We talk a lot about gear, and a lot about female travel safety, but we haven’t really covered the nitty gritty of advice for the first time solo female traveler… yet. There’s a lot of questions that can go through your head before heading off on your own.
I’ve created this list of tips from personal travel experience and from the experience of my female travel friends to help you be more prepared, and more confident, before your first solo adventure.
1. Pre-plan Your Arrivals
I love a good open-plan trip, but when I travel alone, the one thing I am sure to plan out as best possible is my arrival. Everything from getting off the plane to getting to the hostel or hotel is researched in as much detail as is available to me so I’m not just thrown into the wild (as it can sometimes feel in certain destinations).
Some things to consider:
- What’s the best way to get from the airport to the hostel?
- Which taxi company is safest/ most reliable?
- What is the average cost for transport from the airport?
- Where do I go when I arrive at the airport?
- What’s the procedure for arrival, visas, and immigration?
- Are there ATMs readily available on arrival, or money changers?
- What scams should I be aware of that take place in or near the airport (or train or bus station)?
There’s nothing worse than arriving in a destination where you don’t speak the language and being bombarded with countless guys spruiking random taxis in different directions, and you just feeling massively overwhelmed.
2. Learn a Few Key Phrases
Even if you have to write them down and point, at least trying to communicate in the local language can mean the world to the person on the receiving end. It’s also helpful to let people know that you don’t speak their language, or to ask if they speak English. The more you know, the less chance you have of getting ripped off with pricing, and to just get from A to B in a more efficient manner. There are plenty of language tools for travelers these days.
3. Split Money Up in Multiple Places
Don’t keep all your bank or credit cards, and especially cash, in the one place. It’s helpful to hide a backup credit card and some extra cash in the bottom of your backpack or other secret stash, just in case.
4. Call Your Bank and Credit Card Providers
Before you travel, it’s wise to let your bank and credit card providers know you’ll be traveling, for how long, and in which regions of the world. This is so they won’t suspect your card of being fraudulently used and then put a block on said card being used (when you probably need it the most). Yep, I’ve been there. Trying to Skype your card provider from your Mexican hostel over sketchy wi-fi is not a situation you want to be in.
>> We talk a bit about this tip in our Pre-Trip Countdown post.
5. Keep Your Wits
You are your own best security alarm. In other words, if something seems off, trust your instincts and swing in the opposite direction. If something would seem like a dumb idea at home, then don’t do it while traveling. And most importantly, alcohol only within reason.
6. Keep a Secret
People don’t have to know that you’re traveling solo, as long as you don’t let them. You can always be meeting a friend or waiting for your boyfriend or husband. If you’re ever being approached by a guy in a public place, like an event or a bar, say you’re waiting for friends. If the guy is persistent, find a group of friendly faces and insert yourself into the conversation until you feel comfortable. Hopefully that never happens, of course!
7. Provide Details to Family
A rough itinerary and contact details for accommodation should be left with family and/or friends back home.
8. Get a SIM Card Overseas
It’s not just a good idea so family can reach you if they need, but also so you can reach authorities if ever caught in a bind. Make sure you have an unlocked cell phone before leaving home. Once you arrive, SIM cards are often quite cheap and credit can include both mobile and data.
9. Stay in a Hostel
And don’t be shy when you’re there. Hostels are excellent places to meet other travelers and possibly find solo travelers to partake in sightseeing with. Many hostels will also put on social activities, like barbecues and city tours.
10. Luggage Always in Sight
Always. Never leave any bag behind, even when getting up at a cafe to grab your coffee. The nightmare stories of people going 3 months without any issue to let up their guard at the end of the road and have their camera (and all their memories) stolen are numerous. Don’t be one of them.
11. Pack Lightly
Do you want to be in control of you and your belongings when you travel? Packing lightly means you can focus more on what’s happening around you, instead of how much your back hurts while trudging up some stairs.
Don’t be the girl that has the giant backpack on her back, the big and heavy daypack on the front, all while trying to navigate through the sardine-packed Kiev metro system (and not being able to speak or read ANY Russian/Ukrainian!). Trust me, it’s not fun, and it’s not safe.
>> Learn to pack smaller, lighter and smarter.
12. Take a Breath
And enjoy the journey! You’re about to embark on a life-changing adventure. Not only will you grow culturally and spiritually, but you will gain an insane amount of confidence in the process. I was scared to death before my first solo trip, but I wouldn’t be who I am, or have what I do, today without taking that leap. Life. Changing.