A Woman’s Perspective on Solo Travel

Biking VersaillesThe Frugal Traveler (NY Times) posted an interesting Q&A with Beth Whitman, from Wanderlust & Lipstick about solo, female travel. I agree with her on most of her advice, except I’ve definitely thought “Oh God, I wish I was a man in this situation!” Some of the comments from NYT readers are getting a little nasty though. Ouch! Anyway, here are a few of my tips for traveling solo as a young[er] female.

  • Do your traveling during daylight hours. Arriving into town on a train at midnight isn’t the safest bet.
  • Treat solo travel as you would your own city. I wouldn’t walk around parts of Portland at night, so why would I abroad?
  • Don’t dress like a hooker. OK, maybe more useful to say dress appropriately for the region you’re in. Modesty goes a long way.
  • Know where you’re hotel is on a map, before you even arrive at the airport. You’ll know if the the taxi is leading you astray.
  • Keep a hotel/hostel business card with you at all times.
  • Master the “Don’t Mess With Me” walk, at some point you’ll need it.
  • When looking for hostels online (HostelWorld.com etc), sort by location. Location is a huge deal when traveling solo. Example: my hostel in Madrid was on a pedestrian street, and I could go out at night alone. In Barcelona, it was down by the port, so I made sure to not be solo after dark.
  • Use your “sixth sense” to differentiate between danger and simple curiosity. Many cultures are just curious as to why you’re alone, or why you have blond hair, or why you have blond arm hairs. :)
  • Do small group tours for countries you want to experience without the hassle (like Morocco and Turkey).

Ladies, what are your tips for solo travel?


  • Saw your comment on the NYT article, intrigued by your blog name, had to check it out!!
    I just got back from traveling in Guatemala and Belize with my teen daughter, and was pleased to see / meet lots of solo female travelers, all having great trips from anything from a week to a year in length, and only one appeared to have had any sort of hassle (ripped off after using a ‘rigged’ ATM machine!). As a world-traveling dad traveling with daughter, it was great to have her meet lots of solo female traveler role models, and to watch her ‘traveling confidence’ grow!

  • Very sensible recommendations. I have a practical one to add – when asking for directions, turn to people working in shops/gas stations etc. instead of starting talking to random people on the street. That will decrease the probability of you getting a local admirer/stalker.

    Btw, I totally admire you for the guts to do the round-the-world trip!

  • Very excellent tips. I live in India and traveling alone for a woman in India is a nightmare. These tips really serve the purpose.

  • I followed your link from NYT and I will follow you now on my own. Great blog, great tips. I’m headed off on a year-long Europe trip and looking for support and advice.

    As a 20 year-old Charleston, SC girl living in a poor (sometimes rowdy) urban neighborhood, I hear you about being smart. But the biggest step is embracing that you are surrounded by good people (with only a few bad ones). There are always people who’ll look out for you, no matter where you are in the world— you just have to let them.

    Thanks, and check out my blog.

  • I also followed your link from the NYT article. Much more insightful than what was there!

    esp. the don’t dress like a hooker part. DUH, but surprising how many American female travelers think that this is okay. Thanks for the tips!

  • Hiya! Followed the link from your NYT comment.
    I’m in the same boat as you were (I guess a year ago.) I’m ditching my job next week to ride a bike through the US and Central America for a year.
    What was the hardest part about coming back? Do people understand why you left and the importance of what you did? Do you think you’re in a better position than people who stuck with their jobs for another year?
    Thanks for helping out a noob!

    • Francesca- Wow, that’s a big trip! Good luck! I actually looked forward to coming back both times (I came back to enjoy the Oregon summer after 4 months on the road, and then went to Eastern Europe). Most people are really supportive of my travels, like “Wow, I wish I could do that” etc. I don’t think I’m in a better position, just different. And hey, I’m on the job search, so maybe I’m farther behind. ;) It comes down to priorities, so in this part of my life travel was a top priority, for others it’s owning a home etc.

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