I’m a Solo Female Traveller & This is My Personalized Advice
Posted on Thursday, January 19, 2023
I have to say, I’ve been doing solo female travel since before I even knew it was a thing. When I studied abroad in 2015, I had a total of two friends with me and organizing trips was difficult. So, to explore the twelve countries I got to see in those few months way back when, I decided to travel by myself. It wasn’t a hard decision. I’m very independent so doing things on my own is natural to me.
It was only when people started asking me in a quizzical tone that I realised, “this is kind of different.” And when I got into the blogging sphere, it was a big topic of discussion: solo female travel. Something that a lot of ladies do but a lot of ladies are scared of doing. As I continue roaming the world, about 8 years later, I’m still met with confusion and concern from others about heading out into the unknown by myself.
But if I’ve been travelling by myself for 8 years then clearly it’s something I enjoy doing and am not afraid to do. I wouldn’t have been able to see as much of the world as I have if I didn’t get to travel solo.
Since there are so many women out there who are looking to travel but don’t have a buddy, or who just want to step out of their comfort zone and try something new, I want to give you a realistic image of what it’s like to travel alone as a female. And hopefully by the end of this article, you’ll feel more inclined to finally hit the “book” button on that solo trip you’ve been eyeing!
The Big Issue in Solo Female Travel: Safety
A lot of women are concerned about safety abroad. Though anything can happen anywhere, there’s certainly places where you’re more likely to be a victim of a crime than where you’re not. But the reality is, the world is overall a safe place. There are so many places you can visit where your chances of being victimised are slim. And actually, the United States is one of the most dangerous countries in the world. So chances are you’re going to someplace safer than your own home.
There are lots of steps you can take to make sure you’re a lot safer on any trip, and this is even true at home. You can start by letting your friends and family know where you’re going and where you’ll be staying. You can send them a copy of your itinerary along with contact information for where you’re staying. Keeping in touch is also important and many phone plans have some type of service in other countries, though your accommodation will probably have wifi. When you’re at your destination, you can talk to the hotel or hostel staff when you go out and let them know where you’re going.
As with anywhere and whoever you’re with, you’ll want to take precautions to make sure you have good footing. Be aware of your surroundings. Always have a map with you so you know where to go and keep your phone charged. I find portable chargers to be handy especially for long days out. Always keep an eye on your belongings. Always keep an eye on your drink. Use the same common sense that you would at home.
If you order a rideshare like Uber, make sure of two things: 1, the license plate matches what’s on your app; and 2, ask the person who they’re waiting for. Don’t give away your name, like “are you waiting for Lilly?” You want to ask, “Who are you picking up?” and make them say your name so you know this is the right person.
This is also where I recommend using hostels to travel. I wouldn’t be able to afford travel if it weren’t for hostels, but from a safety standpoint, they actually add a lot of security. They’re much more social than a hotel and you’re sharing a room with multiple people. Which may sound off, but think – in a hotel you’re in your own room so chances are nobody will know when you come and go. In a hostel, people might notice if you don’t come home one night. In a hotel, criminals could potentially break in and you’re stuck by yourself. In a hostel, criminals aren’t going to break into a room full of people. The chances of something bad like that happening are very slim but staying in hostels can give an extra layer of security.
Many hostels have female-only rooms so you don’t need to stay with any men. But I’ve stayed in rooms with men many times and have never had any issues. Again, there’s security in numbers, and someone isn’t going to hurt you when there are 5 other people in the room.
If you do stay by yourself, you can get a portable door lock and/or door alarm for your security. I don’t consider theft a safety issue since it doesn’t pose a threat to my life, but it’s not fun. There are also many anti-theft items you can buy such as backpacks, wallets, etc. designed for travel. I’ve never used them but there are other travel blogs that review this type of thing.
Tip: Set Up Apple Pay/Google Pay
If your wallet is stolen, you can use your phone to get cash at an ATM without having to have your card on hand. Set up Apple Pay or Google Pay and you can initiate a cardless withdrawal at a lot of ATMs abroad. This way, you will have money on your trip.
If you get weapons like pepper spray then make sure it’s legal to carry (and potentially use) that type of thing in your destination.
As I mentioned before, the United States is one of the most dangerous countries in the world. And it checks out: we have mass shootings every day and violent crime has risen 50% since 2020 (!!). So chances are that wherever you’re going, you’re statistically safer.
Choosing a Destination for Solo Female Travel
Everywhere is different with regards to how women are treated. If you’re apprehensive about your first solo trip then you’ll probably want to go somewhere that’s going to feel safer. There are lots of countries in the world that respect women so you’re sure to find someplace to go.
I definitely haven’t been everywhere yet but of the places I’ve been, here are some places I feel confident sending first time solo female travellers:
- Iceland ★
- Ireland ★
- Japan ★ (the most “different” from the US on this list but very, very safe and an incredibly country)
- Sweden ★
- United Kingdom (England/Scotland) ★
★ indicates that this is my top pick in terms of things to do & see.
This is my experience only but the above list I spent a week plus in and didn’t have any issues. There are some more places I didn’t have any issues with but I heard that others did so I didn’t include them (Spain, for example).
I mentioned before that the U.S. is a lot more dangerous than other countries but that doesn’t mean catcalling and harassing culture doesn’t exist in those countries. Unfortunately I got catcalled once every 10 minutes when I lived in France. I was followed. I was harassed. Those aren’t crimes so they never got reported or recorded but the threat of being hurt can make us feel very unsafe. Some travel blogger mansplained that we shouldn’t care because it’s not actually an offense to our safety but I strongly disagree. A threat is a threat.
France is great but I definitely don’t recommend it for first time solo female travellers. Also not Belgium. I don’t want to sugarcoat this because I want to give a realistic expectation. But don’t let this deter you from travelling solo at all! Because as I said, there are lots of places out there where you can go and have a good time. I’ve been lots of places (like the ones I mentioned above) and didn’t have a single issue my entire trip. And you can build your confidence to work up to visiting those places where you might run into issues.
ALSO, I feel street harassment has significantly decreased since 2015. Just in my experience. France now has a law making catcalling illegal. So things are actually looking up!
Destinations: Research, Research, Research
You can often Google, “Is X safe for solo female travel” and get a selection of blog posts answering your question. I don’t blog particularly about safety but if you want to ask me about a certain place, I’ll tell you all I know.
However I more often recommend going to places like Twitter and Facebook to ask around, to get more personalised responses. (Don’t have a big Twitter following? I have a few thousand travel followers on Twitter so if you tag me @travel4thestars I’ll retweet your questions! 🙂 )
A lot of times you’ll get very mixed responses. Like, “Yes it’s very safe! Why wouldn’t you think so?” to “No, I had an awful time.” Which can be really confusing. But trust your instinct.
You should also research scams in certain areas. Lots of scams are theft-based but you still don’t want to be a victim of that because it’s no fun.
You should also look up where to stay in a certain location and also what places you should avoid. Baltimore’s a great example; you can have a wonderful time if you’re in Fells Point, but if you stay in a place like West Baltimore, you’ll probably be terrified. (That’s just how it is.) Generally it’s a good idea to stay in the downtown area of wherever you’re going, which is also a win because you’ll be close to museums, restaurants, etc.
And that’s basically how I choose where to travel and what I do about safety. It sounds like a lot but it’s really just choosing a place other women recommend for solo travel and then using common sense when you get there. You’ll be able to have a great time if you follow those parameters.
Solo Travel Doesn’t Have to Be Lonely
Another concern people have about travelling solo is the potential loneliness. Travelling by yourself can be a good way to “escape” but a lot of times, and especially after a few days, it’s nice to actually talk to someone. There are several ways to meet people on a trip.
Hostels come in again to play here. Not only can you meet your roommates but many hostels have a common area where people can get together. The good hostels usually have a bar of some sort or organise different events. Since other people staying at the hostel are in the same position you are, it’s a nice social atmosphere where you don’t need to be shy to say “hello, what’s your name?” to the person sitting next to you. I’m still friends with people I met years ago in hostels.
You can also go on organised excursions. I usually use Viator and GetYourGuide for excursions to places or even classes. I’ve met so many people on these types of excursions. The guides are also locals so they’re able to give you more information about where you’re staying, such as places to eat, hidden gems, etc.
There are also a few travel apps now designed to find travellers headed to the same area at the same time, notably Travello and GAFFL. They’re both free and you’ll get to meet other travellers in your area. Solo female travel doesn’t have to be lonely.
Solo Female Travel: the Bottom Line
Lots of women travel solo and have a great time – myself included. A lot of women might be scared to travel by themselves, or they’re just not used to being by themselves. But if you’re interested in solo female travel for whatever reason then I definitely say you should go for it. Find a good destination that can ease you into travelling solo to start. See how you like it and go from there.
I hope this guide helped you understand what to expect from solo female travel and taught you something you didn’t know before. If you’re looking to head into the world by yourself, you have my warmest wishes. I hope you have a safe & wonderful time!