Travelling solo can be the best fun! You don’t have to worry about working out a plan that suits your companion, group, or family, and you’re free to come and go as you please, providing it’s safe. But remember, if you’re a woman travelling solo, there are countries in the world where women are expected to dress and behave differently to what’s expected in Australia and other western countries. This is only one aspect of safety, but depending on where you plan to travel, it means you need to research as much as you can about the countries you will visit. Planning ahead of your trip will protect you because then you know which areas are the safest options. Even if you don’t agree with the cultural expectations of the destinations you choose, you need to be respectful and follow the rules of dress and behaviour.
Preparing For the Unexpected
Since travelling solo is an adventure into the unknown, you probably wouldn’t be considering it if you were faint of heart. That said, forewarned is forearmed, so learn all the fun facts, and go with the right attitude. Know what to avoid and prepare for the worst so you can enjoy your trip. Keep in mind such things as looking like a local, so you don’t stand out as different. I remember a trip to Central America's impoverished Belize, where you rarely saw people in flashy clothes. However, one tourist arrived wearing diamonds, carrying designer luggage and wearing expensive clothes. Of course, she was robbed. In a poor country, it’s best not to become a temptation, because your stolen goods could mean the difference between a family eating that day or going without. So, dress casually and conservatively. If women wear scarves and head covering, do as they do to blend in, so you don’t draw attention to yourself.
Many women who travel solo choose to stay in hostels rather than hotels. Staying in the most expensive hotel doesn’t mean your safety is guaranteed. What makes hostels attractive is not only the fact that they’re less expensive, but there are rules and structures developed over the decades they have hosted travellers. Depending on the country you’re visiting, many hostels have security guards day and night, and it’s not uncommon for them to have in place restrictions to lifts and rooms unless you have a key card which works only for the floor your room is on. Also, security cameras may be installed. The best advice if you’re going to stay in a hotel or Airbnb is to study the reviews carefully and stay only in superhost establishments that have good reviews over long periods. But a hotel with great reviews and 24/7 security is probably better than any Airbnb, which is actually staying in a total stranger’s home, so again, check out the reviews. Another aspect of accommodation safety is never let strangers know where you’re staying. Your room is your safe haven, so if a stranger asks, just be a bit vague about its location.
Other Safety Tips for Solo Women Travellers:
There’s no need to eat alone when you can take a day tour, or a cooking class, e.g., and meet women from other countries who are also travelling solo and share a meal.
Keep your passport, cash, traveller’s cheques, travel card or other documents in a secure place.
Set up a GPS tracking system to wear as a remote travel mate to let someone know where you are at all times. Stay in touch with family and friends on social media and keep your phone always charged and always on.
If you engage with a stranger, always do it in a public place, and be proactive, choose who to talk with, never rush into a decision and listen to your instincts.
Never let anyone think you’re alone. If you’re in a restaurant or bar and someone approaches you, say you’re waiting for your husband or someone. Don’t stay in a bar or restaurant if most people are leaving.
Yes, you can make friends, but always have the above tips in mind.
As for staying safe and healthy, make sure you have your vaccinations for yellow fever, rabies, polio, typhoid, for instance, if you are going to a country where any serious diseases are endemic. Your travel doctor can advise you.
Have fun, stay safe and enjoy your solo adventure!