female travel

25 TIPS TO STAY SAFE AS A SOLO FEMALE TRAVELER | HOW I MADE IT OUT ALIVE

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. 

START SMALL

Baby steps...

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. Purchase a TSA Approved lock to keep your valuables safe while you are away.

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.

Be sure to purchase a portable charger to keep your phone charged in the case that you are lost or simply need to contact someone in case of 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.

READ REVIEWS

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!

Vitamin C Tablets will keep your immune system up on the go and Electrolyte packets will work wonders in case you are dehydrated, hungover, suffering from food poisoning or experiencing altitude sickness.

FAKE IT TILL YOU MAKE IT

You may feel scared on your first solo trip, but you should try your best to carry yourself with confidence. 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. Bring sunglasses if that helps!

Walk with your head up, shoulders back, and like you know where you’re going…you QUEEN!

USE UBER

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.

PACK LIGHT

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. Purchase an anti-theft bag, if possible. 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. 

BE NICE  

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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THANKS FOR READING! HAVE ANY QUESTIONS OR CONCERNS? SHARE THEM BELOW! HAVE YOU ALREADY TAKEN YOUR FIRST SOLO TRIP? SHARE YOUR TIPS WITH US!

That time a Mayan Woman Made Me Cry In The Middle of Her Kitchen | Cooking Class in Guatemala

After a few days of feeling a bit underwhelmed in San Pedro La Laguna, I passed by a large sign outside of my hostel that said 'Anita's cooking class'. I knew I needed to mix things up a bit so I signed up to take the class the following day. I was unsure of what to expect but thought it'd be a great way to dive deeper into Mayan culture & learn some cooking techniques. I didn't know at the time that I'd end up crying in the middle of her kitchen....

The front dock of San Pedro, one of five towns surrounding Lake Atitlan in a massive volcanic crater in Guatemala’s southwestern highlands

The front dock of San Pedro, one of five towns surrounding Lake Atitlan in a massive volcanic crater in Guatemala’s southwestern highlands

I took Anita's class and I was amazed - by the food, but more so by this inspiring & powerful woman. We started the morning by walking uphill to a local market & you guys know how I feel about markets - they're a cultural hub. As expected, this showed me a completely different side to San Pedro than the western backpacker vibe I'd experienced for the first few days. Indigenous residents from all the surrounding towns flooded the cobblestoned streets to buy & sell everything from unidentifiable fruit to refurbished electronics. Brightly colored Tuk-Tuks & loud motorcycles zipped through the crowds before we ducked into the food stalls to pick up the ingredients for our meal.

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She told us we'd be preparing Pepian de Pollo – a traditional Guatemalan stew, known as the country's national dish. It's one of the oldest traditional dishes in Mayan culture. She told us that families typically eat Pepian to celebrate new beginnings & for some reason, this brought more joy & meaning to what I was about to experience.

Pepian, Tamalitos de chipilin, Rellenitos, Guacamole Guatemalan Style, Tortitas de Papa, and Frijoles Volteados.  RECIPE BELOW

Pepian, Tamalitos de chipilin, Rellenitos, Guacamole Guatemalan Style, Tortitas de Papa, and Frijoles Volteados. RECIPE BELOW

Anita led us through the tiny aisles, stopping every few seconds to explain the ingredients and the Mayan history behind them. As we squeezed through the crowds, we passed by whole fish caught fresh from Lake Atitlan, butchered meat hanging from the ceilings, and vegetables grown directly on the town's volcanic soil.  We even had the opportunity handmake some salted Mayan corn tortillas which are vastly different than the flour tortillas I'm used to in Texas. After picking up all the necessary ingredients, we walked downhill to Anita's apartment to begin cooking. 

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We were led to her small outdoor kitchen that sat right above the apartment. The kitchen itself was nothing special, but the balcony views of Lake Atitlan were out of this world. Anita handed each of us an apron with traditional Mayan prints and began assigning each us roles for various parts of the meal. She led the way, but she explained to each of us how to do our part. I'm no chef, so I just followed her lead as she began to mix herbs, spices, and ingredients we'd just purchased. There were no fancy utensils or techniques, she simply showed us what cooking traditions her and her family have used for years. 

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After a few hours, the meal was coming together. She prepared each of our plates and we all sat down to enjoy th meal we'd cooked together in her kitchen. Anita began sharing her story about how she came to be an Entrepreneur, running a cooking class for those of us that have chosen to visit her home in San Pedro la Laguna. How did she end up owning a business in the midst of machismo culture where women are expected to only become mothers & wives? As most women in the town did, she became pregnant at a young age & was forced to marry a man that had little respect for who she was as an individual. She eventually had the courage to separate from him & had to even leave her mothers home because she didn't approve of her getting a divorce. After all, she stated that her culture believes, "All men are this way. You have to stick with them no matter what(despite mental or verbal abuse) ". She became a struggling single mother of two without much support. At one point, she was given the opportunity to work in a Texan run cooperative created to help benefit women in the community. She later ran across a Canadian doctor who was impressed by her English speaking abilities in a town where most women have never left their neighborhoods. He gave her the opportunity to work in a clinic in San Pedro, where she was earning 1000Q(136 USD) a week as opposed to the typical 500Q( 68 USD) a month that most people on the lake earn. Then another opportunity came her way - due to her cooking & language skills, her employer empowered her to start a cooking class. She was so afraid to do so, but eventually, she became an entrepreneur and was able to prove her husband, mother & even herself wrong.

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She now promotes sustainable tourism by running a successful cooking class that is preserving her Mayan culture giving back to her community in so many amazing ways. She supports over 25 single mothers in the town. Any leftovers from her class are given to these mothers to help support their family & children. In addition, Anita is now teaching other girls in her community English so that they can have the opportunity to go to school and leave town one day to become successful on their own terms. 

After hearing her story, I'd forgotten that I was in a cooking class. The food was delicious, especially those Tamalitos de Chipilin, but this was much more than that for me. I began to tear up. With all odds against her, she's become an amazing example for women around the world who have have been silenced. I left her class feeling empowered and inspired simply because she had the courage to write her own story. Anita had slayed my whole life!

And, that's not all....

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The following day, I stopped by Anita's weaving cooperative beneath her home(where the cooking class was held) to pick up some souvenirs. There she was, helping a middle-school-aged girl practice her English. The young girl was actually on a break from weaving goods(handbags, scarves, etc.) to be sold in this co-op Anita had established. 75 percent of the purchases would go directly into the hands of 25 indigenous single mothers who Anita hired to provide an opportunity to succeed in backstrap weaving, a Mayan practice dating back centuries. This woman is doing extraordinary things for her community. 

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I was SO inspired by her story, which gave me chills and brought tears to my eyes...especially since I initially wasn't feeling San Pedro. One month into my solo trip around the world and I felt so blessed to come across a woman like her. If you find yourself in San Pedro La Laguna, please stop by Anita's cooking class & meet this incredible woman!

Girls truly run the world!

See the recipe for everything we cooked below!

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ESSENTIAL INFORMATION

  • I stayed in a hostel in San Pedro La Laguna. I would NOT recommend it as the rooms were literally equivalent to a jail cell. It also had a very western backpacker vibe, which I stated in my blog post about Semuc Champey, is NOT my vibe. I should have looked into homestays for a better cultural experience in this area. 
  • Lake Atitlan is not one place. There are a number of different towns surrounding the lakes. Some are open to tourists and some are not. The residents in the area are indigenous Mayans. Adventurous Kate does a great job of going into detail about the lakes in a blog post here. I should have read this before choosing where to stay.
  • I traveled here via shuttle from Lanquin, after visiting Semuc Champey. You can get here from any of the major cities. 
  • If you're in the area, I recommend taking a local shuttle to colorful Chichicastenango Market - the largest market in Central America. I also recommend you try some of the cheap fruit smoothies sold everywhere. SO GOOD!

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Don't forget travel insurance! I used World Nomads while traveling through Central America. The reason that I don't have more photos from my time in Guatemala is that I lost my phone a week later on a Volcano. Through insurance, which includes personal loss & theft, I was sent money to purchase a replacement phone. The insurance definitely paid off.

Thinking about trying Airbnb for the first time? Click HERE for $40 off your booking!


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HAVE YOU MET ANYONE ON YOUR TRAVELS THAT LEFT YOU FEELING INSPIRED? Comment below!