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15 SAFETY TIPS FOR SOLO FEMALE TRAVELERS

Updated: Feb 16, 2023

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Navigating the world as a woman can be quite the intimidating endeavor; especially so if you’re planning on doing so by yourself.


Before solo traveling for the first time, I went through every possible scenario of things that could go wrong and/or happen to me. I even had friends, coworkers, and family members asking me the same questions that I had already asked myself time and time again leading up to my trip.


“What if you get there and don’t have a good time?”


“What if you get lost and end up stranded?”


“Aren’t you afraid that you’ll get kidnapped or human trafficked?”


“What will you do if you get sexually assaulted?”


I could go on and on. Like I said, I get it. I asked myself all these questions and I know why they come up. These are all very real scenarios that can happen anywhere in the world and any fears are completely valid. However, solo traveling as a woman can be safe, comfortable, and enjoyable- I’ve experienced it first-hand.


I’m a believer of life being too short to live in fear of the “what ifs” and miss out on life-changing experiences. In all honesty, I’m fully certain that anything that could happen to me while solo traveling in a foreign country could also happen to me in my home city. So, let me share my top 15 safety tips for solo female travelers, all collected during my own research prior to solo traveling and from takeaways afterward.


15 SAFETY TIPS FOR SOLO FEMALE TRAVELERS


RESEARCH

As any other experienced traveler would say, research truly is your best route to staying safe and having the most positive travel experience as possible. So, research a little bit about your destination country and the cities you plan to visit. Try to have a good idea on things such as best practices, violence rates (i.e., theft and pick pocketing), safest neighborhoods, the current political climate, cultural norms and values, natural disaster threats, and anything else that might be helpful to know in advance.


Try your best to remain unbiased yet informed when visiting a new country. Other travelers’ experiences and opinions are good to keep in mind, but avoid letting them take over your own.


PURCHASE TRAVEL INSURANCE

Before heading on your trip, spend the little bit of extra money and purchase a travel insurance plan. There are various plans out there from numerous travel insurance companies, but the main idea is to protect you and help you save money in case of emergencies including unexpected health outcomes, theft, safety emergencies, lost luggage, cancelled flights, and more. I use Safety Wing which includes both medical and travel coverage and costs just $45.08/month.


MAKE COPIES OF YOUR IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS

A variety of scenarios or circumstances can happen. Just in case they get lost or stolen, keep physical and electronic copies of important documents including your passport, travel insurance, and prescription medications.


INVEST IN A PORTABLE CHARGER

When solo traveling, you’ll rely on your phone a lot whether it be for directions, translation services, sharing your location, or being able to make a call. It would be quite the inconvenience and safety concern if it died. I personally use this fast charging solar charger which is a bit hefty, but is reliable and has the option for solar charging if electricity isn’t available.


DOWNLOAD OFFLINE MAPS

In case of spotty service and to avoid using excessive data on GPS navigation, download the maps for wherever you’re visiting. This will allow you to have access to directions without relying on data or WIFI.


When I solo traveled in Costa Rica, I got around by rental car and knew that service in remote areas wouldn’t be reliable and I wanted to limit any chance of getting lost, so I downloaded all my driving routes beforehand as well as maps for each of the cities I was traveling to. It was extremely useful and got me everywhere I needed to be, safely. Google Maps is arguably the most reliable and up-to-date navigation platform to use around the world.


USE SITUATIONAL AWARENESS AND TRUST YOUR GUT

Since you likely will be using GPS at some point in time on your solo trip, be wary of not being attentive to what’s going on around you. Keep your eyes and head up and only glance at your phone when necessary. Also note if anything seems off or suspicious, whether it’s the cars around you or people walking alongside/behind you. Cross the street or step into a busy store if you feel uneasy. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.


While it might sometimes be hard to put feelings into words or explain a reason behind unsettling feelings, trusting your gut instincts and removing yourself from potentially harmful situations is key. When traveling solo, you’ll meet lots of friendly and kindhearted people, but ultimately there is nobody you can trust more than yourself.


In Tulum, Mexico, I originally planned on staying at an Airbnb which ended up being way more secluded than I thought after looking at the map online. On my walk to the Airbnb from the bus station, the area of town became very secluded, I experienced some cat calling, and even had a male stranger come up from behind me and start talking with me as I was getting on my bike after dropping off my luggage in my room. Things started as friendly, then progressively became more assertive and aggressive until I biked away completely. I trusted my gut instincts rather than letting things get potentially harmful or dangerous, and relocated to a hostel on the more populated and touristy side of town and felt immediately more at ease.


DON’T POST YOUR CURRENT LOCATION

Avoid posting your location or activities in real time. It’s a best safety practice to wait until you’ve gotten to a different location or have settled in for the night to post photos, stories, or other social media content.


PARTY RESPONSIBLY

I’m not going to be that person who tells you to stay sober while traveling solo. I know well enough that indulging in some drinks and exploring the party scene can be a huge part about experiencing a country’s culture, as well as an opportunity to make memories with others. This said, it is still important to party and drink with caution. Just as you would do when going to the bars in your home city, practice safety measures. Some examples include:

  • Don’t accept drinks from strangers unless you watched the bartender pour it and they handed it directly to you.

  • Avoid leaving your drink unattended.

  • If you’re going out at night, perhaps tag along with some people you’ve met such as other travelers staying at the same hostel as you.

  • Don’t take valuables out with you. Only take as much money as needed and leave your passport behind in a secure place.

  • Have a plan in place for getting home at the end of the night.

  • If you get more intoxicated than anticipated, avoid walking back and take a Lyft/Uber/Taxi instead, ideally with some company.


CONNECT WITH OTHER TRAVELERS & WOMEN

Making friends and building connections while traveling solo is a great way to expand your safety resources. If you’re part of an online travel network or follow someone’s on social media and notice that you’re in the same place, send or post a message about a potential meet up or pose the idea of going on a group excursion together. If this isn’t possible, you could even simply exchange contact information to have just in case.


Just like connecting and making friends with other travelers, befriending other women while traveling can be an added comfort. These women could be fellow travelers, female tour guides, female accommodation staff or Airbnb hosts, and more! While there are many good-intentioned men out there in the world, I know many women including myself are more likely to instinctually trust another woman first.


TAKE CAUTION AT NIGHT

The most dangerous time to be out alone as a woman, anywhere in the world, is at night. With less people around and it being a common time of day for drinking and other risky behavior, dangerous activity is more likely to occur. Try to explore a city, go on excursions, and check out tourist sites during the day. If you happen to lose track of time or be out past sunset, be safe and use public transportation, ride shares, or taxis instead of walking.


LIE SOMETIMES

One of the great things about traveling is hearing stories and learning about people from all walks of Earth. This can be great, however sometimes conversations can get a bit personal and border on invasive. Nobody besides those you trust have any true reason to know where you’re staying or if you’re traveling alone. If someone asks if you’re traveling solo and you feel uncomfortable answering honestly, perhaps lie and say that your friend stopped into a market to purchase something and will be returning shortly, or that your partner is back at the hotel/hostel/Airbnb waiting for you to return. If they’re asking about where you’re staying, perhaps be vague in your answer, such as saying “in the tourist area,” or attempt to change the subject altogether.


PACK LIGHT

Try to put your packing prioritization skills to the test and pack in as few and as small of luggage items as possible. The more items and luggage you bring on a solo trip, the more of a target you can become for petty crimes like theft. Plus, it can become an inconvenience to carry everything around from place to place including bathroom stalls. Utilizing backpacks as an alternative to roller luggage can also be useful, as it’s easier to carry around (especially with cobblestone or uneven roads) and beneficial if a situation ever occurs where you may need to run.


CARRY A PERSONAL SAFETY DEVICE AND LEARN SOME SELF-DEFENSE

I’ve mentioned this before in other blogs, but I always carry around a personal safety device, even when going about life in my home city. I carry a Birdie Personal Safety Alarm on my keychain or hook it from my purse strap, so if I ever feel the need to draw attention or cause a distraction, it’s easily accessible. Other good options include rape whistles and aluminum defense pens. Keep in mind that self-defense weapons such as pepper spray or pocketknives won’t make it through airport security and are illegal in some countries.


In addition to carrying a personal safety device or gadget, having some self-defense knowledge in case of a physical attack can be important. This is something that I haven’t yet been able to mark off my “to-do” list, however, is a priority of mine before my next solo travel journey. Knowing ways to get out of common attack approaches and temporarily stunt an attacker can be vital in maintaining your personal safety.


TALK WITH LOCALS

If there’s one thing to remember when traveling, it’s that you are the visitor. Nobody knows cities or countries better than those that grew up there. So, start a conversation with a shop owner, taxi driver, tour guide, or site employee. Ask their name, about their profession, their family, their favorite traditional dish, and their life goals. If you can even use some of the local language in your conversation, despite your knowledge level, it can show respect and win you extra courtesy and opportunities for memorable connections. Additionally, you’ll likely learn more about the local history and culture that you might not have taken away from a generalized group tour or Google.


HAVE AN EMERGENCY FUND

Unexpected situations are bound to arise at some point in time, so having an emergency fund can ease stress and allow you to take necessary steps. Maybe you’ll be like me and want to change accommodation locations because you’re uncomfortable with your current one. Perhaps time got away from you and it’s now dark out and your safest option home is an overpriced Uber/Lyft. Maybe you’re just simply not enjoying solo travel like you thought you would and want to take the next flight home. Things happen, so it’s best to allocate some money in your budget beforehand.

 

There is no 100% foolproof way to ensure that every solo trip you ever take will go seamlessly and that you will always feel safe wherever you go in the world. However, taking these safety precautions into consideration, educating yourself, and being as equipped as possible before your solo travel adventure is just about the best approach.


I’m so happy I finally took the leap of courage to try out solo travel for myself and am happy that I can now pass along these safety tips and personal experiences with others. Solo travel has allowed for me to feel levels of confidence and empowerment that I had never felt before, and I have come to prefer the freedom and flexibility of solo traveling in many ways. I wish the best of luck and safest travels to you on your next solo adventure!

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