10 Empowering Expert Advice For Female Travelers To Inspire You To Finally Go On That Solo Dream Trip
Being a solo female traveler is an empowering experience. Here are 10 expert tips on traveling solo safely that will surely inspire you to pack your backs and finally go on that solo adventure you’ve always dreamed of
Nothing compares to the feeling of independence brought about by traveling on your own. The exhilaration of exploring unknown places, discovering new cultures unlike your own, and embracing experiences you never thought you’d have bring such a profound sense of satisfaction and pleasure. While it’s oftentimes coupled with some level of trepidation, solo traveling is an adventure that every woman should experience at least once in their life.
Back in 2007, travel blogger Lilliane Cobiao decided to leave her job and go on her dream trip to Europe—alone. Once the travel bug bit her, she continued to roam the world “on a quest to live a life not ordinary,” having been to 66 countries—with once even traveling continuously for 14 months! She has backpacked through six continents, taking thousands of photos of her trips, and scuba diving. She keeps a log of all her trips and shares travel advice on her blog Wanderlass.com.
Lilliane shares with Metro.Style her top 10 useful advice for women who want to embark on their own life-changing solo trip and encourages them to live an extraordinary life through travel.
Can women really travel solo safely?
As we celebrate Women’s Month around the world, I can’t help but think about my journey as a solo female traveler. Counting my other achievements in life, I always look at my around the world journey in 2011 as a solo female backpacker, as one of my greatest accomplishments. In the ensuing years, as I found myself getting invited to public speaking forums talking about my trips around the world to college students, and even in casual conversations with friends and families, the elephant in the room remains the same. The question of “How safe it is for a solo female traveler to explore the world?” is always directed at me.
It is an innocent query that I had answered time and time again with a passionate insight on how a woman—despite all the threats out there—can experience a safe journey on the road. To explain more clearly and for future reference of the next generation of women travelers, here are 10 useful pieces of advice for every solo female backpacker.
Learn More About Your Destination
Although the element of surprise is one major fascinating aspect of traveling, it won’t hurt if you learn more about your destination beforehand—knowing as much about it as if you’ve been there already. You don’t have to know everything that will ruin the sense of newness when you arrive, but take time to study a number of vital information about the place you’re traveling to. Important facts such as the best neighborhoods to stay and the ones to avoid, proper dress codes, the nearest hospitals, police outposts, mode of transportations and so on.
Also, try to look up in certain blogs and articles online about the locals’ attitude towards female travelers. See if there is an account of someone experiencing being catcalled on the streets or any instances of discrimination towards women travelers. Knowing these things ahead of time will prepare you for such eventuality.
Plan Your First Few Nights Well
I know that as a solo traveler, you might want to give yourself wiggle room to unleash an unabashed spontaneity. However, it is also important to thoroughly plan your first few nights in a new place. This covers booking your transfers and accommodations in advance, and if budget allows, reserve a slot in a city tour excursion with an experienced guide. This way, you can get a better sense of the new city you’re in and help you become more confident to be more spontaneous as you go along.
In theory, women have more basic necessities than men. This include make-up kits, different kinds of shoes, several sets of wardrobes, and various accessories. Remember as a solo traveler, you will be alone in dragging your stuff in between long bus and train rides to a new destination. To keep a low profile and make your journey more convenient, it’s a must to pack light.
Put only the most important stuff inside your backpack. Depending on the activities you have in mind, it is best to bring a maximum of two pair of shoes: One for city walking and another for hiking. Add a pair of aqua shoes for water activities. The rest of your luggage space should be reserved for five to seven sets of clothing so you can give yourself at least a week before you have your laundry day on the road.
For Traveling Regardless of one’s gender, it is always generally safer to travel during daytime. Make sure you don’t oversleep so you can set out to explore a new place just after sunrise. This way, you will have a 12-hour window to satisfy your wanderlust within a safer timeframe. When traveling to another city, be sure your arrival time falls before sunset. This way, you can look for a place to stay before nighttime comes.
Blend In With The Local Women
This advice is not only for safety purposes but also for respecting local culture. This tip is a must especially when visiting conservative countries and sacred towns, where local women wear traditional clothing. Try not to arrive in clothing that makes you standout, as if you’re carrying a sign that says, “I’m a clueless tourist!”
Blending in prevents you from being targeted by annoying tourist touts. Learning some useful local phrases helps you connect with locals and helps you to blend in easily. Plus, travelers who can speak bits and pieces of the local language has more chances of successfully haggling and asking for directions.
Connect Via Social Media To Family And Friends—But Not Too Much
When I did my around the world trip in 2011, social media was just starting to pick up. Yes, I’d post a picture once a week but looking back, I now know the importance of keeping in touch with social media. You don't have to update everyone of what you're doing by the hour. Rather, just leave a digital trail of where you will be heading in the coming weeks. Remember though not to post travel updates in real time that will reveal your current destination—as this might also attract stalkers. Reveal your exact location only to close family members and friends via a phone call or private chat. So, the general rule is to connect through social media but in moderation.
Be Extra Mindful Of Your Valued Possessions
I always travel with two backpacks. One is filled with my clothing and the other one is where I keep my passport, wallet, laptop, camera, and other gadgets. Whenever I go through a crowded place, I am always mindful of the bag where my most valued possessions are stored. A thief can run away with my clothes, but I always make sure my other backpack is always with me. Sometimes, thieves will try to distract you by coming to you in a small group—much like the M.O. of the “gypsies” in Paris—so it is important to be able to focus on safeguarding one piece of bag than two.
If you’ll be staying in a hostel like most solo backpackers, always avail of a locker. When it comes to cash though, I always bring just enough cash for a day or two, and just withdraw from my ATM the next day. Make sure to have at least one back-up debit or credit card when traveling solo, in case you encounter any problem with a cash machine.
You also need to back-up your documents, so take photos of your passport and visas, note down your travel insurance details, and keep your credit and debit card details somewhere secure. You may opt to store them in a cloud storage like Dropbox and Google Docs which you may access via a secure wifi connection.
Drink Alcohol Only In Moderation
I don’t care about your drinking threshold at home but when on the road, it is important to drink alcoholic beverages in moderation. Because out there on your own, there’s no “call-a-friend” to pick you up. You must be sober enough to head back to your hotel or hostel. Drink to have a good time, not to get wasted—as what others would say. Being seen drunk will make you appear vulnerable to others.
If you're going out drinking, make sure to eat well beforehand and drink lots of water. Also, if someone invited you out for a drink, do not lose sight of your glass. Lacing of a drink can happen anywhere—in your hometown club or in a random bar somewhere—so better take extra precaution.
Be Friendly But Not Too TrustingAs countless travelers would attest, there's really no solo traveler who will come home alone or friend-less on the road. Traveling is a wonderful avenue to meet kindred souls who share the same passion as yours. Grab every opportunity of getting to know other travelers and forging friendships whenever it is available. That said, it is also important to remain a great judge of character. Don’t let your guard down easily and be too trusting of other people. Always err on the side of caution while at the same time open for a promise of friendship or even a budding romance on the road.
Get Travel InsuranceNotwithstanding if you’re a man or a woman, traveling solo or in a group, availing a travel insurance is a MUST. Accidents and other unforeseen harm can occur when traveling. Having travel insurance that can cover up to $20,000 in hospital care, emergency medical evacuation, life insurance, and repatriation can really put a traveler’s mind at ease. So, do not dismiss this very important travel tip.
Bonus Tip: Exhibit Courage And Have Fun
Being a solo female traveler is an empowering experience. Maximize the experience by exhibiting courage and having fun. Show ’em that you know what you’re doing and you won’t be intimidated by the wide—and sometimes wild—world. Appearing confused out there may attract people who would want to take advantage of you, so go out there with solid confidence, common sense, proper caution and a fun-loving approach at discovering new things.
Photo by Ibrahim Rifath and Timo Stern on Unsplash.