101 Solo Travel Tips (That Aren’t Lame)

Solo female travel tips

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Hello and welcome to my solo female travel tips. Yes, there are actually 101, not that I expect you to go through and count! Before we begin, I wanted to issue this important piece of advice to all women travellers…

BOTTOM LINE

Girls, first thing’s first. Remember the world is incredibly dangerous and everyone’s out to get you. If you’re even thinking of getting out of bed and leaving your hotel today to do something cultural, stop at ONCE.

Never drink alcohol, never reveal your real name, never leave the house. Imagine you’re under witness protection (or better yet, a spy movie) at all times. But do remember to smile at strangers: it’s polite.

JOKING

If you know me, you’ll know I’m sarcastic. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know I’m fed up of those articles (looking at you, Forbes) that tell women with the audacity to travel solo to stash their valuables in sani pads, never touch alcohol and always, always smile. These are solo travel myths you shouldn’t listen to!

Many blogs talk about solo female travel as if the first two words are a disability limiting you to do the latter. Their tips for women travelling solo revolve around not doing things and not going places… Which makes me kinda sad. There are so many benefits of solo travel including that it’s liberating, freeing and allows you to be solely in charge of your experiences.

Backpacking Vietnam solo female travel
Get ready for 101 solo travel tips!

With all that said, I don’t wish to be flippant and ignore safety tips for female solo travellers. Yes, there are downsides to solo travel and indeed, we do need to be safer as women. There are more risks; more issues to navigate. As solo travellers, we need to remain alert and do our research since we can’t rely on a travel companion to do it for us.

I’m going to include plenty of solo female travel safety tips in this guide, although I do plan to leave out any scaremongering ones. And I’m not going to force you to smile.

I’ll also include female solo travel tips for confidence, enjoyment and cultural and immersion. Let’s get it!

Pre-trip travel tips for women

Ease yourself in with easier destinations

If you’re nervous, don’t do what I did in 2015 and start with solo travel in India! While I loved it, the experience was undoubtedly more overwhelming than travelling solo in Southeast Asia.

Begin with easier and more relaxed destinations where you’ll meet other travellers and get fewer stares. Places like Portugal, Thailand and Vietnam are popular on the Southeast Asia backpacker trail. You can work up to more adventurous places once your confidence is up.

Check out my first-timer travel guides to Croatia and Lisbon!

Vietnam easy solo female travel
Vietnam is an easy place to start

Be aware of location costs

Places like New Zealand and Switzerland regularly appear in lists of first-time solo travel destinations. But unless you’re wealthy or have been saving for a decade, you’ll run down money quickly.

It’s a personal preference, but I’d rather have a longer, more adventurous trip than a shorter, more comfortable one. If you’d rather stay in your comfort zone, you could consider cheaper European countries; I recently travelled solo in Romania and loved it.

Solo travel tips Australia
Australia is safe but pricey

Read, read, read

Immerse yourself in the destination before arriving and read accounts of other solo travellers who have been. Watch YouTube videos to get a real feel for it. This will get you excited and alert you to anything you should know.

If I hadn’t read up before travelling solo to Cuba, I wouldn’t have known to bring my cash in advance or how to get online once I arrived. 

Solo travel tips for pre-trip negativity & nerves

In an ideal world, everyone would be excited and supportive of your solo travel trip. In reality, people can be negative for a variety of reasons. Older family members may be worried about your safety, while friends your age may feel jealous. Whatever their reason, it’s important you don’t let it get you down.

You may also experience pre-trip jitters. These following tips should keep you and your loved ones calm…

Book something

I don’t know if it’s purely because you’ve paid for something or it’s the psychology of making your trip ‘official’, but once you’ve taken the leap and booked that flight, the rest is easy (well, easier). You’re committed to going when you have a reason to. The scariest step is already complete!

Share blogs with family members

I promise this is not a self-promo technique!

But seriously, if your family are worried about your safety travelling solo, show them blogs, vlogs and accounts of people (particularly those who look like you) who are safe, solo and loving it. It will reassure them.

Learn to listen critically

When I tell you to ignore people, I don’t mean ‘everyone’ and I certainly don’t mean ‘ignore all safety advice’. But if I had listened to everyone who had voiced negativity about my solo trip to India, I wouldn’t have gone.

Think about who is saying it. Have they travelled solo themselves? Have they been to the destination they’re being negative about? Are their sources up-to-date? If not, take their view with a pinch of salt.

If you’re genuinely concerned about safety relating to a certain destination, speak to a solo traveller who has been recently. Google ‘solo female travel’ followed by the name of the location. You can even try to connect with the author on social media to ask questions.

Female travel tips India
Solo travel in India

Don’t believe everything you read

I’ve seen so many scaremongering articles about destinations that don’t deserve it. Their tips for solo female travellers are: don’t go, full stop!

The list often includes India which was one of my favourite solo travel destinations ever. You have to remember that these days, anyone can post on the internet freely. Depressingly, many publications use the words ‘danger’ and ‘female’ as clickbait to entice people to read their articles. 

Packing list for female solo travellers

Bumbag

I rarely wear a bumbag out in the day, although I would in any destination I was felt unsafe. The main time I always wear a bumbag is on night buses, planes and in fact, any time I’m in transit and can’t leave my valuables in my accommodation. This is when you’re most at risk of theft. Use a handy bum bag with secure zip to keep things safe.

Padlock 

I prefer one with a combination lock where you can choose a code only you know. If you have one with a physical key, make sure there are few spares. I can’t think of much worse than locking your belongings in a place even you can’t access them and needing to leave for a flight. I use this combination padlock.

Kindle

While I love a physical book, they’re not the most convenient for travelling. If someone recommends you a read, you may struggle to find it right away especially if you’re in a non-English-speaking country. The ease and convenience of a Kindle can’t be rivalled. I have the Kindle Paperwhite.

Universal charger 

If you’re hitting up several countries in one trip, grab yourself a universal adaptor. It’s so handy being able to carry just one plug that can be used anywhere. This worldwide adapter works in 110 countries.

Medical kit

Be smart and bring a medical kit. Ensure it contains any medicines you’d take at home as well as painkillers, plasters, gauze, adhesive tape and bandages, diarrhoea tablets, electrolytes, anti-bacterial wipes, tweezers, thermometer and insect repellent. 

Power bank

My top female solo travel tip whether you’re somewhere arriving late or out sightseeing for the day? Make sure your phone has enough juice to get you home. My iPhone battery is rubbish so I usually charge my power bank overnight then use it throughout the next day to top up my phone and camera while I’m out exploring and sightseeing.

Cover up sarong

My top packing tip for solo female travellers: bring a versatile sarong. You can use it on the beach as a towel, during bus journeys as a cover, around your shoulders or legs when you need to dress conservatively at a temple, and even over your head if you’re somewhere crowded (like an Indian railway station) and getting a lot of looks. So handy!

Solo travel Bali
Trusty sarong

Packing tips for solo female travel

Pack light 

Packing light is always a good idea, especially for solo travellers. Transporting and caring for all your possessions is solely your responsibility so you may as well make your job as easy as possible. I actually quite like the challenge of downsizing my possessions into a 65L backpack and organising my side pockets and toiletries bag.

Breathable materials

If I wear any synthetic fibres (like the things you buy in New Look or Primark) while travelling, I’m such a sweaty cow. It’s not worth it. Bring loose, cotton fabrics that you can breathe in.

Remember you can still look nice!

The first time I travelled, I was kitted out with clothes from Mountain Warehouse including pro hiking boots I never used. I’d been led to believe these were necessary thanks to overly practical and cautious websites (probably trying to sell their own products).

I’m here to tell you that you can absolutely look nice and fashionable while travelling! (If that’s important to you). You’re going to meet people and take photos you’ll have forever. You can still dress appropriately, for example covering your legs in conservative countries, whilst looking and feeling good. Remember to pack a few outfits for evenings out.

Romania solo female travel
Solo female travel in Romania

Wardrobe tips for female solo travellers

Blend in

Much as I want to tell my fellow females to dress how they like and ignore others, this would be irresponsible. When it comes to travelling within different cultures, you’re in their country so you need to observe norms for your own safety. You don’t need to agree with the norms; merely honour them for the duration of your stay. 

I’d also mention that in some regions like Southeast Asia where things are conservative but the people are polite and reserved, the locals won’t tell you if your outfit offends them. But they’ll feel silently uncomfortable if you wear shorts at a temple. Blending in is also about honouring the locals and giving us Western travellers a good name.

Observe how local women dress

By this, I don’t mean don a sari in India or do anything that could be considered cultural appropriation. But notice which parts of the body local women generally have covered – for example their legs and shoulders – and replicate this with your own outfit choices.

North India tips solo female travel
You should cover your legs in Northern India

Leave your jewellery at home

This is a ‘durr’ kind of point but I thought I’d throw it in. If you have a valuable wedding ring for example, maybe leave it in your home country. Personally, I wear a lot of cheap and cheerful rings but they could look valuable from afar so I might choose to leave them at the hostel if I’m in a crowded market or bar. Up to you, really.  

Flight essentials

Seriously, if your bag is lost by the airline and you have to head to your accommodation in the outfit you’ve flown in, sleep in it, then put it on the next day to go shopping, you’re going to feel gross. My top solo travel tip for flying is carry a spare pair of underwear and toothbrush (I succeed in remembering about 50% of the time). 

Tips for culturally immersive experiences

Meet locals 

If you go to Thailand and only socialise with Western travellers, you’re not expanding your horizons that much.

As women, we have the benefit of coming across as non-threatening to women and children from different communities. It’s the perfect chance to meet locals whether that’s befriending tour guides or chatting to locals in restaurants. No books will tell you what peoples’ lives are really like, so ask about their customs, families, religion and traditions. 

Meeting the locals bali
My Balinese buddies

Stay longer on a cultural exchange

Before I begin this point, I want to alert you: volunteering can be downright dodgy. I advise you to read up about voluntourism and check that you’re not funding orphanage tourism, doing a job you’re not qualified for, or taking a job away from a local. 

As long as you’re doing it ethically, it’s fun to spend longer and get immersed in a community. In the Philippines, I helped a hostel set up their social media channels and blog in exchange for food and board. I got to know the locals and explore their city with them.

  • Worldpackers – with over 3.2 million hosts and travellers connected, browse volunteer opportunities in over 140 countries. They protect you with ‘experience insurance’ so, should your host cancel, they’ll find you a new gig. It costs $44 a year; get $10 off with my sign up link.
  • Workaway – search over 50,000 cultural exchange opportunities from teaching English to hostel work, gardening, pet setting and work with NGOs and other community projects. Registration costs $49 a year but you can get 3 months free with my sign up link.

Couchsurfing

This is where you stay in local homes, usually for free in a spare room or sofa bed. Most of the time, Couchsurf hosts are people who have couchsurfed overseas and want to have a cultural exchange and show you around.

My tip for female solo travellers is to check the reviews include some from solo females who have felt safe there.

Solo travel safety tips

Talk to strangers – just be discerning

‘Don’t talk to strangers’ is great advice… If you’re under 10.

Provided you’re an independent adult, it’s not a necessary safety tip for women travelling solo. To be honest, many non-Western countries are just much friendlier than ours. If people start chatting to you, it doesn’t mean they’re trying to flirt or traffic you!

Of course, you should be discerning. Don’t give away too much information. If strangers ask where you’re staying, say ‘a hotel in town’ rather than the name. Don’t give away your social media details unless you actually want to stay in touch. 

With men you’ve recently met, I’d aim to remain in public places with them initially. This is similar to being in your home country, how you’d meet a new person in a bar rather than at their house. But in countries with developing attitudes towards women, this is more important. 

Check your hotel’s location

When booking accommodation, check the location and area. As a solo traveller, I’d rather pay more to stay in a good area than take a risk and stay somewhere I wouldn’t want to walk at night. If you’re not sure, Google the area. You could even look at Google street view to get a feel for things.

Know what time it gets dark

This depends where you are. For many countries, it’s not an issue. But while travelling solo in South Africa and India, I knew when sunset was and aimed to be at my destination rather than still wandering around. This doesn’t mean you have to be locked in your room by 6pm: just be at a restaurant or bar rather than en route.

Solo tips Ireland
Solo female travel in Galway, Ireland

Know when to buddy up

It can be frustrating to acknowledge you shouldn’t go somewhere alone. After all, you’re solo travelling for a reason!

It’s not admitting defeat: if you have safety concerns about a specific excursion, don’t hesitate to go with someone. Asking other travellers at your hostel is the obvious solution but if no one’s around, keep reading for my ‘meeting people’ tips. 

Related read: how to pick a travel buddy

Have a plan B

Having back-up accommodation is a great idea should you arrive to find your hotel closed or not as it was pictured online. If staff ever make you feel unsafe, I’d advise leaving without question. Call a taxi to your back-up place. Life’s too short to feel uncomfortable or worry about losing $20 on accommodation.

Know the emergency numbers 

Make this part of your ‘to-do’ list when landing in a new country, alongside getting cash and a SIM card. Save them into your phone, just in case. You’ll probably use need them but it doesn’t hurt to have them.

Budget solo travel tips 

When people ask if it’s more expensive travelling solo, I say no, not if you stay in hostels and take public transport. The cost of an occasional taxi or private room is balanced by the fact you can control your own budget and not spend based on anyone else’s needs.

I don’t believe you should pay more simply because you’re travelling solo. Here are some tips for solo female travellers on a budget. 

Take public transport over taxis

Whenever I land in Hanoi, I take myself to the $1 bus stop rather than pay $8 for a taxi. If ever I call the cab, we’ll know I won the lottery! 

Taxis seem like such a waste of money when you’re travelling solo since the other seats go empty. I usually Google public transport routes before I arrive in a country so I can navigate to my hostel when I arrive.

If you can’t take public transport, check if your area has UberPool. Other users can book up the spare seats so the journey often takes longer but costs less.

Solo travel Vietnam
Better than public transport is exploring on foot!

Download a transport app

These can be super helpful. Transport apps generally tell you prices and accurate departure times when Google doesn’t. Check out:

  • Citymapper ​- available in 39 cities mainly Europe and North America
  • Moovit ​- available in 101 countries
  • Mapway ​- available in Europe and North America.

Solo-friendly accommodation 

Hostels are my go-to when I’m travelling solo since you pay per bed rather than per room. I always use Hostelworld to check reviews and photos.

If you’d rather have the privacy of your own four walls, look at renting a room on Airbnb. Many hosts who own their own flat or house rent out their spare rooms for very affordable rates.

Couchsurfing

I mentioned Couchsurfing already as a way of meeting locals and having a cultural exchange. Of course, the added bonus is not having to pay for accommodation!  

House sitting

Another way to save money as a solo traveller is house sitting. Homeowners go on holiday and leave house sitters in charge of their property and even their pets. It means you also enjoy home comforts like a kitchen. I use Trusted Housesitters to find places to stay. 

Hoi An female travel
I spent a month house sitting in Hoi An

Money tips for solo female travellers

Go to the ATM when you land

Newbie travellers ask if I arrive in a country with all my currency. No! If you’re travelling to many countries in one trip, it’s impossible. Also, if you have a card that doesn’t charge fees, you can withdraw from an ATM when you land.

Use a travel-friendly bank account

When I travelled for an entire year from 2015-16, it was before cards like Monzo. I should have done my research better but I took my regular bank card from home and during the course of the year incurred £500 in fees. My god! I could have travelled for an extra month. 

Nowadays, I’m the queen of paying no fees. My personal favourite bank is Starling as there are no fees until you make six monthly transactions. Here’s a quick comparison of Starling, Monzo and Revolut:

  • Starling – free cash withdrawals abroad. Make up to six withdrawals a month with 0% interest (£300 a day withdrawal limit).
  • Monzo – free cash withdrawals abroad. Take out £250 a month for free and pay 3% interest on anything above that. The card costs £5.
  • Revolut – free cash withdrawals abroad. Take out £200 a month for free and pay 2% interest on anything above that. The card costs £5.

All three banks operate via mobile app, allowing you to send money for free from your main bank. You can also receive money from other people directly into your account. If a card is lost or stolen, you can quickly cancel or block within the app and order a new one right away.

Note – these are UK banks. For a universal bank with multiple currencies and the best fees when transferring money abroad, use Wise.

Ipoh Malaysia
In Malaysia solo!

Bring a back up card (or four)

Losing your bank card and not being able to access your money is annoying even when you have a friend to lend you. As a solo traveller, it’s the worst!

Make sure your back-up card also lets you get cash out without fees. I recently got stuck with my emergency card and while I was grateful to be able to access my money, I wasn’t happy about the fees I racked up. Be aware that it can take ages to get lost or stolen bank cards back when overseas. Your back-up card should be an option you’re happy using for weeks or months! 

I’ve now upped my game and have back-up cards with Monzo, Revolut and Starling meaning even my back-up’s back-up has a back-up. (Yes, I lose cards a lot). I’d be happy travelling for a long period with any of them.

Don’t exchange currencies in airports

This is the most expensive place to change currency. I wait until I’m in the city then Google currency exchange offices.

Use left over cash on essentials

If I have less than £20 left when leaving a country, I don’t bother with the faff of exchanging it since you always lose out in the conversion. Instead, I use it to buy things I’ll use later, for example toiletries or makeup.

Don’t carry your cards together

This sounds obvious but I’ve been burned before. Leave all but one at your accommodation while out for the day or night. When moving between locations with your big luggage, ensure they’re split up. Have one card in your main luggage (preferably the least important one that can be easily cancelled), one in your hand luggage and one in your money belt/bum bag. 

Have an emergency fund

I’d recommend putting aside some money for situations that don’t go right. Maybe you missed the last bus and have to shell out for a pricey taxi. Maybe your hotel didn’t feel safe and you decided to move after checking in.

If you’re ever making a safety-related decision, you’ll be more inclined to make the right one if you know money is set aside for this exact situation. Don’t use it? Great, have a spa day in your final destination or extend your trip.

Use Skype for phone calls

Usually, I call or video call loved ones on Whatsapp, but sometimes you have to make actual phone calls, for example to your bank or insurance company. 

This is another one I learnt the hard way. When my details were stolen and money started coming out of my account from Domino’s Pizza all around the world (on my turf too, dammit), I called my bank from a Thai SIM card and racked up a £50 bill!

Nowadays, I make all my phone calls on Skype. I topped up £5 a year ago and the credit is still going strong, despite the fact I’ve spent hours on hold to various companies. Download the app and use it like a regular phone, typing in the number with the country code. 

TRAVELLING SOLO MEXICO
Travelling solo in Mexico

How to deal with unwanted attention

Solo female travel isn’t about locking yourself away from anything bad ever happening. It’s about learning to deflect and resolve the occasional issue and move forward with confidence. Use these safety tips for solo travel:

Lie a little

Throughout our lives, we’re told to be honest. This is advice you can bin while solo travelling.

Lying keeps you safe. If a male stranger asks if you’re alone or single and you’d rather they didn’t know the truth, answer ‘my husband is meeting me’.

Yes, I hate that being someone’s ‘property’ is often the only way to deflect unwanted attention. It would be wonderful if we could easily revolutionise the attitudes of strangers but it shouldn’t have to be our job. It’s simply more important to stay safe.

Solo female travel

In Southeast Asia, I took to answering ‘yes’ when I was asked for the 10th time that day if I was married. This was less about safety and more to deflect the second question that came after I said no: ‘but why aren’t you married?’ Gawwd.

Learn to say no

In India, I was utterly overwhelmed with selfie requests but felt rude saying no since I knew people were only friendly and curious. As time went on and my confidence grew, I realised there was nothing wrong with saying ‘no, not right now’. 

I recently saw a comment left on a solo travel blog saying ‘a man wants to take me for dinner and won’t take no for an answer?’… Just say a firm no! No one can ever force you to do anything but, as women, we’ve been conditioned to see being firm as bitchy and impolite. 

Even if someone’s just being nice but you don’t want to hang out with them, never feel guilty about saying no. If you do, visualise your guilt as an object and imagine flushing it down the toilet. Once you have the ability to say no and not feel guilty, it will change your life, while travelling and at home!

Get a taxi home 

In the unlikely event you feel harassed in public, it’s always worth paying the extra £$€ to jump in an Uber home rather than walking. For your own peace of mind, ensure no one can follow or find out your address. 

Or walk home a crowded route

After speaking on the street with a man who made me feel uncomfortable, I once walked home through a busy market rather than the straight main road. Always stay where it’s busy if you feel even the slightest bit uncomfortable about a person’s behaviour when travelling solo.

Ninh Binh
Ninh Binh, Vietnam

Communication tips for solo travel

Get a local SIM or Wi-Fi device

Although I travelled for a year from 2015-16 just using Wi-Fi, you can’t deny it’s more convenient to hop online at your will. Nowadays, I pick up a local SIM card which saves no end of stress. Get them:

  • Klook sell SIM cards for various countries which you can order online and collect from major airports.
  • Ask your hostel or hotel staff – they will know where to buy one. In India, the hostel owner even drove us to pick them up.
  • Airport stands – in Malaysia, I would always find cheap SIM deals before even leaving the airport. This isn’t always the case but keep an eye out.

Keep people in the loop

By sharing your location and whereabouts with people back home, you’re staying safe and keeping everyone happy. If your family were nervous about your solo trip, they’ll feel way more relaxed if they hear from you often and know what you’re doing. You know what that means? They’ll be happier for you to go on trips number 2,3,4,5 etc!

Making friends solo travel
Keep in touch

Don’t suddenly stop posting

I have friends who could not post online for ages and I’d probably not bat an eye. Not everyone is a blogger or professional oversharer.

However, I’ve always posted online while travelling so when I randomly vanished for five days, my mum was freaking out. In reality, I was in a small village with no Wi-Fi. I should have let people know I was about to go offline because, even though I knew I was fine, no one else did.

Online security tips for female solo travellers

Avoid geotags until you’ve left

I would never suggest tagging yourself in a cafe or restaurant until you’ve left, whether you’re travelling or at home. Why risk it?

Even if you’re in a destination for a few days, you may want to avoid geotagging in case someone sees you online then notices you in person. Many bloggers and solo travellers post their social media content a few days behind to combat this.

Solo travel in Malaysia
No geotags here…

Don’t give out your details

It may seem harmless: you don’t have to reply to people’s messages after all. But once someone has you on social media, they’re aware of your movements… Even if you’ve forgotten they exist.

Consider having your social media accounts set to private while travelling solo, especially if you’ll be giving out your full name when booking things. If you’re wary, consider changing your surname on Facebook for the duration of your solo female travels. 

Be wary of public Wi-Fi

Recently my bank details were stolen, even though I hadn’t used the card in person. I’m sure it was when I paid for a flight over a public Wi-Fi hotspot. So my top tip is: use mobile data rather than Wi-Fi when you make a purchase with your bank card. Also, check that websites have a secure padlock sign when accessing them. 

Another thing you can do is travel with a VPN. This lets you securely access the same websites you do at home and stream things blocked by countries you’re visiting. 

Transport tips for solo female travel

Download offline maps

To find your way around when your data’s gone or there’s no signal, it’s a no-brainer to have offline maps downloaded. Your options include:

  • Maps.me – this is the most popular offline maps app for travelling. You can download maps for whole countries and navigate around without data or Wi-Fi.
  • Google Maps – since all my pins are saved on Google Maps, I choose to download the area I’m visiting. Drop a pin, scroll to the left and click ‘download’. Select the distance from the point you want to download. It’s temporary so remember to check the expiration date when it finishes downloading.

Walk and get orientated

My best female solo travel tip is to walk around and get oriented. Once you know the area, you’ll feel more confident walking around alone. The better you get to know it, the easier it will be to take the most direct and safest route while coming home in the evening, for example.

Koon Seng Road Singapore
Singapore is an easy place to travel solo

Keep your values close during transit

Often when you take a bus, train or flight, your luggage will be out of sight in the hold. Make sure your valuables are with you in your hand luggage or better yet, a bum bag with secure zip. In the past, I’ve had a panic realising I’ve left money or a valuable item in my rucksack which is under the bus. Aim never to do this!

Arrive during the day

If I’m travelling with another person, I have no qualms about arriving late. But if I’m alone in certain destinations, I spend the journey worrying about what to do when I arrive in the dark. For that reason, I always aim to arrive in daylight even if it means taking a longer or more expensive journey.

If arriving by night…

I’ve been in situations where it’s not possible to arrive in daylight hours. Use your judgement. For example, when I had to arrive at midnight in Scotland, I handled the situation differently than when I arrived at the same time in India. 

  • For safer destinations: Research in advance how to get to your accommodation. Have the Uber app (or local alternative) downloaded. Pin your hostel on Google Maps but aim to keep your phone away whilst walking there. Study the map before so you can follow it without checking continually.
  • For less safe destinations: Call your hotel in advance to send a taxi so you’re not faffing with Uber when you arrive. If it’s within walking distance, ask a member of hotel staff to meet you from the bus or train if you’re worried. 

Solo travel tips for building confidence

Practise dining alone

Build yourself up. If you’ve never eaten out solo and start in a fancy restaurant on a Saturday night, yes you’ll probably feel awkward. Begin by going out for coffee in your hometown and work up from there.

Dining solo travel
Meal for one

Dine in the day

I much prefer dining out alone in the day than the evening. Often I’ll have a big lunch in a cafe, then have a lighter snack dinner or grab something takeaway. This avoids any awkward candlelight dinners for one.

Alternatively, find social group dinners on the EatWith website.

Bring a book

Having something to do while dining out is great for confidence. As soon as you open a book, it gives you a distraction but also gives you a purpose and shows you’re there to enjoy yourself.

It doesn’t have to be a book: you could call a friend, review your photos from the day or do some admin for the next leg of your trip.

Identify your ‘happy spaces’

Having a bad day or need a confidence boost before exploring a new place? Think of what makes you happy and do that.

For me, this is definitely reading my book over coffee. I know after doing this, I’ll feel relaxed and ready to take on the world. But it could also be yoga, a walk on the beach, a Skype with your family… You name it.

Travel Vietnam solo
Happiest by the ocean? Go get your fix!

Do a mini solo trip first

Before I embarked on my full-time solo travels, I went on a Scotland week trip. It really got me into the habit of eating solo, meeting new people at hostels and navigating myself around. Get your confidence up somewhere close to home!

Book a few things in advance

By this, I don’t mean book everything in advance for the next six months so you have no flexibility. But by having your first few nights accommodation or a tour pre-booked in a new destination, you’ll feel more confident and excited as you arrive. 

Dealing with loneliness / homesickness

It happens to the best of us while travelling solo. If you’re feeling blue and missing home, remember it won’t last forever. Often I’ll have a quiet week and feel a bit lonely, but find myself suddenly loving life again a while later.

Call a friend

If you’re feeling lonely and haven’t met people in real life, remember the power of the online world. Call your friends rather than messaging so you actually get to speak to someone. You could also alert people in your life that you’re feeling a bit down and ask them to check in with you over the coming days or weeks.

Switch it up

Staying in a private room and feeling lonely? Switch it up to a hostel. Bored of exploring cities solo? Sign up for a walking tour.

You may not be able to control who you meet but you can certainly control the situations you’re in. Ensure you choose the most social option during periods of loneliness until you’re out the other side. 

Making friends while travelling solo
Making time to socialise in Mexico

Spend less time on social media

Seeing other people socialising at home will not make you feel better. Last Christmas, I was in a hostel in Mexico and made the mistake of seeing people at home cutting turkey with their loved ones. Meanwhile, I was watching The Holiday on my laptop and eating a super noodle in bed. Major fail!

Travel slowly

By spending longer in a place, you’ll have more time to meet people and form meaningful connections. If you’re always rushing onto the next place, feelings of loneliness may come with you. 

Have a purpose

If you feel aimless, give yourself a purpose. This could be setting a goal to find the best food or hidden gems in a new city. It could be volunteering or helping with a local project for the day.

My purpose is easy: sussing things out and taking photos for this blog. This really gives me something to ‘do’ if I don’t meet people or I’m at a loose end.

Meeting people when travelling solo

While solo female travel tips for battling loneliness are handy it’ll take longer to get to that point if you’re good to meeting people and making new friends. These are my top tips:

Choose the right hostels

Don’t end up in a hostel where everyone’s 18 and keen to party all night if that’s not your scene. Some hostels are cosy and comfy, run by local families. Others are factories churning through young travellers each day. There’s nothing wrong with either but you could end up bored in a quiet hostel or frustrated in a party hostel if you’ve misjudged the vibe on booking.

Read next: 22 ways to meet people travelling solo

Solo travel tips hostel friends
Hostel friends in India

I would advise looking at the photos on Hostelworld when booking. If they show lots of young people socialising in the pool, it’s probably a party hostel. Check what they say about themselves and what events they offer. If it’s free beer nights, the vibe may be different to those offering cultural walking tours. 

Read reviews

If I fancy a night out, I’ll book a hostel with reviews mentioning nights out and making friends. If I’m feeling antisocial and need a chill, I’ll keep an eye out for quiet hostels, especially those with reviews complaining that there wasn’t a common area. Reading hostel reviews is a clear way to figure out what type of experience you’ll have there.

Take tours 

By taking a tour, you can change things up. If you’re feeling bored of exploring new cities solo, look up walking tours or something fun like a cooking class or bar crawl. Tour guides by nature are chatty people and other guests will usually people who want to socialise rather than explore alone.

Use GetYourGuide and Viator to find walking tours, activities and bar crawls. EatWith is great for supper clubs and dining experiences.

If you’re really struggling with organisation and meeting people while travelling solo, you could weigh up the pros and cons of group tours and consider booking onto a G Adventures, Intrepid Travel or Contiki tour for anywhere up to a matter of months!

Read next: Should you travel solo or with a group tour?

Group tours solo travel tips
On a group tour in Africa

Facebook groups

Join Girls Love Travel on Facebook. This is a great place to connect with other travellers and share solo female travel tips and advice. I also like Host A Sister where users offer spare rooms to passing travellers and who them around their city.

Use your hobbies

Whether it’s learning a language, cooking, taking a dance class or something different, I find you make closer connections when you have a shared interest. Look up classes in a new area as a way to meet people. My interest is blogging so I often connect with people in new places via Instagram. When we meet, we already have a shared hobby.

Meetup is a good place to start.

Find a travel buddy on Workaway

I already mentioned Workaway as a way to get culturally immersed and as a way to save money. Promise I don’t secretly work for them! They have a new find a travel buddy section where you can message others in your current location. This lets you meet travellers who enjoy culturally immersive experiences rather than those passing through quickly.

Read next: how to pick a perfect travel buddy

Don’t bring a book

Contrary to what I said about bringing a distraction device when dining solo, I would advise coming to a hostel communal area (or any situation you’re hoping to meet people) with nothing but yourself. Personally, I’d never approach someone with their head in a book for fear of bothering them.

Solo female travel tips for making memories

As I mentioned, I don’t want to make all these tips for solo female travellers exclusively about safety. I also want to mention taking photos and making their memories last. Here’s how I do it…

Be in your own photos

Making memories solo travel
A solo GoPro photo from Cape Town

The only photos of me from my first solo trip to Myanmar are iPhone selfies because I felt too self-conscious asking people to help. In retrospect, the discomfort of asking a stranger would have been outweighed by having photos to this day.

Nowadays, I’ve whittled down the art of asking the right person and politely but constructively directing them. I also travel with a GoPro HERO8 Black for action shots and wide-angled selfies (where you can get your whole body in the shot) and a Manfrotto tripod which is my bestie – I wouldn’t have half my social media photos without it. I also rate Joby Gorillapod which are bendy, grippable camera stands that take up almost no space.

Read next: how to take solo travel photos

Keep a diary 

When I travel with friends and family, we remind ourselves of the adventures and misadventures years later. I have a terrible memory so I have to find ways to make the memories stick when I travel solo. Before I migrated my adventures to this blog, I kept hand-written diaries that are still in my bedroom at home.

If you like to write, I’d definitely recommend keeping some kind of diary, even if it’s only for your eyes. When you don’t have time to write in detail, jot down some bullet points to jog your memory later. If writing isn’t your thing, make your photos into a scrapbook when you get home. 

Organisation checklist 

Travel insurance

I’m all for travelling on a budget. Eat street food, stay in hostels… but if you can’t afford travel insurance, don’t travel! It’s just not worth it.

World Nomads are my top pick for travel insurance. They cover all regions and have different options for valuables and gadgets. It’s easy to get in touch and make claims. Click here to get a quote.

Save and share it!

Once you’ve booked your insurance, don’t let the details get lost in your inbox. Print it out, save a copy to your phone and send a copy to your next of kin. If ever you’re in an accident, make the details as easy to access as possible. 

Have passport copies

If your passport is lost or stolen, ensure you have a photocopy. I would recommend having a scan saved in your emails and downloaded to your phone as well as an actual physical print-out (so 2008, I know!) in your luggage.

On the topic of passport security… Always leave it at your accommodation, preferably in a locker or safe. You do not need to be wandering the streets with it in your bag!

ICE

Set up an ‘In Case of Emergency’ (ICE) contact on your iPhone. If you haven’t seen this feature before, click on your keypad while your phone is locked and select ‘emergency’. When it takes you to the emergency keypad, select ‘medical ID’ in the bottom left corner. When someone clicks this, they’ll be able to see your emergency medical info without your passcode.

Make sure to set up your ICE contact and have the details filled in while travelling. As solo female travel tips go, this could save your life!

Carry a list of medical conditions

Or at least know the local word for them. Recently in South Korea, I had a random reaction to some squid and my tongue started to swell up. It went away but made me realise that had anything worse happened, I wouldn’t have been able to explain without knowing the Korea lingo (I also didn’t have any data to Google it). 

Ensure you’re never caught in a situation when you can’t communicate your medical condition. Learn the local word and have it as a note on your phone or printed out.

Nights out

Stay home at night while solo travelling? Sounds boring. Here are my female solo travel tips for doing so while staying safe.

Plan your journey back

When I go out with a hostel group, I’m aware these people aren’t my lifelong best friends who I can be 100% sure will look out for me. I always map the journey home before I go out so I know if I lose people, I’ll be able to get home without complications.

Have data and Uber downloaded

Before going out for the night, I check I have data and Uber is installed and a click away. If you find your data gone at the end of the night, ask the bar or restaurant staff to use the Wi-Fi or call a taxi for you.

Ask hostel staff

If you’re wondering whether an area is safe at night, the best people to ask are the locals. Check with the staff at your accommodation if it’s safe to walk alone in the evenings or if you should take a taxi.

Know your limits

I’m definitely not going to tell you to avoid alcohol while travelling solo. Blogs that say this are a pet peeve of mine. If you’re travelling the world, of course you want to drink, have fun and go out!

When it comes to nights out, I’m confident I know my limits and when to stop. If you DON’T, then yes, maybe you shouldn’t be drinking while travelling solo. If in doubt…

Nightlife tips solo female travel
Drinks with friends

Night out buddies

Independent as I am, I find that nightlife is the one thing I don’t immerse myself in alone. It’s just not as fun. Usually, I wait until I meet people I want to go out with. Hostels are the obvious way to get your night out crowd together, or why not Google organised bar crawls in your location?

Get takeaways if unsure of your destination

When I was travelling solo in India, I often got takeaways in the evenings rather than walk around alone looking for restaurants. This had the added bonus that I didn’t have to get dressed and go through the motions of eating in a restaurant when I’d rather save a few hours and watch Netflix.

Companies like Deliveroo, Zappi and Zomato are quick, affordable and mean you don’t have to walk at night.

When you’re not loving solo female travel

‘Check out’ of travelling

There are bound to be times you want a ‘normal’ day and feel sick to the back teeth of culture. For these occasions, I love finding hipster coffee shops (with flat whites, exposed brick and cacti everywhere – you know the drill). I’ll pop in for an hour to get my dose of home comfort, then I’ll be ready for street food and cultural immersion. 

If eating in a Western restaurant gives you the break you need, take a break. ‘Check out’ of travelling for a bit, get a takeaway, watch Netflix. Get it out of your system until you get your groove back. You won’t enjoy travelling by forcing it. Don’t worry about people judging you either; you don’t have to tell them.

Coffee fix travelling
When the going gets tough, Rose gets coffee

Speak to enthusiastic friends

You know that friend who’s always enthusiastic over your news? Talk to them!

If you have friends or family members who have a tendency to worry or share negativity, limit your interactions with them before departing on your trip or even during it. It sounds harsh but if you’re struggling with confidence and need a boost, you should identify and call on your most enthusiastic friends over all others.

How to handle getting sick

Getting sick isn’t fun whatever type of traveller you are. But I can tell you first-hand that being sick when solo travelling is the absolute worst. When you feel sorry for yourself, you just want to be looked after.

In terms of practicality, it’s difficult to visit doctors and pharmacies when you’re not feeling well. These are my female solo travel tips for avoiding getting sick and what to do when you’re already sick.

Eat where it’s busy

This is the numero uno rule of street food! If a restaurant or stall is busy, you can ensure the turnover of food is fast and nothing has been sitting around for long.

Ask the waiter what’s good

If you ask what dish they’d recommend, restaurant staff will usually recommend what’s fresh and good to go. If you order something random from halfway down the menu, there’s a chance it’s not fresh.

Solo travel tips for street food
Living the solo street food life with banh mi

Eat where the locals do

This is less about ensuring it’s fresh but also ensuring it’s delicious! If the locals like it, you know it’s the real deal and not a tourist version.

But remember they have different stomachs

Eating like the locals is great until you’re already sick. In this situation, I’d suggest eating plain foods close to those you would back home. When I was ill in India, the locals brought me curd and dal to my room. It was so kind of them but I realised after that lentils are gassy and curd is basically unpasteurised dairy. These foods might be good for locals but they weren’t for my delicate Western stomach!

Have the essentials ready

By ‘have the essentials ready’, I really mean: have your diarrhoea tablets in your medical bag so you don’t poop yourself en route to get them!

Carry a few packets of electrolytes. These replace the levels your body naturally makes when you’re well. They’re easy to buy over the counter but the last thing you want is to go searching when you’re weak already.

Tell people

Don’t be too proud. In India, the hostel staff became my friends, driving me back and forth to the hospital and helping collect me medicine. Had I not told them I was sick, I’d have had to deal with it alone. Even though talking about your health can feel personal, don’t be afraid to share it with hostel mates too because I’m sure they’ll look after you.

Indian street food
I love Indian food despite it nearly killing me…

Female solo travel tips for specific locations

India

  • Stay on-grid – I don’t mean exclusively stick to the Instagram spots of Jaipur, but I mean don’t go blindly into villages in the middle of nowhere where attitudes and values vary.
  • Book trains in advance – buses are okay to book last minute but trains often book up. You can use 12Go to book Indian trains in advance.

Mexico

Solo female travel in Mexico
Oaxaca state, Mexico

Southeast Asia

  • Be aware of pickpockets – Southeast Asia is a safe place to travel and there’s almost no violent crime. All you need to worry about is pickpockets so make sure to have a bum bag and hide your valuables away at night.
  • Get off the Asia backpacker route – since Southeast Asia is so safe, you can easily get off-grid as a solo female traveller. Certain places in Thailand and Bali feel like Ibiza these days so make sure to see some lesser-visited destinations, too. Check out my hidden gems in Hanoi and off-the-beaten-track places in Bali.
  • Use my 101 Southeast Asia backpacking tips to guide you. They’re based on 2 years of in-depth experience (AKA me doing everything wrong the first time!)

Read next: 101 Asia bucket list experiences

Final thoughts

Trust your gut above all else. If something is described as safe but you don’t feel it, stick to your guns rather than succumb to pressure. 

Don’t assume everyone’s out to get you. Many solo female travel resources suggest never speaking to strangers which would be such a shame. Of course, use your common sense and stay in public places with new people (especially men) initially. But as long as you’re smart, you’ll learn so much by meeting the locals. 

Tip #101

If you’re having a tough time, reach out to me. As a blogger, I can’t always respond to every small question or query. But if you’re struggling and need solo travel help, email me. I’ve been in all the solo travel pickles. I know what it’s like. We’ve got to look after each other!

Last but definitely not least…

Enjoy this! Even the testing moments won’t last forever. Several years from now, you may be sat back home wishing you could do it all again. The life you are living is someone else’s wildest fantasy and will be YOUR memory bank for life.

The fact you’re reading this and have decided on solo female travel makes you stronger than most already. You are about to embark on the most amazing adventure and YOU HAVE ABSOLUTELY GOT THIS.

Thanks for reading my solo female travel tips!

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Solo female travel tips

2 thoughts on “101 Solo Travel Tips (That Aren’t Lame)

  1. Traveler Ideas says:

    I haven’t been on a solo trip yet because I’m only 17 but I’m so looking forward to the day I get to! Today I’m going on a trip with my mom to the US east coast to visit colleges though and I’m still super excited

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