Travel Tips

A Woman’s Perspective on Solo Female Travel – Tips to Stay Safe

June 24, 2009

Last Updated:

The 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.

Safety Tips for Solo Female Travel:

  • Do your traveling during daylight hours. Arriving into town on a train at midnight isn’t the safest bet. You’ll stress less about it during the day.
  • Treat solo travel as you would your own city. I wouldn’t walk around parts of Portland solo 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. And some cultures have very different views on dress.
  • Know where your hotel is on a map, before you even arrive at the airport. You’ll know if a taxi is leading you astray. You’ll know more of how to get to your destination without looking like a confused travel at the bus or metro station.
  • 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 ( 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).
  • Have someone at home to check in with as a safety precaution. Let them know what city you plan to be in, where you’re staying, and when you will be traveling on.

Ladies, what are your tips for solo female travel?

  • rm
    July 17, 2009 at 4:28 pm

    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!

  • Adorably Bitter
    July 1, 2009 at 2:54 am

    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!

  • ritu
    June 29, 2009 at 12:13 am

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

  • Kristen Gehrman
    June 25, 2009 at 7:36 am

    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.

  • Cathy
    June 24, 2009 at 12:10 pm

    So cool! I am trying to do that.

  • Minna
    June 24, 2009 at 11:59 am

    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!

  • Francesca
    June 24, 2009 at 11:21 am

    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!

    • poweredbytofu
      June 24, 2009 at 8:36 pm

      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.