I love to travel. There’s no doubt about that. From the time I took my first international trip way back in 2004, the travel bug bit. I was younger then, and family vacations were an annual event but as I got older, I soon realized that the kind of adventures I was looking for were not the same as everyone around me. I wanted to mingle with the locals as I tasted freshly prepared street food.
I wanted to wander through the markets, speak to local artists, and immerse myself in the everyday culture as I learned new essential phrases. Rather than wait for the right travel companion to come along, I chose otherwise and reluctantly opted to travel to the east… alone. Don’t get me wrong – I might sound brave on paper, but I was anything but that. I was beyond scared, and the possibilities of what could go wrong seemed to endlessly run through my head.
What if I needed help and there was no one around? What if I travelled all that way and was too afraid to try something new because I was alone? Truth be told, travelling alone can be a pretty daunting experience but if planned properly, it can empower you and give you some of the best experiences of your life. If you’re thinking of going on a solo adventure into the big wide unknown and are unsure of how to do it, then read on. Here are some of my best female travel tips to help you plan your first solo adventure.
1. Be mindful of the language barrier
While experiencing new cultures can be a mind opening experience, traveling to cities where English is not the first language can be a daunting experience, more so if you’re a female.
In fact, at times, it could even be dangerous. Take precautions and always download easy to use translation apps. Write down a few essential phrases in a small notebook as well. This should help you get by, even if your phone battery dies.
2. Carry copies of your important documents
Before leaving on vacation, give copies of your passport, tickets, and hotel contact details to trusted friends and family members at home. Carry copies of these documents with you as well, and save electronic copies online. This way, someone will always know your itinerary and you will always be able to access your important documents, should anything happen.
3. Always tell someone where you are
While traveling solo can be a liberating experience, you’ve still got to take measures to be safe. Always ensure that you tell someone where you are going and what time you will be back or when they can expect to hear from you.
This way, should anything happen, someone will know what your most recent moves are.
4. Dress like the locals
Be mindful of the dress codes of the countries you will be visiting, and try to dress as close to the local dress code as you can. Not only will you blend in with the crowd, but you will be less of a target for pickpockets who usually target tourists in bigger cities.
5. Carry a map with you
While getting lost in unknown cities seems to be a trend with travel bloggers these days, my advice is to get lost wisely. Exploring unknown cobblestoned alleyways and wandering around mysterious beaches may sound magical but be mindful that as a female, this can be unsafe.
Take precautions and download offline maps that can still be used should your phone lose its signal. It’s also a good idea to carry a paper map with you. Mark out the important landmarks and safety points before you go exploring.
6. Don’t be afraid to get a table for one
A few years ago, asking for a table for one seemed like a very daunting experience but as a solo traveler, the truth is, this is the going to be your reality for many meals. Don’t be afraid to ask for a table for one. Walk in confidently, smile at the waitress, and sit down. I usually like to get a corner table or one positioned next to the window where I can sit and take in the surrounding views while reading a local newspaper or updating my blog.
7. Make friends
As females, we tend to worry a lot about if we’re being judged. If I’m honest, we tend to act in ways that society dictates we should, rather than how we really want to. The best thing about traveling alone is that no one knows you.
This means you’ve got a chance to just be yourself without worrying about what the next person is thinking. Make friends with the locals. Strike up a conversation, and learn more about everyday life by asking questions. Smile at other travelers and more often than not, you’ll find that they are friendly and love sharing travel stories with other travelers too.
8. Carry major currencies
Always carry major currencies, such as U.S. dollars or Euros when traveling. Change some into the local currency at the airport when you arrive. While the airport rates may be higher, changing some money here will allow you to get to your hotel and carry on until you find a local bank or currency exchanger with better rates. Be wary of foreigner restrictions, as some banks may only allow foreigners to change a certain amount of dollars or Euros a day. Also do your research, and find out if you will be able to use your credit or debit cards for basic payments.
9. Keep a secret stash
You never know when something will go wrong, so having a secret stash of cash kept away in an old lip balm container can be a lifesaver. I like to store my important documents in a different section of my bag too.
Should my wallet get stolen, then my passport and an emergency money stash is still with me.
10. Embrace the solitude
More often than not, the fast paced monotony of everyday life makes it difficult to reflect and relax. Having time alone means that you have no option but to embrace the solitude and just be alone with your thoughts. Find a quiet place, and take some time to think. You’ll find that more often than not, being in a new place helps to put things into perspective and gives you a new outlook on life.