A Solo Female Traveler’s Guide To Visiting Off-The-Beaten-Path Destinations
Things are different for a gal out there on the road. And when venturing out of your comfort zone into the unknown, there are certain things you want to keep in mind. For women traveling solo in lesser-visited destinations, keep these tips in mind and you can happily ignore all the people who say, “You’re going where alone? Is it safe?”
But we’d recommend a lot of these same tips for travelers exploring spots in some of the world’s biggest and brightest metropolises. It comes down to being aware of your surroundings, whether you’re in New York City or the most remote mountain village. Here’s what you need to know.
1. Assess the risks of walking alone.
We’d never tell you to never walk alone. That’s ridiculous. Instead, do as local women do. If you see other women out and about, there’s a good chance you can safely explore that area solo, too. The days are long-gone where solo women could be confined to their arrival airport without a male escort. But there are certain destinations where women face more danger on the street than others. Follow the lead of the people who live in the city every day — they know their home best.
And let’s face it: You probably wouldn’t walk alone down a dark alley at 2 a.m. in your city, much less a strange street in a town that you don’t know. Take a taxi. Your budget will recover.
2. Find other solo travelers.
The best way to avoid figuring out how to get across town solo late at night is to find travel friends. That way, you can all navigate your destination together and watch each other’s backs. A group of four women is much safer than one or two.
Plus, it’s always helpful to have some pals to take your picture when traveling. Fellow traveler pics will be better than random stranger’s photos every time.
3. Let someone at home know where you are.
Your travel friends are amazing, but you will eventually go your separate ways. That’s why it’s a good idea to keep someone at home updated on your location, whether your contact is your bestie, significant other or a parent. That includes letting them know when you’re changing cities, but also shooting them a text if you decide to go hiking. In case something goes drastically wrong, authorities will know where to start to track you down.
4. Don’t carry large amounts of cash in one bag.
Sometimes you will need to carry more cash than you’d like. Remote destinations often lack ATMs, so you’ll need to be prepared to come with cash. But don’t store all of your money in one place. Make sure that you have a bit stowed away in reserve in case something goes wrong (like your luggage gets lost or your purse gets stolen). Your toiletries bag makes a great hiding spot — no one wants to dig through another person’s toothpaste and hairbrush. If you find yourself feeling unsure of your surroundings, there’s always the good ol’ down-the-bra trick.
It’s never a bad idea to have a spare $20 bill somewhere in your bag, too. In an emergency, someone can point you to a currency exchange.
5. Always know where your belongings are.
Don’t leave your laptop out on your hotel bed — or any other high-tech gear, for that matter. Keep it all inside your suitcase and out of sight. It may be silly, but we sometimes toss a couple of dirty socks on the top of our suitcase to dissuade any potential snoopers. If you’re staying at a hostel, make sure to keep your valuables locked up in a locker.
Sitting down at a restaurant and slinging your purse over the back of the chair at a sidewalk cafe is a great way to never see that bag again. It’s so easy to swipe. Instead, put your bag in between your feet and loop the strap over your knee.
6. Be prepared to squat.
In the U.S., we have a pretty standard toilet system. But in other parts of the world, you’re going to find different levels of bathrooms. Sometimes you’ll encounter a bidet; other times, you simply get a hole in the ground. Practice a solid squat and you’ll be ready for whatever comes your way.
7. Do your research on what to wear.
There are places where you can walk into a restaurant in a bikini, but there are places where bare shoulders aren’t welcome. Make sure to do some research into clothing norms in your intended destination to make sure your suitcase is full of the right stuff. For instance, you might want to rethink those Daisy Duke jean shorts in Thailand. It’s much more of a maxi dress kind of place.
8. Write down translations in the local language.
Unless you’re a major language whiz, you probably aren’t fluent in every language you encounter while traveling. While we always suggest learning a few basic phrases before your trip, solo gals might want to bring along a more in-depth phrasebook. When you’re relying only on yourself to order a meal or hail a cab, you might need more than “please” and “thank you.”
So we’d suggest writing down some common phrases in the local language and keeping them in your wallet. That way, if your new language skills fail you, you can rely on your list.
9. Trust your gut.
The most important rule of travel is to trust your gut. If you don’t feel good about a situation, leave it. The end.
Now, when traveling in off-the-beaten-path locales, you’re going to encounter some things that push you outside your comfort zone. But when things feel really, truly off, it’s okay to walk away. Your first few days in a place will feel different than your last few, and things that felt too far across the line the first few days might feel totally normal after a little adjustment period. Your threshold for new will change as your travel style evolves, but when things don’t feel right, follow your instincts and take care of yourself.