Traveling solo as a woman can be an exhilarating way to see the world on your own terms. In fact, we can’t recommend it enough. But let’s be candid. It’s naïve to travel alone without taking proper safety precautions. Just a few easy tips will give you peace of mind and allow you to relax into that amazing personal journey.
1. Pack super light.
Let me say it again. Pack super light. There’s nothing more attractive to a thief than a single woman dragging three heavy bags through a train station in a town she doesn’t know. You’re simply a magnet for pickpockets and street hustlers who will be more than happy to “help” you out by divesting you of your property. Real Simple has a stellar guide if you need some extra help packing light. This might be the toughest tip to implement, but we promise it will save you added stress and make you feel free as a bird once it’s done!
2. Keep a stash of cash for emergencies separate from your other money.
We recommend keeping a decent amount of cash (a $100 bill will do) in a secret spot. Some women swear that a tampon case is the best hiding place – we also like the idea of sewing a bill into a scarf, bra or hat lining that you wear on your person all the time.
3. Speaking of cash, do your research and try to utilize ATMs as much as possible rather than carrying large sums of cash.
Unless you’re traveling to Cuba where ATMs are still scare to the point of nonexistent (and off limits to Americans), most places on the planet now have access to ATMs. Yes, you will get charged for each international transaction, but we think this safety precaution is one time when the extra fees are a-ok. Just build it into the budget and you’ll be glad you’ve saved yourself the stress.
4. Say yes to a selfie stick.
Does the idea of a selfie stick elicit eye rolls from you when you’re back home? Set that feeling aside when you’re traveling alone. Pre-selfie stick, we sure wish we had that option when we were on a solo trek, especially in remote areas where you might not have the option of asking for someone to play photojourno.
5. Get an international phone plan and schedule check-ins with someone at home.
International phone plans are no longer the exorbitant expense they used to be so we think they’re well worth the splurge. If you’re going off the grid or plan to be gone for a few weeks, identify a friend or family member who you’ll schedule check-ins with (Skype, email, phone, whatevs). Just schedule a few places on your trip where you are going to come up for air, let someone know exactly where you are and share stories!
6. Take photos of all your travel documents and put them on Google drive, dropbox or a web-based email that you can access from any computer anywhere.
This is the common sense step even seasoned travelers overlook. Save yourself the embassy scramble in case of theft – you don’t want to have to spend any more time with the bureaucratic red tape than you have to if your passport or travel documents go missing.
7. Dress like a conservative local.
This is a big one. The best advice for women traveling alone is to blend in and not look the least bit touristy. Thieves looking for a “mark” will skim right over a woman dressed like a local. Also, when personal safety is a concern, covering up will spare you most unwanted male attention.
8. You might want to magick up a husband (in some destinations).
An unmarried woman traveling alone is still a curiosity in many parts of the world, and even in some parts of Europe. Conservative cultures can even view a single woman traveling as someone open to less savory interactions. We’ve heard of many female travelers discussing her “husband” and even wearing a fake wedding ring to dissuade the “what’s a girl like you doing in a place like this” line of questioning.
9. Always sit in train cars with other people (preferably other women or families), especially on overnight trains.
10. Stay alert and with your bags when in transit.
Train and bus stations are good places to get robbed no matter where you are in the world so be extra alert en route to your hotel or Airbnb in a new city. If you need to consult your phone or map, duck into a café or shop – don’t spend too much time on the streets looking lost. Better yet, we like to pre-order a transfer to our hotel. That way, you get a professional cab driver, a bit of time to get your bearings and safe passage (especially for night arrivals, when you might be fatigued and jetlagged).
Overall, the best advice is to rely on your common sense and your gut instinct. If a situation doesn’t feel right, get comfortable now with saying no, leaving the scene, calling for assistance, or finding a police officer. Never feel as though your safety should be compromised out of a sense of politeness or propriety. If it feels bad, find an exit strategy. We hope you’ve found this post helpful. You might want to also review our Tips for Solo Travel post. It’s chock full of ways to maximize your single holiday satisfaction. Have a great trip!