20 Safety Tips for Solo Female Travelers

by stephmylifetravel

Want to travel solo, but afraid of something bad happening? We’ve got you covered! From how to be prepared arriving in a new country, to staying safe while walking around, we’ll walk you through all the top solo female travel safety tips from experienced women who have been there.

Leaving home and going off to see the world can be a scary prospect for any of us, but it takes even more guts to go it alone. Travelling alone has its own set of challenges and you’ll need to be extra vigilant to stay safe – and sadly that’s doubly true for women. It might require toughening up and building your instincts, but knowing you can look after and fend for yourself will give you the confidence to keep going!

This is the second in my Solo Female Traveller series. If you haven’t read the first post about the best destinations for solo travel, then you can do so here!

I’ve never had the opportunity to travel alone, but I have so much admiration for those who do! In this series I’m highlighting the stories and advice of over 40 amazing women who’ve taken the plunge and travelled alone. Between them, they’ve travelled solo to over 60 countries covering almost every region in the world, made lifelong friends and had incredible, life-changing experiences.

Solo Female Travellers’ Top Safety Tips

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If you are feeling nervous about going travelling because of what might happen, we’ve got good news for you. The majority of the women who sent in their tips said that they have always felt safe when travelling! Part of the reason for this could be that these women were prepared. They have a system or set of rules that they stick to when travelling to ensure they have the best chance of an incident-free trip. We’ve shared their top solo female travel safety tips and advice below, to get your ready for your first solo trip!

Solo Female Travel Safety: Before you go

Looking after your safety starts before you even leave on your trip. Getting prepared doesn’t just mean packing your bag, there are a lot of other little things you can do to help you feel more confident getting on that plane.

Do your research

Rebecca Harvey, 25 says that researching your trip is key to staying safe and being prepared.

Just do your research is my best tip. I think it’s great to be able to go away and not have a plan, go with the flow- but it’s always good to have pre-researched how to get somewhere/ways of transportation if that kind of thing makes you anxious. People are always friendly but as a ‘tourist’ it’s easy to get ripped off with things, you need to learn to barter your way through an island and I think once you have those two things down you’re good to go.

Some people confuse research with planning, and they are definitely not the same. You don’t always need to plan every aspect of your trip, but doing your research is the best way to stay safe while you travel. Read up on local scams, plan your journey from the airport, make sure you’ve got all the right vaccines and visas, and find out about local customs.

 

Pack the right stuff

Lucy Waters, 24, makes the case for buying a good portable charger before you go. Empty batteries have almost gotten us in a few sticky situations while we’ve been away! Check out my packing guide for the ones that we use – and some other things you should bring with you!

Take a phone with you that is charged. I’ve run out of battery so many times and almost got stuck places.

 

Get Travel Insurance

Make sure to have a good travel insurance package. Stay in a well reviewed Hostel. Have a key or pad lock for your bags. Money belt. Have all the recommended vaccinations (most of these are free with NHS). Trust strangers but don’t trust them too much!!- Niamh O’Brien, 26

This is something I can’t recommend enough! Having travel insurance saved us thousands of pounds so far and took the pressure off when we were ill. No one plans to get sick when they travel, but unfortunately it does happen and if it happens you want to be prepared.

There’s a lot of competition in the travel insurance market these days which means insurance can be super cheap and save you a ton of money if anything goes wrong.  If you’re visiting multiple countries it’s best to opt for backpackers insurance as it will cover multiple trips and activities while being more cost effective than booking individual policies for different countries. I recommend using World Nomads for their backpacker cover. Our policy paid for itself within a few months and we will never travel without insurance any more now that we’ve seen how easily you can get sick or injured while you travel.

Solo Female Travel Safety: When you arrive

Landing in a new country or city can be overwhelming, and is usually the point which most people are nervous about. However there are a few ways to take the stress out of those first few hours in a new place…

Buy a SIM Card

My top safety tip would be to buy a SIM Card, which are relatively cheap to buy, for every country you visit so that you can easily stay in contact or make contact with friends and family at any time. – Emer Taheny, 24

The one tip I give to every traveller is to always, always buy a local sim card when you arrive in a new country. Having a sim card means you will never get lost, and you will always be able to contact someone if you’re in trouble.  Even if you’re just in a country for a couple of days, it’s still worth buying one!

SIM cards in Asia can be as little as a few euro for a month of data, so it’s not much to spend. You usually make that money back quite quickly because you can use apps like Grab & Uber to order a taxi instead paying high prices for local cabs.

SIM Card Tips

You can usually buy SIM cards at the airport, or in local convenience stores. Make sure you check the following:

  • That your data isn’t time specific. Sometimes plans say 8GB of data, but really a large portion of this data can only be used after 8pm or a certain hour. This is super inconvenient as you need data mostly during the day time.
  • That all of your data can be used at the same speed. Much like the time restriction, there can often be hidden speed restriction on your data with some providers. For example your 8GB card may only give you 4GB at the fastest speed, then 4GB throttled at a much lower, and frustratingly slow speed. Read the packaging to find this out.
  • Watch out for Tourist SIM cards. These are often a lot more expensive than local SIM cards, and are more likely to have time and speed restrictions. Tourist SIM cards are usually the most prominently advertised ones at airports, with smaller booths for local sim cards.
  • Research the best SIM card before you go. Too Many Adapters is an excellent resource for this!

 

Plan Your Route To Your Hostel

Basic stuff like knowing how to get from the airport or the train station to your accommodation… I think, really important as you will feel a lot more in control of your situation. As well as that, you can end up saving time and money by being prepared.  – Rhiannon Hutchings, 23

The first few hours in a new country is always when you feel most vulnerable. Walking through the gates of a busy airport, with taxi drivers shouting out to you while you try to figure out the best way to your hostel is a hard part of solo travel. I always recommend having your route from the airport pre-planned before you get on the plane.

  • Download local taxi apps so you don’t have to use airport cabbies who always charge way more than they should. Grab is widely used in Asia for taxis, and some countries have their own apps (Sri Lanka uses PickMe! for example). Have these apps installed on your phone when you arrive as some airport wifi isn’t strong enough to download apps.
  • Look at public transport options, including how and where to buy your train ticket.
  • Download offline maps on Google maps so that you can track your journey offline (you can find instructions here)
  • Check if your hostel or hotel offers an airport shuttle. Always check prices against local taxi apps as some of these can overcharge.

 

Solo Female Travel Safety: At Your Accommodation

Choosing the right accommodation can do wonders for helping you to feel safe in a new place. Knowing what to look for in a hostel, and what to bring with you are really important when you travel solo. Create a checklist of things you want from any accommodation before you start searching.

Stay in Hostels

Stay in hostels, there’s safety in numbers. – Kate Finegan, 26

Most of the women recommended staying in hostels if you’re travelling solo, and not just because they’re cheap!

 

Safety > Money

Put the time into researching the hostel location and don’t skimp on expense on hostels. – Fiona Smiddy, 28

Don’t just book the cheapest hostel you can find – even if you’re on a very tight budget. Money is never more important than safety! When booking a hostel, do the following;

  • Read reviews, not just the review score: Review scores are usually less accurate for hostels than they are for hotels and guesthouses. The reason for this is because the more money a customer is spending, the higher their expectations will be. So for a super-budget hostel, expectations are very low. We often see hostels with 7+ stars and click through to the reviews to read about broken beds, cold showers, broken locks on doors, and dodgy locations. The review inevitably ends with ‘but great value for the low price’. Make sure you at least skim reviews for any red flags.
  • Book a female-only dorm: Many hostels these days offer female-only dorms to add an extra level of comfort and security to solo female travellers. On many hostel booking websites you can filter by female-only dorms, so you won’t have to trawl through listings to find what you want.
  • Make sure the hostel has lockers: Budget hostels won’t always have lockers where you can store your belongings. This means you either have to leave your valuables in your room unsecured, or carry them with you while you sightsee. Not ideal! Again, most hostel booking sites will have a filter so you can find a hostel with a locker.
  • Make sure your hostel is in a good location: The location of your accommodation is extremely important when travelling solo. Choosing a hostel that’s on a busy street will make you feel much more confident coming and going after dark. In Southeast Asia the sun often sets by 6pm, and you don’t want to be stuck in your room all evening because your hostel is down a dodgy alley and you feel nervous coming back after dark. Search the reviews for location to find out what other travellers say.

Pack a Combination Lock

Always bring a padlock with you when you travel so that you can keep your possessions safe in your rucksack or your locker. I also recommend a combination lock so you are not also minding a tiny key! -Keira, 34

We have lost many of those tiny keys over the years, so I completely agree with Keira’s recommendation! A lot of hostels don’t provide locks, so it’s best to travel with one or two so that you can keep your things safe. Tim also uses these locks to secure his backpack when we’re taking a bus or boat.

Rely on Hostel Staff

If I am heading out late at night I may mention to the hostel reception where I am heading towards, I may venture further but this way they will let me know if the area I was heading towards is safe at night time for a female alone. – Keira, 34

Speak to the hostels receptionists who are usually very helpful and will give you ‘top tips’ of the city. – Amy O’ Neill, 27

Hostel staff can be a mine of information, especially ones in backpacker hostels! They can give you advice on where to go and more importantly which areas you should avoid, as Keira points out.

They aren’t  just useful for safety tips though! Reception staff can also give you insider info on interesting places to visit and other things you need to know. Many hostels run free walking tours each day, and bar crawls each night for travellers which can be a great way to meet people while sightseeing.

Solo Female Travel Safety: Eating & Drinking

When you are travelling solo, even something as simple as having a night out or going to the bathroom in a restaurant come with extra challenges. Here are our expert tips on how to stay safe when eating & drinking out.

Watch Your Belongings

Keep your phone in your pocket or your handbag when you aren’t using it. Not on the table. Same goes with cash or keys. It’s simple things that often trip you up as old habits are hard to break. – Shonagh Mulhern, 24

It’s important to be vigilant with your belongings when you’re travelling, which is something you might not have to think about back home. Have certain safety habits that you adopt when you are eating out solo.

  • Don’t leave valuables on the table, I have had a phone robbed from right under my nose by doing this. One person distracted me, while the other swiped it.
  • Hook your bag strap under your seat leg, or over your knee. Keep your bag secured to you so that no one can grab it and run away. This is especially important if you’re eating outside
  • Keep your hostel key in your bag so that no one can see where you’re staying.
  • Eat at less popular hours. This means fewer people, so you can relax and not have to worry when someone comes too close to you and your belongings. After a while you will become more confident eating out, but a the start eating outside of normal meal times can make the process much less stressful.

Pack a scarf in your day bag

I always have a scarf or shirt or something I can pop on my chair if I’m out and about for coffee or dinner somewhere so you have something to leave on your seat when you need the bathroom! Especially important if said seat is a particularly good one, i.e. charger friendly!! – Ruth Kemple, 35

This is an excellent tip, and one that any solo traveller will appreciate! Plus, carrying a scarf is always a good idea if you want to visit temples as you can save money on paying for cover ups.

To add to this point – when you travel solo, people will often approach you when you’re eating or drinking alone. Sometimes this is great if you’re looking for company, but sometimes you just want to sit by yourself and chill out. Drape the scarf or shirt over another chair at your table, and put an extra, full, water glass on the other side of the table to make it seem like you’re with someone else. Then you can read your book in peace and not worry about being interrupted! Right now you might think this is overkill, but trust me – it can actually be hard to get alone time when you travel solo!

Don’t drink too much

Watch your alcohol intake. You always want to be aware of your surroundings. – Lauren Crisafi, 32

Alcohol was a common trend in the replies, and people had mixed opinions. Some people said that they avoid alcohol entirely, while others said they do drink, but in moderation. Everyone agreed that you need to be very careful with your alcohol intake as a solo traveller.

Large measures of locally made alcohol and cheap prices can often lead to backpackers getting drunker than they meant to. Alcohol can lower your inhibitions, and sometimes lead to you making bad decisions with regard to your safety. If you really feel like partying, join a group tour for a few days where you will have people looking out for you, and let loose a little!

 

Solo Female Travel Safety: Out & About

Sightseeing and getting around when you’re on your own can be nerve-wracking at first. We got a lot of advice from solo female travellers on how to keep yourself and your belongings safe! I’d recommend incorporating some of these habits into your day when you travel.

Watch your valuables

Several people mentioned hiding some emergency cash in case your bag is stolen:

Keep your valuables close to you, in a concealed pocket/bum bag on your person at all times when you’re on the move. – Aileen Boylan, 28

I keep some money in my bra in case my bag is taken so I can get back to my hostel safely. – Keira, 34

But don’t carry too much cash or other valuables – leave these in a locker or safe at your hostel wherever possible.

I never bring out more cash than I budget for a day, because if it gets stolen, your passport, cc, extra cash, etc will still be safe and you never really need more than $20 for a day in Asia so you haven’t lost much. – Lauren Crisafi, 32

Know The Last Train Home

Make sure you know when the last trains/ public transport is running until. – Lucy Waters, 24

This is a simple one, but something that people might not think of until they’re stuck with no way home. Always make sure you know how you’re getting back to your accommodation if you’re out at night. Ask hostel staff for a train timetable, or have one prepared on your phone.

Remember that on Sundays and religious or public holidays, trains may run on a different schedule or finish earlier. Make sure to check this!

Be Aware of Your Surroundings

Be aware of yourself. A little bit of street smarts and common sense goes a long way. If you wouldn’t walk home late at night at home, then don’t do it in another country. I think people let their guard down when they are on holidays and that’s when they run into problems. – Fiona Lawless, 32

As a solo traveller, it’s important to look out for yourself. The first step is always being aware of what’s going around you, so that if a problem arises, you’ll have a chance to act accordingly. Over time, you will hone your instincts and be able to tell when something is a bad idea.

Trust your instincts and always know what’s going on around you and who is around you. you’ve got no-one else to rely on or watch your back or belongings, or just to hash out a situation with, so if something doesn’t feel right, listen to your gut and take the right action for yourself. – Luisa Berry-Smith, 35

Grainne Kelly, 23, points out that if you’re listening to music as you walk around, you’re not aware of your surroundings:

Keep your earphones at home: soak in the sounds of your travels, but be aware. Girls, wear your hair down if you’re walking around alone. Don’t go out binge drinking solo, and keep your phone close to you at ALL times. Trust your own instincts, know your boundaries.

Try To Blend In

A tourist is an obvious target for criminals, but there are loads of great tips for blending in and navigating a city like a local! First and foremost, act confident, says Laura, 34:

Always know where you’re going, do your research. When you’re stood looking lost and vulnerable is when you’re most a target. Know your next step or at least look like you do! A confident woman on a mission is not easy prey! Any crime you are likely to encounter while travelling is opportunist, so just try and make sure you don’t give them the opportunity and you’ll be fine.

Walking around with a map or guidebook is a huge sign that you’re not at home!

Don’t act like a tourist e.g walking around with a map, Try to blend in. – Arlene, 29

If you do need to check something, head inside a shop so that you’re not exposed out on the street.

Act confident and if you’re lost head inside a shop to check maps. – Fiona Smiddy, 28

Many of our respondents have mentioned that you shouldn’t walk around with headphones in because you’ll be unaware of what’s going on around you, but Ruth Kemple, 35 has a great tip for using your headphones to help you confidently explore and remain aware of your surroundings at the same time:

I use my headphones to listen to my google maps directions one in one out! So I can stay aware of what’s around me and I’m not waking and staring at my phone!

Be Aware of Bag Snatchers

Also, I would be mindful of carrying your handbag across your torso and just to be careful with carrying around important things like money and your passport. – Emer Taheny, 24

Bag snatching is common throughout SE Asia, mostly in Bali and Vietnam. Often the snatchers will target those with shoulder bags on, driving beside them on a scooter and grabbing the bag. Carrying your bag, or your camera, across your chest will protect you from these bag snatchers.

Watch Your Phone Usage

Phone snatching is also a major issue in many tourist destinations around the world, and having a smartphone out can mark you as a target for robbery. However there are easy ways to use your phone in safer ways:

  • If you’re walking around or sitting on the back of a scooter and using your phone, make sure you have a good grip on the phone and be aware of the people around you.
  • Nothing marks you out as a tourist like walking around with your Google maps open. If you need to use your phone to route you to your destination,  then pop one earbud in and let the Sat Nav guide you where you need to go.
  • If you have to check something on your phone when you’re out and about after dark, pop inside a shop to check the map.

General Solo Female Travel Safety Advice

 

Ciara Gunn, 32 has a great rule to live by, wherever you are:

I do live by a rule, if I am uncomfortable I remove myself from what makes me uncomfortable. If you need to pay for a taxi to hostel don’t save the pennies for your safety.

Ida Åström, 21 agrees:

If it doesn’t feel right don’t do it. If you are a woman you are a lot more vulnerable, do not go home on your own if it’s a ‘crazier’ area. Take a taxi, bike or go home with a friend.

If anything happens to you as a solo traveller, it’s possible that nobody would notice for several days – or your family back home might not have any idea where you are when they notice they can’t get hold of you. To make sure you have support in case something does happen, always keep in regular contact with family and friends back home and make sure that someone knows where you’re planning to be:

Check in regularly with friends and family. Let them know where you are (City, accommodation) etc so if they don’t hear from you in your usual interval of updating them, they know to be worried and have the necessary contact details to enquire as to where you are or what has happened you. – Shonagh Mulhern, 24

..tell someone at home what your travel plans are and be sure to check in with them regularly, just in case. – Aileen Boylan, 28

Thanks For Reading!

There you have it! The best solo female travel safety advice from women who have been there and done it. If you’re thinking of taking your first solo trip, I hope this has helped you feel more prepared and given you some tools to stay safe.

Coming up in this series, we’ll hear solo female travellers’ advice for those considering their first trip, and advice on meeting other people when you’re travelling solo. Don’t forget to check out the best destinations for solo travel!

Have you travelled solo and have anything to add to this post? Comment below or send me a mail to let me know your favourite any other solo female travel safety tips. I will keep this post updated with your recommendations!

Steph
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