- Solo Travel As A Woman: The Ultimate Safety Guide (50+ Tips!) - July 16, 2022
Is it safe to travel solo as a woman? What are some solo travel resources to know about? What is the best travel purse? Where is safe to go alone as a woman?
People are quick to question the safety of traveling solo as a young female, especially when visiting certain destinations. We see so many articles and news stories about the crime in South Africa, missing backpackers in Australia, or how dangerous Mexico City (one of my favorite cities!) is, which just breeds more fear.
The truth is, you'll never know until you go. And this ultimate solo travel safety guide (for girls, gays, and they) will help you!
Summary of best tools and services for solo female travelers:
- ⛑ The best travel medical insurance: Safety Wing
- 🔋 The best portable battery: Anker Portable battery
- 🎒 The best travel backpack for women: Tortuga's Outbreaker backpack
- 👜 The best travel purse: Travelon Heritage Crossbody
- 🥽 The best physical safety tool: Portable doorstop and External door lock
1. Don't be such a tourist—try your best to blend in.
Imagine that there are two girls, walking the streets of Rome:
Girl 1: A wide-eyed girl in Trastavere with a bright yellow flowing dress and matching yellow sunglasses, roaming the cobblestone streets in flip flops. She has an expensive camera in one hand, and her new iPhone in the other hand, gawking at their sites.
Girl 2: A girl wearing a nice blouse, jeans, sneakers, and a crossbody bag. She has her phone in one hand but walks with intention like she's going somewhere. When she stops to check for directions, she sits on a park bench and leaves one earbud out to listen o what goes on around her.
Which girl is more likely to be pickpocketed, Girl 1 or Girl 2? Which one seems the easier target? Which person seems to be a local, and which seems more lost and vulnerable?
You don’t want to stand out in the crowd—that’s when you become an easy target for pickpockets and scammers, especially if you're flashing around exactly what they'd like to snatch! So some quick tips:
Ditch the rucksack for a crossbody bag.
A cross-body bag that can be 1.) hidden underneath clothes and 2.) has a zipper close is ideal, especially if you’re carrying valuables.
For the best travel purse, I recommend the Travelon Heritage Crossbody, because it has a lot of useful zipper pockets and is made of an anti-cut material should a passing motorcycle try to swipe it (a common petty crime in Indonesia, Thailand, and Cambodia).
Wear your backpack as a front pack.
You might notice that people would wear their backpacks on their front and think they look silly! But when your backpack is in front of you so you can see everything it's less accessible to the quick hands of pickpockets.
The best travel backpack for women: easily Tortuga's Outbreaker backpack. The 35L or 45L bag has a 360º zipper that does packing and unpacking a breeze, and it has all the shoulder and hip support to make it a comfy carry.
If you want a daypack, grab their Laptop Backpack—it's even smaller and still your best friend with all the helpful zips and hooks.
Don’t use the back pockets of your jeans.
Items in the front pockets are less likely to be stolen, considering you’re more likely to see someone coming and you’ll feel it easier.
Make sure to dress appropriately for the culture of your destination.
Know when to cover your knees and shoulders, hair, and arms. This is not only to ward off unwanted attention (tourists stick out like a sore thumb when wearing “western” clothes) but, also as a sign of respect when visiting religious monuments such as the Pantheon in Rome, Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, or the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi.
Headed to Dubai soon? Read this: An expat’s Dubai dress code: what can women wear in Dubai!
2. Choosing the best method of transportation.
Hopping between planes, trains, and buses can be nerve-wracking for a girl traveling alone. But you got it! Remember: most people are just trying to do their daily commute from point A to B.
However, transient spots like bus stations and airports are also the most obvious place to find unwise tourists, so listen to these tips:
Always look for a company logo.
If you have transportation booked, look for the company logo on t-shirts/boards before leaving with anyone.
When arriving at your destination, there will likely be people waiting in the arrivals lounge to offer you a lift. Ignore them. Head outside and look for your point of contact. If you’re unsure, ring the company and ask for the name and license plate of the driver, if possible.
If you're looking for transport on arrival, expect to pay “tourist prices” when coming to and from the airport.
In some destinations, you'll likely find public minibus (called collectivos, peseros, and combi in Mexico, and matatus in Kenya) that go from the airport into town the locals use. The language barrier might be tough and you'll have to be extra sure of when to get off, but they're usually safe.
Make sure any transport you take is marked and licensed.
Taxies should always have a logo, roof sign, and/or Driver Display Card showing a number that can be entered online to check the validity. When taking an Uber/Lyft rideshare, make sure the license plate and driver's photo match the one shown on the app.
If you’re uncertain, walk away. Your safety is worth more than the $10 ride.
Before booking transport, make sure to read the reviews from previous passengers.
If they don’t have great feedback, pay attention. Some services have notoriously bad drivers, late arrival times, etc. Again, it's always worth it to pay a little extra and get there in one piece—safe transport is not the place you want to skimp on costs!I don’t believe in living life in fear of the what-ifs—every country has illegal crime, unsafe areas, and cultural injustices. This is why safety when traveling is about staying vigilant, rather than staying away! Click To Tweet
Sit next to, or behind the driver.
The safest seating choice for solo travelers is behind the driver's seat, or up in the front seat. When in the back seat, behind the driver is safest so that they can't reach back at you or see you as much in the rearview mirror.
On the other hand, some passengers prefer sitting in the front seat to retaliate easier and stay alert and aware of their surroundings.
Always let someone trusted know your whereabouts.
There are apps that let you share your location with friends and family, such as FindMyFriend, Life360, and Glympse. These allow your loved ones to track your journey in real-time, request check-ins, and receive alerts upon arriving at your destination.
3. Do as the locals do, solo female travelers.
Be aware of the culture you’ll be immersing yourself in when traveling anywhere.
Doing your research before leaving is crucial in order to minimize any unintentional disrespect or offense to the locals, from etiquette and language to religion and artifacts.
Globally, we live in a patriarchy. But how women are expected to act and interact varies from region to region. Whether you're at home or abroad, learning how to best navigate a place as a woman is crucial for safety.
Learn the very basics of the language such as greetings and manners.
Common phrases you should learn in the local language before your trip:
- Can you repeat?
- Where is…
- I have a question…
- Do you speak English?
- I don't speak ____________.
- How much money is it?
- Do you take credit cards?
- Where is the bathroom?
- Table for one
- I'm allergic to ____________.
- Thank you
You’ll thank yourself later for putting in the extra effort, and you won’t feel as lost.
There is so much we don’t know about cultures around the world, which is why it’s integral to inform ourselves.
Did you know? In Morocco, women aren’t allowed inside cafes. In parts of Asia, women aren't permitted to touch religious monks. In India, if you are seen smoking or drinking as a female, expect disapproving stares from the local men. In the Middle East and North Africa, there are ‘women only’ areas in metros, trains, and restaurants where you are free to sit to feel more comfortable in public.
4. The best solo female safety tip is confidence.
Be aware of the stares
If someone is going to stare at you, it won’t matter whether you’re half-naked or covered from head to toe in twenty layers. If you look different from what they’re used to seeing, people will gawk.
For example, blonde-haired women are a rarity in the Middle East, so chances are you’ll have an audience simply for breathing. Curly-haired, tan-skinned women are still unexpected in Eastern Europe and Asia, so you might get some pretty unashamed looks of curiosity.
By honing your intuition you'll be able to tell when they're curious stares and when they're dangerous
I hope you never find yourself in a spot of trouble, but if you need backup, people tend to ignore a far away yelling of “help!”
Someone will be more likely to come running if they think there's a fire. Awful, right?
Have knowledge of basic self-defense.
At the very least, know the weakest points to aim your hits: the eyes, nose, groin, ribs, temple, jaw, ears, throat, and a good stomp on the foot.
Use the strongest and hardest parts of your body to deliver the blows: the elbow, the palm of the hand, knees, and feet, should you ever feel the need to defend yourself. This should be the last option. Always try and run away rather than engage in any physical contact.
Walk with purpose.
If you look confident – standing tall with your shoulders back and head up – you’ll give off that “don’t mess with me” vibe. If you look unsure, lost, and vulnerable, you’ll come across as a prime and easy target for anyone who’s bored and hanging nearby.
Try not to open up a map–use Google Map's audio directions!
Obviously, you won’t exactly know where you’re going if you’re exploring a new destination. You might consider pulling out a map and stopping to get your bearings.
Not only will this open you up to passers-by, but you’ll also be much less focused on your surroundings than you should be – like dangling a chicken in front of a panther, loosely speaking, of course.
Avoid eye contact.
In some countries, looking someone in the eyes as you’re passing by may be seen as an invitation to approach you, so make sure you’re walking with your eyes ahead and ignore any calls or hassle from the side of the road.
Be cautious before telling people you’re traveling alone.
When in doubt: lie, lie, lie!
Making friends is a huge part when traveling, but consider telling strangers you’re meeting a friend later, or your boyfriend has gone to the bathroom instead of letting them know you're alone. These little white lies may help you out in the long run.
I’ve even seen women take fake wedding rings to wear at the bar to ward off any advances. Crazy the lengths we have to go to as women, isn’t it?
Remember: you have absolutely no obligation to be polite or pleasant to someone who is making you feel uncomfortable.
Unfortunately, the word ‘no’ seems to have lost its meaning. No means yes, and yes means yes, so how do you tell someone to back off if they’re bothering you? Simple. Tell them to back off.
Learn to be assertive and firm.
The likelihood of seeing them again is slim to none, and your safety and comfort are more important than someone’s ego. If it’s a misunderstanding, you can always apologize. If they don’t accept that, who cares? You’re there to enjoy yourself, not to entertain them.
5. No matter your location, make safety a priority
Always let someone know where you are.
We've previously mentioned a couple of downloadable apps on both Android and IOS where you can share your location with family and friends. This is incredibly important and will help to ease the worries of your loved ones, as well as your own.
💡 Another smart trip is to use Google Docs for your trip itinerary, and “share” the document with close family and friends. As you make updates to the dates, addresses, and details of your trip, they'll have instantaneous access.
Before leaving your accommodation, input your destination into Google Maps, turn the volume up, stick in one earphone, and let the soothing sounds of Siri guide you along.
This will save you the distraction of glancing at your phone every two seconds. On the other hand, I’ve found that looking at your phone when walking can sometimes help you appear more like a local, as you don’t need to always look where you’re going due to familiarity.
Of course, you should always be aware of your surroundings, whether you’re watching the map or listening to the directions. Google Maps is super handy to have in your arsenal – once you’ve sorted your route and set it going, you don’t need WiFi to keep it running.
Before entering a country, look into the different options for a SIM card.
Being in a foreign place with no WiFi and no way of contacting home is not fun—trust me. Not only does it limit your ability to call or communicate, but it can cut off your chance to find directions.
At most gas stations, convenience stores, or newspaper stands, you can find a local SIM card for usually $5 – $20 USD. In places like Croatia and Mexico, you can get a full week of data and international calls for that much!
Having a mobile plan like T-Mobile makes life so much easier, and is definitely the best phone plan for international travelers. They have coverage in more than 210+ countries and it's so nice to know you can get cell service if you need it, almost everywhere.
If you’re traveling to an “unsafe” country and you don’t have much of a plan for your arrival, look on TripAdvisor for a reputable tour guide, with five-star reviews.
As a solo female traveler, being accompanied by a local male can make a big difference in your safety and comfort. Unfortunately, men usually respect other men more than they respect women.
Save yourself the headache and invest in a local male guide in destinations in the Middle East, Latin America, and Eastern Europe.
Make sure to choose a known safe destination for solo travelers if it's your first time and do your research.
After deciding on a location, read reviews on hostels/hotels, look into the surrounding area and see if there are any spots to eat nearby, check if there is any public transport, and so on. (If you're traveling through South East Asia, consider staying at Mad Monkey Hostels! Here's a $10 off coupon, on me)
Note down the emergency numbers for the destination(s) you intend to visit.
Make sure they’re easily accessible. You never know when you might need to use them.
6. Common travel scams to know if you're solo abroad:
There are so many different scams around the world and tourists fall into these traps every single time. Get your work-hat on and do your research on what to expect where you’re visiting as solo female traveler. It’ll feel good to be able to spot a scam and potentially help someone else at the same time.
Say no to any taxi drivers offering you a tour—they have an ulterior motive with friends waiting around the corner.
It’s common for travelers to come across scams in big cities, and I’m sure you’ll have heard of one or two. Thailand is a perfect example where locals love to rip off oblivious tourists in colorful ways.
Remember to negotiate your transport price before departure.
Or you’ll wind up with a random number thrown at you that you’ll pay, yet be completely unaware of it being too expensive. In fact, taxi drivers around the world will try and charge you more than necessary, so be observant.
Don't fall for the photo opps!
Throughout Europe, you’ll find locals with exciting and exotic animals in the street, luring you in with a photo opportunity.
For example, along Charles Bridge in Prague, you’ll find brightly colored domesticated doves, all fluffy and cute, wandering along the arms of a couple of men. Or, maybe around the corner, you’ll come face to face with a giant yellow python wrapped around someone’s arm.
These people will try and force these poor animals onto you to take a photo, then suddenly ask for you to pay for the act. They’ll often get pushy and aggressive should you refuse, so it’s best to steer clear of these should you see one. If not solely because animal tourism is more often than not, unethical, and a terrible practice.
7. Tips for protecting your valuables when you're traveling alone:
If someone tries to rob you, let them.
If someone approaches you and tries to take your belongings, or if they threaten and try to mug you, don’t fight back.
Throw it away from you and run the other way as fast as you can. They’ll likely go after the purse/phone and ignore you running. Material possessions can be replaced, your life can’t.
Never carry too much cash on you.
Keep emergency money in extra safe spaces: rolled up into an empty lip balm/makeup case, secret pockets/compartments in your clothes/bags, and always keep some locked away in your accommodation, just in case it gets nabbed from your person.
Don’t let your guard down, and know where all your valuables are at all times.
Be careful with ATMs and try to take cash out from those attached to banks when you can.
The “Lebanese Loop” is known across the world where scammers tamper with ATMs and attach a pocket on the inside to catch your card, stealing it when you walk away. Make sure to always check the machine before using it–wiggle the card slot, if it’s loose, find another one
Google Maps show the nearest ATMs, but try to steer clear of those in convenience stores and stick to shopping malls or banks.
Always make sure to take padlocks to lock up any bags you’re leaving in your accommodation.
Even if you’re staying in a private room, hide your valuables well and know exactly how much cash you have on you, and in your room.
It's best to keep valuables (passport, phone, cash, cards, etc) on your person at all times, where you’ll frequently and subconsciously check throughout the day. Some people prefer leaving these in their hotel/hostel where they think it’s safest, but I’d rather have mine in my sight at all times.
Always have a copy of your documents.
Keep it in a safe place like a plastic wallet, just in case you lose your passport or need a reference for your travel insurance.
8. Choose the accommodation that's right for you as a solo woman.
Depending on your confidence and street smarts, different accommodations will make you feel comfortable when traveling solo. And sleeping soundly is so important for a good trip!
If you’re staying in a hotel or a private room in a hostel and you feel unsafe, take a doorstop or portable lock with you when you’ve locked it at night. This will prevent anyone from entering your room and will give you a heads up to find an escape if needed—but most importantly, it'll give you peace of mind.
(If you're traveling through South East Asia, consider staying at Mad Monkey Hostels! Here's a $10 off coupon, on me)
Airbnb is a great choice for solo female travelers, but be sure to check reviews.
To assure the best Airbnb or rental stay experience, booking with a super host and reading the reviews are essential. But you can get much better tips in the articles below.
💡 Before you book, read AirBnb Tips for Guests: Survival Tips You Need to Know Before You Book! for tips for your first stay and Airbnb Questions to Ask Your Host Before Booking Your Stay to make sure you're asking all the right questions before booking.
Need tips for traveling on a budget? Hostels are the most popular option.
Hostels is the go-to option for the budget backpacker. But, how safe are hostels for women?
You might feel safer booking an all-female dorm, which means it's multiple people in one (6 to 12-person) room, in individual bunks. All-woman dorms can sometimes be slightly more expensive than a mixed dorm, but if you sleep better at night then it’s truly a no-brainer.
If you’ve booked a mixed dorm and change your mind, speak up and talk to reception about it.
It’s definitely personal preference—plenty of budget travelers stay in mixed dorms solo and never have a problem. But of course, if you look for horror stories, you can find some.
If you definitely have changed your mind, go to the reception desk. Tell them you don’t feel safe and they’ll be more than happy to put you in a different room.
Try to know the “bad areas” around where you’re staying.
Not all places will have them, but some might, so it’s better to do some research. Rather be safe than sorry!
If nothing else, remember the basics:
Always have a power pack on you to prevent a dead battery.
Your phone is your life jacket when traveling, and it can truly be a lifesaver in a pinch. If you're in the market, I recommend the Anker Portable battery—it's 10,000mA and can fully charge your cell phone 2-3x.
Travel insurance isn’t taken seriously enough. Get some!
If you’ve landed yourself in hospital, lost your luggage, or have been mugged, you’ll wish you had it. You wouldn’t overlook health or car insurance, so why ignore travel insurance?
Safety Wing is the best international travel health insurance—for $40 a month it “provides coverage for unexpected illness or injury, including eligible expenses for hospital, doctor or prescription drugs”.
For general travel insurance, I usually rely on my Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card, the best travel credit card for financial and medical travel insurance. And hella travel benefits!
Solo female travel is about trusting your gut and your instincts.
Remove yourself from the equation if you feel uncomfortable in a situation, or if you don’t feel safe or happy. Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself and always stay observant. It’s about being aware of your surroundings and staying street smart and assertive.
Once you've armed yourself with all these safety tips, get out there!
It’s a scary world out there, but there are kind strangers, natural phenomena and magical landscapes to be seen. There are mountains to be scaled, trails to be hiked, and alpine lakes to swim in. There are vibrant sunrises over deserts to be witnessed and sunsets over glistening seas to be seen. There are wonderful locals to be met, magnificent food to be tasted and bustling markets to be explored.
And if the worst happens, you might find that it's better to have tried and failed than to have never attempted and always wondered “what if”.
Have any tips you'd like to add? Please, share them in the comments!
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