If you feel unsafe, blow the whistle. It will attract more attention than a cry for help.
6. Pack Light
- Packing light gives you more freedom and flexibility. You save money on baggage fees, and it’s easier to navigate airports and use trains or buses.
- Travel gear should be limited to one hard-cover, four-wheel bag that fits in the overhead compartment; one soft-cover case that attaches to your wheeled bag; one lightweight backpack; and a small purse that fits inside your backpack.
- Wear any heavy or bulky items you’ll need on a trip, and only pack travel-size toiletries. Leave your hair dryer behind— most hotels will provide one.
- Follow the maxim of savvy travelers: Pack for the best-case scenario, buy yourself out of a jam!
7. Know When to Cut Corners and When to Splurge
- Travel cheaply, but don’t skimp on safety measures
- Stay in good accommodations in safe areas. There are great boutique hotels that have more character and are more fun than many 5-star choices.
- Plan for safe transport. Ask your hotel to arrange a car service if you arrive late at night.
- Pay for a local guide. They are worth their weight in gold — guides will save you time and provide valuable recommendations. Find guides online at Viator or Withlocals. Many guides will arrange a Zoom call ahead of a trip and give you tips on where to stay and eat.
8. Consider a Small Group Tour
- There is a time and a place for making a completely solo trip. For example, you may have a business trip and want to extend and explore independently. You may want to hike the Appalachian Trail or make a pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago. Sometimes you want to experience things by yourself.
- However, you won’t necessarily sell yourself short by traveling solo and signing up for the right tour. It doesn’t have to be a bus tour with 40 people hopping from place to place all day. Tours today are incredibly varied. They can be smaller groups that deeply engage in the local culture and focus on things like hiking, art, food, etc.
- A small group can help you travel to destinations you’re not confident about going to alone. It lets you relax so you can let a tour manager handle all the details. As a result, you’ll have no worries about language barriers and may feel safer. Best of all, tours almost always offer a better value for your money.
Go ahead, just do it! Plan a solo trip or take a tour on your own or with friends. Travel is mind-expanding, liberating, intellectually stimulating, and fun.