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Hello! I guess you’re here because you’re contemplating your first solo trip but you have concerns about the safety of solo female travel.
I think there are two parts to the question. If you’re wondering, Is it safe to travel alone as a woman? then the answer is YES! I do it all the time. I’m travelling solo in Mexico as I write this.
But Is it safe to travel alone as a woman ANYWHERE at any time while doing anything and giving no thought to your safety? Well, no. But that’s not a reason to stay home forever: you just need to be smart and do your planning and research. Luckily, you’re reading the right solo female travel blog for realistic, practical advice.
Keep reading for all my solo female travel safety tips!
Read next: convincing benefits of solo travel
The truth about safety for solo female travellers
The truth is that things are nuanced and life is a lot about luck. Can I guarantee you that nothing bad will ever happen to you while travelling solo? Well, no. Can I guarantee nothing bad will ever happen while staying home? Also, no.
If this were one of those arrow quizzes in a magazine, here’s where it would point to ‘just go travelling!’.
Other people’s perceptions
I was lucky because backpacking and taking round-the-world trips is pretty common in the UK so I didn’t have to deal with much negativity. The first time I travelled without my family or friends was when I was 19 to Ecuador but I went with a tour company rather than solo which suited me better at that age.
Granted, travelling solo is slightly less common but that’s starting to change. Having built myself up by travelling in groups and with friends, when I departed on my first solo trip at 25 no one really batted an eye.
However, that may not be the case for you. If people at home are worried about the safety aspect of you travelling solo, I imagine it can be difficult, and also make YOU worry about your safety travelling alone as a woman! One thing to know is that when you ARE travelling, you’re going to meet SO many other solo female travellers doing the same thing as you! It’s common AND safe… But you have to bite the bullet and go find that out!
So, try not to focus too much on what people around you think about your travels especially if they’re people who don’t travel or who have very different aspirations to you. You’re going to find your echo chamber when you get out there.
Thinking about where? These are the best places to travel solo for women
Understanding the risks & taking the plunge
If you’re worried about solo female travel safety, the hardest thing to do is commit to a trip. I remember spending ages debating about whether I should leave my job, apartment and partner and GO. As you can probably guess, I did. It led to a new job (this blog) that I like so much more, a new apartment (in Mexico City... that was never in the plans!) and so many meaningful connections and life experiences.
Only you can make the decision. There are many pros and cons to solo travel and the increased safety concerns of being a woman can indeed be a small con, however one that I believe is manageable. And I’m basing that on almost 10 years of experience!
The things you’ll do to stay safe as a woman travelling alone – such as not walking alone at night and safely storing your belongings – won’t alter your trip to the extent you’ll wish you stayed home.
Understand safety vs. comfort when travelling solo
This is a distinction that I think often gets lost in translation between cultures. Culture shock can often be uncomfortable and sometimes throws us (particularly new travellers) into a state of fight-or-flight where we feel nervous and on edge.
For example, there are countries where you’re likely to get a LOT of looks and stares. All around Asia, I’ve received these (along with a lot of selfie requests) but it was while solo travelling in India specifically that I was constantly stared at. At first, I did feel unsafe until I considered that the majority of the stares were based on curiosity.
Obviously, it was the stares of the men that made me feel uncomfortable but when I considered that women, children and even babies were staring too, I considered that their intent was likely the same. The culture of staring and requesting photos is unusual and uncomfortable for us but it is simply that: a different cultural norm and not a sign that someone’s about to traffic you.
On the topic of photos, read my guide to getting in your own photos while travelling alone
Unpacking the risk of violence toward women
When considering the safety of solo female travel, we need to remember that violence happens to women everywhere, not just those who travel solo. Statistics show that most women who suffer violence experience it at home, at the hands of their male partners.
Another thing to consider if you’re travelling to countries with high rates of violence towards women: this is not likely to affect you, it’s likely to affect local women in partnerships with local men who are sadly seen as property. It doesn’t make it less tragic but it does mean that statistics are skewed.
You’re not going to have the same experiences as local people because you’re not part of their society. If you’re really worried about the safety of a destination, look up crimes affecting tourists. It’s much more likely to be petty theft than anything more serious.
Sensationalised risk of solo female travel safety
When you realise that everyone (or every media outlet should I say) has an agenda, you can look at things a lot more pragmatically.
For example, news outlets want you to click so of course they dramatize topics like danger. Attitudes towards women are not yet right and we ALL KNOW the blame is always on the woman (why was she wearing such a short skirt?). The world is obsessed with true crime. It only makes sense that every rare, tragic case gets blown up. Keep in mind these are one-in-a-million events, not the likelihood.
There are political agendas, too. Why is US news so neurotic about the dangers of Mexico and cartels? Well, maybe to justify shutting out migrants or to ensure holiday dollars are spent inside the country.
Keep in mind the source when considering solo female travel safety – and everything!
Likewise, is an older family member convinced that travel to a certain place is dangerous? Well, maybe when they were young, places like Vietnam and the Balkans were war zones. So always consider who’s saying somewhere is dangerous before assuming it’s true.
More likely types of danger
Don’t let these one-in-a-million events scare you off travelling or ruin your trip. When considering how to travel safely as a woman, just be confident and careful, as you would at home (because these events also happen at home).
The most common crimes in most countries are corruption and bribery, something that usually happens on a government level so seldom affects tourists. The more LIKELY types of danger you risk as a visitor are things like traffic accidents or drinking unclean water.
So, be prepared. Check the reviews of bus companies to assess safety. Always wear a seatbelt if there is one. Drink bottled water or, to be more environmentally friendly, pack either a stainless steel reusable water bottle (that you can fill up from large filtred units in accommodations and cafes; I find these to be very common) or a filtering water bottle that makes any water safe to drink.
Useful items to pack
I have known people to take items like door stoppers so your hotel door can’t be opened from the outside, personal alarms and portable safes. Personally, I think this is overkill unless you’re going solo to South Africa or somewhere else with genuine safety concerns. But if it’s your first time travelling solo and it makes you feel more secure, by all means go for it!
Here are items I do recommend you bring for solo female travel safety:
- Combination padlock (ideal for hostel lockers). This can also be used to padlock your luggage closed when it’s out of sight for example on a bus
- A money belt bag that goes around your waist or chest to store your valuables
- A power bank to keep your devices alive
- A reusable water bottle or a filtering water bottle to avoid drinking unsafe water AND avoid plastic usage.
On the trip – how to travel safely as a woman
Here are my top safety tips for solo female travellers…
Research, research, research
Be prepared for potential problems by researching how to get to your accommodation, bad neighbourhoods to watch out for, and common scams in the destination you’re about to visit.
For example, at Delhi airport, it’s common for taxi drivers to pretend to be your booked driver (and they have some clever ways to convince you) and then, when you’re in the car, try to bring you to the hotel they work for rather than the one you booked. Knowledge is power when it comes to avoiding scams!
Check the dress code
This is an important safety tip for solo female travellers. There are countries where you can dress as you would at home and others where that might cause cultural offence or put you in danger. India is one of the most conservative places I’ve travelled to hence I put together this female India packing list.
When travelling solo in Southeast Asia, it’s best to be a little more conservative than you would at home, especially in religious places such as temples. I find Latin America isn’t particularly conservative but it’s always better to wear long, loose fabrics wherever it’s hot to avoid sunburn.
Dressing appropriately isn’t just about potential assault; it’s also about blending in. Pickpockets will always target foreigners so, if you look like one, you may be at risk. In terms of physical features, it may be unavoidable that you don’t resemble the locals but you can still avoid shorts, socks with sandals and a camera strung around your neck!
Have travel insurance
As discussed before, the most likely thing that will happen to you while travelling solo isn’t a dramatic cartel hold-up but an accident or bout of sickness. Either of these things can range from uncomfortable to life-threatening (but obviously that’s very rare) and both can be very expensive.
Even if you’re travelling solo in Europe or somewhere else relatively safe, it’s also worth having insurance for the sake of losing money over cancellations and the like.
I recently said out loud to some other travellers ‘You’d have to be MAD to travel without insurance!’ and the room went quiet… Turned out they were! I felt bad but I stand by what I said. Mine with True Traveller works out at around £30 ($40) per month for world coverage for a year. I’ve claimed twice in 6 months and had the money in my account within days. I think it’s great value!
What I like about True Traveller is that it includes pre-existing health conditions like my asthma. They’ll also cover you if you’re already travelling and/or don’t yet have your flight home booked which isn’t super common among insurance companies. Click to get a quote.
True Traveller is just for European residents (including UK) so, for other nationalities, I recommend Hey Mundo and for long-term digital nomad travellers, I suggest Safety Wing.
Get your vaccinations
To stay safe against diseases prevalent in your destination, ensure you have the right vaccinations. I don’t offer any health advice on this blog because I am not a health professional, so I recommend you speak to your healthcare provider about what you need based on where you’re going.
Here’s what to do when you arrive in a new location. This routine for solo female travel safety becomes second nature the more often you do it.
- Familiarise yourself with your location by walking around during the day
- Send the name and address of your accommodation to friends or family back home
- Find a safe place for your valuables if in a dorm (usually the locker)
- Pin your accommodation on your phone and download offline maps so you can get home safely or at least ask for directions.
Don’t walk at night
This one probably goes without saying. I wouldn’t walk at night in my home city in England so why would I start doing it somewhere unfamiliar? These days, most big cities have Uber or a local alternative like Lyft (US), DiDi (one I often use in Mexico), Grab (popular in Asian countries) or Bolt (one I commonly used in Portugal).
I recommend Uber over local taxis where possible because they can’t rip you off since the fare is standardised, plus the rides are tracked giving you the option to share the journey with someone else or press a panic button. In some countries, local taxis are run by mafia groups so are best avoided.
Of course, there are exceptions. When I lived in Split, Croatia or Porto, Portugal, I actually would walk alone at night because I knew it was perfectly safe. However, I think it’s a good idea to avoid it as a general rule and then adapt occasionally if you feel safe.
Get a local SIM
Even if you’re visiting somewhere for a few days, it may be worth getting a local SIM. For example, in Mexico, you can walk into any OXXO store (on every corner) and buy a SIM card with a package of data and calls from 50 pesos ($3). Even for a weekend trip, it’s worth it so you can freely call Ubers to stay safe at night.
Just Google how to get a local SIM in your chosen destination; there’s bound to be an article about it. I’ve also noticed recently that GetYourGuide are offering e-sims for many Asian countries which you activate by scanning the QR code in the email they send you.
Stay connected with a power bank
This is my lifeline when I’m out and about because my phone battery rarely lasts the whole day. I would recommend carrying a fully charged power bank so you can plug in anytime to charge your devices, particularly your phone. You don’t want to end up somewhere you don’t feel safe – especially in the dark – and not be able to load maps or call a taxi.
Join online communities
Facebook groups like Girls Love Travel are great because there’s bound to be people in your location that you can connect with. If you’re in trouble or having a difficult time (relating to solo female travel safety or simply sickness, loneliness or any of the other disadvantages to solo travel), post in the group because some fellow female travellers will likely come to your aid.
If you have any connections (even friends of friends) in a location, it’s a great idea to reach out especially since it can make you feel safer if something were to go wrong. I often enjoy staying in an Airbnb in a local’s home because they’re bound to show you around and help you out. There’s also the Host A Sister Facebook group which is like Couchsurfing but with female hosts.
Don’t be TOO nice
If you feel unsafe, don’t worry about catering to other people’s feelings. Want to say no? SAY IT. Feel unsafe in a situation? Don’t feel bad about leaving.
It’s that classic thing where men can be firm while coming across as authoritative but when women are equally blunt, we are read as being rude or even ‘a b*tch’. When it comes to solo travel safety for women, it’s much more important to feel safe than to convince strangers that you’re polite or whatever you assume they want you to be!
Pay more when necessary
Saving a few dollars here and there is nice not to mention tempting when you’re travelling on a budget! But when it comes to safety while travelling alone as a woman, your security and peace of mind are more important.
Whether it’s paying for a taxi to get home or booking a more expensive flight that lands in a new city during the day rather than at night, it’s all worth it.
Really, the best thing you can do is use your intuition and, if a situation feels off, exit in the safest and quickest way – even if it’s more expensive. Five years from now, you’ll have made back that money 100 times over and won’t even be thinking about the incident.
Yes, it can feel annoying that being alone is more costly but I’ve learned it’s best to focus on the things you can change rather than the things you can’t.
Only carry what you need
Please don’t be like 2018 Rose and get all your bank cards stolen at once (that’s a solo travel in Vietnam story)! I’d advise just having one card with you at a time, preferably not one with thousands of dollars sitting in the current account. Leave your other cards at your accommodation, either locked in your room or in a locker if you’re in a dorm.
Avoid withdrawal fees by bringing travel-friendly bank cards: Starling and Monzo for UK travellers and Revolut and Wise for other nationalities.
The same goes for the rest of your belongings. Just take out what you need for the day, and try not to carry more cash than necessary. Often I withdraw large sums if there’s a fee for using the ATM but I make sure to do this en route to my accommodation rather than at the start of a day out.
Copies of documentation
I suggest having a spare photocopy of your passport and a screenshot that’s not just on your phone but also backed up on iCloud/Dropbox or your storage of preference.
Also, passwords! Programs like LastPass are great for storing passwords but if you were to lose your device, you might be in trouble. I’d suggest having a written copy of your passwords and also sharing this with a friend or family member to be doubly sure you could log in to your banking/emails in an emergency.
Register with your embassy
After 10 years of travel, I finally registered with the British Embassy. You can sign up for updates relating to country pages so, for example, they now send me updates every time the Gov.UK page for Mexico is updated for any reason.
Different countries will have different systems but you should register regardless. Sometimes travel insurance can become invalid if government advice relating to your destination changes so it’s best to stay aware.
Don’t flash your valuables
Some of these points kinda go without saying, but it’s worth mentioning. If you have a good camera, keep it tucked away rather than around your neck (this has the added bonus of not looking like a massive tourist!). You may want to leave expensive jewellery at your accommodation or simply not bring it on the trip.
Know your limits with alcohol
I hate this one because the pressure should be on men to not prey on women, but sadly I can’t change the world overnight. You should absolutely go out and enjoy the nightlife when travelling solo if that’s your thing BUT do stay switched on by knowing your limits and ensuring you can get home safely.
Hostels are the best places to meet people when travelling solo. Going out with a group is the best way to stay safe during solo female travel. Ensure you know how to get home safely if you were to lose people on the night out! Find places to stay on Hostelworld.
FAQs on solo female travel safety
What are the risks of solo female travel? Many people will tell you it’s sexual harassment or violence and while I can’t deny this can happen, it can also happen at home. In reality, I think the main risks of solo female travel are traffic accidents, getting sick, and petty crime like pickpocketing.
How do you protect yourself as a woman travelling alone? You do this by acting confident, doing your research and staying connected (remaining online by using a power bank and local SIM), especially at night. Making local connections within the country and sharing your plans with friends and family back home are also good ideas.