More women are travelling solo than ever before. While supercharged adrenalin journeys might belong to the young, mature women are also climbing mountains, sailing yachts, walking across deserts, marching across Europe. Be amazed, but always be aware. Life hacking for women going solo has never been more clear.
Safety is the biggest issue. Don’t fool yourself. It’s a big, bad world out there. No matter if you’re 17 or 77, your stranger danger radar needs to be on prime alert. We all know there’s more guaranteed safety in numbers, and men travelling by themselves never feel as vulnerable. Being raped is a solo woman traveller’s worst fear. Being beaten and robbed isn’t far behind. But being careful doesn’t mean you can’t be carefree. Worried about being the only solo woman on a group tour? I’ve done it, and made new friends. Only the most cold-hearted couples are likely to exclude you, and the chances are, there’s other women doing solo travel too.
Women solo travel tips
- First on the list of women solo travel tips: Don’t stagger alone back to your hostel/hotel/B&B/homestay drunk late at night. It’s asking for trouble. If you drink, be super careful about the company you keep and better still, stay sober
- Don’t backpack alone
- There’s no-one to fight with over who will be squished into the middle seat on the plane, so you’re free to choose a window or aisle seat. If you have good bladder control, window for a long-haul is usually the best option so no-one is climbing over you to go to the toilet or stretch their legs
- Embarrassed about sitting and eating alone at a cafe? Or riding a bike around by yourself? No one cares if you’re eating alone, honestly. Just avoid that out-of-the-way truck stop on a dark street even though your friends say the food is so authentic, or riding your bike down isolated country roads
- Choose destinations wisely. Deepest Africa, Egypt (where a large majority of women say they’ve been harassed), India, Turkey, Morocco and some other Middle East destinations are not recommended for women travelling solo, although I’ve been to Abu Dhabi, Doha and Dubai with minimal hassle. Although there are always exceptions to the rule. Australian adventurer Paula Constant walked across the Sahara, relying on the best of human nature for help along the way
- Worried about joining a tour group which could be couples only? I did a two-week tour of southern France with Back-Roads Touring and made good friends with the only other lone woman on the trip. We had a ball and we still keep in touch
- Painting workshops and cooking school courses are often populated with women going solo – a chance to make a whole bunch of new friends already on common ground
- Don’t wear lots of expensive jewellery in public places, or lug around a large, expensive camera
- Wear footwear that’s kind to your feet. Leave the ankle snappers at home. If you need to kick ass, you can’t do it in high heels. That only happens on SATC.
- If you’re doing a lot of walking, take time to stretch and unwind those tired muscles
- Carrying a lot of cash in public is a big NO. I carry what I need, within reason, and to avoid shopping splurges, I leave money in my hotel safe, and/or otherwise use an ATM albeit sparingly to avoid transaction and currency conversion fees. Travel cards are good, but shop around – some have fees attached or strange rules such as charging you if you don’t use it enough
- Adapt to local cultures, especially if they’re conservative and women are modestly dressed. Leave those peekaboo shorts at home and don’t dress provocatively. This is not the time to say: “It’s my right to wear anything I want”
- Avoid consulting a map and looking lost, even if you are. Look as though you know where you’re going. When in doubt, go into a shop and ask – don’t ask strange men on the street
- Unlike hotels, hostels are usually friendly places where you will meet fellow travellers happy to share a meal and go sightseeing with
- Keep in touch with home, and carry a list of emergency numbers
- Pack a whistle, not a gun.