5 Important Safety Tips Every Solo Female Traveler Should Know
At 24 I set off on my first solo journey to the other side of the world. Being the young naive girl I was at the time, I remember my friends and family saying to me over and over again “PLEASE BE SAFE”. Four years and nine countries later I’m happy to say I’ve had an incredible journey traveling alone and it hasn’t been as unsafe or daunting as many people believed it would be. With a little preparation, common sense, and confidence you will be well on your way to becoming an independent solo female traveler!
Here are 5 helpful safety tips I’ve learnt from traveling solo as a female:
1. Plan Transportation Before Your Arrival
When I first began traveling solo, I always got a little nervous arriving in a new city, especially at night. To avoid the stress of getting lost and to give you peace of mind, it’s a good idea to pre-arrange transportation pick up at the airport. Some hotels offer free pick up while others may charge an above-average fee. Don’t be turned off by paying a little more. It will ease your anxiety knowing your driver was arranged by your hotel and knows the exact directions.
If arranging a hotel pick up isn’t possible here’s what to do:
Take a copy of your hotel’s address (in both English and your destination’s first language), a clear map, and a contact number. This way you can be confident in knowing where you are going, and if your driver happens to get lost you can easily direct him.
Prior to my arrival in Kolkata, India, I made the mistake of simply copying down my hostel’s address in my Iphone’s notebook. Although the taxi customer service desk at the airport confirmed they knew where I was going, I later ended up getting lost in the middle of the city. To make matters worse, the driver could not speak any English. After an hour of driving around in circles, I kindly directed the driver to pull over and let me out. I walked to the nearest hotel I could find and stay there until the following morning. This was a stupid mistake on my part and could have been easily avoided if I had prepared more before arrival. Lesson Learnt.
Dishonest taxi drivers are known to prey on foreign tourists outside the arrivals terminal. You may notice that some will have no fare meter and others may say that their meter is “broken”. Usually, this means they are going to charge you ten times the average price. To avoid this, contact your hotel beforehand and ask them for an approximate estimate of the total fare in your destination’s currency.
Research which taxi companies have the best reputation at your destination. For example, before arriving in Bali, Indonesia, a friend of mine mentioned that a company named “Blue Bird Taxi” has the best rates and a great reputation. This information was handy to have because when I saw the “Blue Bird” sign waiting outside the arrivals terminal, I felt more relaxed to flag them down for a ride.
Extra tip- If you are really nervous about arriving late at night many airports have connecting hotels so you can crash there for a night and arrange transportation in the morning.
2. Research About Your Destination’s Culture
If you’re heading to a country where women play a more conservative role, it’s best to be well informed and prepared before you go. Depending on your destination, you may need to pack away your short shorts and dress more conservatively, wearing clothes that cover both your legs and shoulders. In some places, it’s considered extremely rare for a local woman to be traveling alone, so you need to take extra precaution as thieves and cons can sometimes see you as vulnerable.
Don’t let this advice turn you off from traveling to a more conservative culture. You will be fine, just be sure to do your research before you go.
3. Have Common Sense
While traveling alone, you need to take full responsibility for yourself and your safety. A little common sense can go a long way in protecting you from unsafe situations.
Try to avoid being in unknown areas alone after dark. If you find yourself in this situation, never walk home alone, especially through dark areas with minimal traffic. It’s better to stay confident and flag down a taxi.
If you’re in an area known for mugging and pickpocketing, it’s unwise to wear flashy jewelry and/or have your cell phone in sight.
When traveling outside your hotel, leave your passport in a safe place and keep a couple of photocopies on hand.
Always take a copy of your hotel’s address, a map, and contact number in case you get lost or problems arise.
While in transit NEVER leave your passport or valuables in your bags unattended. Keep them on you at all times.
A girl I met while traveling in Thailand left her passport under the bus she was traveling on. She later arrived at her destination only to find out her bag (with her passport inside) had been stolen. Having to deal with a lost passport from a stupid mistake is not fun.
If you’re going to a bar alone limit yourself to just one or two drinks. You don’t want to put yourself in a situation where you are intoxicated and make poor decisions. It’s also important to never leave your drinks unattended.
While in Argentina, a group of travelers from our hostel went out to a local nightclub. One of the girls in our group went over her limit and ended up in the hospital with alcohol poisoning. To make matters even worse, her flight back to Canada was leaving the following day. She was traveling solo and did not have a photocopy of her passport on hand. Luckily we were able to contact the hostel for her details and the following morning she was released just in time to catch her flight. This story had a happy ending but could have ended much worse. This type of situation can be avoided altogether with a bit of common sense and responsibility for your safety.
4. Trust Your Gut Instinct
Trusting your gut instinct is perhaps the best piece of advice I can give any solo female traveler. It’s true what they say: your gut instinct doesn’t lie. If you’re in any situation where something just doesn’t feel right, then without any hesitation, leave. Never stay in a situation to be kind or because you don’t want to let someone down. On the contrary, be sure to trust your gut instinct when something feels right.
While in Kolkata, India I spoke with a homeless man I passed on the street every day. He was interesting to speak with and I sensed a genuine kindness within him. Eventually, he offered to show me around the Ganges river nearby and I gladly accepted. This was an incredible experience I would have otherwise missed out on if I hadn’t given this man my trust.
5. Act Confident
As I mentioned earlier, thieves and cons tend to prey upon those who look vulnerable. When traveling alone, it’s important to always act and look confident.
Back in my early days of solo traveling, I got completely lost in the middle of Shanghai, China, while trying to find a shopping market. I was basically walking around in circles, with a frustrated look on my face. Finally, a few “nice” girls approached me and asked if I needed any help. I explained to them how I was lost and asked if they could help me with directions. One of the girls mentioned that they were also planning on going to the market, but first they would like to go for some tea. They kindly asked me to join. I was so frustrated at this point and I thought it was kind of them to offer me help, so I happily agreed. We walked for about 15 minutes down the busy streets of Shanghai and as soon as we got to the tea house my gut instinct kicked in. Something didn’t feel right. I stupidly ignored my gut and continued to drink tea after tea, of every flavor you can imagine. About 45 minutes later our waiter came out smiling, handed me a $200.00 CAD bill, and thanked me. My heart sunk, I had been caught in a scam and had no choice but to pay the hefty bill. Not only did I learn that day to always trust my gut instinct, but I also learned the importance of looking and acting confident, even when you’re not. Those girls saw that I was frustrated and lost, then used that as the bait to wheel me into their horrible scam.
Have you traveled solo before? What are some safety tips you’ve learnt along the way? Comment Below!
About the Author:
Danielle is a Canadian-born travel enthusiast who set off on a one-way ticket to the other side of the world shortly after finishing University. Four years later her wanderlust has taken her on many incredible adventures, including trekking in high the Himalayas, roaming through the Borneo rain forest, bungee jumping in Nepal, and sky diving in Australia. She wishes to inspire others to step outside their comfort zone and create more “I can’t believe I just did that” kinda moments. You can find more of her adventure stories at www.wanderessadventures.com.