I’ve spent half my life traveling around Europe and the Americas and a good 80% of those trips were by myself. I’ve been lost in foreign cities too many times and had to cope with an emergency in a different country. I’ve experienced genuine fear because of my own stupidity but was also rewarded with friendships that blossomed from taking risks I would have otherwise not taken. The lessons I’ve learned helped me become a smarter traveler, which in turn lessened my worries and allowed me to truly enjoy the experiences of traveling solo.
Allow me to share some helpful tips for solo female travellers.
6 Tips for Solo Female Travellers
1. Learn the Basic Phrases of that Country’s Native Language
I never truly understood how important languages were until last fall when I spent a night with a local family at an island in Lake Titicaca. I knew some Spanish but not enough to be able to hold a conversation throughout dinner. Fortunately for me, my roommate had learned the language (out of necessity) so we were at least able to engage the children in our family. Without her, I would have never learned about young Abraham’s favorite food or his aspirations to become an engineer.
You can start with courtesy words like “hello”, “please”, “thank you” and “I’m sorry.” If you feel comfortable, add direction words such as north, east, south, west and key phrases like “how much”, “where’s the toilet”, and “what is it?” You don’t need to be fluent, but being able to understand what’s going on around you adds a great deal of comfort and satisfaction especially when you’re a female solo traveler.
2. Make a Copy of Your Passport
Your passport is the most important document you’ll need when traveling abroad so it just makes good sense to make a copy of it as a backup in case something unexpected happens. You can take the copy around with you instead of your actual passport and use it as a supporting form of identification.
3. Look into Communal Housing
As a female solo traveler, I value privacy and a certain degree of comfort that hotels provide, but even I have to admit that sometimes traveling is better with company. That’s why I sometimes stay at hostels or seek out communal housing like Airbnb or Couchsurfing. In addition to being affordable, the people you meet at these locations will likely share your interest in travel and will also have helpful tips to share. If you’re lucky, some encounters will turn into meaningful friendships.
4. Indulge on Small Plates When Dining
There is nothing I love more when traveling than trying different local cuisines. Unfortunately, my stomach can only handle a small amount at a time so I end up eating my leftovers half the time. In order to get around that, I started seeking restaurants offering small plates and trying two or three of them instead of ordering one main meal. These have three advantages. First, small plates are usually offered at the bar. As a female solo traveler, I find that it’s less awkward to dine there than at a table in the middle of a restaurant. Second, small plates are generally cheaper, even combined, than a main meal. Third, because the servings are smaller in size, you’ll get more opportunity to try different items on the menu. Even if you end up taking home some of them, at least you’ll have a variety to nibble on the next day.
5. Always Let Someone Know Where You Are
I want to begin by saying that my intention when suggesting this is NOT to bombard your friends or family with social media check-ins. A note or two throughout the day to update them back home of your whereabouts will suffice. Keep in mind that even though you’ve been traveling for a long time, the people who care about you back home will still worry.
6. Do Your Research
One of the most important tips for solo female travellers is learning about your destination before you leave. Knowledge is key and especially important when visiting a new country. Be mindful of the cultural differences and don’t assume that what you’re used to is what you’re going to get. You might feel annoyed when you queue for hours at the Vatican just to find out right near the entrance gate that you can’t enter because you’re wearing shorts or misconstrue Italians giving you a funny look when you order a cappuccino at 15:00 (that’s because no one in Italy does it after 10:00) The National Geographic Traveler books do a really good job at introducing travellers to a country’s historical background and culture. I suggest you head to your local library and read up on it for an hour or so.
What are your thoughts on our tips for solo female travellers? Leave us a comment below!