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. As females, announcing we’re going off jetting solo is often met with (well meaning, but annoying) concerns for safety. On the flip side, I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone voice the same degree of concern for any male friend I have that went solo travelling.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m aware that (as a female) there are times/ places where, due to my sex, I may deemed as more vulnerable. However, there’s a lot of scaremongering going on and (on more than one occasion) I’ve seen these voiced concerns create doubt ,and sometimes halt, travel plans. Here are my tips for all my fellow solo travel sisters out there…
1. Everyone will tell you how dangerous it is before you go
God.. if I’ve heard this once, I’ve heard this a thousand times. Your mum will be the first. Your granny will be the second. It’s in their nature to worry. Without being ageist, I’m still met with a lot more older people challenge my solo travel decision making than. I’ve met a good few who encourage it, but a lot come from a generation of people that just didn’t travel by themselves. 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 cares weather you a girl or a guy
I’ve never once travelled anywhere where I’ve found it difficult to make knew friends/find myself a touring chum for a few days, based on my sex. Once you arrive into that hostel environment, most people are keen to chit chat and team up for the exact same reasons 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 asking questions as the newbie, then not volunteering when a new male does the same. This IS only my experience, and obviously not all cases.. but possibly, men want to help the damsel in distress?? (haha).
4. Book ahead
If you’re unsure about a new area and are arriving really early/late, then it’s a good idea to pre-book hostel rooms in advance so you can just head direct to your location instead of wandering about with google maps/nothing 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 a great way of exploring somewhere you’re not sure of in the safety of a group.
6. Consider the country you’re going to
I’ve been to very few countries where there’s been an issue with women being deemed as ‘the weaker’ sex. However, it’s worth doing your research. There’s 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 females in the street. Know the stance of the place you’re going. 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 etc, 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 pal.
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 the side of a taxi, it would most likely have been snatched too. Similarly, if you wouldn’t get blazing 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, travel agent once told me about a time he was in South America on a bus, when gunmen got on and told 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 a legit daytime’s 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 prepped me, so that (had the same thing happened) I’d have been ready to do the same, and not pee’d my pants!
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.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on solo travel?