10 Tips For Travelling Alone, Especially As a Female
Traveling alone will be the scariest, most liberating, life changing experience of your life. Try it at least once.
Travelling alone can be tricky—especially as a female. I have several friends that have done it and I’ve done it just a few times myself. I would absolutely recommend it to anyone considering a solo adventure as it gives you a chance to do whatever you want, whenever you want. If you want to sit in a park all day reading a book, people watching and sipping on tea you can. No explanation needed. No negotiations needed. I’ve found that in foreign solitude you find out interesting things about yourself—from the activities you gravitate towards to how well you manage interesting situations (e.g. navigating an unknown subway system). I believe it makes you stronger as a person; stronger in the sense of being more self-sufficient, observant and savvy.
Depending on the location, people around you will likely notice that you aren’t a local either from how you move, dress, or interact with the world around you. This makes you a bit more vulnerable than if you are travelling with other people.
I’ve curated some “rules” over the years from my experiences and experiences of friends. Most of these rules were developed from the perspective of travelling abroad.
1. Register With the US Department of State. I almost always do this step as an extra layer of protection when I travel overseas. I’ve never needed to contact an embassy but it’s nice to know that they are aware that I’m in a particular country in case something unexpected happens (e.g. political riots). See here for more details regarding STEP (Smart Traveler Enrollment Program).
2. Pre-Arrange for Your Transportation. If you are staying at a standard hotel (vs. a bed and breakfast), many will often help arrange airport pickup for you. This can sometimes come with a fee but depending on the country, it may be well worth the investment. You can also use an airport taxi but make sure you go to the official taxi stand for a ride.
3. Move With Purpose and Confidence. Even if you are completely lost and overwhelmed, do not let it show. Walk with purpose into a shop or cafe and refer to your map/phone (or whatever you need) inside of the establishment. NEVER do this on the street or you may attract unwanted attention from people looking to prey on tourists. You’ll also have access to the people in the store/cafe that you can safely ask questions of.
4. Know and Respect the Local Customs. Ignorance of the law is not a valid excuse and can have some pretty harsh consequences if you aren’t careful (cautionary tales: Singapore Caning, North Korea). No one will care that you are American and in fact, that can be a liability against you...so just be a normal, responsible adult and be on your best behavior at all times.
5. Stay Connected With A Travel Pass. I’m not sure of other providers but I do know that Verizon provides an awesome travel pass offering for $10/day which includes voice and data. This is a lifesaver if you need to make calls locally (e.g. Uber) or back home to keep in touch with loved ones.
6. Don’t Bring Anything You Wouldn’t Mind Losing. Keep the flashy jewelry at home. I normally stick to costume jewelry or items that I know I won’t take off (e.g. ring). Things happen and it would be unfortunate to lose something you love on a trip. If you know you’re prone to losing things, just stick to packing the bare minimum or cheaper versions of the items you treasure. You’ll also be less of a target for people looking to steal your things.
7. Taking Pictures. Taking pictures of yourself is one area that proved difficult as a solo traveler before the age of smartphones. If you aren’t a master of the selfie, ask someone that looks “trustworthy” to take pictures of you and be polite before and after. You don’t want anyone running away with your camera or phone so be careful with this one.
8. Be Vigilant at Night. When I’m by myself, I make sure to be indoors by sunset unless I’m in a place where I can get a taxi directly from point A to point B. This is just my preference as I tend to front-load everything for when there’s sunlight. It works well for me but use your best judgement.
9. Stay on the Beaten Path. Unless you have a trusted guide with you, it’s best not to venture down dark alleys with limited foot traffic. I think this one is self-explanatory.
10. Explore With Guided Tours. I’m not a huge fan of guided tours but they can be very helpful in places where you have no idea where to start. You can book them through their dedicated site or your hotel to make sure the business is legit. Taking a tour or two early in your trip can give you the lay of the land and help you assess where it’s ok to explore further.
Pro Tip: Bring a door wedge alarm with you to secure your hotel room when you’re inside. It sounds off if someone tries to open the door while the wedge is under the door.
Happy holidays and safe travels!