10 days after my High School graduation, I boarded a plane to Ireland where I spent 2 weeks running around doing my first solo trip.
My parents were horrified – they were worried for me, a young female traveler, and to be honest I did some things that were not very smart in hindsight.
I’m in my 30’s now and have learned so many handy Solo female travel tips to share with other adventurous women who want to see the world.
The Scary Realities For Women Traveling Alone
What if you get attacked? Followed back to your Airbnb? Your drink gets spiked or something creepy happens in your hostel and you can’t get help.
But, I always remind my friends who are about to set out on journies of their own, that these things can happen anywhere. Not just when you are traveling.
But it’s somehow scarier when you are alone in a place you don’t know very well. When you are jetlagged or buzzed from flirting with that cute French guy at the wine bar, or simply lost.
The scariest moment I had while traveling was actually when I was studying abroad in Rome, circa 2013. Yes, I was living with other college students but we weren’t glued to the hips all the time. I had spent the night having dinner at another friend’s apartment across the city and took the train back to my apartment near the Vatican.
About 3 blocks from my apartment I noticed a large group of men across the street. One of them broke off and started following me. I ended up having to stand in front of a brightly lit restaurant a black away from my apartment for about 30 minutes, but he still wouldn’t leave.
In the end, I made a literal mad dash to my door and thank goodness this was the one time those giant, fussy Italian keys didn’t give my any problems. When I closed the front door behind me, the man was just feet away, a wild look in his eyes.
Oh, and those lessons I learned in Ireland? I coughsurfed most of my trip and would absolutely never do that again by myself. Everyone I stayed with was so lovely and welcoming, but things could have gone south very quickly when you lodge with strangers in their house, on their turf.
Solo Female Travel Tips To Stay Alive (And Thrive) During Trips
Despite some of my close calls, I never want fellow female travelers to feel like they can’t travel alone. They can, and should. It’s freeing and a wonderful way to get to know yourself. But, I have some tips so you can stay safe, happy and make it back home alive.
1. Start With A Familar Country
Your first trip alone shouldn’t be something huge – start small. I recommend you do a solo trip to a city you have been to before, so it’s familiar, or to a country that speaks your own language so you can easily speak with the local people.
On my first trip alone out of North America, I chose Ireland since English is also the native language (Well, Gaelic in some areas as well but those folks also speak English).
There was no need to translate everything and wander around feeling literally lost in a language I didn’t know. While Ireland was a new place for me, it was easy for me to slip into the local culture and navigate my way around.
It also helps that I am a white woman with British and German hertiage – I looked like locals, so people didn’t bother me as much as they have in Asia or South America where I clearly don’t looks like other people.
2. Try To Look Like A Local
On that note, try to look like a local as much as you can. To be blunt, pickpockets, scammers and men who want to harm you are very good at picking out women who look like they are alone without backup support.
But, if you look like a local, you can decrease the chances of unwanted attention. I achieve this in a few ways. I dress closer to what locals actually wear (so, no activewear in Italy, not as many bright colors when I’m in Copenhagen, etc).
I also avoid clothing with English words, brands or sports teams on it, and require my husband to leave his sports tees at home when we travel abroad as well. That’s like a big spotlight telling everyone HI I DON’T LIVE HERE!
If they are quiet in public like the Danes, I am also quiet.
I also try to walk with confidence, and the best way to do that is to memorize maps.
3. Memorize Your Maps
Walking with confidence while traveling is probably one of the most important skills a woman who travels alone needs to learn. Bad people like to target those who look weak. You also look like you live in a location if you seem like you know where you are going.
Before I set out to a museum or restaurant, I study a map and try my best to memorize the route. And, when I am out and about, I never use a paper map from a tourism visitor center. I’m using Google Maps on my phone, but only very quickly to check upcoming directions – then that phone gets put back in my anti-theft travel purse.
Holding it for step by step navigation makes you look like a lost tourist that’s easy to steal from.
4. Carry An Anti Theft Purse
One of my top female travel safety tips is to carry an anti-theft purse. Something that you know is slash-proof and has ways to lock the zippers so you can tuck your valuables in it and have one less thing to worry about when you are exploring.
Instead, focus on the sights and stay aware of your surroundings. My all time favorite travel purse are Arden Cove crossbodies since they look like normal purses (instead of an ugly travel bag your Grandma would use).
5. Take Public Transportation Strategically
If you’re trying to figure out how to travel alone as a woman safely, think about how you travel within your own city. Do you take the train late at night? No? Me neither.
So don’t do it while abroad. As soon as night comes, unless I am 100% feeling confident about taking the train alone (and know that it’ll be brightly lit, full of people, etc) I am calling a taxi, Uber or Lyft. Most hotels will do this for you.
Yes, it’s more expensive but getting from point A to B safely is far more important than save that $10.
6. Be Careful About How You Post On Social Media
The first time I realized I needed to adjust how/when I post about my travels on social media was during my honeymoon when someone who follows me found me on a castle tour.
It was actually very sweet and a true pinch-me moment. This woman lives in Australia and noticed from my Stories that I was at the same German castle as she was. It was harmless, but it could have been very very bad if she was someone who wanted to harm me. Or stalk me.
These days, I will only post about a location after I leave it. If I do a solo media trip with a hotel, I make sure they know I don’t post about their rooms until after I check out. Do this even if you are traveling with friends.
Strangers don’t need to know your play by play move. Nothing good comes from that.
7. Hire A Local Photographer
On the note about social media, if you are a travel content creator like I am, or simply a girlie who appreciates a good travel photo for the memories, hire a local photographer for a photoshoot.
Skip trying to take photos on your tripod. This puts you at risk for theft, drawing tons of unwanted attention and it’s also just really hard to do. It takes time to set up shots, and carrying around all that gear.
Instead, use a service like Flytographer so you can have all those fantastic images taken without all the burden of taking them yourself.
8. Lie About Your Personal Details
I lie all the time when I’m traveling. It’s not impolite, it can literally save your life.
It’s so easy to get chatting with a new friend or someone at a bar, but these strangers don’t need to know what hotel I am staying at, or when I am leaving, what tours I am taking tomorrow or even where I actually live.
I always make myself an alter ego when I travel but I make it easy enough for me to remember, even if I had a few drinks. She has a different last name, she lives in a different part of San Francisco than I actually do, and works for Google, or Meta, or a big company at a generic job like marketing.
There was a moment when I was on a girls trip a few winters ago, and we drove to a nearby hot springs in California. We were chatting with a local who was asking where we were from, and kept asking specifically where in San Francisco I lived. It started to freak me out (like why do you need to know what cross street I live on??)
One of the other girls also mentioned we were staying at a glass Airbnb, and there’s like literally only one of those in the area so this man could easily have Googled where we were staying that night and paid a visit if he had ill intentions. In reality I think he was just being friendly, nosey and was a little drunk.
But it made me realize that us women are trained to be chatty. We sometimes have to play nice with men in order to stay safe, but that doesn’t mean we have to tell them the truth.
9. Don’t Be Cheap
Saving a few bucks isn’t worth your safety or wellbeing. Grab that taxi at night instead of taking the train. Spend a little more to stay at a hotel with a 24-hour front desk, or all female dorms, or in a central location instead of a dark side street.
And if you ever feel unsafe in a lodging situation, never be afraid to get out of there and book yourself a safe place to spend the night. Money isn’t worth your life.
10. Stay At Hotels With 24 Hour Front Desk
Seriously, only stay at hotels with 24-hour front desk. If you come back late at night, you want to make sure there is a guard or staff member on site in case you need help.
I recently went on a solo trip to Dallas for a conference and booked a hotel, and didn’t realize that this hotel doesn’t have a guard at night. Instead, I could only get inside at night with a keypad, except the keypad is sticky and didn’t work very well.
One night I came back at 11pm all dressed up after dinner with clients and spent 5 minutes on the streets of downtown Dallas, alone, struggling to get inside. Nothing bad happened, but I was such a target for anyone walking by. NEVER AGAIN.
I love finding hotels on hotels.com since they tell you if there is 24 hour security, along with tons of customer reviews.
11. Read Reviews Well
Comb through reviews carefully and keep an eye out for how other women felt in a space. Only book places with good reviews, and a lot of them. Never be the person to take a risk on a brand new Airbnb if you are traveling alone.
12. Meet Locals Or Other Travelers
Traveling alone as a woman in the US is pretty easy. We have many apps and local meet up groups happening, and I find that us Americans love to meet other Americans or international folks. Whenever I am staying in a hotel with a communal gathering area for guests, I always make friends with other women.
It’s a little harder when abroad, but there are still expat groups you can join. And if you are staying at a hostel, you can buddy up with other women in your dorm. This helps fight off loneliness and you can keep an eye out for each other.
13. Get A Good Cellphone Plan
Traveling alone is not the time to be cheap on your cell plan or sim card! You NEED reliable, strong service wherever you go.
Places like Southeast Asia or parts of Africa are usually geared more towards sim cards, but if I am traveling solo for just a few weeks I usually just opt for Verizon’s daily or monthly international plans.
14. Get Travel Insurance
Girls who travel alone need to have good travel insurance. There’s nobody else looking out for you if you get sick, injured, miss a flight, etc.
This isn’t the place to be cheap. I highly recommend World Nomads (they cover adventure activities like dog sledding and kayaking!)
15. Give Friends & Family Your Itinerary
Traveling as a single woman doesn’t mean you have to travel like a ghost. Tell people where you are and check in with them daily. Give a trusted friend all your booking info, copies of tickets, copies of your passport, etc.
If something goes down and you need their help, then they can have all the tools ready to go to jump into action.
And, if you have an iPhone I highly recommend you use the Find My Friend / Share Location feature. Have your location shared with at least one other person so they can track you in real time.
16. Enroll In STEP
Aka tell the US Government where you are! STEP stands for Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. It’s free to use and lets you tell the US Embassy in the country you’re visiting that you’re there. Then they can support you if you need help or if there is a natural disaster.
17. Bring A Book
One of my biggest tips for solo female travelers is to bring a book to restaurants so they can read instead of feeling lonely by dining solo.
Once of the hardest parts of traveling alone is getting those tables solo. But with a book, suddenly a dinner alone feels mysterious, romantic and fun. I’ve spent hours pouring over books and sipping wine with great views on trips before. Books make everything easier.
18. Travel With Other Solo Women
There are plenty of solo travel female packages where you can join a trip alone and meet other solo travelers! I did that once with my sister when we went to China in 2014.
Granted, I did it with my sister, but we joined a tour group that had a few solo travelers on there. It was so nice since we all got to hang out and have new friends for the trip. If you aren’t ready to plan something all by yourself, try a group trip!
19. Pack Lighter
I’m a chronic overpacker, but on solo trips I always make sure whatever luggage I bring is small enough that I can still be nimble. You don’t want to be dropping bags or tripping over luggage or not be able to run if you need to.
Travel backpacks are handy – these are my favorite travel backpacks for solo trips!
20. Don’t Push Yourself
Going until you can’t go anymore is totally something I am biased of doing. But it’s dangerous when you are traveling alone.
Don’t walk 18 miles in a day and be so sore and tired you can’t think. Refrain from snorkeling solo and diving deeper than you can actually manage. Don’t cram in 3 museums in one day when you really only can handle one.
Don’t try to keep up with drinking with the locals if you normally just have one glass of wine a day. Food is amazing, but if you’re full or don’t like a certain food, you don’t have to eat it. Stay aware, stay clear-minded and focused.
21. Trust Your Gut
Lastly, trust your gut. If something feels off, it probably is. Adjust accordingly.
Don’t listen to anyone who says you can’t travel alone. If South Africa is on your bucket list but nobody wants to go with you, just do it.
Be smart, be aware and plan ahead to ensure you stay safe. And HAVE FUN!