Staying Safe – Solo Female Travel Advice

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‘Be careful’, ‘Oh don’t go to Thailand, you’ll be put in jail’, and ‘Are you sure it’s safe to go to Asia alone?”

These were the responses that I heard when I announced that I was going to travel Asia, alone, as a solo female traveler.

Because of the media, and the mystery of the unknown, people have very strong views on what Asia is like, most of them negative and pertaining to safety.

When people think of Asia they think of drug trafficking and long spells in the ‘Bangkok Hilton’. People think that Asia is unsafe to travel, let alone travel as a woman… alone!

It’s true that being a solo female traveler is more challenging than travelling with a group or as a man. You may face unwanted male attention and are sometimes seen as an easy target for touts in the street. Some countries in Asia have different attitudes towards women.

However, the hard experiences will make you stronger as a person and reward you with many unique travel experiences and insights (and lots of funny travel stories too).

Angkor Wat Cambodia

Don’t let anyone’s opinions put you off travelling in Asia. I have actually felt safer in South East Asia than I do in many places in England and Europe. In many places, crime is low or non existent and it’s safe to walk around after dark

Despite how safe travel is in South East Asia, it’s always wise to take simple precautions to avoid getting into trouble.

Here are my tips for staying safe on the road as a female solo traveller, picked up from over six-months of full-time solo travel around Asia.

Solo female travel tips

Walk with confidence

Solo female travel South east Asia

When you are travelling long term, you’ll arrive in new places all of the time. For the first day or two in a new destination, you are particularly vulnerable to being seen as an easy target.

To avoid this, walk with an air of confidence in new places, even when you just arrive with your backpack on your back.

Stand up straight and if people hassle you pretend that you have somewhere to go. If you are seriously in trouble, walk up to another foreigner and pretend to be friends. 99% of the time they will understand and help you.

Relax when you arrive in a new place

When you arrive in a new place, you are vulnerable and most likely stressed due to the swarms of tuk tuk drivers and people trying to escort you to their hotels.

Take a minute to adjust to the new place. Look around and acclimatise, maybe even buy a coffee and have time to adjust.

After a rest, you’ll be more alert and relaxed and be less vulnerable.

Learn the language

Solo female travel South east Asia

Many people have respect for you, when you make an effort to speak their language. They may also think that you have a local husband so might go out of their way to be friendly and helpful. Try to learn by downloading podcasts to listen to on long bus rides or by making friends with locals who speak English.

It doesn’t matter how much of the language you know, many people will be so proud and happy to hear you utter ‘Thank you‘ in their mother tongue.

Let people know where you are at all times

The more people who recognise you and know where you are going in your hostel, the more likely they are to worry about you if they don’t see you for a while. I always make friends in the dorm and tell them what I will be doing on that day, hopefully they would spread the alarm if something happens to you and you’re not back at night.

I always try to update my Facebook as much as possible and let people at home know where I am and if I will be in an area with no internet for a while.

Don’t be alone

This seems like a hard task for a solo traveller, but most incidences of assault happen when the victim is alone. Try to be around people on transport and when sight-seeing in the day.

Try not to walk in a secluded area at night. Women in foreign countries will usually be helpful in times of need if local men are harassing you.

Wear a smile on your face

Solo female travel South east Asia

Many people in Asia react very strongly to people who become aggressive. It’s hard to stay calm, when you have people surrounding you to sell you things.

Have a smile on your face, so people react more kindly to you and just say ‘no’ with a smile on your face and a shake of your head.

Arrive in new places in the daytime

I always try and avoid arriving in new places at night alone. It makes you more of a target and transport options may be limited.

If it’s impossible to arrive in the day, get a reputable taxi to your accommodation or try to travel with other travellers you meet on the way.

Carry a personal safety alarm

You’ll hopefully never need to use it, but carrying a safety alarm, such as a safety whistle, gives you an extra air of confidence and can make you feel safer when travelling solo.

Stay in safe accommodation

Stay in places that have high ratings on sites, such as Hostelbookers, and those that have a reputation for being safe. If the room does not seem secure, don’t stay there.

Accommodation is plentiful and cheap in South East Asia so you are bound to find somewhere secure easily.

Trust your gut instinct

Sunset Ko Krong

This is the best tip that I could ever give you. Trust your intuition and gut feelings at all times. If you meet a friendly person on the bus who wants to share a room, but something just doesn’t feel right, don’t share a room.

If you need to get out of a situation just lie and make up an excuse. The good thing about being a traveller is that you are anonymous, no one knows who you are and you should use that to your full advantage to lie if you need to get out of a bad situation.

Obvious safety tips

Here are some tips that you may have heard many times before. It’s always good to have a recap once in a while though:

  • Don’t flash your valuables about
  • Try not to walk alone late at night
  • Don’t accept drinks from strangers in bars
  • Lock your valuables in lockers when you can
  • Wear your bag over your body to avoid bag snatchers
  • Wear clothes that are appropriate to the country you are visiting

Do not let this article put you off travelling solo.

It’s one of the greatest things that I have ever done in my life and has changed my personality for the better. After you have travelled solo you can do anything. Keep alert and stay safe to ensure that your trip is memorable for the right reasons!

[ybox_title]AUTHOR BIO:[/ybox_title] is a solo female travel blog that will tell you the realities of travelling solo through Asia and Oceania. At 26 Stephanie embarked on the trip of a lifetime after securing a sabbatical from her high stress job. She has one goal: to discover her passion in life. Six months and Eight countries later Stephanie has a wealth of travel stories and advice that will help and inspire new or experienced backpackers. Follow Stephanie on her adventures as she learns about herself and the world around her. 

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64 thoughts on “Staying Safe – Solo Female Travel Advice”

  1. Great post, Stephanie! I haven’t been to Southeast Asia, so don’t have any specific tips but have practiced most of the above when traveling on my own and agree that they are universal. Especially the “walking like I am going somewhere”, even if I’m bewildered.

    Love your bravery and caution, mixed together in the form of good advice!


    1. Thanks so much Emily! The world isn’t a scary place at all, I actually feel safer in lots of Asian countries than back in England!
      Confidence is the key with keeping safe. People want an easy target so act brave even if you don’t feel it!
      Good luck with your future travels!

  2. As for Asia I can only speak for Japan.
    I’m female and I travel all around Japan alone all the time.
    Japan is one of the safest countries and there’s nothing to worry about when you travel alone.
    I even feel safe when I walk through dark streets from the train station to my hotel.

    You can even leave your bag unattended and nobody would touch it or steal anything, but of course you still should take your bag with you.

    The only thing that can become really dangerous is an earthquake.
    If you plan to stay in Japan, you should get familiar with the correct behavior during an earthquake and what to do if there’s a tsunami alert etc.

    A lot of tourists cancelled their trips to Japan after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster. Most people don’t even know that only a small region was affected.
    I’ve lived in Japan for 6 years now and I only experienced one very light earthquake thus far.

    1. Thanks for the tips on Japan! I’ve never been to Japan but it looks like a beautiful country. I will visit one day.

      My second solo trip was to Munich, it’s very safe there! I also felt very safe in Singapore.

  3. I think giving an air of confidence is vitally important.

    A good while ago I went to Egypt with my then boyfriend and two female friends. None of them had ever been outside of Europe or North America and they were a bit overwhelmed. After we’d been in the country for a week we were back at our hostel after exploring Cairo’s huge night bazaar.

    I was totally gob-smacked to hear the two girls were having a totally different experience to me. Shopkeepers asking for ‘little kiss kiss’ and all that sort of thing. I hadn’t had anything like that happen to me so I was baffled as to why they were getting so much harassment.

    One of my friends summed it up: you are so confident, we are kind of scared. I think that’s the reason I wasn’t being harassed and why I generally don’t get that sort of grief anywhere. I’d been harassed and assaulted so much in my travels in India a few years before that it had in some way ‘toughened me up’.

    So I would say to lone female travellers, act confident and force yourself to be assertive, even if it’s a bit hard sometimes.

    1. Amazing tips Noor!
      I think that my experiences in Vietnam and Laos and the fact that I battled through Dengue fever have toughened me up too!

      Unfortunately in many countries they are not used to strong women. They are perplexed as to why women would want to travel solo too.

      Understanding the culture of a country can help you while you are there. Researching destinations so you know what scams and treatment to expect can help too.
      Preparation is key for a solo traveller.

  4. Nice tips! I am already a solo female traveler and I am enjoying it! I don’t think there should be a fuss about traveling alone. Just be cautious and confident. If there are bad people, there are good people too!

  5. Love this post! I recently traveled to Malacca, Malaysia alone. I got some unwanted male attention, and I think some people stared because they knew I was foreign (not sure what gave me away, I am Asian and am not the type to flash expensive camera, etc…), but my trip did pass without incident. Malacca is also known for being quite safe…and a World Heritage site! I did make the stupid mistake of trying to walk into a mosque with no head scarf, in a tight shirt and yoga pants…someone politely told me to go cover up (clothing provided). A woman who was cleaning the restroom even came and helped me put it on.

    1. I loved Malacca! I walked in to a mosque wearing shorts and vest, completely by accident! The lady there just smiled and told me that it was a mosque. There’s so many in Malacca and not all look like typical mosques.
      I have heard that my Asian friends get a lot of looks when travelling. Like you said maybe its because they can’t place you or because its rare for Asian women to travel solo in their culture.
      I usually try to cover up more when in Islamic or conservative countries. As a solo traveller I do all I can to avoid unwanted attention.
      I can’t wait to visit Malaysia again soon!

    1. Thanks Raymond. Where I’m from people don’t tend to travel long term so I got a lot of scare stories from friends, colleagues ect before I set off on my travels.
      I believe that people should make their own opinions on places. I felt so safe in Dubai yet many people were advising me to avoid going because of what they have heard in the media!

  6. Excellent article. It’s funny, I find that no matter where in the world I say I want to go, I always hear the “It’s too dangerous!” line. It’s easier to trust your gut instinct than to let that kind of thing get to you.

    1. You hit the nail on the head Claire!
      Isn’t it funny that the people who say that the world is ‘dangerous’ have usually never travelled in their life?!
      People put too much trust in the very biased media.

    1. You will love it! I’m actually scared to leave Asia! It’s not a scary place at all. Thailand is very western and developed especially.
      Have fun and let me know how you like it!

  7. Thank you for giving us these tips. Your post is very useful specially to female solo traveler. I have a friend who is planning to travel alone. I will let her read this post so that she will have an idea on the do’s and don’ts while travelling alone. I am glad that I keep on reading this blog every now and then. There’s a lot of updated post in this blog that is very useful.

    1. Thank you so much. I hope that your friend appreciates the tips!
      Y travel blog is an amazing community for travellers. It has tips for every kind of traveller. I love how honest and real every post is too.

  8. Witness the kaleidoscope of India through the Golden Triangles Tours that is designed to take you through Agra – Jaipur and various other destinations.This is the best tip that I could ever give you. Trust your intuition and gut feelings at all times. If you meet a friendly person on the bus who wants to share a room, but something just doesn’t feel right, don’t share a room.

    If you need to get out of a situation just lie and make up an excuse. The good thing about being a traveller is that you are anonymous, no one knows who you are and you should use that to your full advantage to lie if you need to get out of a bad situation.

    it’s an awesome post……

    1. Thank you so much! I find that you should always trust your instinct. It’s rarely wrong.
      I would also love to go to India someday. It sounds like such a unique place!

    1. Very true. I feel so safe in South East Asia. Unfortunately some people think its unsafe because of the media. They tend to focus on one little thing that happens in a country then deem it unsafe to travel there.
      South East Asia is the perfect destination for a solo traveller.

  9. These are all excellent, common-sense tips Stephanie. Thanks for the post. I’ve travelled solo quite extensively and follow this advice myself. I learnt the first one about walking confidently at a self-defence course for women and it’s a great tip for anyone, anywhere. I hope every women who is travelling alone will take your advice.
    Happy and safe travels.

    1. Thanks Jane!
      I really wanted to do a self defense course before I went travelling, unfortunately the guy I booked it with cancelled at the last minute.
      Luckily I’m quite street smart and completed a basic course at work but I would recommend any solo female traveller to attend a self defense course to increase their confidence.
      Happy travels Jane! Feel free to check out my blog where I have plenty more advice articles.

  10. Oceana | Barefoot Beach Blonde

    Great tips, it’s good to see someone educating people on how cool it is to actual be a solo female traveller. That was always my travel style, and I’ve only just shifted into travelling with my boyfriend. I definitely miss all going it solo sometimes though!

    1. Thanks Oceana! The world (especially Asia!) is not as scary as people think. Travelling solo is such a special experience that everyone should experience at some point in their lives!

  11. Nice post, Stephanie. I just read a similar post elsewhere and one thing that struck me that is not adequately highlighted in your post is the “dress” aspect. Although you mentioned about it in one of the bullet points, I couldn’t stress how important it is to dress like a local.

    Once someone imbibes into the culture (by dressing like the local), most of the safety is taken care of. And of course, following the tradition is more important in countries like India (from where I come from), so you don’t attract undue attention.

    Great article and thanks for sharing..

    1. I find that dressing like a local is very important Prasad, especially in the less touristy areas. Another tip is to cover up if the locals do, they will certainly respect a traveller more!

  12. Very good advice. I agree that how you dress makes a difference, but don’t agree about dressing like the locals. It often looks a little silly to them. It is a good idea, though, to dress neatly and conservatively. I took a local’s advice years ago and traded in tee shirts for shirts with buttons. You just get a little extra degree of respect that really helps when you need it.

    I have lived in Sihanoukville for the past 7 years. It has a reputation for being unsafe, but I have never had a problem simply because I don’t do dumb things like riding home on a motorbike alone blind drunk at 2am. I get a lot of flack for my point of view from certain circles in the expat community here, but interestingly, the expat women aren’t as paranoid as the men. I think it’s because they aren’t as inclined to do dumb things as the men are. One young woman I asked said she felt safer here than in New York.

    1. Yeah, if the locals wear clothes that are very different to ‘Western dress’ they may think that you look like a crazy falang!
      I just tried to cover up if the locals do, like in Dubai and rural South East Asia. Like you said it just commands a little more respect.
      I too travelled to Sihanoukville and felt safe. I did get asked if I wanted a tuk tuk or pedicure about 40 times a day, which can be unsettling for an unexperienced traveller but I always felt safe.

  13. Great Post Stephanie!!!! I love to travel but i’m having a hard time looking for a travel buddy, that’s always available when you want to drag them along with you. I often get jealous with my friends who can travel alone. I scared a lot that’s why i can’t travel solo. I’m glad i stumble upon with this article and I would say it’s really a big help. i’m planning to travel solo by next year. As a first time solo traveler I’m planning to go back to the place i visited before so that at least i’m already familiar with the place and the people. This would be my stepping stone as a first time solo traveler. So, hopefully I can make it!!!

    1. Thanks Gnet! You are lucky that your friends like travel too, most of mine rarely travel outside of the UK! I had no choice but to travel solo, it was either travel solo or not at all. You have so much more freedom as a solo traveller, it’s very liberating!
      Enjoy your travels!

  14. reservationresources

    It’s not just women who have to be careful when traveling but men too, in other words safety has to be taken seriously by all travelers especially single ones. One thing that’s great about staying with locals in their homes and apartments is that they can help you stay out of troublesome places and areas and give you tips on what not to do or say that might get a traveler not used to area in trouble. You’ll find lots of great cheap rooms and apartments for short term stays at our website.

  15. Liss at CNEHolidays Singapore

    First and foremost, I’m grateful that you put those (most times, unrealistic) travel warnings against Southeast Asian countries aside to discover the actual beauty of the place. And thank you too for the tips! I’ll be applying it too for my future tours to Europe!

    1. Yes, these tips can be applied anywhere, not just South East Asia!
      I hate the way the media blows things out of proportion. The truth is I felt safer in South East Asia than back home in England!

  16. I guess I´d be ok going alone to locations like Japan or Singapore, but as for India for example..I can´t imagine traveling there solo these days with all the news about sexual assaults against women.

    1. India is one of those countries that is daunting for many, myself included. I think the news of those stories is probably not as common as they make out, yet still something of a concern. I think it’s about knowing your own comfort zones and travelling based on that (to begin with at least) There’s no point going to a place if you are going to miserable.

  17. Good advice, don’t forget try to make a TRUE local friend or meetup with a mutual friend who lives in the country. They know the truly risky areas and the safe places to visit.

    1. Travelling solo is challenging but not scary. I was amazed at how I managed to travel overland across South East Asia on my own. We can do anything if we really want to 🙂

  18. Great read, slightly putting my mind at ease, as I am about to leave the UK next week on my own to travel around Southeast Asia, I have never done any travelling before, let alone on my own and I’m starting to think ‘what the hell am I doing” haha. Im trying to drown out the thoughts of doubt with positive thoughts, and your blog has helped. Thanks 🙂

    1. No worries. You’ll have an amazing time and soon you’ll be wondering what you were worried about! My sister was the same about South America, but she is over there having the BEST time and so happy that she decided to go despite her fears.

  19. Thank you so much for this. I am going to Thailand alone in the first two weeks of April and I feel slightly nervous about and I feel like I am getting endless “I’m worried about you going alone” responses from my loved ones. This really helped put my mind at ease, so thank you so much for taking the time to share all of this!! <3

  20. Hey! Thanks for posting this article, it really helped! I’m living in China right now teaching English, but I’m seriously considering not going home and just traveling through Thailand, Laos, Etc.. How much money did you bring on your journey? Did you work while you were traveling? I would really appreciate any more advice you have! I would be traveling alone, and I’m 21, if that means anything hah. Thanks again for the inspiration!

  21. WoW! I really admire how brave you are traveling alone. Asia is definitely a best place to have a vacation. =D

  22. I’m a 14 year old living in Singapore and I dare say that Singapore really is very safe. Last year, I went to the Formula 1 Grand Prix with my friend (who is of the same age). At 1.30am, we took the train home and even though it was very quiet, we both felt very safe. However, even though Singapore is very safe, it’s advisable not to hang around Clarke Quay or areas that have a lot of pubs. I guess my tip will be just to walk away quickly and quietly when you see pubs in the area or if there are a group of guys gathering.

  23. oh yea and also in Singapore, its best to look like a local or someone who has stayed there for a long time. Wearing flip-flops will help you blend in. Sneakers are good too. 🙂 Don’t buy the souvenirs there. The souvenir are actually quite a waste of money. In short, just follow what the locals do and you’ll be safe!

  24. I visited China and Tibet a few years ago on a guided tour with my aunt and fell in love with Asia. I want to backpack SEA, but don’t have anyone to go with. I’m afraid of how to get around alone, finding hostels, bus routes, etc. without speaking the languages. How did you start your journey? Did you just book a hostel and then go from there?!

  25. You have some really great tips here Stephanie, thanks for posting them.
    I’ll be travelling to se asia in a few months and most people tell me I’m crazy and that I shouldn’t go by myself… I guess they do that because it’s something really unusual in the country I’m from (Portugal).
    Hope you keep travelling a lot

    1. No, you are not crazy Catarina, just following your passions! Many people can’t understand why women would want to travel alone. I think the world is too beautiful (and safer than you think!) not to explore because of peoples outdated opinions 🙂

  26. I love this, I am thinking of travelling solo to South East Asia at the end of the year and there are so many negative connotations attached when I tell people I am thinking of doing so! Thanks for these helpful tips 🙂

  27. Great advice thanks so much, I am reading it as about to depart on first trip to Asia and — as a blond, taller, single girl — was starting to feel nervous about how I would be perceived there. Your advice is re assuring and I an so much looking forward to mixing with the local cultures (India and South East Asia). Without making the big mistakes or having personal safety issues. Any other advice from locals or ex pats feel free to email me

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