Solo female travel across the map is soaring. The Travel Industry Association showed that 32 million women traveled solo at least once in the past year, with 3 out of 10 women traveling 5 or more times. Between 2015- 2017 Hostelworld , the largest online hostel booking platform, showed a 42% growth in solo bookings regardless of gender.
When I began traveling solo abroad in 2014, it still was seen as a brave and risky endeavor, but times and attitudes have changed. The world now sees solo travel as an adventurous and culturally enriching experience that allows the traveler to feel free without the need to please a travel buddy or worry about someone else.
Two major concerns for would- be solo- travelers are safety and feelings of loneliness on the road. Thoughts run through your mind. How will I stay safe on my own? How can I convince my family and friends that everything will be alright? Good news: You will be safe on the road and you will find ways in this article to never feel alone!
On top of these thoughts you may experience apprehension and anxiety before setting off on a long journey. However, in the beginning we all have those feelings before something new and different. The worst-case scenarios you have running through your brain are likely to never happen. Take the leap and don’t be afraid to solo- travel. It will change your life forever. I found that following the advice below is a good starting point to keep me (and you) safe on the road!
Rule #1 Research
Research is by far the most important thing you should do before embarking to a new destination. From what part of the city to stay, to how to get around once you get there, research will reduce stress and anxiety. It’s worth checking how forward men are and if they tend to approach female travelers unsolicited.
Another thing to look out for are tourist scams! Researching this ahead of time can save you a lot of frustration and money.
Rule #2 Accommodation
Sites such as Booking.com and Hostelworld break down ratings in a way that shows you what accommodations are best for solo travelers. It is important to stay at hostels and hotels with high reviews. I try to stay in hostels that are 8/10 because it makes me feel more at ease and even if it is a little more money it is worth it to feel safe.
Also, the location is very important. I aim to be in walking distance from public transport and ideally near the train station (as long as the area is safe) or central to the sites you wish to see.
Rule #3 Learn Basics of the Local Language
Communication is key to feeling comfortable abroad. Not being able to communicate put’s solo travelers at a distinct disadvantage and can make you feel more vulnerable. By learning a few phrases, such as basic needs, asking for help and directions can make your life so much easier. Also, you are less likely to get ripped off because locals will respect you more for attempting to learn their language. Trust me this helped me loads in Hungary and Eastern Europe in general.
My favorite phrases to learn: Where is the bathroom? How much is it? Where is the train/bus station? Can you turn on the air-conditioning? Where is the supermarket? Also, my favorite word to learn in every country is “Cheers”!
Rule #4 You Are Never Alone
On the road you will realize that you find people in the same situation as you. They are traveling alone and want to be travel buddies, whether it is to go to see a cool castle or go out for dinner. I find I am rarely alone when I am on the road and often seek me time in order to relax.
However, when traveling you often will run into people that make you uncomfortable with their questions or you just want to get the hell away from a certain situation. So that is where “Your Never Alone” Rule comes in. A guy at a bar is bothering you, you could get out by saying “My boyfriend just went to the restroom and I got to meet him’’ or “I got to go meet my parents at the hotel”.
It is important to put yourself out there to meet people, but not come across as vulnerable or alone to people that are acting suspicious or creepy.
Rule #5 Saying No it Okay!
Your solo adventure is about you and nobody else! Don’t be afraid to disappoint people by saying no. Just say yes when it only feels right. In hostels and bars there often is a pressure to go out and take just more round of shots on a daily basis sometimes. However, when you are on the road for a few weeks this can be tiring and make you miss out on seeing some of the things you want to the next day. So my advice is learn to say no sometimes and set up a routine for yourself when on the road for longer periods.
Sometimes I want to go out, while other times I want to wake up early for a day tour or a kayaking trip. Don’t miss out on the things that truly matter to you!
Rule #5 Advice from Locals
Today it is so easy to get connected to locals where ever you go in the world through apps, online platforms, and meetups. Sites such as Meetup, Couchsurfing, or Facebook Groups like Girls Love Travel and Girls Gone International allow you to learn all about a destination from locals or expats. All these platforms are great for meeting friends and travel buddies around the world.
Here I have received the most up- to- date information on places along my route, and even set up meeting up with locals before I got to my destination. Another great source of information and information regarding safety in an area is your hostel/hotel reception they will be able to tell you where to avoid at night and where the best local cuisine can be found! Finally, free walking tours are great to not only get advice and facts, but also to meet other solo-travelers. Talking to locals is the only way to get a real feel for a city and what not to miss!
Rule #6 Blend In
It is a sad, but true reality that not all women around the world are able to dress the way they please and need to cover up. However, when in another country with different beliefs and customs it is important to respect them to a certain extent.
Especially in traditionally Muslim countries, for instance, wearing shorts and a revealing top is not advisable and can be seen as offensive. It is good practice to cover up in certain settings or countries because by standing out it could lead to unwanted attention. Just remember when packing do some research, so that you don’t inadvertently offend or disrespect the customs of the countries you visit.
Rule #7 Don’t Walk Alone at Night
In some countries it is perfectly safe to walk alone at night, but not every country is like that. It may seem like common sense or scare mongering, but it is better to be safe than sorry. If you are in an unfamiliar area or you are drinking it is important to have a buddy to get home with at night. Or if there is a service to Uber or Lyft to use it to get home at night. It is always important to have a safe way to get back home. Many times, I go out with people from my hostel in order for us to be able to check on one another and walk back together.
Rule #8 Stay Aware and be less of a Target
Don’t flaunt your valuables, especially in hostels. I know it seems obvious, but so many times I see random phones around charging with no owners, or money out. While the majority of people are good and won’t steal or mug you, there are criminals in a lot of major cities that target tourists.
Also, in taxis keep your valuables with you in the case the try to overcharge, take you a longer route, or are making you feel uncomfortable, so you can jump out at any time if you feel unsafe.
Rule #9 Prevent getting Lost
I always grab the business card or ask the receptionist to write down the name, address, and phone number of my accommodation. That way if I get lost or am in a cab and can’t communicate with a driver, I can hand it to them and I can get back home. Also, download area maps on Google Maps because even if you do not have data you will be able to follow the blue dot all the way to your destination.
Also, I always book my accommodation for my next destination before I arrive so that I know how to get there from the train station or airport. I aim to arrive to a new destination during the daytime in order to avoid taking trains/buses/taxis at night when less people are around. This helps to get a sense of your surroundings and get a better grasp for the lay of the land.
Rule #10 Stay Connected
Last, but not least, it is important to stay connected with your family and friends. I find it easy to update some form of social media, I update my Instagram Stories frequently. This gives my family and friends peace of mind that I am alright where ever I am. Whatsapp is also a very useful app that I use to stay connected with my family and friends since it is a free messenger and calling service that just needs wifi to work.
Finally, send an email with your travel itinerary to a loved one, so that they know where your accommodation is, how you are getting there, and how long you will stay there.
These 9 simple rules have kept me feeling safe and comfortable whenever I travel somewhere new. I hope these safety tips make you feel confident and if you ever need a little bit of encouragement, remember all the women out there having a marvelous time traveling the world!