If you follow me on Instagram or subscribe to my blog, you know that I LOVE solo-travel. There’s no better thrill than arriving in a new city, completely on your own, with no compromises to make and nothing stopping you from seeing, doing and eating everything YOU want. However, I’m not naive enough to think that there aren’t dangers associated with traveling solo (for all genders, not just women). If you love solo travel as much as I do, make sure to save this guide to keeping yourself and your belongings safe as a solo, female traveler on the road.
*This guide has great tips for solo-travelers as well as adventurers who like to travel in groups! There’s no such thing as traveling “too safely” and all these suggestions can also come in handy for non-solo travelers.
Choose your destination carefully
The sad truth is, some places are safer than others for solo female travelers. I’m the first one to admit that the U.S. Travel Advisory is not always the best indication of safety in a given country, but it is a good place to start. If I’m thinking about planning a trip to an unfamiliar part of the world, I always check and see what the current rating is (ratings are given on a scale of 1-4, 1 being the safest and 4 being do-not-travel).
Safety ratings are constantly changing in every country because the current climate (political and otherwise) is constantly changing. Make sure to do adequate research about the tourism situation in any country before booking your solo-trip.
Choose your accommodation strategically
Before booking a hotel or an Airbnb in a new destination, I ALWAYS check where it is on the map. Accommodations outside the city center can be more affordable and a great option if you’re traveling with a group. However, when it comes to solo-travel, I find it safer to stay in the city center where it’s usually well-lit and there’s lots of people around. Most hotel booking sites will offer a map-view when browsing local hotels (the same with Airbnb). I would suggest utilizing this view as well as doing research of the neighborhoods in each destination. (I LOVE Pinterest for research like this).
Additionally, always check accommodation reviews! Make sure that the hotel (or Airbnb) offers an in-suite safe or locker feature and has a high safety rating.
Schedule your arrival during daylight hours
There’s nothing sketchier than having just arrived in a new city…ALONE…and having to find your way to an unfamiliar hotel in the dark. If possible, it’s best to book a flight that will allow you to arrive during daylight hours with plenty of time to navigate to your accommodation before dark.
If flight prices/schedules don’t allow for this, plan to take a taxi/uber or schedule a private transfer. My general rule of thumb is never to take public transportation alone after 9:00PM. The extra cash is definitely worth the added safety.
Set up Emergency SOS on your iPhone
Under iPhone settings, there’s a menu to to set up a feature called Emergency SOS. If you check on the “call with side button” feature, you are able to call emergency services immediately by rapidly pressing the on/off button or the volume button 5 times in a row. This could be helpful in many situations where you need assistance but aren’t able to call emergency services discreetly.
Buy a local Sim card
Most airports will have tons of SIM card provider booths both near luggage claim and the airport exits. From personal experience, this is the easiest way to find and purchase cellular data in a new destination! They’ll replace the SIM card for you then and there (make sure they tape your old SIM to a piece of paper or the punch-out card. You really don’t want to lose that).*
You’ll be given a new phone number with a local area code so make sure to text your friends and family your new number right away so they’ll be able to reach you.
*This is the perfect place to ask about the local emergency numbers! Save them in your phone just in case.
Always keep an eye on your drink
NEVER set it down. If someone you don’t know buys you a drink, go with them to the bar. Basically the rule of thumb is…NEVER LET YOUR DRINK OUT OF YOUR SIGHT.
If you’re living the hostel scene, it can be easy to get caught up in making friends and let your guard down. I’m not telling you not to make new friends and have fun, but keep in mind you’ve only known these people for a couple hours (maybe days) and you can’t count on them to keep you safe.
Since Uber went international, Europe has been less than welcome towards the app. Its arrival in 2011 prompted continent-wide taxi strikes and protests. Uber is not available in all European cities, but even in the places it is locals will often choose taxis instead.
My best advice when using Uber in other countries is to do research ahead of time and make sure it’s regulated. Most often, it’s perfectly safe, but I have noticed that it appears less regulated (and therefore more risky) in certain cities, namely Munich. (I’ve used Uber many times in Germany and a few times I noticed the app didn’t even give me the license plate information).
When in doubt, just find a taxi stand or have the front desk call one for you.
Be aware of your surroundings
This is good advice for everyday life, not just while solo-traveling. When getting to know a new city, don’t walk around late at night in unpopulated areas and keep your headphones off. Even if you’re wearing headphones with the sound off, it increases your chances of becoming a target for pickpocketing or mugging, since the perpetrator will assume you’re easy to sneak up on.
This also means being aware of where you are. This is easiest with a local SIM card and a fully charged phone battery. I cannot suggest portable chargers enough. My iPhone 11 pro has a charger that could last all day, but my iPhone 7 required two fully charged portables at all times. Charged phone = safer traveler.
You can find a link to my favorite portable charger here.
Keep friends & family informed
Make sure your friends and family at home have the address of your accommodation and your local phone number. If you plan to go out alone at night, plan to text your friends/family the name of the venues you’ll be going to as well as setting up a time to call a friend when you return. Some might think this is overkill, but it never hurts to have someone looking out for you, even if it’s from a continent away!
Additionally, make sure “Find my iPhone” and location services are enabled on your phone at all times!
Keep valuables locked up in the hotel safe
The safe is there for a reason, so use it. Most hostels will also have some form of a safe or locker to lock up your more expensive belongings. A lot of people don’t bother using the safe if they’re staying somewhere they feel is secure. My advice? It’s better to be too cautious than be kicking yourself because you weren’t cautious enough and all your cash and your passport is gone.
Quick side note: I always suggest bringing two credit cards while traveling. One to carry around with you for everyday purchases and one to keep in the hotel safe. If the worst thing happens and you lose your credit card or it gets stolen, it’s important to have a backup locked safely away.
Dress appropriately for the country you’re visiting
Don’t get me wrong, the way you’re dressed gives ABSOLUTELY NO ONE any right to harass you. However, if you’re traveling in certain countries where the cultural norms call for women to dress very conservatively, it’s not a bad idea to dress accordingly. This will bring you less attention from locals (usually men) and allow you to blend in easier.
Blending in and not standing out as an obvious tourist will also make it less likely that you’ll be taken advantage of financially. Locals in a lot of countries just LOVE taking advantage of clueless tourists and up-charging for the most ridiculous things.
Trust your instincts
I’m a huge believer in trusting your gut feelings. If a situation feels off, chances are it probably is. It’s always better to trust your instincts and prevent being in a bad situation, even if that means offending someone or feeling like you’re being overly-cautious.
A side note on this point, it’s best to air on the side of caution and don’t disclose where you’re staying to strangers you meet while traveling.
Confident travelers are less likely to be taken advantage of. If you appear to know where you are and what you’re doing, others will assume you do as well and you’re less likely to be a target.
It also doesn’t hurt to try and fool people into thinking you’re a local. If they believe you’re from the area, you’re less likely to be harassed into buying souvenirs on the street or get swindled on taxi fares.
Some of the best memories I have traveling are from destinations I visited solo, but there are certain steps I always take to make sure I’m solo-traveling as safely as possible. Don’t ever let fear keep you from traveling and exploring beautiful places solo, just be smart enough to keep yourself safe everywhere you go.
And don’t forget to follow the adventure on Instagram @madisonsfootsteps!
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