I love solo travelling. It’s one of the most liberating and freeing life experiences. And something I wholeheartedly recommend if you’re considering giving it a go. Some of my favourite travel memories are from solo trips.
It changed me for the better.
But of course, as a female, the issue of safety creeps into the picture. Even in your home town, you likely take certain precautions when moving about alone. Even if they may be subconscious habits.
When travelling, the risks can multiply, especially if…
- You don’t have local knowledge of which areas or neighbourhoods may be considered unsafe.
- You’re unaware of cultural rules and norms (e.g. clothing) that could attract unwanted or unsafe attention.
Staying safe as a solo female traveller is about following similar precautions that you would take at home, with an extra layer of vigilance.
Making friends with other solo travellers is a great way to maximise your safety (there’s always safety in numbers!). But there are still things you can do yourself, to keep you safe on your adventure.
So aside from wielding your own sword… This guide is filled with tips that can help you minimise the risks while travelling as a solo female traveller.
Tips for a solo female traveller, from a female solo traveller!
Hopefully, you’ll find some tips here that you hadn’t considered before, and hopefully, they’ll keep you safe on your solo travels.
To help you navigate the list, I’ve divided it into a few different categories to help you explore different topics and situations:
- Before you go: (packing and a pre-trip checklist)
- Accommodation and location tips
- Personal belongings and tech
- Transport: Taxis, public transport etc.
- Heading out at night
Let’s get stuck in!
Before you go
Planning is an important part of staying safe while travelling, for any solo traveller. Below I’ve covered some of the most important things that you should organise as a female solo traveller before you hop on a plane, train or boat.
I’ve also created a comprehensive pre-trip safety checklist for solo female travellers of things you can do before you book things or head out the door.
But here are the most crucial tips…
1. Understand the rights of women in that country
It’s important to keep in mind that different countries may hold different opinions on women. While it may not align with your own views, you have to respect culture and traditions. It’s an important part of blending in and staying safe.
Take these differences seriously. I’ve heard too many horror stories of girls and women not heeding basic travel advice and getting themselves into dangerous situations because they pushed cultural boundaries.
2. Things to consider packing
There are lots of interesting safety gadgets floating around on social media. From self-defence alarms to devices which can stop intruders entering your hotel room.
If you’re heading to a higher-risk area, it could be worth checking these out but don’t feel like you need to buy them all. There are multiple ways to minimise risk and stay safe.
Related read | The Ultimate Travel Packing Checklist
3. Check official travel advice
Check out your government’s Foreign Travel Advice website, like the UK one here. This should be standard advice for any traveller, but check to see if your government offers any Foreign Travel Advice for the country you’d like to visit.
These pages are usually updated frequently, and take into account very new information, from natural disasters to political unrest.
4. Arrive prepared
Bring the correct cash, know how your phone will work abroad, know emergency phone numbers, and have your first couple of night’s accommodation booked. These tips are also mentioned on my pre-travel checklist to stay safe as a solo female traveller.
5. Read the experience of other solo female travellers
If possible, read up on the experience of other solo females who have travelled in that country e.g. Travel Ladies app, etc. It’s the best way to get super-specific tips and advice for that area.
6. Don’t push yourself too far
Try not to push the boundaries when it comes to where you decide to travel to. Rural, remote or untravelled areas will have limited services and may not be safe. Don’t do it for social media.
Clothing: Dressing for the culture
Traditions, culture, religion etc, can influence what is considered appropriate for people to wear in certain locations. And it’s often women who have a stricter dress code.
7. Dress appropriately for the location
Read up on the recommended dress code of a country before you go. Consider the culture and religion of the area.
For example, while I was travelling solo in Vanuatu, I wore a long skirt and t-shirt to cover my shoulders and legs.
8. Match the locals if possible
Blending in and dressing like a local is one of the best ways to avoid unwanted attention. Even in a large city, ‘dressing like a tourist’ in brand-new fancy clothes etc, can make you stand out as a possible target. Whether that’s criminal activity or being harassed by scammers
If your budget allows, you can head to a local shop to buy a few things that can help you blend in. Mirroring locals is one of the best ways to avoid excess attention, of any form.
9. Should you wear a fake wedding band?
Lots of solo female travellers swear by wearing a wedding band on their ring finger to help deter attention. It’s a shame that it’s necessary, but if you’re receiving lots of unwanted attention, you can try wearing one, pointing to it and mentioning “your husband” to try and scare guys off.
Accommodation and location tips
Choosing the right accommodation is a big part of staying safe as a solo female traveller. From finding accommodation with a 24-hour reception to picking female-only hostel dorm rooms.
10. Familiarise yourself with your surroundings
Once you’ve settled into your new hostel, hotel, homestay etc. Make a point of learning the area around your accommodation. Especially if you head out when it’s light and are returning after dark.
11. Don’t share the name of your accommodation online
Avoid sharing the name of your accommodation on social media until after you’ve left. You never know who may be following you and sharing your location publicly is a risk.
It’s also best not to share the name of your accommodation with random strangers who may ask. No matter how kind or polite they are.
12. Choosing safe accommodation
Try to book accommodation with a 24-hour reception. Delays can occur, and you don’t want to arrive after hours with no one to let you inside.
If you can’t book 24-hour reception, make sure that your expected arrival time isn’t too late at night. It’s better to check in early and leave your bags at your hostel/hotel luggage store than to arrive too late.
Most hostels offer female-only dorms which can add an extra layer of safety. They often sell out first, so make sure you book early.
Related read | 10 Tips for Your First Stay in a Hostel
Personal belongings and tech
Purses, wallets, handbags and tech are targeted anywhere in the world. Keep yourself, and your belongings, safe when exploring with these top tips…
13. Make sure your phone will work there
An important tip if you’re heading to a different continent or somewhere remote. Make sure your phone will actually work! If your phone network doesn’t have coverage, buy a SIM card as soon as you arrive.
When travelling Vanuatu as a solo female traveller I managed to get by on Wi-Fi only (I didn’t research!). But this was risky and something I wouldn’t do again.
14. Keep things fully charged
Make sure your phone is charged, and carry a power bank too as a backup. I always carry two charging cables for my phone and keep one in my day bag and one in my larger backpack.
15. Carry a secure bag and keep it close
For your day bag, a backpack is usually safer as a shoulder bag can be easily taken from your shoulder. Also, make sure not to leave valuables near the top of the bag or in obvious pockets on the outside of the bag that might be accessed without you knowing.
Read here for more general tips on how to keep your gear safe while travelling.
16. Bring scanned copies of important documents
Having a scanned copy of your passport, visas etc, may be useful if you lose them or access to your phone and need to get a replacement. Just remember to keep these scanned copies safe too! To be extra safe you could have one copy in your suitcase and one in your smaller bag.
17. Be discreet with cash and valuables
Keep your purse, camera etc, safely stored away when not in use. In some areas, while travelling, I prefer to use my phone to take photos as it feels more discreet than pulling out a chunky camera and lens.
Opt for smaller gear if possible when you’re completely alone and not in a tour group etc. For example, wielding a large 70-200mm lens is definitely going to catch attention compared to a smaller focal length.
Related Read | How to Keep Your Gear Safe When Travelling
Transport: Taxis, public transport etc.
While taxis and public transport are convenient and often considered safer than walking alone. There are still precautions you can take to stay safe on these forms of transport etc.
18. Research which companies are official
Make sure you know which services, companies etc. are safe to use. Never get in a taxi etc, that has no certificates or proper identification, no matter how cheap it is.
Related read | 10 Taxi Safety Tips for Solo Female Travellers
19. Choose somewhere safe to sit
Sitting near the front of public transport or close to staff members is safer than sitting in an empty carriage or at the top or back of a bus. Many solo female travellers usually report feeling safer in busier carriages too, near families or other women etc.
In taxis, the general consensus is that it’s safer to sit in the back passenger seat as a solo female traveller.
20. Don’t tell people that you’re travelling alone
In a taxi or Uber especially, don’t let people/drivers know that you’re travelling alone. No matter how friendly they are. A small white lie of “I’m meeting a friend/partner there” etc. makes you seem connected and less vulnerable.
21. Know what time public transport stops for the night
Public transport will usually stop at night or have heavily reduced hours. Days of the week can also influence the availability of public transport. E.g. here in the UK bus and train timetables may be reduced (or non-existent!) on a Sunday.
Other things that can influence public transport timings:
- Public holidays
- The remoteness of the location
Whether your flight arrives late at night or is delayed, or maybe you’re just heading back after a night out. Make sure you know when trains, buses, boats etc. finish so you can get back to your accommodation safely!
Heading out at night
Heading out at night anywhere comes with its own level of risk. In some areas, walking around late at night as a solo female traveller is simply not recommended. But if the area has a lively nightlife, follow these top tips to stay safe…
22. Join hostel pub crawls or visit the hostel bar
A night out is obviously a lot better with someone to go with! See if people from your walking tour, day trip group, or hostel dorm want to head out with you. Or join an organised pub crawl or simply visit the hostel bar to meet up with people.
Going out with people from your hostel means you’ll all be heading back to the same place, so you can walk together or share taxis. Stay together and make sure you leave together!
23. Avoid walking down dark/quiet streets
If you need to head back alone, avoid dark streets and take the long way around if you need to. If the streets are no longer busy, opt for a taxi. Talking on the phone while you’re in a taxi and walking alone may also deter criminals/unwanted attention.
24. Know your limit when it comes to drinks (etc.)
This is a given anywhere in the world. But if you’re heading out for drinks with hostel roommates etc, don’t rely on them to get you back in one piece! Be responsible and know your limits. Keep your drinks covered too and never leave a drink unattended.
25. Avoid ATM runs in the evening
If you need to get cash out, visit ATMS during the day if possible to avoid accessing them at night.
A few extra tips that can help you to stay safe as a solo female traveller…
26. Contraception and sexual health
Always important! But especially when you’re travelling. Make sure you carry enough contraception or know how to access it. Whether that’s the pill, condoms etc.
27. Just be aware of your surroundings
It’s a shame that we need to take necessary precautions, but a heightened sense of awareness is key when travelling solo as a woman.
I had one small incident where I felt like I was being followed while walking around a shop in a town during the day. It could have simply been a coincidence, or me overthinking. But to be safe I simply walked out and moved through busy streets.
28. Let family and friends know your plans
Before you leave for your solo travel trip, let friends and/or family know your plans. Establishing a day or time when you check in will help them notice any anomalies can be helpful too. And if you’re heading out in the evening, let a close friend know your plan and perhaps a time you should check in with them. Share your location with them so they can keep an eye on you in taxis etc, if you’re in a higher risk area.
Knowing how to stay safe as a solo female traveller is important for giving you the confidence to get out there and have your own adventures.
- Try to blend in as much as possible
- It’s always worth spending a little extra to stay safe (e.g. a female-only dorm, taxi at night etc.)
- Don’t trust anyone too quickly
- Prepare for the worst (bring scanned documents etc.)
- Always get travel insurance!
- Check in regularly with your friends and family
Learning a few language basics for the country you’re travelling to is another way that can boost your safety, no matter which gender you are.
Related read | Why Learning Language Basics is Important While Travelling