The Female Guide to Solo Travel

A revolution has started! More and more women are going against the grain and travelling alone. We have been told to avoid certain places or wait until we find a man someone to travel with. Travelling solo is a scary idea to many people, especially women. In all honesty, it’s not as bad as what it’s made out to be. It may come as no surprise that I’m a lover of backpacking solo but because of my gender, I often get asked why. Well, why shouldn’t I!

There’s a sense of newfound freedom. I’ve been fortunate enough to have travelled around the South East Asian region and parts of Europe on my own, rarely feeling unsafe. What usually stops people from experiencing a new place alone is fear. There are so many doubts, so many uncertainties.

This guide aims to cover the basics of solo travel. While it is targeted mainly to women, there are some pointers here useful for all genders. This is designed to give you the courage and empower you to travel solo at least once. The world isn’t a scary place and I urge you to see it for yourself.

It’s not that bad going on tours alone to the Elephant Nature Park

Why do I travel solo?

Let’s start off with why I choose to travel alone. Everyone has a different motivator and in a way, it was forced upon me. Prior to my first solo adventure (to Cambodia), my relationship ended and I didn’t ask anyone to join me. I suppose I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it and be independent. As expected, my trip didn’t go smoothly. Despite that, it didn’t deter me from trying again.

Over the last few years of travelling, I’ve become quite self-reliant. I don’t have a significant other, neither will I wait until I meet someone to go travelling with and I’m perfectly happy just doing that. I prefer doing things on my own time so when I find a good deal that fits my schedule, rarely am I hesitant to book the flight. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy travelling with others but it’s just not always feasible. I enjoy meeting new people on the road. Isn’t that what makes it an adventure?

The Solo Basics:

Safety

A lot of females hesitate to travel solo due to personal safety. I’m not going to lie and tell you that solo travel is all rainbows and butterflies, I did encounter some tricky situations. However, these instances were rare and I felt completely safe apart from it.

Clothing:

This can be a controversial one. While I don’t believe females should be told what we can or can’t wear, the unfortunate reality is that in some situations, we do have to be wary of our clothes. While travelling to destinations, try dressing modestly, especially in an area known for violence or if it’ll be after dark. There are still some parts of the world where women get unwanted attention due to our outfits and exercising a degree of caution is necessary.

Tip: Keep caution. I loathe being cat called so I find a resting bitch face can help avoid this. Not always, though.

I’m not saying avoid wearing your cute shorts or that muscle tee, just be aware of your surroundings. While I’m on the beach in a touristy area, you’ll catch me frolicking in my bikini. However, if I’m taking a night bus: hippie pants and a loosely fitted t-shirt are my go-to’s. All are situation dependent.

On the sleeper bus in Laos with another solo traveller

Transport

Avoid overnight travel, if possible. It is a better option to travel during the day.

I’m not the biggest fan of getting to my destinations late at night, depending on the region. While it does save on accommodation costs, do research on the safety aspects and talk to those who have done it. It is common in a lot of countries to offer sleeper buses. In most situations, sleeper buses are single seats reclined back. In Laos, however, sleeper buses consist of squeezing two people onto the same mattress. Talk about an invasion of personal space, right? If you’re travelling solo, you’re not guaranteed to be paired with the same gender (despite what the travel agent say). Your best bet is to find another solo traveller and swapping partners, so both of you will be together.

In certain countries, there are female-only carriages on trains (India for example).

Accommodation

For the most part, I haven’t encountered any issues staying in mixed dorms. Some hostels offer female-only dorms for your comfort and safety. Alternatively, if you want more privacy whilst staying somewhere with a social vibe, there are private rooms available in most hostels.

What about personal belongings? Lockers are a common feature in dorms. Generally, there are no issues leaving personal belongings in your designated locker. Another option is to leave your belongings at the reception.

Tip: Bring your own lock as some hostels do not provide you with one.

Solo Travel Tips:

You’re never ‘alone’:

Unless you’ve decided to take a trek to the middle of nowhere alone, you’re never truly alone. Having an open mind helps in meeting people. I find most travellers are down to earth and easy to chat to. Also, a bit of liquid courage helps act as a social lubricant.

Tip: I find having a deck of cards to be very handy – regardless if you drink or not.

In my experience, the type of accommodation you pick can aid in meeting people. Most of the places I’ve stayed in are hostels with a big common area. The hostel might not be for everyone, though. Don’t fret! In today’s times, the internet makes it so much easier to meet people. Websites like Couchsurfing, to travels groups on Facebook and heaps of apps, are used by locals and travellers eager to meet-up and show you around.

One of my favourite humans, Billy.

Getting out of your comfort zone:

For some people, it may be really easy to step outside of your comfort zone. For others, not so much. Either way, solo travel is a big leap from regular travelling.

Navigating a new city isn’t always the easiest but it is a thrill. I often find the best thing to do to set your bearings is to grab a map from your accommodation, ask where the points of interests are and set off exploring. You don’t have to do this alone, often there are a lot of solo travellers around who wouldn’t mind joining you. If you think this is too much of a leap, join a Walking Tour! Quite a lot of big cities (especially in Europe) offer Walking Tours taking you to points of interest while educating you on the history. As some pickup points can be from your hostel, you’ll meet a lot of people whom you can grab a drink with after.

Tip: Some Walking Tours are free but it’s customary to tip your guide at the end.

Going out and doing simple activities like having dinner alone can feel extremely daunting. While I often do get those uncomfortable stares, there’s something empowering about being able to just dine in your company. There’s no awkward small talk and you’ll be able to concentrate on the food a lot more. Bringing a book is often a great distraction.

Reassuring your family.

As I’ve previously mentioned, I am an adult child. Frequently, my parents are kept in the loop of where I am and where I’m headed to next. Despite travelling alone for the last few years, the parents are still opinionated of my destinations. I had plans to travel to Myanmar mid-2015, a period where the Rohingya refugee crisis was peaking and there was a lot of internal conflicts. To reassure them that it was safe for foreigners, I actually asked the embassy to keep me up-to-date about the conflict and showed various sources about the crisis to my parents.

While you are the person travelling to all these places, your loved ones are going to be concerned. It’s no harm showing them your research and staying in touch with them. Social media is a fantastic way to share your travels with them and apps such as Whatsapp is great to keep in contact without breaking your phone plan (you do need WIFI at a minimum, though).

Nights out

Watch. Your. Drink.

Unfortunately, while I was home in Perth, I’ve had my drink spiked during a night out. I managed to get away safely and got my parents to pick me up. It wasn’t pleasant and in some instances, some girls aren’t that fortunate.

Tip: During the Full Moon Party, I covered my bucket with a massive napkin. It helped reduce any chances of my bucket from getting spiked while I wasn’t looking.

Always watch your drink. I have a habit of carrying my drink everywhere I go. Either take it with you to the toilet or finish it before going for a piss. I rarely ask someone to look after it (unless said person is my best friend). In some clubbing areas such as Khao San Road (Thailand), table service is not uncommon and waiters will bring your drinks from the bar. Try and watch your drink be made. While this isn’t always a fool-proof plan, hopefully, it does cut down your chances of being spiked. Also, feel free to drink to have fun! Try not to drink to get drunk 😉 (note to self).

Fisherman’s Bastion, Budapest (Hungary)

The cons

Okay, fine. I’d admit, sometimes it does get lonely. Imagine getting to the most amazing viewpoint, alone, and wanting to share that with someone? It’s a bit hard to reminisce your previous travels to your family or friends. They weren’t there. They probably wouldn’t understand how amazing that USD$1 bowl of noodles was on Koh Rong or how mind-blowing it was swimming in bioluminescent waters.

Like a lot of solo female travellers, I’m not in a relationship so I don’t have a “go-to” travel partner. I don’t have any issues to travel solo and like I said, it’s quite liberating. Although… It would be nice to occasionally pay less by splitting a private room than sleeping in a dorm or have someone to eat with. I mean, who’s going to be my Instagram Boyfriend?

In all honesty, the pros outweigh the cons by a mile. Don’t let loneliness fear you. You’ll meet some amazing souls on the road and that’s what makes all this worthwhile. I’ve met multiple individuals while travelling and remain in close contact with until today.

How to take the leap into solo travel?

It wasn’t until I was 19 when I first travelled on my lonesome. Growing up I had travelled a fair bit but everything was pre-organised by my parents. My first experience ‘alone’ was with my then boyfriend motorbiking around Vietnam for 3 weeks. It gave me an opportunity to learn the ropes from someone with a lot more solo experience than I did. Try dipping your toes in by travelling with someone who has more experience. Observe how they navigate, how they organise their life. Learning what goes on behind the scenes and all the planning will help prepare you for your future solo trip.

Alternatively, if you want to take the plunge, do it! Do some research on the place you’re visiting. Planning ahead, knowing where you’d like to visit and booking accommodation are all ways you can help calm your nerves. If you’re visiting a region renowned for its backpackers (example South East Asia), it’s easy to follow the Banana Pancake Route. Everyone will almost be visiting the same places so planning gets cut significantly and meeting new people won’t be as tough. There are so many regions around the world with a similar backpacker route.

Regardless of gender, everyone should experience solo travel at least once in their lives. It doesn’t have to be to some exotic destination, even just exploring your own backyard, alone, is a massive step. I hope this guide helped you feel more empowered to venture into the world and realise it’s not a scary place. You’ll meet some of the kindest people and see some of the most amazing things. Who knows, maybe you might fall in love with it as well.

Peace, love and good vibes

40 Comment

  1. Some great tips there for solo male travelers as well as female, I’m a solo male traveler so I can relate to a lot you said. I lived in Thailand for a few years and 2 of my male friends had their drinks spiked, fortunately we saw one had something in his drink, unfortunately he had already drank it so was sleeping for a couple of days, at least we took care of him. The other guy was not so lucky, a girl took him back to his room and stole all his valuable possessions! You are right to make the point about watching your drink, finishing it before going to pee is a good point too.

    1. I’ll admit that I don’t know a lot about what males encounter as solo travellers. I didn’t realise your drinks would be spiked so you could get robbed! I’m glad that you noticed something was in his drink and got the situation under control. That’s terrible to hear that happened to your other mate. Definitely, goes to show that it doesn’t matter what your gender is, you always have to be careful.

  2. I don’t think solo female travel is a new revolutionary thing. More so that more young woman are doing this and talking about it on social media. It’s become the “in” thing to do. I’ve travelled solo and with a partner for over 15 years now. I’d say the gender balance is still the same.

    You do have some great pointers. Travelling overnight is a plus. And always watch your drinks! Sad but true.

    1. You’re right. It’s not new. It’s been around for decades, probably centuries… I mean, Bessie Stringfield road tripped solo around America in the 1930s. Like you said, it’s being talked a lot more on social media. However, I’m going to have to politely disagree with you that it’s an “in” thing to do – mainly because I don’t view it as a trend but more that these days females are encouraged to do it.

      Thanks for giving this a read! 🙂

  3. This is great advice for females wanting to travel solo, and really for everyone else as well. I’ve traveled alone on multiple occasions previously and I practically didn’t pay attention to most of the tips you shared. Granted, I’m a male so many things I would be less wary about, but seeing some other comments, it’ll make me a little more wary next time. It’s great that more females are becoming more confident to pursue traveling solo and I think this is the perfect post to help those who want to make the leap.

  4. Yes, always watch your drinks!!! I’ve heard too many horror stories where girls wake up not knowing what happened the night before and how they ended up wherever they are. It’s unfortunate that ladies have to take extra precautions when they’re traveling alone, so thanks for sharing these tips for solo female travelers. I’d never travel anywhere without my husband so I have a lot of respect for the women that do it all by themselves 🙂

  5. I’m glad you mentioned some of the negatives as well, such as getting to an awesome viewpoint and having no one to share that with. I started traveling solo just because it became too hard to coordinate travel with friends as we all got busy jobs and I just got tired of waiting around for people. I love how liberating solo travel is – I can do whatever I want when I want, without having to worry about anyone else or cater to anyone else’s needs. It sounds a bit selfish, but it is honestly a nice feeling! I guess unlike some other solo female travelers, I have been in a committed relationship, but my boyfriend just isn’t as obsessed with travel as I am and has a less flexible vacation policy at work, and I am honestly completely fine with that! Not sure why some people out there think it’s crazy to travel solo as a female when you are in a committed relationship. Always glad to meet a fellow solo female traveler. 🙂

  6. I love your tip about having a deck of cards as a way to meet people! It’s true, people seem ready and willing to join card games. 🙂 It took me a while, but I finally did my first solo trip last year, and it was so nice to have the freedom to explore the city on my own terms. It’s annoying when people ask me “You’re traveling without your husband?”, as if I need someone else’s permission to do so. But I appreciate your tips in this post, especially about safety, as that’s what held me back from solo travel for so long!

  7. Traveling solo may be the ‘in’ thing but it always gives me a shiver down my back. It’s not that I haven’t traveled on my own. I have and I love it but I stop to think of why it makes me nervous. I guess it all boils down to safety!

  8. These are great tips! I usually travel with my husband though not always if I break away on a weekend getaway for myself. I don’t mind being solo, it take so you out of your comfort zone and you only have your itinerary to worry with lol.

  9. If I would have gotten the travel bug when I was much younger I think I could so have done this. But now, even if I tried leaving the husband behind he would feel so bad because he loves to travel too.

  10. OMG I love the photo with the elephant! I am so jealous! Really want to see elephants up close one day! Great blog! xx

  11. This is a great guide! I have always travelled with my partner but have wandered if I have what it takes to ever travel by myself! It is good to hear that your travels have been relatively safe and I naturally have a resting bitch face so perhaps I may be ok?!

  12. It is so important to be aware of situations, cultures, and acceptance. Clothing in certain countries is definitely something to be wary about. Keeping safe can be straightforward if you have some common sense. I hate cat calling as well and never will drink a drink given to me by a stranger. Sorry that you first trip didn’t go too well, but I hope you enjoyed Cambodia nonetheless.

  13. This is great advice. I went to Argentina last year on a student exchange and though I stayed with another family, I still felt I was very independent and free.

  14. What a lovely post! I have myself travelled solo many times in India and it has been the most liberating experience ever. Loved every tip you have mentioned here and I totally agree with the cons as well. But until you find somebody, the show must go on. Thanks for sharing!☺

  15. I’ve never been anywhere solo, but I’m hoping to take a trip this year and these tips are amazing. I’m scared of the loneliness you mention, but I am sure I can get over that!

  16. Great tips. It was only last year I discovered the joy of solo travel. It so happened that I got a chance to explore Europe and my guy couldn’t get off from work so I set off alone! It was awesome!!! Though I totally love travelling with my guy (who takes amazing photographs of me as well), when situation arises, I’m always ready to travel alone too! The best part of solo travel is I guess, you get to meet amazing people and make new friends!!! 🙂

  17. Great post! I’ve always been travelling with my husband & established myself as his tail! I travelled solo for the very first time about 2 months ago & totally freaked out (before the trip). However, it wasn’t so bad. I actually felt very confident & comfortable, and would certainly consider doing it again. I made friends too, which definitely wouldn’t have been possible if the husband was around.

  18. It’s a great post! You’ve very brave to travel solo 🙂 I tried a couple of times, but couldn’t do it.

  19. While I haven’t travelled much on my own yet (max, time was 10 days in London once), this definitely opens my eyes to the benefits! I will have to give a go sometime soon!

  20. I had no idea about the sharing-mattress sleeper bus regardless of gender, will be so freaked out! As for spiking of drink, sometimes I believe it’s easy we get carried away by the moment and let our guard down, so you made a good reminder about the possibility! Thankfully you were ok. As for myself, the most daunting, mental obstacle to solo travel has got to be dining alone. Now I bring a Kindle with me just in case. Love all your great tips!

  21. I’m a solo female traveller too and HATE getting somewhere new late at night. It’s one of my biggest ‘things’s and I will pay a little more to fly if it gets me there in the daylight. I get wayyyy too lost and turned around anyway to also have to worry about it being nighttime.
    Great tips!

  22. This is so inspiring! Thanks for sharing your experience and thoughts. I´m about to go to Asia “kind of solo” (me & my 5-year old son) for the first time since I´m a mom, without my hubby. Posts like these are exactly what i need now :). I guess we´re going to have a wonderful time! x

  23. These are great tips! I’ve done a decent amount of solo travel within Europe (in fact, I think I’ve done more solo travel than travel with a friend/boyfriend), but have never really been sure if I’d be brave enough to travel solo in Asia. The tip about the shared space on the night bus is definitely eye-opening, I don’t think I’d have even thought of that beforehand!

  24. I have never done a solo trip – mostly because I love being around other people, but you are right – solo travel is becoming more and more popular! I love your tips because safety is always a huge priority for me. Thanks for sharing!

  25. LOVE THIS! I occasionally travel solo. Though I do prefer to have a travel buddy (the prices and photos and company are nice when there’s more than one) there’s no way I’m going let myself not go somewhere because I don’t have someone else who wants to. Great tips too! The clothing one is sometimes a bummer (like shoulders being taboo in some countries – come on people, it’s HOT [temperature I mean haha] ) but I find a big scarf/sarong to be very versatile.

    I will admit I have avoided certain places just because I’m female. I’m dying to go to India but haven’t brought myself to do it alone yet. I’m sure I’ll get the courage someday!

  26. Good points! I am not big on traveling solo since I will just start missing someone to share everything with. Been there, tried that! But I often travel semi-solo. Meaning, I travel to somewhere to meet a friend, or I have to travel on business. So the actual travel part I do alone but exploring with someone. I think that is a better choice for me. 🙂

  27. Great guide! I only really discovered solo travel for myself last year. Never traveled solo before that because everyone in my surroundings seem to think it’s weird or boring 😀 I absolutely love meeting new people though, it’s far from being boring! I guess that lots of people are afraid of being alone, but as you mentioned it – you’re never truly alone!

  28. Great tips! I’m not a solo traveler (usually just me and one or two others), but some of them still apply. Watching your drinks, being aware of your surroundings are sound practice whether you are alone or in a group. I also trust my gut, if I feel weird about a situation and something just doesn’t sit right, I usually leave (particularly in a club / bar).

  29. Balanced view point. I travel solo and have noticed that a lot more women are doing it now than before. I think there are some great tips here

  30. I admire your confidence in doing solo travel as it does scare some people. These are great tips for safety and reassurance. It sounds like it is not as tough as people build it up in their head.

  31. Wow! I love this. Great tips and very “no bullshit” type advice! We need more of that! Look forward to reading more from you!! #gltlove

  32. thanks for sharing!

  33. Thanks for your honest and useful tips! I liked how you presented both the good and the bad!

  34. This is so great! You make some fantastic points – and I do think its smart to just be AWARE. Of your clothing, of your surroundings….everything. Just be smart and respectful and there is nothing stopping you! 🙂

  35. Great travel tips. We often learn from the incidents that we face but there are some great suggestions from your experience that can help every solo traveller. I will always watch my drink more carefully now. Thanks for a lovely write up

  36. I really appreciated your perspective in this post! Some of my favourite trips were ones i did by myself … the amazing experiences far outweigh the loneliness, so i’d agree that everyone is better off to get out there than wait around for a travel partner.

  37. This is a really great article, possibly one of the best I’ve read on the topic. I have loved my solo trips, and have managed to meet the coolest people. I’ve generally felt really safe too, but have sometimes missed the extra confidence that comes with travelling with another person!

  38. Wow! This is absolutely amazing article and as well as informative.
    I haven’t traveled solo but reading your article makes me feel really confident. Will plan my solo travel for sure.
    Thanks for posting such article. 🙂

Leave a Reply