In this blog post, I share over 25 tips to stay safe as a solo female traveler. Learn how to stay safe & have fun on your first solo trip!
"What if I get seriously injured or sick & I'm all alone in a strange country without anyone to care for me?"
"I'm a hot mess in the town that I've lived in all my life. How will I take care of myself in a foreign country where I don't know a single soul?"
"What if the plane crashes before I even set foot in this place I've dreamed of all my life?
"What if I get lost and can never find my way back home?" (This is a valid concern right?)
"What if my worst nightmare comes true and I am raped?"
"What if I never see my family & friends again? What if they were right?"
These are likely the questions circling through your head as you prepare or even consider to take a solo trip as a female traveler. You're probably thinking of everything that might go wrong. And, I don't blame you. I had the same doubts & concerns before I took my first solo trip too. I still do at times and I'm not sure if those fears will ever go away.
So, I get it. Solo travel IS scary and your concerns are valid. You ARE taking a risk by wandering the world alone, let alone as a woman. There's no doubt about that.
However, solo female travel can be safe and fun! I'm living proof. Yes, risks and danger lie everywhere - even in your hometown. Like anything else in life though, the best thing you can do is take the necessary precautions before entering a risky situation. There are so many ways you can prepare yourself before taking your first solo trip.
If I would have let my fears about solo travel keep me at home, I would have missed out on the most incredible & life-changing experiences.
HERE ARE 25 TIPS TO STAY SAFE AS A SOLO FEMALE TRAVELER
RESEARCH BEFORE YOU GO
First and foremost, do your research. Learn everything you can about a country before visiting. Read personal accounts/stories on blogs, ask questions on popular forums & facebook travel groups. As a solo female traveler, it's best to ask other solo female travelers about their experience visiting a country.
Read up on weather/natural disasters, bad areas, current political climate/unrest, cultural norms & dress, scams, and other helpful things to know before visiting a new country. Understand that life may be very different and even feel like a different world than your own country.
Remove all scary assumptions about a place from your head(& other people that have never been there) and trust the facts.
If you're new to solo travel, it may be best to start small and ease your way into this style of travel. For example, I visited nearby cities & states before I decided to take the leap and travel solo internationally. I'd also left the country before in group settings(EF College Break & Study Abroad), so I knew I wouldn't have to worry about culture shock.
It may be best to visit a country that isn't too far from home, that has an established tourism infrastructure, or where the majority of people speak your language.
Starting small will help ease your anxieties, resulting in a more enjoyable time and better decision making.
BE AWARE OF YOUR SURROUNDINGS
I meet so many people who say that they don’t actually look at/pay attention to the people around them when they’re walking. You may want to change that, especially when traveling solo. Look at the people in your surroundings - both near and far. This shows any potential predators that you are aware and helps you to catch anything that might be coming.
Has someone been walking behind you for several blocks? Step into a store and see if they continue.
Is someone walking unusually close to you or stalling their steps to stick alongside you?
Does someone appear to be watching you?
Did that car just pull beside you and slow down?
You should be able to notice all of these things. If you like walking with headphones in, leave one ear unplugged so that you can hear any steps or sudden sounds.
When I am walking, I’m fully aware of what is happening around me. I keep an eye on cars that are driving next to me or anyone that slows/quickens their speed around me. I listen to footsteps behind me & watch shadows. If I’m walking on a quiet street and I see that a man is about to walk past me, I’ll even cross to the other side of the street to be safe. You really never know. It’s better to look a bit paranoid than to be harassed, robbed, or worse.
PRINT/STORE COPIES OF YOUR PASSPORT
Print copies of your passport to carry along with you if your passport is lost/stolen.
Store an electronic copy on Google Drive or Dropbox to access from any computer if those copies are lost/stolen
Email a copy to your parents/loved ones so they will have a copy they can send to you if all else fails.
LEAVE YOUR PASSPORT BEHIND
It may seem smart to keep your passport on you at all times but what happens if you get robbed or pickpocketed?
Lock your most important travel document( ahem…passport) in a safe & secure place to only carry with you when you need to use it.
There’s no need for you to take it to the beach or to the club at night!
Sometimes stores or rental companies(bikes, cars, etc) will need to confirm your identity and purchase by ID. In this case, I’ve just been able to show them the copy I have stored on my phone.
USE YOUR PHONE
Not for Instagram or Facebook, but simply for safety purposes. If you know that you are no good with directions, it may bring a sense of comfort and safety for you to use Google Maps. Wandering and being lost are two completely different things. Looking lost will make you a target. Here are some ways you can use your phone for safety purposes:
Maps - You can download the offline version of maps for whatever city you’re visiting to use without data/wifi.
Translation App - At one point or another, understanding what people are saying to you becomes a safety concern.
Drop A Pin - I usually drop a pin for my location to family or friends when I visit a new place, so that they can know exactly where I am during an emergency.
GET AN INTERNATIONAL PHONE PLAN
It may feel more comforting to know that you can call or text your loved ones if you need to. Thankfully, I have T-mobile so international texting & data is free. If you don’t have T-mobile, it may be worth it to buy an international plan, data hotspot, or SIM card once you arrive in the city.
PUT YOUR PHONE/MAP AWAY
Walking down the street with your head down will make you a target for thieves & predators. It also signifies that you are a tourist and likely have other valuables(expensive camera, lots of cash, etc.) on hand. People will ride by or even walk by to snatch your phone right out of your hand. A nice smartphone is worth months of rent & food in many countries around the world, so this would explain why thieves are after people who have them.
Step inside a store if you need to take a look at your maps or use your phone quickly. It may be best to carry a cheap phone as a back up in case anything happens to your smartphone.
BE SMART ON SOCIAL MEDIA
We all love to 'do it for the gram', every once in a while, but you have to be very careful about this when traveling solo.
Don’t post in real time - wait until you’ve left a certain location or attraction before posting a photo.
I know, I know….you want to post that really cool treehouse you’re sleeping at! Fair enough, but you should try to wait until you’ve left to share.
As a blogger, I never post in real time. I usually only post photos or videos in a place once I’ve left. You never know who’s watching or following!
If you meet up with someone from social media(Instagram, facebook groups, tinder), be sure to meet in a public place.
CONNECT WITH OTHER WOMEN
It's been so heartwarming to see that women truly look out for each other around the world. If you're wary about trusting random men, it may be best to reach out to a woman if you need help.
- Stay in All-Female dorms in hostels
- Sleep in the all-female train cart if you’re going to Morocco or sit next to women on public transportation.
- Need directions? Have a Questions? Ask another woman.
- Join Facebook groups for & by female travelers so you can reach out to a group if you need support while on the road. To name a few - Solo Female Traveler Network, Girls Love Travel, and Black Travel Movement.
There are also sooooo many other solo female travelers who are willing to help out because we know how it is. I always make a conscious effort to connect with other solo female travelers because I *get it*.
Disclaimer: This is not to say that men can’t be trusted. In fact, I’ve been surprised by the amount of helpful, trustworthy men I’ve met during my travels. However, I do know that most of my readers(women) would feel more comfortable trusting a woman on first instinct - and they every reason to feel this way.
Never book a place that has no reviews. Be sure to read reviews when staying at someone's home(couch surfing), in hostels, Airbnb, and even hotels. Look for mentions of safety & reviews that are written by women specifically.
DON’T BE TOO CHEAP
It’s always great to save a buck, but not at the expense of your wellbeing. It may be safe to walk around during the daytime, but it may be beneficial to pay for a taxi at night.
If you truly feel unsafe, especially in another person’s home, it is completely worth it to splurge on a more secure place for the sake of your own safety.
BE CAUTIOUS AT NIGHT
Dangerous activity is more likely to happen at night when there are fewer crowds out.
- Try to arrive/land in a city during the daytime so you can get your bearings
- Avoid walking around at nighttime. Opt for public transportation or taxis.
- Leave all of your valuables in your hotel and only take the amount of cash you need if you go out at night
- Try to find a group to join if you want to go out at night. Join a pub crawl, stop by a hostel bar, and meet with people during day tours to avoid going at night alone.
KNOW YOUR LIMITS
We all want to push the limits and step outside of our comfort zone during our travels, but sometimes our bodies can only go so far. Here’s what NOT to do when you’re traveling solo:
- Drinking until you can’t stand. Have fun, but make sure you are always are of what’s happening around you.
- Doing so much that you forget to properly nourish your body with food & water
- Going into deep bodies of water if you aren’t a great swimmer. I’m not ashamed to say that I’ve had to ask for a life vest in certain instances. I know how to swim, but I’m not a strong swimmer for longer periods of time, so hey…better safe than sorry!
- Eating gluten-heavy foods(if you have CD) for the sake of taste when you know it wreaks havoc on your body. Try your best to research places that work with your diet or bring the necessary medication to prepare in certain countries.
- Continuing with that hike even though you feel signs of altitude sickness. Take a break and turn around if you need to.
- Going until you can’t go anymore. We are so excited to be traveling and we often want to go go go. We need our rest though, even when we're having a blast. I’ve known several people to end up in the hospital or pass out from sheer exhaustion during their travels. Get the sleep you need!
FAKE IT TILL YOU MAKE IT
You may feel scared on your first solo trip, but you should try your best not show it. If you look lost, disheveled, confused, or scared, you become an easy target for predators. Walk with intent and purpose, looking people directly in the eyes and being fully aware of your surroundings.
Walk with your head up, shoulders back, and like you know where you’re going…you QUEEN!
Aside from Uber being cheaper than taxis, they’re also safer. Both Uber Drivers and Taxi drivers are complete strangers, but you can view an Uber drivers information/ratings on the app before you get in the car. You can also be sure that they’ve had a background check. On the contrary, you can’t even be sure that all taxis are official when you visit a new country. There have been plenty of times I’ve gotten into a taxi, unsure if it was legit.
If you accept a ride in an Uber and something happens, your parents or friends can at least track that car, person, and their license plate in the app. With a taxi, nobody has any way of knowing who the heck you hopped into a car with or if you got inside of a taxi it all. That’s a scary feeling.
In many countries, locals have warned me to always take Ubers(or other ride-sharing apps like EZTaxi in Colombia) and avoid jumping into random taxis.
You can use google maps to track your Uber/Taxi to make sure they are staying on route.
Only bring what you need…or really really want. Lugging around several bags gets old quick and like many of the other things on this list will make you a prime target for thieves. Will you be able to run while carrying your bags if you need to? Overpacking will only slow you down.
Only bring the number of valuables you need or truly see yourself using.
GET A DAYPACK
Separate your valuables into a separate, smaller bag and keep it by your side. Do not pack your valuables into your main luggage bag or into a checked bag. On transportation, these bags are usually thrown around and out of sight.
Keep your cash & cards distributed throughout various compartments. If one bag is stolen, you'll still have the cash or card left in another bag. This saved me a lot of hassle when I was robbed in Colombia.
Always move your bag to the front of your body in crowded spaces and never stick your phone in your pockets!
ENROLL IN STEP
STEP stands for Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. You can enroll in this free program that will register your trip with the US Embassy in the country you're visiting.
You'll get information about safety conditions, natural disasters, and/or family emergencies.
TAKE SELF DEFENSE CLASSES
Knowing what to do in case of an attack will help you be more confident & prepared while traveling alone. I have to admit that I haven’t taken classes yet. I know some moves, but my goal is to take one very soon.
You can also buy self-defense gadgets like a rape whistle or defense pen . You can even use bug spray as pepper spray replacement(since it's illegal in most countries) or a tripod/selfie stick/keys as a makeshift weapon.
However, be careful about fighting back. If someone is trying to rob you with a weapon, give them your belongings. Material things can always be replaced...well at least if you have travel insurance ;)
LIE IF YOU NEED TO
If someone asks about you being alone, feel free to lie and tell them that you’re meeting up with friends or that you’re bf/gf is back at the hotel waiting for you.
Tell men that you have a boyfriend/husband if they won't leave you alone. It sucks, but men really do tend to show a bit more restraint once they find out that you're already with another man *insert eye roll*.
GET TRAVEL INSURANCE
I know, it's so tempting to skip out on the extra cost of travel insurance when a trip is already expensive. I'm telling you though, it could save you thousands in the long run on potential health risks, emergencies, theft, & more.
If you're lucky, nothing bad will ever happen on your trip. I went my first 4-5 trips without travel insurance and everything was perfectly fine. Coincidentally, the one time I got robbed was the first time I'd ever purchased travel insurance for a trip. I'm so thankful I had it because they reimbursed me for up $1000 worth of stolen products. If I didn't buy that travel insurance, I would have been out of luck.
I use World Nomads!
TRUST YOUR GUT INSTINCT
This is not just a cute saying. Despite the fact that you’re traveling alone, you’ll find yourself depending on strangers more than you’d expect for directions or help. I’m here to say that most people are good and helpful. However, we all know that some people don’t have the best intentions. If you get the feeling that someone has ulterior motives, then you need to trust that feeling. It will be easier to get yourself out of the situation sooner than later. Your instinct will reveal a lot to you on the road & it'll sharpen with experience.
Be rude if you need to. I'm not proud of this, but In Cuba, I had to had to tell a man to 'F off' after he proceeded to hiss at me & prompt me to follow him into his home for over 20 minutes.
This sounds like a no-brainer but I've encountered so many travelers who treated locals as if they were just an accessory to their trip. Instead of treating them like fellow humans, they treated these people as if they were solely there to entertain & serve them - talking down to them. This is such a shame and I don't think many people realize they are even doing it. I've had so many locals look out for me & actually inform me of people or things to watch out for, simply because I was nice to them
So many tourists pride themselves on wanting to interact with locals but instead, they blatantly keep them at an arms distance - as if the locals are blind or stupid. People can detect when you're apprehensive, distrusting, or scared of them and they will reflect that behavior back to you.
Be conscious of your body language. Talk to locals instead of talking at them. Look people directly in the eye if they are speaking to you or serving you. Smile at them. Try to speak their language. Ask them their name. Ask them about their culture. Greet them when you walk inside of their businesses.
I can promise you that your experience will be safer overrall if you treat locals like you would treat a friend. In return, they will treat you better than the typical tourist with dollar signs floating above their head.
I'm so glad that I never allowed my fears about solo travel to stop me from giving it a try. My solo experiences abroad have changed my life. And, It's not just me. I constantly meet other solo female travelers who feel the exact same way.
I'm here to tell you that you're far more strong, capable, smart, and wise than you probably think. If you properly equip yourself, you'll return safely from your solo trip with enough memories to last a lifetime.
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