So you’ve booked your ticket, all but packed your bags, you’re having those inevitable second thoughts and you’re in need of some solo female travel tips to assure you that it was indeed a good idea, not the worst you’ve ever had.
Solo travel as a female can be incredibly daunting and that’s not something to be ashamed of. When I took my first overseas solo trip I felt fine right up until the moment I landed on my feet in Hong Kong, the first point of call on my trip. I had no idea what I was in for until I was dragging my 20kg suitcase up three flights of stairs to exit the metro station that had escalators that had so coincidentally stopped working that day. I emerged in a full layer of sweat (in places I didn’t even know you could sweat) in the humidity of Hong Kong, with nothing but a hand written list of directions to reach my hotel. While it felt like the world was ending, it wasn’t… and I soon learned that these daily struggles seem a lot bigger in your head at the time, but soon resolve themselves and leave you smiling and often laughing at yourself for how dramatic you built them up to be.
Solo Female Travel: Everything you Need to Know
1. Social Media is a great tool to keep safe
Telling your friends and family where you will be and when before you leave is only part of the story to keeping safe – you really need to keep people at home updated on your movements so they know roughly where you are at all times. That way if things do go wrong, you can easily be traced to your last point of checking in on Facebook, a photo uploaded to Instagram or a tweet about what you’re up to that day.
2. Copy your passport and important documents
As a general rule you should give a copy to someone at home, keep a copy in your purse, an extra copy in your suitcase (incase you lose your purse) and take a photo on your phone as a last minute resort.
3. Its okay to splurge
One of the things I used to struggle with as a solo traveller was feeling guilty spending my nights in cozy hotel rooms instead of “roughing it” at a hostel. Although I love meeting people and the social aspect of hostels, I’m a light sleeper and have never been drawn to the idea of sleeping in a room with other people. I used to feel guilty about it as my friends would say “this is all part of the travelling experience”. I totally agree that meeting new people from around the world IS the travel experience, but I no longer feel guilty about spending extra on a good night of rest as that is something that is important to me. Don’t feel guilty for splurging on what is important to you: be that a nice hotel, a night out partying with your new friends, a nice evening meal, or going on a shopping spree every once and a while. We’re all different, that’s what makes us interesting.
4. Dress like a local
Not only does dressing like a local result in a safer experience (as you blend in and don’t have the word “TOURIST” as a target on your back for pickpockets, etc.) but it also results in a much better travel experience, whereby you become a part of the city or country you are visiting, not just an onlooker.
5. Be prepared for catcalling
It will happen – sadly it is more a case of when than if. Being called out to in the street from onlookers is a global phenomenon and although you’ve likely experienced it in your lifetime, it become slightly more intimidating on your own in a foreign country. Don’t be phased by it, be prepared for it, act like you didn’t hear it and keep being fabulous.
6. “Table for one” Is one of the hardest parts about Solo Travel
As women, we love to talk. We love to reminisce, to chat about our day and we sure do love to plan (the next day before the current one is even over!) Thus one of the hardest parts about solo travel as a female is the inevitable “table for one” evening meal. There are plenty of ways to avoid eating out alone at night, like going to a communal dinner experience, making new friends and meeting them for dinner, or sometimes just grabbing take out and eating back at your hotel while you skim over your travel snaps for the day and write a quick journal entry. Often I go for option #3 (as a blogger I need time to write and edit photos), but I’ve also come to love grabbing take out and eating it outdoors, like on the Seine River or at a public square whilst people watching.
7. Walk Everywhere
Before taking my first solo trip, I made myself a promise: to walk absolutely everywhere I could, taking public transport wherever it was not possible. This way I kept my body AND my mind busy, making more room for those chocolate croissants and allowing plenty of time to wander freely, often accompanied by a soundtrack to my travels.
8. Headphones on, World off
One of my favourite little tricks whilst travelling solo is to always carry a pair of headphones with me for those times where you don’t want to talk to a stranger at a coffee shop, don’t want to spend the entire train ride listening to the couple next to you smooch and don’t want to attract conversation from that guy on the train that keeps trying to make eye contact. Don’t get me wrong, most of the time I love to talk to strangers as this is all part of the travelling experience… but somedays you just feel like putting your headphones on, world off.
9. You will meet other travellers
Making friends as a traveller isn’t nearly as hard as making friends in school… so that’s a start. You will soon find that there are many other solo travellers out there, especially many solo female travellers. Making friends is easy as you both have that one thing in common: that you’re both solo and eager to meet other people.
10. Be firm when saying “No”
Something I used to struggle with was being able to say “no”. Whether it be an offer for a dinner date, an offer to take my photo by a questionable type of person or an offer to go out for drinks when I’d really rather not, I once found it difficult to be firm in saying “no” and wind up doing things I wasn’t really sure about. Eventually I learned the best way is to be firm when you say “No” with a polite smile that says that is a kind offer, thank you, but I have other plans. Furthermore, you can just follow it up with an “I have other plans” to seal the deal.
11. Keep a Journal
One thing I will say should be mandatory as a solo female traveller is to keep a journal – even if that just means dot point entries instead of a full 12-page spread about your day. Not only is this a great way to reflect on each day, but it also serves as a permanent memory of all the little things that took your breath away that day, all the people who made you smile, all the thoughts that swirled around your head and all the confrontations of culture shock you encountered. Looking back on these memories is priceless as you will see yourself quite literally grow and change over the pages (my favourite example being where you originally think something is whack, then a few months later it has totally become the norm).
12. Come Prepared Every Day
One of my biggest mistakes in my early days was thinking that I could “wing it” with everything. It would always work out in the end, but too many times I found myself frantically looking for my hotel or short-term apartment in the late hours of the evening with no idea if I was in the right neighbourhood let alone the right street. The best idea as a solo female traveller is to always have a map of the city with a big ol’ X marks the spot of your accommodation. That way you can always ask a local to point out where you are on the map so you can find your way home.
13. Aim to Arrive During the Day
As mentioned earlier, as much as you can you should try to spend every waking hour outdoors, but after dark it is better to be safe than sorry (especially if carrying 20+ kilograms of luggage up the metro stairs!)
14. Find the Perfect Travel Purse
One thing about travelling solo I soon figured out (after being mugged from behind) is that it is important to ditch the backpack and handbag, instead opting for a cross body bag. This allows you to keep an eye on your bag at all times, as well having it securely across your body and not able to be snatched easily.
15. Pack Light
With the above two points made, it should also be said that it is easiest to travel lightly as a solo female traveller. There’ll be no strong Thor-like eye candy to carry that suitcase up the stairs for you, so you’d better be able to lug it up half-gracefully on your own! I continually made this mistake for years, so don’t feel too bad if you don’t get it right the first time. As a general rule, if you’re going for 2 weeks or less, you can entirely do so with carry on only (look for an upcoming video on that!)
16. Learn New Skills
One of the best ways to keep yourself entertained on your travels is to try and learn new things. I’m talking cooking classes, painting classes, language classes… anything that allows you to learn a new skill.
17. Learn how to take your own photos
Although I’ve already done a video on this once before, its about time I updated that to give a better idea of how its done. However in a few words: tripod, camera, self-timer, run, et voila!
18. Download These Apps
There are a bunch of apps that make travel a lot easier than it ever has been before, including: Currency Converter, Create Trips, and a Translator. If you want even more, here are 10 of my favourite travel apps.
19. Read books to inspire your journey
Excited about your adventure but need a little convincing? There are some great solo female travel books out there to help squash any cold feet you might be feeling, such as Eat, Pray Love; Wild; and my very own A Year to Myself.
20. Its Easier than you Think
The most important point to make is that solo travel is fun, exciting, invigorating and incredibly liberating. There’s no way you won’t have a good time if you’re prepared for what lay ahead, have a positive attitude (not just before the trip but every single day of the trip) and remember its okay to talk yourself through it sometimes, we’ve all been there.