4 Important Questions to Ask Before You Travel Alone as a Woman

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As someone who has been fortunate enough to be able to travel on and off for seven years, seven years of predominantly solo travel I should add, understandably one of the questions I get asked the most is about safety for solo female travelers.

Most of the time it’s the ladies asking these questions, and considering violence against women knows no borders, is completely understandable.

“I am thinking about traveling on my own but I am not sure how to go about it, and to be honest, I am a bit nervous.”

But for me, and I suspect for many solo female travelers, that’s a separate issue. I always consider myself a traveler first and foremost, oh, and I just happen to have two X chromosomes. I try not to let the term ‘solo female traveler’ define me, but I am also not going to ignore that it’s a necessary category nowadays. I’ve even written a manifesto about it.

To travel alone in a foreign country is a big step outside the comfort zone. You are in a new place, which is totally awesome but also daunting, and you have only yourself to depend on.

That being said, solo travel is a great way to see the world, and can give you experiences, be rewarding and teach you things that can be hard to encounter otherwise.

Hiking in New Zealand
Liz hiking in New Zealand

When I first started traveling on my own, it didn’t even occur to me to be concerned about not having someone else with me. Call me naive, but I just wanted to go to Paris and all my study abroad friends had other plans.

Pretty much everything that could go wrong, did go wrong that weekend, but I returned home filled with a whole lot of new lessons under my belt and an urge to try again.

The world is a forgiving place, and it’s much safer than people and media make it out to be.

I’ve almost never been in a situation overseas where I felt scared or threatened. Twenty minutes from my parents house in Washington D.C.? That’s another story.

Thinking back, sometimes I ask myself what are things I wish I had known before I started traveling. What could I have done differently?

Here are 4 key questions I ask myself before embarking on a solo trip:

1. Have I done my research?

I am a big advocate of researching where you are going, even just a little bit, so that you are as prepared as possible.

For me, spontaneity is one of my favorite parts of travel and I like to be surprised. This means I don’t plan out every moment of every day, instead leaving a rough outline of what I want to accomplish, see, do, and most importantly, eat while traveling.

But for solo female travelers, and all travelers really, it’s important to do a little research into the culture of where you are going.

  • Are they conservative?
  • Do women cover up?
  • Are there certain behavioral traits you can downplay to avoid problems or confrontation?

For example, in many countries smiling and looking men directly in the eyes can be seen as an invitation that can lead to trouble. Do you need to dress a certain way to visit places like a mosque or church?

I am not here to argue about the ethics behind this or women’s rights around the world, but for me safety is number one, and that means if adhering to a country’s unspoken rules will keep me safe, then I am doing it.

Doing a little Googling before you leave can save you a lot of hassles once you’re on the road. However, I think it’s also important to take everything you read or hear with a grain of salt.

I can’t even begin to count the number of times I say I am traveling to a certain place only to be cautioned against it or questioned by people who haven’t even been there.

Or it’s important to understand that incidents or problems that have happened in the past are not necessarily indicative of levels of safety for women.

Try to read unbiased reviews or talk to women who have firsthand experience of where you want to travel. Just because something happened there doesn’t mean you should avoid it at all costs.

Jordan
On my trip to Jordan

Read More: How to travel safely as a solo female traveler

2. Does where I am going match my level of experience?

I am a big fan of building solo travel experience over time.

Personally, I feel like I take away something new on every trip, and I love that. While shit can happen anywhere in the world at anytime, some places are more prone to it than others.

If you are new at travel or solo travel, I recommend starting somewhere “easy” and then working your way up from there.

How about New Zealand?
How about New Zealand?

Countries like Iceland, New Zealand and Canada are considered some of the safest places in the world, and they are a good place to start because you won’t have to be on edge a lot of the time, and you will likely encounter plenty of other solo female travelers on your journey.

While experience comes with time, maybe some of these places don’t rank high on your bucketlist and you want to jump in feet first into some crazy adventures.

Go for it, if that’s your dream, just be smart about it. Go back to step 1 and do your research, be prepared.

Iceland
Liz in Iceland

Read More:5 destinations for a first time solo female traveler

3. Am I prepared?

Whether you are traveling on your own or in a group, it’s important to be prepared for all manner of situations.

I don’t consider myself to be extreme in my preparations, but there are a few simple rules I follow on the road and key things I can’t travel without.

I am very open and friendly on the road because I really love meeting new people and having those kinds of travel experiences, but I am careful about revealing too much information, like where I am staying or even that I am alone or single, depending on the situation.

I always travel with a doorstop for hotel doors so that they can’t be opened or kicked in, a whistle, and I make sure that I have access to a phone or internet and have jotted down the details of where I am headed to next, eliminating the need to show up in a new place without any information.

Mongolia
Meeting the locals in Mongolia

4. Can I trust my own judgement?

One of the hardest things about traveling alone is something you can’t buy or research in advance – common sense, that’s one of the big reasons I vouch for building up your solo experience over a period of time.

While you can be prepared as possible, if you have no common sense or don’t behave in a smart way on the road, you won’t have another person to help you out and it can be asking for problems.

Personally, I think many travel mistakes and problems that happen come from not having any common sense about a situation, something that can be learned over time and with experience.

The second part is about trusting your instincts and not second guessing yourself.

Solo Travel Advice!

If you are uncomfortable or nervous, get yourself out of whatever situation you are in as fast as possible.

Don’t think twice. Don’t worry about being weird, rude or potentially upsetting/offending someone.

At the end of the day, your personal safety is number one, and your instincts can be a lifesaver!

41 thoughts on “4 Important Questions to Ask Before You Travel Alone as a Woman”

  1. I too travel solo and appreciate your advice, especially the idea of a doorstop for hotel rooms. I’m looking forward to following you. Karen

  2. good tips liz 🙂 cool to see you over here on ytravel! it’s funny because even though I traveled India alone I feel like I was older and had traveled alone other places so it was ok, but i get emails asking for advice from 18 year old girl who hasn’t been abroad and they see i backpacked india alone so they want to- and I say no! you should go somewhere safer first in case it’s too overwhelming. I start to feel like a protective mom with my readers! so i love that you listed NZ and Canada as some safer options!

  3. Great points to consider before you hit the road alone. Frankly, solo travel isn’t a big deal. You discover it only when you set out somewhere alone. I think everyone (man or woman) should try it once. And today, there are so many resources to get help and guidance. So many blogs have been written about solo travel. It’s hard to go wrong.

  4. Great tips! Although I now travel as a couple, I LOVED my solo trips. As someone who’s experienced both sides of the coin, I think it’s far easier to get beneath the skin of a place as a solo traveller – when you’re in a couple, people tend to leave you alone. So I think all women (and men, for that matter!) should definitely experience travelling alone at some point in time.

  5. Oh wow I thought now comes a post that will strenghten my doubts but for luck you only portraied that it has to be well considered to travel solo and to do good research, I am a fan of your blog since I found it and your posts always motivate me to work hard for my dream. ( sorry for my bad english, it is not my native language haha).

  6. Great advice! I definatley agree with choosing somewhere in your comfort zone and gradually building up your confidence and experiences. It’ll help you deal with any difficult situations which are likely to occur in other destinations where things may be a little more challenging.

    Lizzy at Nomad Notebook

  7. Fantastic tips! I might be setting off on my own for the first time next year, and it’s so inspiring and helpful to read other solo female traveler’s tales. It sounds so enlightening that I might just be disappointed if it doesn’t pan out! 🙂

  8. Having been a solo female traveller myself for the past two years, I understand the need to be prepared for travelling alone and making sure you’ve done your research. I think a big tip too is making sure you don’t listen too much to other peoples opinions who haven’t already had the experience of travelling solo, as these can put doubt in your mind and stop you from fulfilling that dream. Advice is good and should be taken when needed but don’t dwell too much on the negative comments surrounding the solo travelling and just head out and have fun!

    1. Agree completely, I wish people were more positive about women wishing to travel alone, but hopefully that will change for the better!

  9. Definitely great tips for anyone travelling alone.

    The advice about not broadcasting the fact that you’re travelling solo is good. However, literally every taxi driver I’ve ever met while travelling solo has asked me if I’m travelling alone, and openly doesn’t believe that I’m meeting someone later! There should be some kind of memo about how intimidating that can be!

  10. Hi Liz,

    Brilliant, brilliant breakdown.

    I wouldn’t walk outside past 9 PM, 5 minutes from my home in NJ. Hell, even the way my neighborhood has changed over the years I wouldn’t wander about.

    That’s why I left it for good.

    Yet my fiancee Kelli and I walked home at 12:15 AM here in Savusavu, Fiji the other night. If women are sensible and trust their gut they can travel most places on earth, solo, because most people on earth are kind, not predators, and maniacs.

    That being said, getting drunk and giving away too much information is an invite to bad situations.

    Be smart. I recall reading a while back about a traveling woman – solo style – who went running in a shady community after dark. Bad, bad idea. Most solo travelers know this town has a rep for after dark issues, so I guarantee her overconfident vibe and obsession with fitness overrode her good judgment.

    She was almost attacked, and in truth, it was just a general ignoring of intuitive nudges.

    Solo women or men know, inside, when to avoid certain situations. It’s our intuition speaking, and if you honor it, and are super open to travel, you’ll find out that so many people on earth are awesome, kind, friendly, and only want to help you.

    Such a smart post.

    This should be a primer for any solo traveler, women or men.

    Thanks Liz!

    Tweeting soon.

    Ryan

  11. Great post and a great idea for a new column.

    I agree that working up to the idea is a good way to start. My first trip completely by myself was to Stockholm. I had already moved to London and done trips around Europe with friends (and even backpacked around India & Nepal with a male friend) but I had never travelled completely alone. In Stockholm I stayed in a hostel so I could meet other travellers, and a city like this I was never worried or concerned. Now I am very used to exploring places on my own and if it happens that I end up going somewhere by myself, it doesn’t bother me.

  12. Traveling alone is an enlightening experience. Your attention is focused completely on the experience and not necessarily on your travel companion’s needs or interactions. It also eventually allows you to sort of melt into the environment. I don’t know about you, but I feel like I am part of the scenery after a few days of being in a new city. It is an altogether different and rewarding experience. I do have a question for you. Aside from having street smarts, do you take any other security precautions, like self defense classes, etc?

  13. Some great tips – thorough research and preparation cannot be underestimated with any travel, especially solo travel. Another couple of tips for when you get to where you’re going is to increase your social media updates. Let people on Facebook and Twitter know where you’re heading to. Also, try not to keep all of your cash all in one place. Keep small bunches of cash separate so that you don’t lose everything if anything does go wrong.

  14. When traveling, solo or not, it’s important to trust your instincts and try to stay out of situations that don’t feel right. I used to travel a lot by myself and once found myself in a situation in Montenegro that scared the snot out of me, but only because I wasn’t acclimated to the way things are done there. That why I firmly stand behind doing the research. Knowledge is power.

  15. I don’t think that is a big difference if you are a male solo traveller or a woman. Bad things may happen to everybody. The only one advise – is prepare your trip at home in details – it will be much easier in another country. If you have a large luggage for example, it will be hard to look for a hotel with a big backpack or suitcase alone. Choose safe hotels in safe locations and watch yourself.
    I’ve travelled to Chile, Peru, Galapagoses, Bolivia, Thailand, Philippines, Myanmar and only one time it was a problem (in Chile). The rest time was excellent.

  16. Absolutely spot on! Terrific post Liz, thank you. I’ve been a solo female traveller myself for 20 years and I’ve often been asked for advice too. It’s reassuring to read your comments as they are are precisley what I’ve always given. So its good to hear it from a keen traveller too. I emphasise to all that people will more often mean you well than not. It seems all the more important these days due to the fear mongering due to politics & religion. If I had let doomsday talk stop me, I would never have collected the treasure trove of people & memories I have from across the globe several times over. I am still humbled by the kindness, concern and hospitality by people all over the world.

    But obeying your instincts I really promote, particularly for younger women. I extend it further that if you are travelling with others, agree up front with your friend/s, that if anyone has a bad feeling & wants to exit, don’t challenge or mock them, respect it & act on it immediately. Treat this agreement with absolute sincerity – its not for game playing. Women can feel embarrassed to stand by their instinct with others, DON’T. Feel assured. Whether you’re ultimately right or wrong, who cares. I’m alive to tell more than one tale, including having saved a friend by following my instinct. The more I’ve travelled & the more ‘senior’ I’ve become, I happily have not one shred of concern whether others might think I was being ‘dramatic’.

    All in all, BE YOUR OWN BEST FRIEND. Don’t do that you wouldn’t let your best friend do. Love the world, it is yours.

  17. Agree completely, I wish people were more positive about women wishing to travel alone, but hopefully that will change for the better!

  18. I’m a baby-boomer woman who often travels alone, but last week in Istanbul I put myself into a risky situation that I should have avoided. A very nice young man began a conversation with me on the street early one morning just outside Hagia Sofia. He said he had been a professional guide for 15 years and he spent an hour or more showing me around the city. I had just arrived the previous day and didn’t yet know that in Istanbul visitors are constantly approached by people selling carpets and other local products. I let this man lead me into a situation that could have been dangerous, although it was not. Once I extracted myself, I was much more careful. Important lesson learned!

  19. I work with many solo female travelers and always suggest that they provide someone at home a rough outline of their itinerary. One time I had a parent of a college student call me, frantically worried that her daughter was missing. Turns out she was in the Amazon and had no wif! So ladies, please keep your loved ones at home in mind, and informed!!

  20. Good tip about the doorstop . I’m heading off on my first real solo travel next year.

    I just wondered how you “fund” your travels for 7 years???

  21. Thanks for the great tips. I do travel alone ,I am careful but I could definetely use a couple of them ( like the doorstop or the whistle).

  22. Caitlin Burridge

    Great advice but need advice way beyond this!
    I’ve just recently been thinking about travelling but I’m not sure how to go about it, where to look for advice on really getting to grips with the new stuff.
    Can anyone help?

  23. Hey people!I am from Greece and I want to start traveling the next year.but i do not know how much money I must save for example.OK hostels are cheap.but the transportation???do I have to carry lots of money in order to be on the road for 2 years?as a spa therapist can I work while traveling?I would like u to inform me cause you have the experience!!!
    Thank you!!!!

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