A frequently asked question by women who wish to travel is whether solo travel for women is safe. Some women wonder which destinations are safe and which are not. Some want to know if they can do it on their own, even though close friends and family have told them it is not safe. If you’re a woman who hasn’t traveled solo yet, it’s easy to get carried away by assumptions – not to mention the potential to keep you from having an amazing solo travel experience.
As a digital nomad, I traveled full time for three years, often alone. Solo travel experiences can be rewarding in a way that other experiences are not: you can step out of your comfort zone and get to know your inner explorer. On your own, you might be inspired to be more open to life and to new experiences. Traveling can be a great education.
So if you are a hopeful solo traveler looking for some safety advice, here are some hard-earned tips that have helped me on all of my travels.
Essential tips for traveling solo
1. Use taxis and carpools safely
Most countries have ridesharing apps, like Uber, or their own version of a ridesharing app that you can use to request a taxi. Using Uber or a local app allows you to track your location and standardize the fare. Plus, you can often see driver notes and track on the app to make sure you’re on your way to your intended destination.
Most importantly, verify that the license plate of the car you are riding in matches that of the app.
Try to use these apps rather than calling a taxi on the street. If these apps are not available, use licensed airport taxis or have your hotel call you a taxi. If you are staying in a short-term rental, ask the host for taxi recommendations.
2. Be careful when you drink and go out.
Excessive alcohol consumption can interfere with your ability to make informed decisions. So if you are going out on your own for the night, let a friend or family member know where you are going. You can even go so far as to share your location in real time via your smartphone.
New York-based traveler Christine Lee regularly lets others know where she is when she travels alone. “Make sure to share your location live with a roommate, friend or family member and / or tell a friend where you’ll be going so someone knows your location at all times,” she says.
Likewise, if you have a first date while traveling, meet in a public place. This way you can easily leave if you are not having a good time.
And when you go out to bars or restaurants, don’t leave your drink unattended.
3. Looks like you know what you’re doing
Some destinations are safer than others, but as a general rule, avoid making yourself an easy target. When walking down the street, especially late at night, pretend you know where you are going.
If you’re lost, walk into a cafe or store and look for directions on your phone. Have a handbag that has a zipper and don’t leave it unattended.
Also make sure you have the local emergency numbers for where you are traveling in case something goes wrong. Helen Simkins, who is currently traveling alone in Portugal, respects this advice.
“Before arriving in a country, always secure its equivalent 911 number in your phone. Keep in mind that 911 is not the emergency number in other countries, ”she said. “I save the general emergency number, police and hospital number in my favorites for quick access and I save the hospital in my cards.”
4. Leave your costume jewelry behind
While it can be nice to wear your favorite bling, costume jewelry or watches can attract attention. If you want to wear jewelry, buy costume jewelry for travel, or better yet, buy relatively inexpensive local jewelry to wear while traveling. This approach will not only help you blend in, but also make you look less like a target.
Many incidents of theft are crimes of opportunity; don’t give an offender a reason to see you as an easy target.
5. Use (and hide) your phone strategically
Some cities known to be dangerous have a higher prevalence of cell phone theft, especially if there is no Apple store in the country (iPhones have value on the local black market). If you are planning to visit any of these destinations, get a hidden passport belt that you can wear around your waist. These small pockets fit into your pants or skirt and are not visible. Keep your phone in there.
If you need to make a phone call or find directions, walk into a cafe or store and use your phone inside.
6. Dress appropriately for the culture
If you are traveling to a conservative country, bring clothes that will allow you to blend in. Pay attention to the culture and traditions of the country so as not to attract unwanted attention.
Even if you are going somewhere warm, bring some clothes that cover your knees and shoulders so that you feel comfortable to venture out and explore.
7. Buy a local SIM card
If you are traveling abroad, it makes economic sense to purchase a local SIM card for the country you are traveling to. Then you will have mobile data and local calls to feel connected. This tip is relatively straightforward, but I often hear about people who just use their own US-based phone plan and buy data.
These US data packs are often expensive and / or do not provide 4G service. People end up putting their phones in airplane mode and only using free Wi-Fi in order to save money and not use expensive data. Although you can use offline mode for some apps (like Google Maps and Google Translate), you cannot use these services in real time.
Save yourself the hassle and just buy a local SIM card. You want to be connected to the internet and have access to a phone (without paying a hefty fee) in case you need to make a call, contact friends, or change locations at the last minute.
Plus, being able to stay in touch with your friends and family can help allay their worries about your solo trips.
8. Join Facebook groups of female travelers
Traveling solo doesn’t necessarily mean being completely alone for the duration of your trip. There are many Facebook groups focused on solo female travel, like Girls Love Travel and Digital Nomad Girls Community, both of which have thousands of members.
Join these groups to connect with other female solo travelers. You can post about where you plan to travel and get lots of tips from other people who have been there. As an added bonus, you could also make friends with women who travel to the same destinations.
Finally, enjoy your travels
Traveling solo is an incredibly rewarding experience. Keep these safety tips in mind when venturing abroad so that you can have many memorable trips, with or without your friends.