Female Solo Travel: Tips & Advice from Female Travelers



The biggest travel deterrent, in my experience, for people in their twenties is surprisingly not finances or time off from work -- it’s safety. Any time I mention my trips to people, within minutes they’ll bring up the notion of safety.


-Aren’t you scared of getting mugged/pickpocketed/kidnapped?

-Doesn’t (country name) have a high incidence of crime?

-Won’t people try to take advantage of you?


These are far and away the most common questions I get about my trips -- and for good reason. Foreign countries are just that -- foreign -- and we tend to have a strong fear of things that are unfamiliar to us. But regardless of that, there’s no avoiding the fact that the topic of travel safety always skews towards gender.


I’m a male traveler. I can go in depth about how I’ve never felt personally threatened or uncomfortable in another country, and I can even detail my female friends’ stories, but it will never do justice to the female experience because it’s always coming from a male perspective. I’ve met dozens of solo female travelers on my trips, all of whom have had almost nothing bad to say about their experiences. However, why should I try to mansplain female travel when you can learn from the women themselves?


For this project, I interviewed 9 different female friends of mine, all of whom have traveled domestically, internationally, solo, and in groups. They’ve given me detailed accounts of their trips and answered the questions that I’ve heard countless times about female travel safety. All I want from this post is for you to consider their responses and make your own decisions so you can potentially put your mind at ease and better prepare for a trip that’s definitely worth taking.


First, let’s introduce these fantastic travelers.


1. Nikita from London, UK (@nikitakp)

2. Jeanne from Denver, USA (@jeanneadventures)

3. Fifi from Boston, USA (@fifi.mary)

4. Nienke from Rotterdam, The Netherlands (@nienkegaljaard)

5. Camilla from Denmark (@camillacullumtravels)

6. Ayelet from San Francisco, USA (@i.yellie.it)

7. Liz from New York City, USA (@Eeng3)

8. Sam from Toronto, Canada (@samanthahatoski)

9. Ruta from Vilnius, Lithuania (@ruta.ju)




1. What’s the biggest difference between traveling as a female rather than as a male?


Nienke, Netherlands, @nienkegaljaard

I think when traveling alone as a woman, people always tell you to be more careful. And you know, it's sad but it's true. Women are in general more vulnerable than men. Something I noticed during my travels is that even though women kept being told to be careful, it's mostly men who have bad experiences like robbery during their travels. I think this is because women are more careful because everyone tells them to be. Most of them won't go out alone during the night and they're always alert. That might sound like a restriction but I have never found it to be a problem to find people to go out with at night.


Camilla, Denmark, @camillacullumtravels

I’m not sure there are so many differences. The thing I worry about the most is that I am more vulnerable than a man is. If someone were to force me in some way I would have a hard time fighting them off. Therefore I do think about which streets I walk on when alone for example.


Ruta, Lithuania, @Ruta.ju

Frankly, I don’t like the gender division in any situation; however, the reality is that if you travel solo, you have to take more safety precautions. So, say, if I go to a far-away destination that I’ve never been before, I’ll do my fair amount of research on the safest areas to stay in as well as transportation options. Also, I’ll either see whether I have any of my international friends based there and if not - I’ll ask around, or I might get some more details from Airbnb hosts or Showaround locals.


2. How have you been treated differently as a female in another country?


Fifi, USA, @Fifi.mary

Honestly, I have never felt that I was treated differently in any country that I’ve visited (despite my initial reservations). I try to have a “local” experience when I’m abroad—I research the places I’ll be visiting thoroughly and dress similarly the locals, to blend in, in a way. For the most part, people are very welcoming and excited to see a traveler explore their country. I also try to be respectful of the country’s culture i.e if it’s more conservative, I would make a greater effort to cover up.


Jeanne, USA, @Jeanneadventures

I have had both positive and negative experiences as a female traveler. Many times, people are happy to help and offer advice. Other times I have received unwanted male attention like catcalling and being followed.


Sam, Canada, @samanthahatoski

I’m not really treated differently anymore than I am treated differently as a female back home in Toronto (i.e. dealing with sexism & the patriarchy). Also, it should be noted that I have a lot of privilege from the fact that I’m white, cis and able-bodied, and so I can’t speak to the experience of all solo female travelers.


Ruta, Lithuania, @Ruta.ju

Good question as I never thought of it. I do have only good memories: from strangers helping me out with my massive suitcases and getting small discounts at here and there, or in more extreme situations, people giving me a ride or letting use their phone. But then again, I cannot say that it’s because I’m a female traveller; I think it all comes down to your personality and vibe. Treat everyone with respect and enthusiasm, and it inevitably manifests back.


3. What do you recommend to female travelers who may be scared to travel on their own?



Nikita, UK, @nikitakp

Concerned travelers should spend time reading blogs. Hearing about someone else’s experience is definitely reassuring and future backpackers are lucky to have this now. It open doors for people that would never otherwise have backpacked.


Nienke, Netherlands, @nienkegaljaard

I was a little bit anxious to go travel on my own. Would I meet nice people and would I be able to make my way safely through South America? And who would take care of me if something happened? Don't be scared, really. It sounds hard but really, you'll never be alone. There's always people to travel with and to talk to. And if something happens they'll take care of you like you would take care of them. Everyone is always super helpful, especially when you're traveling alone. Go and you'll see there's no reason to be scared.


Sam, Canada, @samanthahatoski

I am a little neurotic when it comes to ensuring my safety when I travel, especially alone. So before I go, I make a list of all the important phone numbers and addresses I need (of hostels, airlines, my medical insurance company, the local police if they are not corrupt/dangerous, the Canadian embassy). I print 2 copies of this and also keep copies accessible on Dropbox and email. I also make sure to download offline Google Maps for whatever city I’m in so that I can follow along when I’m in a cab or an Uber and to ensure that I don’t get lost (or at least not as often). I also do lots of walking tours – travelling in groups will help ensure your safety as well! Having a local phone plan was the biggest thing that made me feel safe!!!! Also, I think it’s important to recognize that locals are just people at the end of the day – there are good and bad people all over the world and it really frustrates me when an entire country’s population is presumed to be bad (i.e. some of my older family members thinking all Colombians are drug smugglers. Like, no). I’ve met many, many, many more incredibly kind, generous and helpful people abroad than I have threatening people.


4. What do you do to make yourself feel more comfortable when traveling alone?


Jeanne, USA, @Jeanneadventures

I try my best to make sure that someone is always aware of my location and have pre-discussed check in times.


Nikita, UK, @nikitakp

Make friends (locals or backpackers). After seven years of independent trips, it still shocks and excites me how kind other locals and backpackers are when only met them 5 minutes ago. It’s the best feeling in the world to be reminded of how kind the world can be.


Ayelet, USA, @i.yellie.it

I meet others that are also traveling alone! Also, I have enjoyed going on walking tours on my first day in the city that way I know what to look for during the rest of my time there.



Liz, USA, @Eeng3

I tend to walk around with my smartphone, my Kindle, and a plan on what I want to do for the day. The smartphone helps me feel safe if there is a possibility of getting lost (I am very good at getting lost). My Kindle helps me feel less alone when I am eating by myself or I guess it makes me feel less weird being alone. I am definitely still getting used to travelling alone. Also, having a plan on what I want to do helps, I guess, give me a purpose or direction I want to achieve that day. I am not much of a person who wanders around. I more enjoy going to places I’ve researched and seen that other tourists have enjoyed.


5. Do you feel safe in hostels, mixed dorms, etc.?


Camilla, Denmark, @camillacullumtravels

I usually feel pretty safe around other travelers, although usually I try to stay in private rooms or female dorms if I can. But I have actually never felt unsafe in a dorm.


Ayelet, USA, @i.yellie.it

I have felt safe in the hostels I have stayed in. Sometimes they are loud when you have a really early hike the next day, or someone is snoring in your room, but I have never felt unsafe. Everyone staying at hostels is basically doing something similar to you. Everyone wants to explore and travel. There are ways of feeling a little safer in some situations. Bringing a lock is key (no pun intended). You can lock up your belongings at night and while you are out exploring during the day. Do your research ahead of time. Find a hostel that fits your needs and preferences.


Liz, USA, @Eeng3

Honestly, I get super paranoid about this even though I have no reason to be since my experiences were all good. My first experience with hostels, I was right out of college, so I could only really afford 6 or 10 people rooms. The good thing is that you are barely in your room so the space issue isn’t that big of a deal. I did get worried that people would steal my stuff so I bought those little backpack locks. I definitely didn’t need them but they gave me peace of mind. I feel like an important thing to think of is that because you are traveling and booking this room, it is very highly likely everyone in you room is similar to you. Also, it’s nice to think the best of people and that you will be safe in your room. Another random thing I did to feel safer is always choosing the top bunk. It’s annoying to get in and out but then, when you think about it, no one else would want to go up on your bed either!


6. Do you feel safe walking around, going off the beaten path, etc.?


Fifi, USA, @Fifi.mary

Yes, but within reason. I enjoy exploring foreign cities, with the knowledge that there are many, other people around. However, I wouldn’t go hiking in the woods or roam around in secluded areas alone. Unfortunately, it poses two major risks: 1) getting hurt or stranded with no access to help, or 2) being exposed to the elements, like the possibility of being attacked by wild animals


Camilla, Denmark, @camillacullumtravels

I have hiked alone in so many places and never felt unsafe. I always meet someone to walk with, and I’ve never experienced anything unpleasant. Usually the worst that happens is local men yelling to get attention (at least in the daytime).


Ruta, Lithuania, @Ruta.ju

Yes, completely. I don’t think I’ve been to a place where I was feeling afraid. Well maybe in Pittsburgh once, but that’s a long story, and it turned out well anyway. Sometimes I wonder, perhaps it's not a good thing, and I should be more concerned, but there isn’t much I can do - I love strolling around on my own.


Liz, USA, @Eeng3

Yes and no. I’d say daytime definitely makes it more safe. A smartphone also makes me feel more safe. I have to say that some of the best times I have had is off the beaten path so, I would recommend it. Just be smart about it. Be aware of your surroundings, don’t look lost, and enjoy yourself!


7. Do you find it easy to make friends on your trips?


Sam, Canada, @samanthahatoski

Usually more so than when I travel with others – if people at your hostel/on your walking tour/that you meet in some other circumstance see you and realize you’re travelling alone they often go a bit more out of their way to include you and say hi! I can definitely be a bit shy or socially anxious at times, so travelling alone has always pushed me out of my comfort zone. But I look at it as an opportunity to grow and face my fears! I’ve made some awesome friends through my travels that I still stay in touch with (Gilad included)!


Fifi, USA, @Fifi.mary

Yes. I don’t usually feel lonely at all during my solo travels. I always end up meeting so many great and friendly people along the way, who further enrich my experiences. If anything, I do find that travelers are more willing to help with anything and everything—it really renews my hope in humanity. Having some extrovert traits is helpful too; after all, new friendships are usually born with a simple “hello” or a me-too moment.


Ayelet, USA, @i.yellie.it

I find it really easy to make friends while traveling! There was one time I met someone on a free walking tour, had a great time so we decided to meet up later in our trips. We wanted to meet people in the next location so we bought a bottle of wine and shared it with people in the lounge area of our hostel and met a whole bunch of other new friends.



8. Do you feel like you’re on high alert all the time?


Nienke, Netherlands, @nienkegaljaard

No, to be honest. Whenever I'm new to a country I am, because I don't know the people or the safety situation. After a few days I get used to the way of life and I get less alert. Not that I'm not watching my stuff anymore, but more like feeling comfortable and confident in my new place.


Ruta, Lithuania, @Ruta.ju

Yes, definitely. But it happens instinctively: I think my subconscious kicks in and is aware that this is unfamiliar territory, so, for example, I tend to sleep lighter and have some options considered in case of emergency.


Nikita, UK, @nikitakp

I don’t think I feel on high alert at all. Backpacking is about feeling free, exploring another culture, making friends and being happy. Being on high alert is unnecessary but every traveller should practice vigilance when making decisions and remember that they are in another country and should respect their rules.


9. How do you feel comfortable partying & letting loose?


Sam, Canada, @samanthahatoski

Of course I feel comfortable letting loose! Especially when I’m around a group of people I’ve met that I trust (whether fellow travelers or locals). When I first travelled alone, I was super paranoid and it was so exhausting – I simply could not keep that kind of mindset up. It was a relief to realize that I was able to relax and trust that I would still be okay.


Liz, USA, @Eeng3

I would say I’m sure there is another traveller that feels the same way as you, if you can find them in your hostel, I would recommend trying to connect with other and trying not to party alone. People are inherently good but with alcohol in the mix there is always a chance of something going bad. It’s always a good idea to go into situations with alcohol with someone by your side. That, or I would suggest being responsible and drink a reasonable amount where you can still be in control of your situation. Also, always pay the extra money for a cab or uber home. Safety is worth the splurge. I also definitely recommend staying at a hostel with a bar included so you can know you are in a safe environment to begin with.


Nikita, UK, @nikitakp

If I am in good company, I tend to feel comfortable partying. Sometimes I opt out depending on the crowd, for example, I don’t have the patience to party with 4 twenty year olds who are more interested in taking drugs than going on a beautiful hike the next day. The trick is to find like minded people, without judging others on what makes them happy.


Jeanne, USA, @Jeanneadventures

I do not feel comfortable partying when traveling alone. I generally save activities like drinking or staying out late for times when I have a solid friend or group with me. I worry that lowering my guard will make me more vulnerable.


10. What is one item that makes you feel 100x safer while traveling?


Literally everyone said their smartphone for this one. Millennials, eh?



11. How do you prepare for uniquely female issues on trips? (menstruation, toiletries, etc.)


Fifi, USA, @Fifi.mary

The type of trip I’m going on will dictate how I prepare for female-related issues. For instance, if it’s a more outdoorsy trip, I pack differently: I would bring (more) Kleenex tissue packets for tissue paper, wipes and hand sanitizer. As a female, we have a general idea of our monthly timing; and if it happens to coincide with the time of my travels, I would bring additional feminine care products and unmentionables. Women also have the option to manipulate their oral contraceptives to delay or skip menstruation (of course, this would be at the discretion your doctor or pharmacist).


Liz, USA, @Eeng3

Luckily, I’m pretty regular so I know if I need to pack tampons. It’s something small and easy to pack, so not much of an inconvenience. Not to mention, there are women everywhere so you can most likely go to a grocery store to find whatever you need in a bind. For toiletries, I’ve had the most issues because I have color-treated hair so, I have special shampoo and conditioner. When I travel now, I tend to check bags so that I can bring all my hair items. But, in the past when I just had a backpack, I would bring TSA approved squeeze bottles with my product (most of the time it was more than allowed in those little plastic bags SO, I put it in my own gallon size ziploc and folded over the top to make the bag look smaller - luckily no problems yet :) ).


Camilla, Denmark, @camillacullumtravels

If I can avoid having my period on a hike for example, I will. But otherwise just make sure I have what I need in case of emergencies. I’ve never had an issue with that. Most places I’ve been to have had well-stocked pharmacies.


12. How do you deal with men talking/treating you differently in cultures where that’s the norm?


Jeanne, USA, @Jeanneadventures

While traveling alone, dealing with unwanted male attention is a tricky situation. Although I find it degrading, I sometimes feel that it is safest to not to react heavily. I do my best to exit the situation without angering the man or men for my own safety.


Nikita, UK, @nikitakp

If it feels creepy, like they have ulterior motives rather than just being friendly, I just ignore them and move on. If they seem to mean no harm I will just talk with them and often men just want to talk to a foreigner.


Nienke, Netherlands, @nienkegaljaard

Always stay friendly but be honest. If a man is doing or saying something you don't like you can just tell him that it's not normal in your country. Honesty and friendliness go a long way. If that's not helping, always ask for help.


13. What is your most effective self-defense strategy/tool, and have you ever had to use it?


Camilla, Denmark, @camillacullumtravels

I don’t really have one - and thankfully never had to use one. If I feel very scared - I will hold my keys between my fingers :)


Liz, USA, @Eeng3

My classic self-defense tool is the key between my fingers. I’ve never had to use it but it weirdly makes me feel safe. Another strategy is having my smartphone open and ready to call a number or emergency number just in case. Also, I’ve never had to use that BUT I have intentionally called someone to stay on the phone with me while I walk back alone.


Nienke, Netherlands, @nienkegaljaard

I think my self-defense tool is just walking up straight and being confident. It's not really a way of self-defense but I feel like it's helpful whenever I feel insecure in a place. When you look like you know what you're doing and where you're going (even though you sometimes don't) you look less vulnerable - less like a target. Luckily I never really had to use any self-defense strategies.



So there you have it. 9 different experiences from 9 different female travelers, all of whom would recommend travel to any and everyone who’s thought about it. Hopefully you’ve gained a few tips from them that will help prepare you for your next (or first) trip. If you have any more questions or concerns about uniquely female travel, please reach out to me in the comments or in an email and I can get you some answers from the ladies themselves.

0 views
  • Facebook - Black Circle
  • Pinterest - Black Circle

©2018 by Anxious & Abroad.

anxiousandabroadinfo@gmail.com