Every woman should embark on a solo travel journey at least once in her life. Whether it’s backpacking in Thailand or simply visiting a new city and enjoying a weekend getaway. Traveling alone could bring a piece of mind, new experiences, and even a new way of thinking. I’ve had so many solo travel experiences throughout my years. Everything from swimming with manatees in Northern Florida to riding in a luxurious bus in Vietnam. Although it can be scary setting off on your own, especially as women, I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything.
Here are my top 5 tips for the aspiring solo female traveler:
1.)Know your destination
I try my best to be as well informed about a destination as I possibly can from research.
Research means blog posts, online forums, and talking to people I know that have traveled there. Knowing what to expect could help you stay prepared when you encounter situations where you are uninformed.
For example, word on the backpacker trail was that taxis in Manila in the Philippines were very sketchy. Ten minutes on a few TripAdvisor forums got me a guide on how to find the legitimate taxis at the airport and what to avoid.
When I came out of the airport, a policeman tried to usher me to a “taxi” waiting out front that wasn’t marked. I had found warnings against taking an unmarked taxi and attempted to proceed to the legitimate taxi stand. The police officer told me to trust him because he was the police. Sure fire sign to not trust him! I avoided a terrible situation and kept walking to the legitimate taxis.
2.) Watch your alcohol consumption
I never have more than a drink or two when I am traveling alone. I know myself and my limits. I know alcohol lowers my “this-is-a-dangerous-situation” sensor. Be your own advocate when traveling. Don’t put yourself in situations that are recipes for disaster.
Alcohol is a controllable element of travel so you have no excuse if you get your purse snatched while you stumble back to your hostel, or worse.
I moved to Bangkok to teach English a few years ago. I signed my lease for my apartment in the city on Thanksgiving day. I went out to eat a Thanksgiving dinner with my friends and had a couple glasses of wine and was in no way wasted, but decided it was a good idea to make the 20-minute walk home at 11 pm by myself while carrying a large purse. I got mugged.
Luckily, he didn’t make out with my purse because some innocent bystanders quickly came to my rescue and the man was chased off. But I learned a valuable lesson about walking alone at night, slightly buzzed while carrying a big purse: don’t do it.
3.) Trust your gut
A woman’s intuition is spot on 9 times out of 10. If a path looks sketchy, don’t walk down it. If you’re feeling the heebie-jeebies from an onlooker at a restaurant, get out of there.
Trust your gut, it’s usually right.
When I was in Cancun recently, my Chichén Ítza tour got back late at night, around 11 pm. My Airbnb hosts told me it was safe to walk alone in the area so I started hoofing it back to the apartment. Five minutes in, there was absolutely no one on the roads and I had the feeling that someone was following me. I immediately jumped in a cab. I didn’t see anyone on my ride, but who knows. I had a bad feeling about the situation and I got myself out of there.
4.) Don’t arrive in places at night
New cities are not the place you want to arrive at night. It’s easy to imagine why.
If bad things are going to happen, they are probably going to happen in the cover of darkness. Taxis will be more scarce, bus stations may be closed and you’ll be left sitting on the sidewalk, and hostels may lock their doors at night. There are infinite reasons why you shouldn’t arrive somewhere at night.
I recently made the mistake of getting into Guatemala City at around 10 at night. The bus station was closed. I had no Quetzals (Guatemalan money) and had to get to my guesthouse. I have a weird rule that I don’t usually get in taxis that are lurking right next to bus terminals. I really believe those are the ones that are most likely to rip you off.
But in this situation, I wasn’t looking to hang out in a dark parking lot of a bus terminal. I chatted with him, explained that I needed to go to an ATM in order to pay him and off we went.
Luckily, I did a few things right to make up for getting in so late and not having cash: I knew enough Spanish to say I needed an ATM and where I needed to go so I didn’t look like a total tourist (easy target), I took Adventurous Kate’s advice and pretended to take a photo of his license plate and send it to my friend, and my phone still had data available on it from my Mexican SIM card so I could look up directions and follow along to make sure he didn’t veer off the path.
5.) Be confident
Stride in confidence even if you have absolutely no fucking clue where you are.
If you walk confidently, no one is going to mess with you. Always make it look like you know what you’re doing and for the most part, people will assume you do.
Confidence is like a shield to keep sketch heads from harassing you.
In Central America, street harassment is abundant. In my opinion, most of it is harmless, but I found that if I used my badass walk like Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City that I would be far less likely to get hollered at. At the very least you’re probably going to be walking too fast for guys to process.
Staying safe as a solo female traveler is a challenge, but it certainly is worth it in the end. If you’re interested in hearing more about traveling solo check out AdventurousKate.com, AlexInWanderland.com, or TheBlondeAbroad.com.
Have you ever traveled solo? What was your biggest fear? Any tips you’d like to share?