I’ve done a fair bit of solo travelling, though I still remember getting on the plane the very first time and totally shitting my pants (pardon my French). As females, announcing we’re going off jetting solo is often met with well meaning (but annoying) concerns for safety. I can’t recall a time I’ve ever heard someone voice the same degree of concern for any male friend that went travelling alone.
I realise that, as a female, there are times/places where (due to my sex) I may be deemed more vulnerable. That being said, there’s a lot of scaremongering going on. As a result, I’ve seen these voiced concerns create doubt ,and sometimes halt the travel plans of aspiring female travellers. Here are my tips for all my solo travel sisters …
1. Everyone will tell you how dangerous it is before you go
If I’ve heard this once, I’ve heard it a thousand times. Your mum will be the first. Your granny will be the second. It’s in their nature to worry. Without trying to sound incredibly ageist, I find it’s older people that usually challenge my solo travel decision first. Is it possibly generational?. Despite the fact that I travel way more than my dad, my mum once told him, “I think you should go with Sarah, just to help her find her way around”. He replied, “she’ll be better at it than me!”
2. Nobody in hostels care whether you’re a girl or a guy
I’ve never once travelled anywhere where I’ve found it difficult to make new friends or find myself a touring chum for a few days based on my sex. Once you arrive at your hostel, most people are keen to chat and team up for the exact same reasons that you are.
3. It’s sometimes easier to latch onto a group
In my experience, being female sometimes makes it easier to worm your way into an already established group in a hostel. On a few occasions, I’ve had people step in to help when overhearing me ask a question. I’ve then witnessed them sit back when a new male asks the same. This is only my experience, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to playing the damsel in distress card once or twice.
4. Book ahead
If you’re unsure about a new area and you’re arriving really early/late, book hostel rooms in advance. You can head directly to your location instead of wandering about with Google maps in the dark.
5. Join walking tour groups
A lot of big cities have daily walking tours starting late morning, with most lasting a good few hours. These are a great way for making friends (you’ve just spent 2 hours with these people), and they’re also a great way of exploring somewhere you’re not sure about within the safety of a group.
6. Consider the country you’re going to
Do your research. There are still a lot of places that expect to see a woman accompanied by a male, and an awful lot that will turn a blind eye to men grabbing women in the street. Know the stance of the place you’re visiting. When I went to Morocco, I didn’t ever feel threatened strolling around the souks in the daytime, but I was aware of the threats that this might pose at night.
7. Chat with the locals
Out for a drink/breakfast/lunch/dinner/tour – get chatting to the locals. They will give you tips on the area, highlight places to avoid, and possibly take you under their wing and become a potential location buddy.
8. Safety abroad is like safety at home
My mum once told me she was worried about me being in Bangkok alone (after living in Thailand for a year), as her friend had had her bag snatched from her shoulder on a tuk-tuk. I told my mum that if her friend had driven around London with her bag hanging out of the side of a taxi, it would most likely have been snatched too. Similarly, if you wouldn’t get crazy drunk and walk down an unknown street at home, you shouldn’t be doing it alone abroad.
9. Take precautions and know the threats
Whilst planning a trip, a travel agent once told me about a time he was in South America and gunmen got on to his bus, telling everyone to empty their pockets. The people who had refused were promptly marched off at gunpoint and strip searched for everything they had. He had two wallets with him – his actual wallet, and a dummy one that had enough money in it to look like it was his days worth of cash. He handed it over and that was the end of them hassling him. When I told my mum she lost her mind, asking why he would ever tell me such a story. This story had prepped me. Had the same thing happened to me, I’d have been ready with my two wallets.
10. Choose a safe spot
First time solo travelling and nervous about the whole affair? Remove the safety worry by visiting Copenhagen, Helsinki, Oslo, Zurich, Reykjavik or Stockholm. All of these European cities are renowned for their safety and friendliness towards solo travellers. Reykjavik is deemed one of the safest destinations in the world, with almost zero crime, and travel scams are virtually unheard of.
What are your worries as a first time traveller? Not your first time? What other travel tips do you have for women?