There are many reasons why one would choose to travel alone: the freedom to go wherever and do whatever you'd like, the feeling of independence, the love of one's own company, the desire to challenge yourself, the sense of empowerment, and so on. As a woman who has travelled to over 100 countries, many of them on her own, I fell in love with solo travelling because it allowed me to travel exactly the way I wanted to, it made me a more confident and independent person, and it introduced me to experiences I don't think I would have had if I had been relying on a travel companion.
But travelling solo can be daunting at times, and because of that, there are certain tips that prove invaluable to the solo female traveller. Here are some of the tried and true tips for solo female travellers, regardless of your age or travelling experience. From one solo traveller to another, here are the tips I wish I'd had when I first started out, and the tips I still implement on each of my solo travels.
Solo Female Travel Tips
1. Start small, start local
If you're feeling nervous about travelling solo, one way to ease those worries is to start small. Before embarking on a month-long journey across the world, for example, try a night or weekend away somewhere close to home. Those small steps of navigating a new place on your own will help give you the confidence you need to book the solo trip of your dreams.
Don't know where to start? Here are 100 things to do in the United Kingdom, all perfect for domestic solo trips!
2. Do your research
While there's something glamorous and romantic about a spontaneous holiday, if you're travelling on your own, you most likely want to have at least the beginning of your trip planned. Do as much research on your destination as you can by investing in a guidebook, reading lots of travel blogs and travel forums, and figuring out all the details you may need to know before you go: whether you need a visa, what vaccinations/immunisations you may need, the local language, the local customs and dress, what to pack, where to stay, the country's currency, and so on. Knowledge leads to confidence, which leads to a happier, safer holiday.
3. Join tours and/or activities
Once you get to your destination, plan to join a day tour or activity within the first few days. This will make you feel more comfortable in your destination, will allow you to learn a bit more about where you are, and might even lead to some new travel friends. It's also a great way to meet local tour guides and get some of their best tips on where to go, what to eat, and so on.
4. Stay vigilant, just as you would at home
It's always important to prioritise your safety, no matter where you're travelling. There can be a lot of scare-mongering when it comes to solo female travel, but there are many steps you can take to feel safe and comfortable when you're travelling on your own (regardless of your gender). Many of these tips are fairly obvious, but it bears repeating:
Avoid going out on your own late at night, when it's easier to get lost. Try to keep any alcohol consumption to a minimum, as we all become more vulnerable and susceptible when alcohol is involved. Only take registered/marked taxis or ride shares. Take care of your valuables, including jewellery, cameras, phones, and cash, and store a bit of cash away from the rest in case of emergency. Research common scams in the country you're visiting.
It may all sound overwhelming, but the majority of us do these things in our own home cities without thinking; it's all about staying aware of our surroundings and trying to take the best care of ourselves.
5. Trust your gut
Speaking of staying aware of your surroundings, the other key tip as a solo traveller is to trust your gut. If something is telling you not to go down that street, or not to take that particular taxi, or not to sit beside that person on the train, follow that instinct. Being polite is never more important than being safe, so if you feel the need to leave a situation, do so without hesitation. Worried you might offend someone? The beauty of travelling is that you'll probably never have to see that person again, so walk away without shame.
6. Stay in touch
As a solo traveller, you'll be the only responsible for your itinerary, travel documents, insurance information, and so on. Make sure to email these details to yourself and to a trusted friend or family member who can help you out in a pinch. On top of that, keeping family and friends back home up to date on your whereabouts will not only be a way to share your amazing holiday, but to let everyone know you're safe and sound.
7. Document your holiday
Even if you're not one to share photos on social media, as a solo traveller, taking photos is an incredible way to document your holiday so that you don't forget anything. There is nothing like looking through your photos and reminiscing on the sights you saw, the meals you ate, and so on. And if you get tired of selfies, don't be afraid to ask others to take your photo; your best bet is to ask another tourist, or, if you're in more remote or quiet areas, to carry a small tripod with you. You may feel silly at the time asking others for your photo or setting up a tripod, but you'll cherish those photo memories forever.
Similarly, writing in a travel journal is an excellent way to jot down memories (and kill time in airports and train stations).
8. Talk to locals
One of the best ways to get to know a place is to get to know its people. While it may be intimidating to think of chatting to strangers, there's nothing like getting the insider knowledge on a place, especially when it comes to its hidden gems. Your best bet is to chat to people in the service industry, including tour guides, hotel concierges, and restaurant staff, but heading to a local market and talking to vendors is another way to find out where to eat, shop, sightsee, and so on. This is where learning a bit of the local language goes a long way.
As always, do your research about your travel destination; in some cultures, women are not expected to talk to men they don't know. Make sure to respect the local culture, even if you don't agree with their customs.
9. Talk to other travellers
Similarly, don't be afraid to strike up a conversation with another traveller if you're comfortable doing so, especially other solo female travellers. Chat to that person on the tour with you, or your seatmate on the train. If anything, it's a nice way to break up the time on your own, although it may also lead to a friendship or some valuable travel advice. Staying in hostels can also be a fantastic way to meet people; many hostels offer private rooms, so you can still have the comfort of your own room while reaping the benefits of the common hostel areas.
10. Solo travel doesn't mean you'll be lonely
One of the biggest misconceptions about solo travel is that you'll be lonely. In fact, many solo travellers experience the opposite; when we stop relying on travel companions, we're much more open to our surroundings and meeting new people. Solo travel is also a wonderful way to learn a lot about yourself, and to see how brave, independent, and self-reliant you can be. While there may be a lonely moment from time to time - just as we all sometimes have lonely moments at home - the amazing moments will far outweigh any rumblings of loneliness.
11. Just book the ticket
Taking that first solo trip - or sometimes even the 100th solo trip - can be scary. There can be a thousand reasons why you don't book the ticket; it's never the right time, you may convince yourself, or you might keep waiting for a travel companion to join you. But solo travel is the perfect way to experience the world on exactly your own travel terms: budget or luxury, adventurous or relaxing, a quick jaunt or a long-term vacation. You can travel in whatever way you want, and take whatever kind of holiday that will make you happiest. It's a time to feel free, to feel empowered, and to get to know yourself better than ever before, all the while experiencing and learning about another part of the world along the way.
So what are you waiting for? The world is your oyster... book your holiday today!
The author, Brenna Holeman, on a recent holiday to Monument Valley, USA. Brenna is the editor of Explore by Expedia UK as well as a travel blogger at This Battered Suitcase. She has 14 years of solo travel experience.
All other photos from Unsplash.