Have you ever wanted to travel solo? All you need is an adventurous spirit and the willingness to go it alone and you’re off to a good start. Solo travelling for women is exhilarating, exciting and sometimes challenging. Although it may seem daunting there are some things you can do to smooth the way. Choosing the right destination, planning effectively and staying connected are just a few important things that will help you have an enjoyable solo travel experience.
These 30 tips will help you to succeed and have fun, even if it’s your first-time solo travelling.
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Is solo travelling for women a good idea?
Yes! Solo travelling for women is definitely a good idea. I love to travel solo. In fact, I think it’s the best way to travel to many places. Things are less complicated and decisions are easier to make. You can choose your destination, go when you please and stay wherever you want. Your days are filled with things that you want to do. There’s no waiting around for someone else or compromising to suit another person.
When you travel alone for the first time you’ll become a more independent person. You’ll become more confident and self-reliant and discover personal qualities that you may not have realized you possess. While it’s nice to have company, you’ll find that it’s easy to meet people when you’re away and you’re more open and approachable when you travel solo.
Your first-time solo travelling is a learning experience and can seem scary. It’s natural to feel nervous when you step out of your comfort zone. Just remember that you are opening yourself up to a wealth of new experiences and that you’re likely to have a great time. And when things don’t go as planned, you’ll find a way through those challenging moments. Often help comes from places that you don’t expect and it can be humbling and heartwarming to experience the kindness of strangers when you most need it.
But before you travel alone for the first time there are a few things you should consider.
Solo Travelling for Women – 30 Tips for Success
Where to solo travel as a woman
Choosing the right destination is important for successfully travelling alone. If you’re like me, you’ll have a long list of places you’d love to see and things you’ve always wanted to do. But some destinations are better than others, especially if you’re travelling alone for the first time.
Go to a place where people speak your language
If you go to a place where people speak the same language as you do it’s easier to meet people, ask for directions and to get around. You’ll probably feel more comfortable and less alone if you can communicate your needs and wishes effortlessly.
Choose a destination that’s close to home
If you feel very nervous to travel solo, perhaps choose a destination that’s close to home. Remember that you have complete control of your trip and you can change your plans whenever you want. You can even go home early if you feel like it.
Choose a country that’s safe to visit
Whether it’s your first-time solo travelling or you have years of experience, staying safe is crucial to the success of your trip and some places are safer than others. Check your government’s recommendations for safety in your chosen destination. The advice they give may change your mind about whether or not you want to visit a certain place.
Bear in mind that nowhere is entirely safe and take care of your own safety. Don’t walk alone at night, don’t leave your belongings unattended and watch out for scams. Travelling alone in Shanghai, China I got caught up in a Chinese Tea ceremony scam. It’s always a good idea to be aware and on your guard so that you can avoid difficult situations like this.
Research the safety of your destination before you leave home and ask around for local advice when you’re there. Hotel staff can be very helpful in this regard and have a wealth of local knowledge. When I travel solo, I often ask questions like “Is it safe for me to walk there alone at night? and “Can you recommend a taxi driver?”
Choose a culture that’s not so different from your own
When you travel alone for the first time, consider easing yourself in and choosing a culture that’s not so different from your own. This may help you to manage the more difficult aspects of travelling alone and you’ll settle in more easily and start enjoying the new experiences, people and places that you’re sure to come across. For example, I’m Australian and the first time I travelled alone I went to England where I could speak the language and understood the culture. I stayed for several years and I discovered many similarities and some big differences.
Expect to experience culture shock
As a woman travelling alone, you may need a settling-in period to adjust to a new country. If you choose a culture that’s very different from your own you can expect to experience culture shock when you first arrive in a new place. Solo travelling for women is more difficult in some countries, especially Muslim cultures and in the Middle East where women don’t have the same rights and freedoms as in other places.
Before you leave home
Organise your Travel documents – Passport & visas
Finding the right destination is important when you’re planning to travel solo but your travel documents must be in order before you can go anywhere and this process should be started 2 – 3 months before you leave home. Make sure you have a current passport with spare pages and at least 6 months of validity and you may need to apply for a visa to enter the country you are visiting. This may involve presenting passport photos and other documents on request plus a fee. The requirements are usually very specific and it’s up to you to meet them or you may be refused entry.
Post Covid-19, entry requirements have changed for many countries so it’s wise to check the details carefully, especially if you’re travelling alone for the first time.
Visit your doctor
Visit your doctor or a travel clinic, follow their advice and have the recommended travel vaccinations. This needs to be done a couple of months before you leave home as some vaccinations require several injections to be fully effective.
Take out Travel Insurance
Successful solo travelling for women means having the right travel insurance. It could save you a lot of money if something unexpected happens or you have a health emergency while you are away. I often use World Nomads Travel insurance when I travel overseas and I know that I’m covered if something unforeseen happens and this gives me peace of mind. World Nomads offer coverage for health insurance, lost baggage and a range of adventure activities and they also have COVID-19 insurance.
** Always check the fine print to make sure your travel insurance policy suits your needs.
Research & Plan Your Trip Thoroughly
This step is essential for smooth sailing when you travel solo. While some people like to wing it, a well-planned trip will take away a lot of the anxiety of travelling alone. If you know where you’re going, where you’ll be staying and how you’ll get there, you’ll feel a lot more confident navigating new environments while you’re away. You’ll have a list of fun things to do and you’ll be less likely to miss key places and experiences or to feel homesick.
Having a clear idea of what you want to do with your time when you’re in a new place will help you to make the most of the time you have. You’ll be more likely to achieve your travel goals and get a good feel for the people and the culture of the place you’re visiting. There’s nothing more disappointing than missing a popular sight because you didn’t know about it, it was booked out or you didn’t have enough time to explore properly. Or worse still, you ran out of money.
Stay in hostels or B&Bs
Travelling alone doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be lonely. If you want to meet other people, consider staying in hostels and B&Bs rather than at hotels. Many hostels have private rooms with shared bathrooms, kitchen and lounge facilities so you don’t necessarily have to sleep in a shared dormitory. You’ll find that hostels often have a more social atmosphere than hotels and they’re not always overrun by young people. In fact, you’ll often find families and older travellers staying there. But make sure you read the reviews before you book to avoid party hostels.
It’s easier to meet other travellers like yourself in the communal areas of hostels and B&Bs. And hostels often have social events such as pizza nights, pub crawls or movie nights where you can enjoy the company of other travellers.
Whether you’re experienced or you’re travelling alone for the first time I highly recommend booking your accommodation in advance, especially during peak periods. Not only will you know where you’re going and how to get there, but you won’t have to spend precious time working out where to stay when you’re away. You can book a range of hotels, B&Bs & hostels online with Agoda. Check the ratings and read the reviews before you book and opt for a flexible cancellation policy in case your plans change.
Have an itinerary
Once you have an itinerary you can start planning how you’ll spend your time and it can be a good idea to book key experiences and tours in advance. I’ve used Get your guide many times to book ahead and found it an excellent way to plan day tours in advance, especially if I have a busy schedule. Day tours can often be booked at your destination through your hotel.
Local transport like buses trains and ferries can be booked online with 12Go in Asia, Europe & Oceania.
Allow some flexibility in your plans
Allow for some flexibility in your plans in case they change while you’re away. Although it’s a good idea to book some key experiences in advance, it can be best to arrange some of the finer details of your itinerary while you’re away. You’ll get recommendations and ideas from local people and other travellers that you meet along the way.
Know how you will get to your hotel
Know how you will get to your hotel from the airport, train or bus station as this will help you handle the most overwhelming moments of solo travelling for women. And it’s especially important when you travel alone for the first time. When you arrive in a new place you’ll be carrying your luggage, in a crowd of people and possibly facing a mob of taxi drivers so make sure you have your hotel address handy and that you know where you’re going.
Solo travel can feel overwhelming sometimes but it’s also exciting and you’ll develop confidence quickly as you discover that you can find your way around and take care of yourself in an unfamiliar environment.
Safety Tips for Travelling Alone
- Don’t share too much information with someone you’ve just met. Keep your hotel details and the fact that you’re travelling alone to yourself.
- Use the hotel safe and leave your passport and valuables behind when you’re out sightseeing
- Don’t drink or take drugs when you’re out alone and never leave your drink unattended. Drink spiking happens all too often and you need to take extra care when you are a woman travelling alone.
- Try to blend in. Dress conservatively and appropriately for the culture you’re visiting.
Don’t be afraid to say no
When you travel solo you can change your mind or your plans on a whim and you can say no to something that doesn’t feel right. Trust your gut instincts and don’t take chances with your safety. If you find yourself in a situation where you feel uncomfortable you can simply leave. If you’re in doubt, it’s best to say no thanks and move away from the person or situation.
How to organise your money for travelling alone
Make a budget and stick to it
Having an idea of how much your trip will cost is crucial for successful solo travel, especially if you are travelling alone for the first time. Make sure you have plenty of money saved to cover all your expenses including any hidden costs. Daily expenses like food, local transport, local tours, entry fees and souvenir shopping all add up and experience has taught me that things often cost more than you think they will.
Carry Cash, Credit Cards & local currency
Depending on the destination, I like to carry both cash and credit cards. You will always get a better exchange rate for cash and carrying some local currency is always a good idea. US dollars and Euro are widely accepted overseas and I sometimes carry Australian dollars depending on my destination. I have a travel credit card that I use to draw money when I’m away and a spare credit or debit card for emergencies.
Use a hidden money belt
I carry cash in a money belt hidden underneath my clothes and I lock up my money and passport in a hotel safe. When I’m out sightseeing I’ll only take what I need for the day. I also have a waterproof pouch that I use to keep my valuables dry when I’m swimming and I can’t lock them up.
Put some extra cash aside for emergencies
Putting some extra cash aside for emergencies is also very important. I experienced credit card fraud on a trip to Spain and was unable to use my credit card. I can tell you that it is very stressful to hear that you can’t access your money in a language you don’t understand, especially if you are travelling alone. For this reason, it’s a good idea to carry some emergency cash so you won’t be caught out if something unforeseen happens.
Tell your bank where and when you’re travelling
If you tell your bank where and when you’re travelling you’re less likely to have problems accessing your account when you’re away. Banks can sometimes freeze your money if they see unusual activity on your account. The last thing you need when you’re overseas is to be limited by a lack of funds or to find you can’t access your money. And if you don’t speak the language this can be even more difficult.
Carry emergency contact numbers
Make sure you have emergency contact numbers for your bank with you. Put them on your phone and also in your travel diary. It’s also a good idea to carry contact information for your hotels, travel insurance and the embassy of your home country in case of an emergency.
Pack a Light Bag
When you’re a woman travelling alone, it’s important to be able to manage your bags easily. Women who aren’t used to travelling, often pack too much luggage and it weighs them down. It’s an added stress that you don’t need. When you travel alone for the first time you’ll be surprised how much you can do without when you’re away. So leave that extra pair of socks and spare shirt behind and get used to the idea of wearing the same shoes with everything. (For me that’s often hiking boots or ugly walking sandals)
I like to pack the bare minimum and I always wash my clothes when I’m away. If I leave some room in my bag I can go shopping. When I’m back at home it’s fun to be reminded of a market stall in Cambodia where I bought a treasured item or to be able to say “Oh this? I bought it in Argentina or Italy…
Take a book or a journal
Taking a book to read or a journal when you travel solo is a great idea. It will keep you busy when you’re alone and it’s a lovely way to end an evening immersed in a novel or reliving the great day you’ve just had writing in your diary.
I always carry a book to read when I’m travelling alone and I often swap it for a new one when I finish reading. Sometimes I download books and travel guides onto my phone if I don’t want to carry a hard copy. But of course, if you do this you have to read on a very small screen.
I also enjoy journalling and I document my travels in my diary and keep track of expenses. Reading and journalling keep me occupied when I’m waiting for a flight or sitting in a restaurant by myself. It’s also a great way to avoid talking to strangers when I feel like keeping to myself.
Staying connected is so important when you travel solo. You’ll feel better knowing you can call or email your friends and family and they’ll feel happier too, knowing that you’re safe and having a great time.
Buy a SIM card
While free Wi-Fi is available in many places, it’s often slow, unreliable and unsafe without a VPN. It’s a better idea to buy a new SIM card after you arrive at your destination and have your own internet access. This is usually a cheaper option than roaming with your internet supplier from home. International fees can be extremely expensive.
I stay connected via email, WhatsApp and Skype. They’re free and I can talk, message or email to stay in touch with friends and family.
Leave a copy of your itinerary at home
It’s a good idea to leave a copy of your itinerary, and your important documents with a family member or a trusted friend so that you can call for help from home if you need to. They’ll know where to find you to contact you while you are away and this will help to relieve their anxiety about you, especially if you’re travelling alone for the first time.
Register your travel plans
You can register your travel plans with Smart Traveller if you’re Australian and you’re travelling overseas (or the equivalent service offered by the government of your own country). You’ll get government safety updates sent to you by email and, in an emergency, they’ll know where you are.
Is a group tour right for you?
Solo travelling for women can be less stressful if you join an organised group tour and if you’re travelling alone for the first time this type of travel might appeal to you. In a tour group, you’ll have company as you travel and you may find other solo travellers like yourself.
All the details of the trip will have been planned for you by an expert and this makes travelling much easier. You won’t have to think about where you’re going but you won’t have control of the itinerary either and there may be compromises. Organised tours can be good and can be very difficult if you don’t get on with some of the people you are travelling with.
You might want to join a tour for part or all of your trip if:
- you’re worried about being lonely
- you feel unsafe travelling alone to a certain destination
- you don’t want to plan all the details yourself
- you feel that travelling alone for the first time is a bit too overwhelming
I once travelled alone from London to Kathmandu on a group tour. It was an overland trip that took three months. It was a wonderful experience in many ways but I discovered that I prefer to travel independently and it’s unlikely I’ll ever travel in a group like that again.
Planning carefully can help to alleviate the uncertainty and anxiety that you may feel especially if it’s your first time solo travelling. If you feel very nervous about your trip, put those nerves to work in a positive way. A well-researched trip is far more likely to be successful and there’ll be fewer hiccups along the way.
As a woman travelling alone, you may feel a few butterflies before you go but once your solo travel begins you’ll be “in the moment” enjoying lots of new places and experiences. You won’t have time to worry and it’s such a great feeling to be surrounded by fascinating places, and new sights and sounds. For most people, exhilaration quickly replaces anxiety when they travel alone for the first time.
I remember travelling alone in Cambodia. When I found myself riding in a tuk-tuk from the airport, excitement bubbled up inside me and it was pure joy to know that my adventure was just beginning. I knew I’d made the right decision to travel solo and that I would have a great time.
Don’t wait. Just Go!
So, when you’ve done your research, chosen your destination and planned your itinerary, it’s time for you to book your ticket and go. Don’t wait for someone to travel with you, you might wait forever. Other people have their own ideas, their own agenda and other priorities for their money. When you travel alone for the first time you’ll start doing the things you’ve always wanted to do and you’ll be on the way to leading your best, most fulfilling life.
For peace of mind make sure you buy travel insurance before you go, especially if you are travelling solo. I use Travel Insurance that covers me for overseas medical, lost baggage, and other expenses and I can concentrate on enjoying my trip without worrying about something going wrong.