Updated: Apr 1
There's a lot to think about when you're planning a trip on your own. From safety concerns to money management, there are some things that might not come as naturally to the solo traveler. We've put together a list of travel tips for solo female travelers that will help make your journey more enjoyable and less stressful from start to finish!
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For my first international solo trip, I traveled to Bridgetown, Barbados. When I decided to embark on my first solo journey, I was quite nervous. I had traveled to many US destinations alone, but I had never ventured out of the country. I was nervous about choosing the right area to stay in, navigating the transportation, and meeting fellow travelers. Below, you'll find some of the best tips I've acquired while traveling solo to several destinations domestic and abroad.
1. Research the Location...thoroughly
Some of the things that I considered when choosing a destination for solo travel included the local language, safety, and public transportation. I originally wanted to visit Brazil for a few weeks for my first solo trip, but quickly realized that the language barrier would be an extra hurdle to navigate. Be sure that you have an idea of what areas are most ideal for tourists, which areas to avoid because of possible safety concerns, and which parts of town have easy navigability--such as access to quick train or bus routes. As a general rule, before traveling to any new country, whether solo or with a group, you should also know if there are any ongoing political demonstrations, civil conflicts, or natural disasters that could compromise your safety. Be sure to register with the US Embassy before your travel. It's also important to know the rules and regulations regarding COVID-19 restrictions when entering and traveling within the country.
Solo female travelers also need to be aware of the cultural norms in a country before they set out on their journey. For example, wearing provocative clothing is not considered acceptable attire for women in many places around the world and it's best to respect that when traveling solo. In some countries, a woman can't walk outside by herself or leave her house without being accompanied by a male relative. That doesn't mean you should avoid these countries. It just means you need to do your research!
2. Learn some phrases in the local language
For your first trip solo, I typically advise going to a country where you are at least proficient in the local language or are able to pick up the language quickly. Language can certainly be a barrier when traveling to a foreign country. But if you're not as risk averse, traveling to a place where you don't speak the language can be exhilarating and exciting. Just make sure that you learn few phrases in the local language before you get there. Purchase a language book. Take some online lessons with Duo Lingo. Ask a friend who speaks the local language to teach you a few essential words and phrases. Even being able to say, "Hello. Goodbye. Please. Thank you" will go a long way when traveling solo.
3. Buy your sim card before you leave home
Another common concern for travelers internationally is being able to communicate, both with people back home and with those within the country. This means making sure that your phone's international data and messaging plans are adequate for your travel needs. Some wireless providers, such as AT&T, allow you to make phone calls to Mexico and Canada without adding additional costs to your monthly bill. More likely though, you'll need to purchase a sim card for your phone to have adequate data and talk time for your trip. Some folks advise purchasing your sim cards in the country, however, if this is your first solo international trip, I recommend purchasing before you get to the country. This takes away some stress from your initial arrival. I typically do a quick Amazon search for SIM cards for a particular destination.
4. Pack Light
When you're packing for your solo adventures, it's important to remember that it's just you! There's no borrowing deodorant, toothpaste, or tampons in case you forget yours. With that being said, it's important to pack efficiently when traveling solo. Pack a couple pairs of jeans or shorts that you can wear again if matched with different tops. Take a couple pairs of shoes that can be worn with multiple outfits. Don't pack your entire closet. Packing lightly also helps to cut down on baggage fees, especially if you're flight hopping to multiple cities or countries. Packing cubes make packing a breeze and help compartmentalize your luggage.
5. Download apps like WhatsApp, Google Maps, and Google Translate
WhatsApp is the most used mobile messaging app in the world! You can message and make internet calls through this app, all you need is a wifi connection or data. When I travel internationally, I usually don't purchase talk time with my SIM card package. As long as I have data and WhatsApp, I can easily communicate with folks back home.
If you don't speak the local language well and aren't familiar with the local surroundings, Google Translate and Google Maps are also essential. These apps are also clutch because you can use them while offline!
6. Try Staying in Hostels
During my budget travel days, I was a big fan of hostels. Not only are they super affordable, but they are also ideal for young, solo travelers. In many international destinations, there are several highly-rated hostels that offer solo and double rooms, in addition to spaces for 6, 8, 10, or even 12 people. Many hostels come with free breakfast, a bar, and multiple communal spaces for chatting with and meeting new people. Another perk of hostels is that the staff often host nightly outings and excursions with guests. This is an easy way to do free or low cost group tours or excursions if you are hesitant about doing these types of activities alone. During my solo travel to London, I stayed in the Generator Hostel which offered breakfast (for a small fee), free excursions, kitchen on-site for lunch and dinner, and convenient location near train stops.
7. Buy a selfie stick
In a previous life, I abhorred selfie sticks. I always saw them as tools for the conceited....until I started traveling solo. When it's just you and you don't have a photographer following you around to all of your destinations, devices like selfie-sticks and small tripods are critical for helping you document your solo travels via photography and video. Tired of constantly surrendering your phone to strangers and asking them to take photos of you throwing a peace sign? Buy the selfie-stick!
Be sure to pin for later!