Nothing’s more exciting than seeing a friend post the obligatory departure lounge announcement that they’re heading off on their first solo trip. Whether it’s a short post-break up getaway or a one-way ticket into the great unknown, it’s daunting (well, terrifying) to jump on that plane with no one to keep you company except Netflix’s Peter Kavinsky, some fluffy socks and an inflatable travel pillow.
After moving to the other side of the world (twice!) and ticking off twelve countries solo, I’ve pulled together the best tips and tricks to help you feel safe, prepared and confident to take on the globe as a solo female traveller. Who run the world?! Girls!
Plan, plan, plan
Solo trips require a bit more planning than travelling with family or friends, purely because there’s only you to do the work. First things first, you gotta decide on a destination! There are plenty of blogs out there on the best places for solo female travel but some of our favourites here at STA Travel are Bali, New Zealand, Botswana, California, Iceland and Sri Lanka.
Use other solo female travellers, or Facebook groups like Girls Love Travel, to get suggestions from other adventure gals who’ve visited where you’re going to get the down low on where to stay and things to do, or use TripAdvisor’s solo to see hotel and hostel ratings from people also travelling by themselves.
Listen to travel warnings
If you’re considering going somewhere away from the tourist trail or anywhere that’s had recent natural disasters or political issues, it’s worth checking your government website for any travel advisories – it might just be a matter of staying away from certain borders or areas, and it’s best to be as knowledgeable as possible about the current situation in your destination. Note that travel insurance may not cover anywhere with official travel warnings in place so keep this in mind.
Fake it ’til you make it
Try your hardest to avoid looking like a tourist. Sometimes you can’t help sticking out like a sore thumb, but don’t be a sore thumb with a bulky camera, a map and a very confused face. Look confident, keep your valuables hidden and stick to main roads/walkways that are well lit. And it should go without saying, but never go walking alone in the dark in a place that you’re not familiar with.
R. E. S. P. E. C. T.
Between modest clothing, meaning of gestures and cultural etiquette, it’s super important to know what’s appropriate and respectful when you’re travelling, particularly in countries that are religious. Always take a scarf and a long skirt when you’re travelling through Asia and Africa in case you need to cover up for any temple visits or homestays.
If you like pina coladas…
I’m not going to tell you not to treat yourself to a margarita after a hard day on the beach in Mexico, but drink responsibly when you’re travelling alone. That means don’t go overboard, always keep an eye on your drink and if someone’s buying for you, make sure you watch it being poured.
911, 111, 000, 999, 118 118
I was six months into living in London when I found out that the emergency services number was 999, not 111 like back home (which was actually the non-emergency medical line!). Make sure you know the local emergency number and keep an emergency contact saved in your phone and your wallet in case anything happens.
Never travel without insurance
The least sexy part of travel for sure, but it’s essential. You should never travel without insurance, but it’s especially important if you’re travelling solo as it’s your only support on the road if things go wrong. You’ll be covered for lost luggage, travel delays and medical issues, and some policies even cover a companion flying over to join you if you’re injured abroad.
It doesn’t have to break the bank
Hotel rooms and private transport are more expensive when you don’t have a travel buddy to split it with, but you can avoid paying more by choosing hostels, UberPool, shared transfers or tours that don’t charge a single supplement, like G Adventures or Contiki. I like my own space (mainly because I travel with expensive camera gear, terrible idea) but also love meeting other young travellers so I tend to go for private rooms at hostels, the best of both worlds! Loads of cities have free walking tours too, especially in Europe, where you can meet people, tick off the main sights and save money while you’re at it.
Travelling light is a win in so many ways. You’ll save on luggage costs while flying, it’s easier to take public transport and you’ll have less stuff to lose when you unpack and repack throughout your trip! My mum always says to plan what you want to pack, and then cut that in half. She’s brutal, I know.
Keep your parents calm and carry on
Parents are always going to worry about you, it’s a fact of travel, like annoyingly long arrival queues at airports. You shouldn’t let their worries stop you from doing what you want to do, but you can quell their fears with some easy changes. I always travel with a SIM card that lets me use data internationally, so I’m contactable in an emergency without relying on WiFi. Prefer to be off the grid? I totally understand, if you’re all about being disconnected it’s good to just let your family and friends know a rough itinerary and a date when you’ll next be in touch. If you have grandparents or young kids in the family then postcards do wonders! They may take 7,464,853 times longer to reach home than a phone call but they’re way more exciting and it means you get to share your trip with your loved ones.
Do it for the ‘Gram
Taking photos while you’re travelling by yourself is tricky but not impossible. With some small gadgets and routine changes, you’ll be the poster girl for solo female travel in no time! If you can handle an early wake up, sunrise is by far the best time to shoot photos solo. You’ll have amazing light, far less tourists in the way, and you may even run into a photographer (or at least an Instagrammer) also catching golden hour who may take a photo for you if you ask nicely. Bonus points if you say it in the local language.
Selfie sticks, when used at inappropriate times, can be really beneficial for solo travellers, and a tripod is an absolute must if you’re serious about capturing great content. If you’re looking for the number one gadget for a solo female travellers, I would say invest in the new GoPro Hero 7. Wide angle shots mean you can get way more in (and have more room for error), it’s small and inconspicuous, can be used in all types of weather and for some reason GoPro selfie sticks are way less embarrassing than phone ones. Don’t ask me why, that’s just how it is.
Have the BEST time
The most important tip of all (except for maybe travel insurance…) is to HAVE FUN. This is going to be one of the coolest and craziest periods of your life, you’ll be exploring the world without anyone else to worry about, and you’re able to do exactly what you want when you want. Be safe, be confident, meet people, enjoy your own company, immerse yourself in the culture or immerse yourself in a Netflix series, it’s totally up to you. Whatever you do, I have no doubt that you’ll absolutely smash it. You go girl.
Got any tips, destinations or experiences to share with fellow solo female travellers? Comment below! We’ve also got a solo travel page dedicated to all things solo travel, if you need some more inspiration – and follow me (@findingalexx) to see all of my adventures around the globe.