For some people, the thought of going to the movies alone is daunting enough, let alone a solo vacation, but many adventurers will tell you that traveling alone can be an empowering and rewarding experience that’s not to be missed.
There’s a common misconception that it’s unsafe for women in particular to travel alone in a foreign country. While it’s true that female travelers face different challenges than their male counterparts, there’s no reason for women to stay home just because they haven’t found the perfect traveling companion. By being prepared and taking some extra precautions, you too can see the world, make some new friends and have some amazing cultural experiences – and be able to say you did it all by yourself. Here are some tips for women who want to embark on a solo journey that will ensure a safe, enjoyable and memorable trip.
Choose your destination wisely
Even though it’s the 21st Century, the sad truth is that in some parts of the world women do not enjoy the same freedoms that they do here in the United States. In some cultures, it’s a taboo for a woman to be seen alone in public. In others it’s frowned upon for women to have their arms, legs or even their hair uncovered.
As much as we believe in fighting taboos and breaking barriers, you have to be realistic about your chosen destination and the discrimination you could potentially face there. If you’re a woman who abhors the idea of being expected to cover up your body, you may want to avoid visiting countries like Indonesia or Morocco where uncovered women are likely to be stared, hissed and even yelled at. If the idea of being openly stared at by men makes you uncomfortable, Italy might not be the best destination for you. Women aren’t even allowed to enter Saudi Arabia unless accompanied by a male companion.
If you’re a woman who’s willing to stand up for her rights in the face of discrimination, then we applaud you! But in order to ensure you have a safe and trouble-free trip, it’s a good idea to choose your destination – and your battles – carefully.
Plan ahead and be prepared
The better prepared you are for your solo adventure, the more self-reliant you’ll be. Research whatever you can about your chosen destination and about the cultural norms there. Better yet, try to find a firsthand account written by a female traveler who has been there before. That way you can get some tips that are specific to the country you plan to visit and possibly avoid any unpleasant or unsafe situations that could arise there.
Know your itinerary and your route inside and out and try to memorize the details of each leg of your trip. Alert someone as to when you’re expecting to depart or arrive at any given destination and check in whenever you can, whether it’s someone at home, a trustworthy fellow traveler you’ve encountered or someone at your past or upcoming destination.
Arm yourself with a map, a guidebook and a phrasebook should you be traveling to a country that speaks an unfamiliar language. Not knowing where you’re going and having to ask for help too often can make you appear less confident, and make you a bigger target for pickpockets or scammers. It’s also a good idea to buy a hidden wallet belt before leaving for your trip. These are meant to store important items such as money and passports and can be concealed under your clothes to foil pickpockets and purse-grabbers.
You can’t be too smart or too cautious when traveling alone as a woman and there are a number of little things you can do to ensure you have the safest experience possible. Walk confidently with your head up and eliminate distractions; don’t walk around staring at your map, your phone or with headphones in your ears. Avoid traveling at night if you can but if you must, stick to brightly lit streets and crowded places. If you need to take out money, hit up an ATM during the day rather than at night and don’t flash large bills around.
Be wary of who you ask for directions should you need them; it’s better to ask another woman, a family, or ask at your hotel or at a restaurant should you require assistance. That’s not to say that you should avoid men while traveling. In many counties men are more likely to speak better English than the women; just be wary about who you talk to and the setting you’re in.