I seldom write about solo female travel because in a way I just believe in “solo travel” regardless of gender. I never really considered my travel experience to be all that different from a guy’s travel experience.
But thinking about it more closely, there are just some things that are different. For a start we usually have periods to contend with on the road which are annoying and often start at the most inconvenient times. And inevitably if you’re traveling solo locals always seem to ask the question, “Why you have no boyfriend?” or “Why is a girl like you still single?” Cat calling is also common in certain parts of the world; when I went to Havana, Cuba, I experienced cat calling every time I stepped out the door.
Then there’s the matter of packing and dressing appropriately for the culture; in certain parts of the world women are required to cover their legs and shoulders but men don’t have to.
So yes, traveling as a female is a bit different. I’ve never let it stop me from seeing the world and I’ve travelled the world extensively, most of the time alone. My first ever big solo female trip was to Australia and I had an absolute blast.
Here are my best solo female travel tips I’ve gathered from over a decade of travel:
Tell friends and family where you’re going
When I go overseas I always write down the name and address of the first place I’ll be staying and give it to my mother. If I’m visiting someone or meeting up with a friend I write down their contact information too. Definitely let your family and friends know where you’re going and also keep in touch with them regularly via text or social media. This way if anything happens they have a rough idea of where your last location was.
Share your location
I always use the “FindMy” app on Apple iPhone to continuously share my location with a couple of friends who I trust. I know some people don’t like the idea of other people knowing exactly where they are at all times but personally I think it’s great for safety. I know my friends aren’t going to stalk my every move and even if they did, I have nothing to hide. Consider sharing your location with a family member or friend so that they can pull up your last location if something happens.
Trust your gut
When in doubt, trust your gut and your intuition. If a situation feels off or not quite right, then trust your instincts and walk away.
Try not to walk around alone at night
Avoid walking around alone at night time but if you have no option, stick to well-lit streets and try to walk closely behind a group of people. This way people might assume you are with the group. If you suspect you’re being followed, cross the street and change direction.
Have a code word
Come up with a code word or phrase between you and your parents or a friend. This way, you can alert them something’s wrong over the phone without your potential attacker/kidnapper realizing what you’re saying.
Watch your drinks
I can’t stress this enough – watch your drinks. Don’t leave your drink unattended or with some new person you’ve just met when you go to the bathroom. Take it with you. I know sometimes people offer to buy a shot or a drink and I’ve definitely accepted a few in my time. Always assess the situation and whether you trust the person. If you’re going to accept a free drink, watch the bartender make it.
Don’t get blackout drunk
I’ll be honest with you here – I spent much of my backpacking life in my 20s partying and drinking. A lot of people do. When you’re staying in hostels and mingling with backpackers, shots and drinking games are the norm. I’m sure there’ll be times when most of you get drunk so I’m not going to pretend otherwise, but just try not to get blackout drunk. When you’re under the influence of alcohol, that’s when bad things start to happen. Phones get lost and people do stupid things. Keep your wits about you and limit your intake if you feel like you’re getting too drunk.
Carry hairspray if you can’t carry pepper spray
In some places pepper spray is considered a concealed weapon. Personally I’ve never carried it but I know people who do. A good alternative is a can of hairspray. Keep the hairspray in your purse so you can spray it at the person’s face if you’re being attacked.
Feel free to use the “I have a boyfriend” card
If men are coming up to you asking for your number and the attention is unwanted, remember the line “I have a boyfriend” will usually do the trick.
Attach an Apple Airtag to your belongings
I have an Apple Airtag on my keys and then I put those inside my purse. The Airtag is connected to “FindMy” on your iPhone so if your purse gets stolen and you have an Airtag inside, then you’ll be able to see its location on a map. Of course, there’s nothing to stop the thief from looking inside your bag and throwing the Airtag out but hopefully they won’t notice it’s in there. If you’re someone who often misplaces things or forgets their keys, then Apple Airtag is really useful. If I leave my keys behind, I instantly get a notification on my phone.
I’ve had two not-so-nice incidents in the last fourteen years of travel. The first was when I was living in Bali and a man came through a panel in the roof of the bedroom. I thought it was a bird scuttling around inside the roof at first but no, it was a person. My boyfriend had left to go surfing and I guess the guy thought he could rob the house while no-one was home. Anyway, you never know how you’ll react in these situations but I basically just got out of bed, stood there and said “Excuse me, what are you doing?”. He looked at me and just ran as fast as he could out the door.
The second time I was traveling with friends in Barcelona. We were in a main square in broad daylight and I felt someone take my phone out of my purse. The thief was trying to pass it from person to person down a line of accomplices. I instantly just said “Excuse me” and snatched it back. I know you’re not supposed to try to resist or wrestle with a thief but I got my phone back.
Anyway, the moral of the story is that staying calm in hairy situations seems to have worked out OK for me.
Use Uber, but check the license plate
I like using Uber because I don’t have to haggle over the fare or carry cash. If you plan to use Uber, always check the license plate to make sure it matches the car you ordered. Sit in the back and try to keep your bags with you in the back so you can easily jump out if there’s a problem.
Packing & Clothes
Take a cross body bag, or a fanny pack/sling bag
Handbags and totes are easy to snatch or get into, which is why I prefer to have a cross body bag or even a sling bag or fanny pack that I can keep right across my chest. Not only is stuff easy to access but it’s also more difficult for thieves to pickpocket without you noticing. Whatever bag you carry, keep it zipped up.
Wheeled luggage is OK
Most backpackers travel with backpacks but I’m 5ft 1 and there’s no way I was going to carry a big, heavy backpack when I was globetrotting in my 20s. Instead I opted for a wheeled duffel bag and daypack combo. Aside from making a noise when I pulled it over cobbled streets, I really had no issues. Don’t feel like you have to have a backpack; go with whatever is comfortable for you. These days I usually only fly carry-on to avoid baggage fees, so I have a soft-sided wheeled carry-on bag and a daypack.
Opt for wedges over stilettos
Walking in stiletto heels on cobbled streets is a nightmare. Just don’t do it. If you need a bit of height, travel with a pair of espadrille wedges or block heeled sandals/boots.
Dress appropriately for the culture
Make sure you read up on the customs and culture of the destination that you’re traveling to. If you’re visiting a country where women are required to cover their arms and knees for instance, then make sure you bring some long sleeved tops and long skirts or pants. It’s always important to be respectful of the culture, plus you don’t want to receive any negative attention.
Always pack a pashmina
Pashminas are incredibly versatile and lightweight. You can use a pashmina for covering up when visiting churches or temples and you can also use it as a beach towel or a picnic blanket.
Packing light has numerous advantages. If you fly with just a carry-on bag you can avoid paying expensive checked baggage fees and you don’t have to waste time at the airport waiting at the baggage carousel. You also never have to worry about the airline losing your luggage. It makes such a difference to be able to speed through the airport effortlessly.
When I first started backpacking in my 20s I traveled with a lot of clothes. Admittedly I was traveling on much longer trips but I really didn’t need that much stuff. As I traveled more I started packing less and less.
Try to pack as light as possible and roll your clothes. Packing cubes are also really useful if you want to save space in your luggage.
Dresses take up less space than skirts/pants and tops
I love packing dresses because I don’t have to think about what will go with what. When you decide to wear pants or skirts you then have to think about which top will go with your outfit. Dresses are just easy because there’s nothing to think about; you just throw them on and they take up less room in your suitcase. If I’m going somewhere warm I usually travel with a few dresses and a denim jacket in case I get cold at night.
Dress warm and comfy for the plane
Aircraft cabins are often cold, which is why I usually wear all my bulky layers on the plane. If you’re traveling with a sweater and jacket or coat, wear those items on the plane so that they don’t take up room in your luggage. Opt for comfy, stretchy clothes, such as a pair of yoga pants, a loose top and a hoodie or cardigan.
Put your bikini in your carry on
If you’re flying with checked luggage, put a spare pair of underwear and a bikini in your carry on. That way if the airline loses your luggage you can still hit the beach. Pack a toothbrush in there too so that you can brush your teeth on long journeys.
Join solo female travel groups
Facebook has several solo female travel groups, which are useful for inspiration, travel advice or connecting with other solo female travelers. Try joining the Girls Love Travel group, Girls vs Globe group or The Solo Female Traveler Network.
Follow solo female travel bloggers
For inspiration and travel tips, follow a few solo female travel bloggers. Some great bloggers include:
Be My Travel Muse @bemytravelmuse
The Blonde Abroad @theblondeabroad
Pommie Travels (me!) @pommietravels
Adventurous Kate @adventurouskate
Alex in Wanderland @alexinwanderland
Book your accommodation in advance
When you’re traveling solo, don’t wing it. At least have your first night’s accommodation booked in advance. Booking.com, Trivago and Hotel Tonight are all great for finding deals. If you’re booking hotels, use Hostelworld.
Avoid arriving places late at night
At night time it’s often not as easy to get from the airport into the city. Buses and trains stop running and then you’re left with having to take a taxi. When you arrive at night, it’s also more difficult to get your bearings. Try to land in daylight so you can walk around the neighborhood and get a feel for where things are.
Choose accommodation in a safe, central area
When booking accommodation, always take a look at the map to see where the airbnb/hotel/hostel is. It can be tempting to just book the best deal available, but sometimes cheaper hotels are located far out of town or in more run-down areas. Try to choose an area that’s safe and close to all the main attractions so you don’t have to worry about walking too far off the beaten path.
Start off with destinations that are ideal for solo female travellers
If you’re new to solo female travel, start with generally safe destinations that are popular with tourists or have well-trodden backpacker routes. The following countries are all great for solo female travelers:
- New Zealand
Health, beauty and wellness
If you have a hangover and you’re dehydrated, electrolyte sachets are a godsend. Sure, you can buy gatorade, but it’s full of sugar which isn’t that good for you. Try electrolyte sachets such as Dioralyte, Hydrant or Liquid IV. Just pop a sachet in a glass of water, mix it up and drink. You’ll soon feel as good as new!
Treat yourself to a pedicure
Before I go on a trip, I usually treat myself to a pedicure so that my toes look nice and I feel good about myself. When you’re traveling, pedicures are a great way to relax, de-stress and elevate your mood.
Keep makeup simple
Don’t travel with your entire makeup bag. Instead, keep your makeup subtle and simple. I usually travel with the bare essentials; a tinted moisturizer (with SPF), lipstick, blusher, eyeliner, mascara and one taupe eyeshadow. Makeup is heavy and takes up space in your bag, so it’s better to keep things to a minimum. Plus, you’ll be having so much fun you won’t want to spend ages getting ready.
Don’t ignore your daily skincare routine
When you’re burning the candle at both ends it’s easy to start neglecting your skin and your health. Long flights, lack of sleep and alcohol can cause your skin to look dry and tired. When you get back to you hotel, take your makeup off and moisturize. Even if you’re super tired and don’t feel like doing it, you’ll be thankful you did it when you wake up the next day.
Consider laser hair removal
Want to cut down on time spent in the shower? Consider getting laser hair removal so you no longer have to worry about shaving your legs and bikini line. For some people it works really well and the hair doesn’t grow back. Since I have quite light hair it did grow back but it’s softer and finer so shaving is a whole lot easier.
Indulge in a spa treatment once in a while
Sometimes you just need some good R&R, so don’t be afraid to indulge once in a while. Traveling can be exhausting, so sometimes you just need to reset and pamper yourself a little bit. Book yourself a massage or a facial for a little pick-me-up.
Dry shampoo is your friend
Sometimes when you’re on the road there’s no time to wash your hair. This is when dry shampoo comes in really useful. Spray a bit on your roots et voila, you’re good to go!
Leave the hairdryer and curling iron at home
Hairdryers and curling irons are heavy and take up a lot of room. Try to leave them at home if you can. If you have unmanageable hair and you must take them, then opt for travel-size versions instead. When I’m traveling abroad I just let my hair air dry naturally, or I use the hairdryer in the hotel if there’s one in the room.
Pack samples and mini perfume
Have a drawer full of samples at home? Now’s your chance to use them. Sachets of foundation and hand cream or mini lip glosses take up a lot less room in your makeup bag. I always purchase a mini travel-size version of my favorite perfume so that I smell nice.
Buy a menstrual cup
If you get your period, then consider buying a menstrual cup. This way you don’t have to pack boxes of tampons in your bag. Menstrual cups take a bit of getting used to but I love mine and I always take it with me when I know I’ll have my period. I’ve had my Lily Cup since 2016 and it still works perfectly. You just need to make sure you rinse it off and clean it in boiling water or hydrogen peroxide between uses.
Use body wash as shaving cream
These days I never use shaving cream to shave my legs as shower gel does a fine job. Pack a mini bottle of shower gel or use the body wash that’s supplied in your hotel room.
Pack mini sunscreen and foundation with SPF
Try not to get burnt while you’re traveling – it’s no fun at all! The last thing you want is to be writhing around in bed with painful sunburn or having to spend days of your trip in the shade. Pack a mini sunscreen and try to select a tinted moisturizer or foundation that has SPF in it. This way you look good at the beach and your face is protected from the sun’s rays.
I sometimes suffer from UTIs, particularly if I don’t drink enough water and I’m in a hot country. I always make sure I have a stash of antibiotics just in case I get an infection when I’m traveling. Get a prescription for antibiotics before you go so you don’t end up running around trying to find a doctor while you’re overseas. If you get yeast infections, you may also want to pack a Canesten tablet or cream in case you get a flare up.
Keeping hydrated is key to glowing skin and you’ll also feel less tired. Avoid headaches by drinking lots of water, particularly if you’re in a hot climate. Pack a water bottle with a filter so you can save money on bottled water.
Love yoga? Perhaps sign up for a local yoga class in the place you’re visiting. Classes are a great way to make friends and develop a skill while you’re on the road. Whatever hobby you’re interested in, have a look to see what classes are available in the surrounding area.
Stay in hostels
I met so many people staying in hostels and some of them I still stay in touch with to this day. Hostels are great for solo female travelers because they have common areas, bars and organized activities that provide plenty of opportunities to meet fellow travelers.
If you’d prefer to stay in a hotel you can still meet other people by booking day trips and tours in the cities you visit. Usually tours include transportation so you don’t have to worry about renting a car or figuring out public transportation. You can sit back and relax, knowing that your guide will take care of everything and provide plenty of knowledge about the destination.
Strike up conversations
Don’t be afraid to strike up conversations with strangers! If I’m eating out or going for a drink I like to sit at the bar so I can chat to the bartender or people sitting next to me. It’s much better than sitting at a table with no-one opposite you.
Money & budgeting
Don’t get into debt
When I first started traveling I would save up just enough for a plane ticket and to barely scrape by. I ended up using credit cards and racking up tons of debt. I was definitely not responsible with money at all and I just put it all on plastic and thought “I’ll deal with it another day”. It also became a habit. I would finally pay off some of the debt and then go travel and run up more debt again. While travel is awesome, the stress of debt really isn’t. Try to save up as much as you can before you travel and stick to a budget.
Consider shorter trips
One way to see more of the world but spend less money is by taking shorter trips, but more of them. Your itinerary will probably be jam packed but you won’t need to book as many nights and you’ll spend less on things like eating out. My optimal amount of time for a new destination these days is about 3-5 days.
Be financially savvy
Finance has typically been an industry dominated by men and a study conducted by George Washington University showed that women are less financially literate than me. However, things are gradually changing as more women become interested in growing their wealth.
Improve your financial literacy by reading personal finance blogs and books. This will help you understand a bit more about things like stocks, ETFs and investments. If you’re not comfortable with choosing stocks, try platforms such as Betterment, Acorns, Wealthfront or Acorns. All you have to do is put your money in, choose your risk tolerance and they’ll spread your money across a diversified portfolio.
When it comes to saving money for travel, investing is a great way to grow your money. Also consider cutting back on your daily expenditure and making extra cash by selling your unwanted belongings on sites like Poshmark or eBay.
When you’re in a foreign country, always carry a bit of cash on you. Not too much, but enough to get a taxi back to your accommodation if you need to.
Don’t chase love
One of the biggest lessons I learned from traveling the world is not to chase love. Sometimes you end up having an amazing holiday romance with someone who lives on the other side of the world. It’s sad when you have to say goodbye, and this can often result in fantasizing about what could be. Before you know it you’re thinking about booking a flight to see them or changing your itinerary so you can meet up with them again.
If the other person wants to be with you they will find a way to see you again. But more often than not, the communication eventually fades and the person views it as just a fling. Don’t spend your time pining after someone who isn’t making an effort. Don’t try to push it. What will be will be.
Don’t abandon your plans and dreams for a guy
I know a couple of women who moved across the world for a guy and they’re married now. I also know plenty of women who moved to the guy’s home country, only for the relationship to fall apart. In those instances the woman usually ends up leaving or going home and licking her wounds.
If you want to take a chance on love, make sure you’d be happy with the decision, even if the relationship doesn’t work out. Ideally you want to make sure that the guy is on the same page and that you’re in a solid relationship first.
Don’t move to a country that you would never want to live in if you were single. Move there because you’d like to live there too. If you’re in a long distance relationship, make sure you both have an end goal and that you’re both putting in equal effort to visit each other. It shouldn’t just be you who’s flying across the world.
Most of all just don’t abandon your travel plans or your own dreams in pursuit of romance. It rarely ever works out if you’ve given up who you are.
Focus on you first and hopefully an awesome guy will come along who is inspired by your life!
A final word…
So that’s it! My top solo female travel tips! Traveling solo is really empowering and the best part about it is you don’t have to answer to anyone. You can do whatever you want, whenever you want. I’d highly recommend taking a solo trip at least once in your life.
Have I missed something? Do you have your own tips you’d like to share? Leave a comment below!