solo travel as a woman
Amanda at Everest Base Camp

Solo travel is one of the scariest and most rewarding types of travel that everyone should try at least once. Solo travel gives you a unique perspective on a country and a completely different experience than if you are traveling with other people. Solo travel as a woman presents a fantastic set of challenges and things to consider when choosing a destination. In this article, I will go over what you should know before, during, and after your trip as a woman adventuring alone.

Overcoming fear of traveling alone

There is an innate fear of traveling alone as a woman. It can be caused by many different reasons like the fear of being alone, concerns for your safety, and the insecurity of being in a completely foreign place. These reasons are valid causes for concern, but they don’t have to be a barrier that prevents you from traveling.

The best way to overcome the fear of traveling alone is to think of something that excites you about your destination and plan ahead thoroughly.

What excites you?

Thinking of what excites you about your destination can help shift the focus away from fear and turn it into excitement. Are you going on a once-in-a-lifetime culinary experience? Is your destination famous for white-sand beaches, unique wildlife, or adventure sports? No matter what you are into, letting yourself get excited about where you are going will lessen the fear of going alone.

Amanda at Marshall's beach, a hidden gem in San Francisco
Amanda at Marshall’s beach, a hidden gem in San Francisco

Plan ahead

Planning ahead can also help to eliminate fear by reassuring you about your plans each day. When you plan ahead, you can decide what you want to do or see and where you want to eat and stay. You can check on google maps where these places are located and get comfortable with the layout of the streets using street view. Use the best booking sites for flights so you’d have more options in arrival times and airport’s location. This will help the feeling of not knowing where you are going.

Practice makes perfect

If you are still unsure of solo travel, why not take a practice trip or two before you go? Take yourself to a restaurant in a nearby city while you are there, visit a park or local attraction and get a feel for how solo traveling will be when you are abroad. Once you are comfortable eating and visiting new places alone, try a weekend getaway 2-3 hours away from your home! These practice trips can help build up your confidence for the real thing.

Friends and family

Naturally, your loved ones will be concerned for you as you embark on this solo adventure and it would be a good idea to have an honest conversation with them. Explaining why you choose to go alone and the benefits of going alone can help put their minds at ease. You can reassure them by agreeing to keep in contact with them while away and update them every few days.

No matter what opinions your loved ones have about solo travel, it is always good to listen to their concerns and advice but always follow what you want to do. At the end of the day, it is your decision how you want to travel, and that’s what matters the most.

Hiking at the base of Mt Arenal in La fortuna, Costa Rica
Hiking at the base of Mt Arenal in La fortuna, Costa Rica

Benefits of solo female travel

There are many benefits of traveling alone as a woman, but here is a short list of some of the most wonderful things about traveling alone.

  • Getting to discover your authentic self.
  • Doing whatever you want, whenever you want
  • Learning to be alone and confident!
  • Meeting new people
  • Getting to know the destination.

Things to consider when choosing a destination

Now that you have decided to travel solo, it is time to figure out where you are going! There are many things to consider when choosing a destination. Here are some essential things to consider.

Culture and customs

Different countries have different cultures, religions, and customs that might be completely opposite from what you are used to. You have to be prepared to encounter and deal with these changes and many more. You also have to be willing to adapt to the country you are going to. Some countries eat with their hands, ask that women dress modestly, are not LGBTQ friendly, or they might close their businesses mid-day for celebrations or festivals. These are the kinds of things to think about when deciding where you should go.

It is good to think about how these cultures and customs will affect you and how you travel. If you strongly disagree with a country’s values or traditions and see it as a point of contention, it is best to avoid that country.

Amanda after having driven down the highways into Kathmandu
Amanda after having driven down the highways into Kathmandu

Attitude towards women

Although many of these tips can be applied to all kinds of people when traveling solo as a woman, you have to consider the country’s overall attitude towards women. Doing thorough research on the culture of a particular country can tell a lot about their attitude towards women and how women fit into their society. Unfortunately, not all countries see women as equals, and although women still travel to these countries, it might not be a good idea if this is your first, second, or even third solo trip.

Crime rate against tourists

Thinking about the overall crime rate is a good idea when choosing a destination to ensure your overall safety, but don’t let that completely scare you away from going there. Take a look at the crimes being committed in each country; sometimes, the crime is not related to tourism.

Take Columbia, for example, the crime rate is relatively high, but most of the crime is drug-related, and many travelers rate Columbia as one of the best countries to travel to for food and culture. It is also important to check out blogs written by other solo female travelers to understand their experiences in different countries. That way you can see if it is a good destination for you.

Personal comfort level

Always go with your gut! Your personal comfort level is most important. Don’t let anyone persuade you into choosing a specific destination if you are not comfortable with it. You want to be comfortable with the destination you choose, and if you aren’t, it can impact your trip. Suppose you are interested in a more dangerous country or have a language barrier or other prominent factors that are tricky to overcome. In that case, it is best to save it for a time when you are more comfortable with solo traveling.

Safe solo-friendly destinations

Here are some examples of generally safe solo travel destinations that are perfect for first-timers:

  • Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • Seattle, Washington
  • Toronto, Canada
  • Cancun, Mexico
  • Dublin, Ireland
  • Nairobi, Kenya
  • Bangkok, Thailand
  • Sydney, Australia
  • Bali, Indonesia
  • Reykjavik, Iceland
  • La Fortuna, Costa Rica
  • Bogota, Columbia
  • Buenos Aires, Argentina

Adventurous solo destinations

For those who aren’t new to solo travel and are feeling more adventurous, here are some great destinations for solo travelers with experience!

Sitting at the bottom of Yosemite Falls in California
Sitting at the bottom of Yosemite Falls in California

How to Plan a solo trip

Any good plan starts with a destination (or two). Once you have decided what country and city (or cities) you want to visit, you can begin to determine what you want to do.

Gather Information

Make a list of what you want to do, see and eat, and a category with a few different accommodation choices. You can google phrases like “top 10 things to do in Rome” or “best cafes in Paris” to helo you get an idea of what you would like to spend your time doing. Add a little intrigue to your trip by researching some hidden gems as well!

It is a good idea to get as much information on the things you want to see as possible such as tickets, fees or clothing required. This can help you plan and pack your bag accordingly.

Instagram is another good way to help gather information on your destination. You can use the hashtag feature, or the geotags to look at different locations. You can even make a saved folder of photos you like, so you don’t lose track of them!

Make a map

One of the best solo travel hacks is making a Google map with each location pinned. On Google Maps, you can make your map by clicking the menu – your places – maps – create map. This feature allows you to pin different places on a map, making them easy to find later. You can color coordinate your pins to have all your restaurants, things to do, and places to stay in one spot.

Booking Tours

Now that you have done all your research, you can decide what places need tickets in advance. Some tours or museums require you to purchase tickets in advance, and some don’t. If you want to try an activity that requires tickets in advance (especially during the busy season), it is best to buy them when you book everything and then plan your days around that. You can leave the activities that don’t require advance tickets until you get there.

Booking Accommodation

There are plenty of accommodation types in every country, and it’s always best to go with what you are comfortable with. Hostels are the perfect place to meet other solo travelers, but some hostels have an age limit and can be noisy and uncomfortable. Airbnb, hotels, or resorts are an excellent choice for those who are looking to have a little quieter and more comfortable, although they might not be the best for meeting other travelers.

Visas

Some countries require visas for citizens of another country to enter. They can have visas on arrival, e-visas, or visas you need to apply for beforehand. Doing thorough research can help you understand the visa requirements for your destination. If you need to apply for a visa before you leave for your trip, allow ample time for the embassy to process your visa and get it returned to you.

How to pack

Now that you have decided where you are going and have a general idea about what kind of activities you will be doing – you can start packing!

Baggage

It is always best to pack as light as possible when traveling solo. You don’t want to be dragging a large suitcase down a cobblestone road or up ten flights of stairs. A backpack or small duffle bag is a great choice. Need help to choose? See best backpack brands section for top list along with details.

Clothes and Shoes

It is best to pick out your outfits beforehand, ensuring that you have the clothing required for the activities you want to be doing. If you are hiking in Costa Rica, make sure you have athletic wear and running shoes, and if you are going to a mosque in Turkey, make sure you have loose clothing that covers your whole body. If you know what outfits you like to wear and are comfortable in, it’s always best to pack them. A good rule to follow is one outfit per day, one set of pajamas, and 1 to 3 pairs of shoes. If you are going for more than seven days, it might be worth looking into a laundry mat or laundry service with your hotel to keep your luggage to a minimum.

Amanda's minimalist visual packing list for Costa Rica
Amanda’s minimalist visual packing list for Costa Rica

Carry on

It is equally important to think about what goes into your carry-on bag. It’s advisable to keep your electronics and their chargers, a reusable water bottle (empty) to fill in the airport, chapstick, bandaids, and an extra set of clothing just in case your bag gets lost. Anything you think you would like to have for your flight or the first day of your trip should be in your carry-on.

Documents

It is essential to keep photocopies of your important documents with your loved one at home and another copy to keep with you if you lose the originals. Keep your documents, money, and other essential papers in one secure location at all times. Usually, a special pocket in your purse or bag will do. You can purchase a money belt that goes under your clothes to hold important documents for extra security and peace of mind.

With the basics covered, check out travel essentials for women for everything else that you’ll probably need.

Safety tips during your trip

Staying safe while abroad is crucial, and there are a few points to know about that can help you feel safe as a solo female traveler while still having a fantastic time.

Awareness

It is very important to be aware of your surroundings when traveling solo on busy streets, markets, buses, and trains. You do not want to be listening to music or seem distracted. It can make you a target for pickpocketing or other common traveling scams. Know where you are going and generally how to get there before leaving your hotel to minimize the time you are looking down at your phone.

Confidence is key

Confidence can almost get you anywhere as a solo traveler. It is essential to be confident in where you are going and hold your head up high. Even if you happen to be lost or need help, quietly and calmly walk into a nearby store and ask someone if they can tell you where to go. Looking worried, lost, or concerned can make you a target for unwanted attention. If you need help and are in a crowd, it is a good idea to ask for help from people who look like tourists or other women. If you get a bad feeling at any time, always listen to it and walk away. Being confident is essential for solo travel, but don’t worry if you aren’t exactly there yet. It comes with time and experience.

Tools to help

Tools like google maps duo lingo and google translate can help you if you get stuck or lost. It is good to download them on your phone before you leave. You can also use meetup or couch surfing apps to meet locals and other travelers abroad.

Learn the language

No, you don’t need to be fluent in Italian to go to Italy but knowing some of the essential words and phrases like: toilet, help, restaurant, hotel, phone, charger, “I don’t speak Italian,” and “do you speak English?” etc. can go a long way if you get stuckor need help.

Check-in at home

Not only does checking in at home help your loved ones feel reassured, but it can help you feel close to family and friends if you start to feel lonely. It is always a good idea to check in whenever you plan on moving to a new location (city or hotel), and your loved ones should always have a general outline of what you are doing or where you will be each day.

Saying No

Say no on the bus, at the restaurant, in the park, and at the market. Any time you are uncomfortable with people around you, say no. If you are being bothered by anyone in the street, a loud “no” should be enough to get them to leave you alone or attract others’ attention who can come and help.

Sim card

Buy a local sim card at your destination, so you can text or use the internet while visiting. Even if it is expensive, it’s worth it. You can check train times, google maps, and restaurant hours and check in with family any time you want.

Must Haves

Every solo traveler should have a good combination lock, especially if you plan on staying in hostels. It’s wise to keep your belongings locked up when you are not around to prevent theft.

A money belt and RFID blocking wallet can also help store important documents, cards, and cash on the go.

Keep information private

It is essential to keep information like your credit cards, hotel location, and general plans to yourself when traveling. If a local or other traveler asks personal questions you are uncomfortable with, you should feel free to lie or leave the conversation – your safety comes first. When taking taxis or Ubers, always put the address across the street from your hotel and wait until the car leaves before going into your hotel.

Amanda at Gupteshwor Mahadev Caves in Pokhara
Amanda at Gupteshwor Mahadev Caves in Pokhara

General Tips

Be prepared to be lonely

Loneliness is an inevitable part of traveling solo, and every solo traveler should be prepared for it. There’s nothing wrong with feeling lonely or homesick on your trip; it’s completely normal. If you feel lonely, it might be a good idea to call a friend or family member and chat for a while. There is no shame in staying in bed and watching Netflix for an evening!

Chat with other people

It’s always good to be aware of scams, strange people, and tourist traps, but that shouldn’t deter you from chatting with locals and other travelers. That is one of the best parts about solo traveling! Meeting new people can help share the experience of visiting a new country and make some amazing memories.

Don’t spend the whole time alone

Try meeting new people; whether that’s on an app or out in the real world, it can help you feel less lonely while solo traveling. Sometimes the locals can show you a cool place you would never have found on your own! Other travelers can tell you if a local attraction is worth it or not. There’s nothing better than first-hand advice!

With hostel friends on a local bus in Pokhara, Nepal
With hostel friends on a local bus in Pokhara, Nepal

Conclusion

Traveling solo is one of the best adventures anyone can have, even if you aren’t going anywhere adventurous. It allows you the opportunity to step out of your comfort zone and try on many different hats. Using this article as a guide, you can feel confident throughout your solo traveling journey!

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