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The Solo Traveler Blog

Women Traveling Alone Part I – 10 tips

Yes, this post is about women traveling alone. But, don’t worry guys. It’ll be your turn soon. Next Thursday there is a post on 10 Tips for Men Traveling Alone. And then, Women Traveling Along Part II will suggest some great destinations.

I’ve written all sorts of posts on how to travel alone. Posts on solo travel safety, eating alone, how to spend evenings… This post could cover all those again because they all apply to women traveling alone. However, I’m not going to try to say everything. This time I am writing about things specific to women – serious issues and girly things.

  1. Have patience. Even as an experienced solo traveler, every time I start a new trip it takes me a day or two to get solo stable — to shed those initial nerves of being out there on my own managing all the details, logistics and documents. Be patient. You’ll find your strength.
  2. Be cautious. If you are a young woman you need to be far more careful about unsavory characters than us more mature women. At least, that certainly is my experience. Please, (PLEASE) read the post this Saturday where I share a very dangerous situation that I found myself in when younger. Then read the Solo Travel Safety section for lots of tips on staying safe.
  3. Pack light. You’re going to save money and be more mobile if you pack light. It requires a bit more planning to have a wardrobe that stretches from hiking boots to high heels but it can be done. Choose a base color (black, brown, beige, navy), a contrast color (white, beige…) and a color or two to accessorize and pull it all together. Watch the videos in my post on packing light.
  4. Dress conservatively. Maybe revealing tops and short skirts should be fine but, in reality, they can get you into trouble in many countries, including North America and Europe. You are always more vulnerable when you’re off your home turf so compensate by dressing conservatively. Read 10 Tips to Survive Culture Shock for more on this topic.
  5. Don’t make your hair an issue. Before I left on my long term trip I had long hair that was colored blond. It took too long to dry and the roots showed every five weeks. It was going to be a hassle that I didn’t need so I had it cut less than an inch long and let it go gray. Your situation need not be this extreme but it is worth having easy hair options so your travel time is not consumed with such a mundane task as your hair.
  6. Plan your first night well. At minimum, have a place to rest your head on the first night and plan to arrive by mid afternoon. It’s important to have the time to find your hotel or hostel in daylight and time to change your accommodation if you determine that this is not the place for you.
  7. Other women are not necessarily safe. Women often feel safer with other women. And, when it comes to small time danger, we probably are. But there are also dangerous women who are just as capable of luring you into bad situations as men. Be cautious.
  8. Choose your purse carefully. While a day pack designed with  security features is ideal for travel you may prefer to carry a purse. If you do I recommend purses that you wear across your shoulders. In Naples a few years back I was the victim of a “scooter bandit”. What’s that? Two guys on a scooter. The driver charges through a cross walk against the light and behind a woman. The passenger grabs her purse. In my case, all he got was the strap.
  9. Take care of your feet. Nothing will ruin a trip faster than sore feet. Women’s shoes are notoriously bad for feet. Choose comfort over fashion.
  10. Pamper yourself. Women traveling alone are, just that, alone. No kisses from family. No hugs from friends. A manicure, pedicure, massage… are all safe ways to get a little human touch. Everyone needs that once in a while.

Related posts:

  • StellaInTheCity

    Am I weird? I have always been mindful of this, even in my home city. I don’t wear heels unless I am positive someone with me is driving the whole time we’re out. The style quotient is never worth the risk.

  • vacicaz1990

    ZWpl – Recently I was low on cash and debits were eating me from everywhere! That was UNTIL i found out how to make money on the Internet. I went to surveymoneymaker d-o-t net, and started filling in surveys for cash, and really I’ve been far more able to pay my bills! I am very glad that I did this.. With all the financial stress these years, I really hope all of you will give it a chance. HfPK

  • boud1989

    ZWpl – Recently I was low on cash and debits were eating me from everywhere! That was UNTIL i found out how to make money on the Internet. I went to surveymoneymaker d-o-t net, and started filling in surveys for cash, and really I’ve been far more able to pay my bills! I am very glad that I did this.. With all the financial stress these years, I really hope all of you will give it a chance. HfPK

  • alc

    Never realized #7 and that is indeed a very good point. I had to find out the hard way, thinking I would be perfectly okay on a horse trip in the desert booked with a Western woman and guided by her local husband.

  • Mary Bartnikowski

    Hi Annabelle,
    I traveled thru South America solo for 6 months – here are a few precautions. Always have your valuables tightly attached to you – there are many grab and runs in SA but thankfully no one did this to me. I did see a robbery in front of me on the bus. A well-dressed person got on the bus and asked for my daypack as there “was not enough room” in the seating area – i knew this was bunk so I said no. The guy in front of me gave his daypack to this man acting like he worked for the bus. And the man ran off with his valuables after acting like he was putting it above in the overhead. So don’t trust anyone with your valuables even a new “friend” and try to always arrive to a new city in daylight – stay out of big cities as there is more crime there. Rio de Janeiro scared me so I got out. Trust your gut. There had been a hold-up with a gun at the hostel I stayed at in Ipanema the night before – I felt those bad vibes and left the next day. I went from Colombia to Brasil overland solo and had the best times in the small towns – no problems. Stay safe and have fun! http://www.vagabondtravelmag.com

  • Pingback: Tips for Women Traveling Abroad Alone | Travel and Fun Magazine

  • Jasmine

    I’m not sure about fanny packs. I’ve known a few people who have been pickpocketed when using them, especially in crowded areas or or crowded public transport where it’s easy for others to get their hands in. I find it safer to use a daypack or purse that in crowded places you can at least hug them to your chest.

  • Sharon

    I travel solo often…around the US and Europe. Agree with #6 to plan your first night in a location and get there in daylight. I usually try to find a place close to public transport (metro or train) in the area I plan to be in. Yes, ask the hotel/hostel/B&B what is best way to get to their location, and if it is by taxi, how much should it cost. You can also watch youtube videos for almost everywhere on how to travel on public transportation. My first trip to Paris was solo…from youtube I knew where/how to buy my ticket for the metro/train into town from the airport…knew how to figure out which train to get on. Then on google earth put in the address for the hotel and could see the street view of the hotel- so I knew exactly what the entrance to the hotel looked like and what the surrounding neighborhood looked like. Pay attention to what is around you, and listen to your inner voice – it will tell you when something is not right.

    As for making haircare simple….well I make sure I have a good haircut and color before I leave home….(I never blow dry my hair-secret is sleep with wet hair then use flat iron in the am-takes about 5 minutes) and my self luxury (if traveling long enough) is get a haircut and color wherever I am at!

  • Jenni

    I try and make sure I have worn shoes in before travelling with them.. nothing worse than getting overseas and either having to find new shoes or ending up with blisters..

  • http://www.solotravelerblog.com/ Tracey Nesbitt

    We posted your question on the Solo Travel Society page on Facebook today. Lots of tips waiting for you there, Annabelle! https://www.facebook.com/SoloTravelSociety

  • http://solotravelerblog.com Janice Waugh

    I hope you’ve liked the Solo Travel Society on Facebook. We’ll post your question there for the community to answer.

  • Annabelle

    Going to Argentina in May 2014. A little nervous about traveling South America alone. No problem in Europe solo. Any tips?

  • solotraveler

    Absolutely!! That’s essential.

  • Lavender

    you should include this tip LAY OFF THE BOOZE!! Seriously when I was, thankfully, in a tour group in Italy some of the other girls got so drunk they had to be carried back to the hotel. They couldn’t even walk much less get back to the hotel in a city they didn’t know and didn’t speak the local language. Am I the only one to see the sheet stupidity of that situation?

  • http://solotravelerblog.com Janice Waugh

    Great tips Becky. Thanks so much for sharing them.

    Janice

  • http://www.facebook.com/becky.patlan Becky Patlan-Garcia

    This is such good advice. I have traveled solo for many years (only in the United States so far) and I usually do it in a car. Many of my friends are always cautioning me about the dangers and showing me articles of women being murdered while traveling on their own. I have a few tips that might help a woman traveling solo in her car. If I have to stop at a rest area at night I will grab a pillow and a blanket and throw it over the passenger seat to make it look as if someone is sleeping there (before I get to the rest stop). Then as I get out I will say something to my “companion” like “Honey, do you need to use the bathroom while we’re here?” I know, sounds corny but makes it sound as if you have a man with you. I always pull up as close to the restroom as I can, in the brightest lights. If I can I will wait for a family with women and children that are going to the restroom and go in with them. Safety in numbers. If I am going to sleep at the rest area I have a few large beach towels that I will place up around the inside of the windows so nobody can see that I am alone while I sleep. I never worried about my safety when I was younger and traveled solo but I have begun to realize that I am not bullet proof and that there are a few precautions I should be taking and I do. Sometimes it is just simple things, like my pillow “husband”. lol

  • http://solotravelerblog.com Janice Waugh

    Hi Amy,

    Thanks for pointing that out. I’ve added the link to the post now. Here it is: http://solotravelerblog.com/solo-travel-stranger-danger-part-iibrcaught-con-game/.

    Best,
    Janice

  • http://www.facebook.com/amy.hollings.14 Amy Hollings

    Janice? I see you have suggested another post in 2) but I don’t see a link to get there? I would like to read it, and possibly share it. Thanks for the wisdom you share. Yours is an Invaluable voice.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-TravelChocolate/100000776485600 John TravelChocolate

    Nice post Yokie. And if one were to check crime stats of where they live, vs where they are going, they would likely find that where they going is safer!

  • Lynette

    Waist pack (fanny pack) are the best way to keep some of your money available for spending (the rest of the money is in a money belt close to your body). Pull your shirt over the fanny pack, and although it has an unsightly bump, it will be easier and safer than a purse.

  • http://twitter.com/lawyerlu Luciana Vazquez

    my points to #4 and #6. i would add appart from making a reservation, to ask in advance how to get there. i am really not comfortable at the airports when you get offered taxis to get somewhere, during the day while discovering a place or a city i can trust on people but not while i’m in an unkown vehicule.

  • Yokie

    I traveled alone for years when I was in my 20′s/early 30′s, and started doing it again after my partner died a few years ago. In 2011, I was on the go for almost 9 months, both overseas and road trips in the U.S. It still amazes me how many people will remind me how dangerous the world is, and I shouldn’t be going anywhere alone, especially on long road trips. I remind them that whatever could happen five states away, could happen two blocks away, and that I have my cell phone, AAA, GPS.

    I also want to mention a wonderful experience I had in Casablanca late last year. I was roaming at one of the markets and a woman, all covered up, came over to me. We talked for a while and then she said something I didn’t quite understand. When I asked her to repeat it, she said “Eternity,” which is the fragrance I’ve worn for years. Two women from very different worlds, very different ages, and something unexpected in common. That’s why I love travel.

  • Anne C

    I agree, esp in conservative clothing & comfort over fashion shoes & may I add – not too flashy accessories. Aside from safety concerns, some of these may offend another culture. Visit Asia soon and ul learn more ;)

  • Travelbug1

    Great article and good advice. I always wear running shoes and of course if needed hiking boots. Tip #7 is good …… i trust no one, whether it be men or women even if they seem to look OK by the way they dress. I try to be cautious. Before I left for British Isles in May, I bought a Baggallinie small travel purse which the straps can be adjusted. Instead you can easily fit passport, tickets, perhaps a camera, it has slots for cards, outside a pockert for cell phone and another pocket for whatever you want to put in. It’s not cheap but it was worth every penny. It is better than the what I used to call “bum bags”, the straps around your waste.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=561041957 Alexandra Kovacova

    Thanks for the tips. Thankfully, I have never met a woman who would get me in trouble yet :)

  • Angela

    Thanks for all your posts.
    Re #4.  It might be a good idea to check on the Internet about the culture of the places that you are travelling to and how people dress.  #5.  I don’t have straight hair and I do grey.  I always walk with a wig.  It saves my appearance when I can’t get anywhere near to a hairdresser that I can trust. #8 - I put most of my money in a money belt that is worn inside my pants and reinforce it with a large safety pin although it has a buckle – that is if I am not at a hotel with a safe or travelling around.  I also carry a portable travelling safe that can be bought in a travel store.  It is hard to steal if they break into your suitcase where you are staying if there isn’t a safe. It has a steel type rod that I wrap around the steel pole (part of the handle foundation) in my suitcase.  It is encased with chicken wire.  I sometimes carry a hand bag when I really have to use one that has chains around the handles along the straps, it will be harder to cut.  It is the type that I hug under my arm or I walk with a little canvas souvenir beach bag under my arm that portrays me as a poor tourist.

  • http://florine-foulon-portfolio.weebly.com/ Florine Foulon

    Well, the “pack light” tip helps quite a lot, even though it enhances the cliché of the not minimalist girls ;)!

  • Sjdean2

    I agree, having just returned from a solo trip to Italy.  A suggestion on the shoes: Vaseline.  Apply to heel and any other area where the shoe may rub (e.g. under sandle straps) to keep from getting blisters.

  • http://www.women-on-the-road.com/ Leyla

    Excellent advice, as always! I’m a great believe in pampering on occasion – when I was on the road full-time I made it a point to do something luxurious once a month, whether stay at a ‘real’ hotel with a real breakfast buffet, have a massage, go to the hairdresser…

    I too let my hair go wild and gray – it’s the smartest thing I could have done. I tried to keep up the colour for the first few months but the big stripe around my head looked worse than the gray, so off it all went!

  • http://www.facebook.com/andreabrownmurga Andrea Brown

    Leaving in a couple days to spend three months in Brazil, and this post is much appreciated, especially Tip #1!  I read a lot of your blog before going on a trip last year to South America for four months (and had done a few shorter solo trips before that), and in some ways I’m feeling like a newbie preparing for this trip, so it’s really helpful to be reminded to be patient and not so hard on myself.  Thank you for the inspiring packing break :)

  • MaryAnn

    I am going to Mexico on June 1st.  Having nightmares about visas, passport, the border crossings, having enough pesos, etc, etc.  I am not a novice solo traveler, but this is my first border crossing….

  • singlehappy

    within my large purse or backpack I bring along a nice pair of flip-flops just for a change & airing during a long walking day
    also a few currency notes in my pocket (for lunch etc) and the rest hidden. at a washroom break, replenish pocket

  • solotraveler

    All excellent tips – which I do as well. Thanks!

  • Jenny

    Something I like to do, is use a travel wallet or money belts that can be put around your waist or over your shoulders, it’s fairly flat, and hides very well. You can wear it under your clothes if you want (the waist one you can tuck inside your pants and it is still easily accessible, the shoulder one, inside a jacket maybe). In this you would keep your cash, cc, and other important things/documents… and then everything else in a purse or pack. If it does get stolen, you still have the important things on you.

  • http://www.mybeautifuladventures.com Andi

    These are fantastic tips–several I have never seen before.

  • http://pinaytraveller.com PinayTraveller

    I can relate to tip #9. 2 years ago, I spent a whole day walking around Rome wearing my ballet flats. By the end of the day, my toes were awfully numb. It took about a month before the feeling came back. A valuable lesson learned the hard way.:( Thanks for this list!

  • http://www.scenebylaurie.com Scene by Laurie

    Hello,
    I’ve also read several of your articles and really appreciate your tips for solo female travelers.

    I have a question for you…I’m thinking of Croatia, do you have experience or tips for traveling around Croatia specifically? Anything would be much appreciated, regards, Laurie

  • http://priscillamaeetal.blogspot.com Meg Mitchell

    These are all great rules but I think No. 1 is very important. Giving yourself time to acclimatize to a new situation gives you the confidence to handle many of the other rules. Feeling good about where I am staying gives me a safe haven, and a place to regenerate. I always stay in apartments as opposed to hotels. Feels more like home.

  • Sylvie

    I am leaving shortly for Europe and am very grateful for all the advice I have read here so far. Thanks so much.

  • http://www.travelyourself.ca Cailin

    Number 8 is very important! I have used the exact same purse for the past 3 years and have traveled to 21 countries with it. I don’t ever use it when I’m home, but it is perfect for the road. it crosses over my body, I always wear it to the front, every pocket has zippers and its made of a good quality leather encase someone were to cut it off.

  • http://www.citybreak.uk.com Backpacking for Holidays

    Great tips for the solo traveler, women travelers must read these great tips.

  • http://www.wanderingeducators.com/marketplace/apparel/do-mbt-shoes-really-work.html jessiev

    WHAT great advice (for any traveler) – that shoe one is brilliant!

  • http://solofriendly.com Gray

    Good point on #7. That’s a piece of advice I don’t often see in solo travel safety advice, but certainly bears repeating. Women can be con artists–and worse–just like men.

  • Prime

    I like tip number 5. Most women don’t realize that hair management is such a hassle when travelling. this is why i just decided to just let my hair grow and bring some scrunchees to tie my hair. Now if only I can find an ultra-light hair dryer…

  • http://travelthroughhistory.blogspot.com Ruth Kozak

    This is all great advice. I’ve been a solo traveler for quite a few years other than the past 3 trips which I’ve made with friends. This time i’m back on the road solo again. Regarding your last point (10) one thing I do is to often plan sunset picnics and take along my music, set a place for a friend I wish were along, and write in my journal as if talking to them. I also will often go to a nice place to eat (one with lots of interseting clientele and action or a view) and I usually take my travel journal along so I can write it in rather than to just sit alone feeling lonely if there’s nobody to talk to. i’m really looking forward to more sunset picnics on the Greek islands this summer!

  • http://www.3six5dates.com Shelli

    I shaved all my hair off, partly for charity and partly because of a big trip!

    Good advice on being wary of other women, and oh yes, the drama of stretching the shoe-wear.

  • http://www.travel-writers-exchange.com/ Trisha Miller

    Excellent advice, as always, and some good additions in your comments.

    Sometimes the simplest things can be the most important (like Geraldine’s point about the shoes) – and the simple act of thinking can save your life.

    Think about your choices and decisions, and the resulting consequences. Think about your surroundings – the environment and people. Think about where you’re going and what you’re doing, at all times. Women traveling solo can’t afford to be oblivious, ever.

  • solotraveler

    That’s amazing. It is not something that came to mind but it makes sense. Thanks for adding to the post.

  • margaret miller

    If you’re diabetic, allergic to penicillin or have other significant health issues and are traveling alone, it’s especially important to wear a medical I.D. of some sort…a necklace, bracelet, or a sticker on your cell phone or watch. Put an ID card in your wallet with your medical information, too. Our family likes the products made by Lifetag (www.lifetag.com).

  • http://www.kaleidoscopicwandering.com JoAnna

    I think #7 is an especially good point. We’re always told to turn to a mother or another woman if we need help, but this doesn’t mean we should let our guard down. When traveling solo, women should always be cautious and aware of their surroundings, regardless of who they are surrounded by.

    Thank you for the reminder.

  • http://www.everywhereist.com Everywhereist

    Another note about comfortable footwear that I had never thought about: my husband told me he read an article where they had interviewed criminals/attackers of women, and one of the ways the men had picked their (seemingly random) victims was by the shoes they were wearing. The more unreasonable the shoe, the harder it would be for the women to fight/run away. Scary, but important to know.

About Janice Waugh and Tracey Nesbitt

I'm an author, blogger, speaker and traveler. I became a widow and empty-nester at about the same time. And then, I became Solo Traveler... Here's the full story. >>

Tracey Nesbitt I’m a writer, editor, food and wine fanatic, and traveler. On my very first trip abroad I learned that solo travel was for me. Here's the full story. >>

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