11 Tips on Staying Safe as a Solo Female Traveler
In one of my previous blogs about traveling without the internet, I recall my first experience as a solo female traveler.
There were one or two things that went wrong.
From simple things like getting lost in the big city to realizing I forgot my passport in my hostel locker in Germany as I crossed the border on the train into Austria…
These things happen!
One of the biggest learning curves, though, was the difficulties that present themselves as a solo female traveler. And throughout years of travel, I’ve only encountered more and learned more from it. So, whilst such experiences are not great to go through, it’s good to have the knowledge of how to deal with them to pass them onto any other avid solo female travelers. (Or any men, too.*)
These experiences have helped me learn a lot over the years, so I hope they can help you too in your travels and make your experience both fun and SAFE.
*Of course, these things may happen to men too. And everyone should follow precautions to stay safe when travelling solo. But this piece is particularly about tips for women and what women may encounter. They happen much more often to women and I doubt the following things will be on the forefront of any man’s travels, but do correct me if I’m wrong!
Waiting for the bus, a train, or a taxi? Try not to stand there looking lost or like you’re waiting for something. Busy yourself with your phone or a book, talk to a friend on the phone or head into a nearby shop if you’re going to be waiting a long time. This will stop unwanted guests from approaching you for a conversation if you’d rather spend the time alone. Plus, it can be intimidating and pretty hard to get rid of people once they’ve approached you already.
Top tip: You can always also pretend you don’t speak English/the language if you feel particularly intimidated!
Solo Female Traveler Tips – You’re Waiting For a Friend
If you’re approached at a café or restaurant, and someone asks if you’re alone, you can reply with “I’m waiting for a friend”. This also goes for if you’re asking for directions and don’t want to give away too much; “Where’s the museum? I’m supposed to meet a friend there.”
Don’t make yourself vulnerable by letting people know you’re alone.
Which takes me to the next tip…
Don’t Give Too Much Away / Don’t Trust Easily
My favorite thing about travelling is the people I meet. I love that I can travel and meet people from all over the world. I’ve had some amazing conversations and some really great times. But when you’re alone, people have to learn this trust, unfortunately, it shouldn’t be a given. You have to look out for yourself, and don’t feel bad about that. You’re just being smart.
If you meet someone / a group of people and feel comfortable around them, don’t instantly give your game away and tell them you’re alone and in a mixed dorm room where your money and passport is and also you’re planning to go out to a bar late tonight. You know?
Common sense, but also something you might not think of in the moment when you’ve finally found some cool locals to hang out with!
Try To Avoid Crowded Public Transport
Honestly, I’ve not found a country that I feel safe enough to not consider this. I always feel vulnerable on crowded public transport. Whether I’m in fear of being robbed or groped, it never feels great. So I try to avoid this as much as possible and consider going by taxi if you can afford it during rush hour, or otherwise try to travel in groups or be mindful about what you’re wearing; you might want to cover up.
Solo Female Traveler Tips – Carry Something With You
Of course, it depends on where you’re travelling. Travelling around most cities in Europe, I probably wouldn’t think about doing this. But in some other less-traveled countries, I have carried some kind of ‘weapon’ on me.
Personally, I’ve never carried a pen-knife or something like that because I’m not sure I’d ever actually use it. But it’s a good idea to carry at least something with you in an area you don’t feel too safe in. Whether it be a loud-sounding alarm, pepper spray or a rock you’ve just picked up off the floor.
Hopefully, you’ll never need to use it. But it’s there in the moment in case you do.
Sleeping in Mixed Dorms as a Solo Female Traveler
I have had some VERY questionable experiences sleeping in mixed dorms. The cheaper option for a budget traveler, I find mixed dorms mainly to be full of males. Which isn’t great as a solo female traveler.
There are also certain places I’d never sleep in a mixed dorm in; or certain countries I’d never sleep in a hostel in, to be fair.
Make sure to do your research before your trip. A mixed dorm in one city may be a lot safer than in the next. Plus, you can never choose your dorm mates. Just because you think it will be safe, doesn’t mean it will be. You never know who will be in there with you, or who you’ll have to kick out of your bed at 3am (?!).
If you can, try to request a top bunk. Or even better, stick to the ladies dorm rooms.
Be A Confident Solo Female Traveler
No matter if you’re the least confident person in the world, fake it. If you’ve just stepped out of the train station or the airport in a new country you’ve never been to before, you’re at your most vulnerable. Don’t let anyone know that. This goes for men, too.
I always do so by preparing myself. For example, if I am coming out of a train station in a capital city, I’ll make sure I know exactly where I need to go next. Which exit I need to go out of, and where that exit is. If I find myself a bit lost or panicking, I’ll take myself to the toilets to collect myself. Have a re-check on everything on my phone, then when I’m confident again, I’ll go back outside and definitely at least look like I know what I’m doing – even though I don’t have a clue half the time.
Call with friend / family on the way home / make sure you call regularly
Arrive During the Day
Definitely a mistake I’ve made a few times. It’s always best to arrive at daylight. This might go for your hometown too, I suppose and is just a matter of common sense. But sometimes we are allured by cheap flight prices at all hours of the morning.
It depends on where you are travelling, but if it’s a particularly dangerous country for women, this is definitely not recommended. If you know the country, then you could consider it and take other precautions.
Solo Female Traveler Tips – Buddy-Up
You’re not the only solo female traveler! Buddying up with a fellow solo female traveler is not only safer but it can also be more fun. Safety in numbers, and also adventure in numbers! Sometimes (really only sometimes) solo travel can get lonely, and you just want to experience things with someone else.
There are also times when it’s just too dangerous to be a woman wandering around by yourself and you’ll need to buddy up with a guy or a group of people.
I did this during Holy Week in India. Unfortunately, during this holiday, everyone gets a bit loose. And with everyone touching everyone in mass crowds with colorful paint, there are ample opportunities for men to touch you where you’d prefer not to. I had heard about these issues during Holy Week and therefore decided to find some people to go around with to take part in these celebrations.
Watch What You Wear
As a woman who has grown up in the west and is used to being able to wear pretty much anything I want, having to be mindful about how I dress in certain countries annoyed me at first.
Why should I have to cover my shoulders? Why should I have to wear a headscarf? Why can’t I show my knees? If I abide by these rules am I playing into an oppressive culture?
If you have these questions, I hear you. But also, it’s a part of the deal and honoring other people’s way of life is a big part of travel.
Some countries have certain requirements in terms of how women dress, and if you are visiting this country you should also follow that requirement. If you don’t want to, then you don’t go to that country. Not only is it offensive to their culture, but it could put you in danger.
Other countries don’t have strict rules and requirements on how women dress, but may be particularly sensitive with women showing certain parts of their body. These things are ingrained in a culture and therefore people’s minds, making you more vulnerable if you don’t follow these social practices. For example, I found in Japan that wearing very short shorts is entirely acceptable when in the UK you might get a few awkward looks, but showing some cleavage or shoulders is much less acceptable, when in the UK you wouldn’t even look twice. Sure enough, when I went out in a vest top I got approached sitting by myself in a café and for the rest of the day felt pretty vulnerable.
It’s also a good idea not to dress too flashy particularly in certain environments such as local markets. There have been multiple times I’ve taken earrings out or my rings or watch off completely if I don’t feel too safe. You don’t want to make yourself an easy target for thieves!
You Should Have Put A Ring On It!
So easy, but it’s worked for me many times, and one of my favorite solo female travel tips.
I often wear rings on my finger anyway. So if ever feel unsafe or notice men watching me, I’ll slip one of my rings onto my wedding finger. And hey-presto, I’m no longer a single solo female traveler, I’m a married woman waiting for my husband! To be honest, I’ve got no idea if this works in terms of keeping overly friendly men at bay. But at least it helps me to feel safe and therefore feel more confident, which in turn does help to keep you safe.
Of course, this only works in a country where wedding rings are worn, too.
Solo Female Traveler Tips – Final Thoughts
A lot of these tips for solo female travelers also double-up as general life tips wherever you are. But they are particularly important when travelling. You’re in a new country with different surroundings and you may not know anyone, so you’re more vulnerable than ever.
Don’t let people know this!
And most importantly… Have fun.
I haven’t spoken about the joys of solo female travel but honestly, it’s something that truly is life-changing. Enjoy indulging yourself and do what you want to do. It’s OK to make mistakes, but staying safe is the key to having fun!
If you have any tips that you use that I missed please share them below or share what your favorite tip is.