Women Shouldn’t Be Afraid to Travel Alone

By Nomadic Matt | Published October 14th, 2010

Having dinner with people overseas as a female travelerThis is a guest post by Laura of A Wandering Sole. Laura will be writing a column on female travel for this site every other week. As much as I love to write, this is one topic I’m clueless about. So take it away, Laura.

It’s dangerous. How will you get there? Where will you stay? By yourself? But, you’re a girl!

If you’re female and have an interest in travel, then you’ve probably heard these things before. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had someone criticize my travels—where I go, how I go, or the fact that I go myself. I’m currently on a round-the-world trip, and I can assure you that solo female travel is an incredible experience and one that you should not miss out on due to fears and hesitations. Here are five reasons it’s safe to travel alone:

The world is small.
Even strange, foreign lands usually have some connection to your home country. Whether a friend of a friend lives there or you have a shared interest with local people, you find connections wherever you go. If you’re planning your first trip, I don’t recommend heading to the middle of a war zone or to a remote island in the Pacific where you can’t speak the language. Look for a place you can relate to, whether it’s through people, activities, or culture. It can help ease you into this lifestyle.

The information is out there.
There are endless resources for planning a holiday or extended trip. These days you can get advice from guidebooks, travel forums, blogs, Twitter, and fellow travelers. If you do research ahead of time, you will feel more confident about the places you travel to. I always look up issues of safety, costs, and culture before I go. Researching your intended destination can answer all of the questions you may have about your chosen destination and will likely dispel any hesitations holding you back.

Beautiful green rice patties of Bali

It’s not as dangerous as they say.
If I look back on the times when people have told me, “Don’t go there!” or “You might die!” it’s mostly advice from people who have never been to those places and have never done any research on them. The press is hugely influential. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read international press coverage that is flat-out wrong. You need to find trustworthy sources and advice from people who know what they’re talking about. I once mentioned to my parents that I had plans to go to Rwanda. My concerned father told me, “You’re not going.” He was obviously worried about the Rwanda’s tumultuous past. Had he done his research, he would have known that Rwanda is the safest country in East Africa. Once he researched it, I never heard another word about it. The crime rates in your backyard can be just as bad as the destination you’re headed to, if not worse.

You’re never really alone.
So you’ve decided to go on a trip solo, but you’re afraid of feeling lonely. I had my hesitations before setting out on this trip. I spent the first 150 days on the road by “myself,” but really, I only spent about three of those days completely alone. I just met so many people on the way. Even with just a little effort, you’ll meet people on your travels. Whether it’s through your guesthouse, sightseeing, or sitting at a cafe, you’ll be surprised at how striking up a bit of small talk will lead to new travel buddies and lasting friendships. If you’re worried about it, look up hostels or guesthouses in advance. Make plans to participate in day trips where you’ll meet other like-minded travelers.

Night scene of a beautiful European city

Take standard precautions.
Maybe you know someone who was mugged in Brazil, pickpocketed in Italy, or robbed in South Africa. That can happen anywhere, and I just follow some common sense. I don’t go out at night alone in most cities, I take a reliable taxi service instead of the public bus on occasion, and I’ve been known to pay a bit more for accommodation that has a 24-hour security guard when necessary. Sometimes, people are simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Often times, they were careless or should have been better prepared. I love a cheap hostel, I enjoy local bus rides, and who doesn’t love to go out at night for a good time? But when my safety is involved, I avoid all of these things. If you’ve done your research, then take precautions that reflect the overall safety of the place. I take precautions.

If you don’t go, you’ll be missing out on many amazing places and incredible experiences. Many of our fears about traveling as a female are unfounded once we get right down to it. With some planning and a taste for adventure, you can embark on your dream trip and leave those fears and hesitations behind, even if you are a girl!

Laura Walker runs the website A Wandering Sole. She’s been backpacking around the world for seven months by herself and isn’t afraid just because she’s a girl. You can get more travel tips from her website or check back here every other Thursday for more stories by her.

comments 28 Comments

Wonderful post! Same rules apply to single mom’s traveling alone with thier child(ren).

As a solo female traveller myself while I agree with you on most of the points, I think public transport are much more safer than taking a taxi. That’s what my experience says. I also avoid going out at night. I try to reach a new destination in daytime to avoid hotel hunting after dark.

Some of these things come after experiencing them.

For women traveling alone our group offers the bonus of someone always waiting for you to arrive. If one stays in a hotel no one cares they just bill your credit card and that is it. If you are staying with one of our members you will be missed immediately should you not show up. Have a look at our short video on the website.

I ♥ Laura!! Been following her adventures on her site & chatting on Twitter for months. She’s definitely one of my inspirations for solo female travel.

Great tips! Whenever I have talked about traveling solo, most of my family and friends look at me like I’m crazy. I love how you point out that using common sense goes a long way, and that you really don’t travel alone if you’re open to meeting people! So true.

I think when people are frightened for us girls they’re really frightened about travelling themselves! For me I found that the important thing is to trust my gut instinct – if someone or something doesn’t “feel right”, then it’s not. Never let anyone convince you otherwise. That being said, it’s so true: there are friends all over the world you haven’t met yet! :-)

Terrific post! I still get the awed expression that I would be “brave” to venture out alone in the world. Articles like this show the general populace that the world isn’t scary, women and men can do this alone!

Again, great post! Though I usually travel with my family, I always get odd looks when I travel alone – but you’re a girl! You’re so young! But like you said, it’s generally not as dangerous as people say it is. Thank you for posting this!

Lis

If I am travelling solo I try to not get very drunk (or drugged if I did them) – I am after all carrying stuff like money and a passport which are very worthwhile stealing. The reality is that more backpackers seem to have stolen by other travellers – sad but true.

I also always made sure I had a little cash totally separate from both my money belt and my wallet – sometimes in my shoe or in my diary.

Great tips Laura – you are so spot on with each one; before I left on my RTW I was internally terrified about heading to SEA…but once I got there the experience was so different from what I had feared – like you said, you’re not alone and with a few basic precautions it’s just as safe as traveling through any city backhome. Great piece, look forward to your next ones :)

Nyima

Nice Post. Thanks for sharing such a good post. Last month, I went New York & enjoyed very much. Really, it was good experience for me. I always book hotels on http://www.cheaperticketprices.com

excellent post, and I think the same about you, women should not be afraid and live the adventure

Guest

Also, any country in which there are far more males than females such as Asia, Middle East, Africa, Latin America, The Caribbean, North America, Eastern, Southern Europe (except France, which contains a quite equal male-female ratio but is suitable for women to travel there alone or with other women), and Ireland, for example, are not safe for women traveling alone or in groups with other women. There are instances of harassment, assault, kidnapping, and murder. You need two or more male companions with you when you travel to those countries in order to keep safe. The best places for women to travel alone or with other females are Australia, New Zealand, Scandinavia, and other Nordic and Western European countries, which typically contain an equal male-female ratio and sometimes more females because their cultures are gender equal, yet female-friendly.

Great post.

You are right to say that most people make these comments out of ignorance, based on something that they have heard about the country. I was amazed by the amount of people who said “But there’s a war…” when I told them that I was moving to Vietnam!

Of course any traveller – male, female, solo or not – should be careful when travelling but you are just as likely to be at risk in your own country (unless of course you travel to a war-zone!)

Gretta

I am a fellow lone female traveller.
Everything you wrote is so true! When I told friends and family that I was going to live in Costa Rica for a year the first reaction was “What? You cant go to Central America!” and when I went to Turkey everyone assumed I would be treated horribly by the Turkish men. Dont judge a book by it’s cover and dont judge a country on it’s surrounding countries/Press Info/History. Every country has something interesting to discover… even for a woman travelling alone.

Aurora Elig

This is sooo true. Great points made. It’s not traveling alone that is scary, it’s the decisions we make and the lack of thought that goes into them that gets us into trouble!

She Traces

This was a reassuring post, I’m going to Panama next week, and have been getting the ‘Really? Alone?’ ‘You’re gonna be bored!’ and all that jazz. Im a planner, but I also like to be spontaneous so although I’m doing some research- I’m not too stressed. I can’t wait to go and write about it when I get back!

Thanks for sharing!

NomadicMatt

I’m glad this could help you!

Laura Lawn-Hunt

THANK YOU for this post!!! As a single female travel addict I’ve also had all the ‘but you’re a girl’ and ‘you might DIE’ critisisms (especially from my very worry-prone mother!). So far the only place I’ve ever even had anything stolen is my own home town.
Its really good to read someone blogging publicly about the fact the media representations of places and the fact that often they are wrong. A couple of summers ago I spent 2 weeks in St. Petersburg with a group from my uni and I’ve honestly never felt so unsafe in my life and one person in our group was mugged and beaten up – a week later I was going into the Kibera slum in Nairobi each day through the entrance the BBC had been using to report from during all the violence just 2 months before and it was a complete contrast, I felt completely safe. Just goes to show that the media isnt always right! Thanks for writing some sense abotu single female travel! :)

Cassie

Hi everyone its going to be my first time traveling solo and I am not sure how I should prepare for it. Any tips? I am looking to maybe go to Hua Hin in Thailand. Would you know any other good places to travel for the month of October or November under a low budget?

Thank you for this post, it is much appreciated. I am also going to attempt to travel solo this year, in an attempt to raise money for charity as I will be travelling around England on foot. Does anyone have experience of travelling around England? Where are the best camping sites, how do you get by under a low budget?

Anna

Thank you so much for this post. It’s cleared away some of the doubts I was having about my upcoming holiday.
I got the expected criticisms of “you might die” and “it’s not safe” from my mother when I told her I had booked a 5 day solo trip to Melbourne in November (I’m from Sydney).

Grace

Travel alone,why not!

Katie

Thanks for the tips, Laura! They are very helpful. I travel occasionally, and am not really a “backpacker” since I only travel for 3-5 days at a time, and I only carry a 7-kg backpack (so that I don’t have to check it in). I have a “regular job” and I plan my travels during my holidays and within my budget. As I’m not much of a night person, I don’t go to bars or drink alone, and as one traveler said, I try to be at the hostel/guesthouse when it’s dark already. As an Asian girl traveling in SEA, it helps that I have “generic Asian looks” – given my dark hair & skin and slightly small eyes. Having generic looks has given me lots of bargaining opportunities (for souvenirs) which I think would not be very applicable if you fit the “blonde Caucasian” type of traveler. I have traveled through some places in Europe as well, and being petite, I can sort of “disappear”. Like other solo travelers, do your research. If you drink alcohol, do it in moderation. And I agree that taking public transport seems to be as safer than taking taxis, plus public transport is cheaper too! If you’re ever in SEA, try visiting the Philippines. It’s a very friendly country, and most people (sellers & street people included) speak English. :-)

Laura or Matt, if you ever travel to Manila, I would love to meet you guys! Thanks for keeping up this blog. Continue traveling, continue writing! :-)

Arlette Brenes

Thank you so much for this, such a good reading when I was freaking out for my first trip booked in 5 months :)

Solo female traveler and digital nomad here. Awesome post :)
You can do it ladies. Stop being scared. Just be aware, informed, and ready to have fun!
Plus you will be meeting friends all along the way. So really, you’re never alone.

Fully agree on the “you’re never really alone” part — I almost hate the word “solo travel” sometimes because it truly is never solo! Great words — bring on the women in travel!

Ah so true, and it gives you the most amazing opportunities to meet and talk to other people. Its amazing how many others are travelling alone too! Safety is important as females can be vulnerable, especially in other countries, but if you are generally aware of your surroundings, it is the absolute best.

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