Solo Travel as a Woman Is Empowering! Here Are 3 Ways to Stay Safe
Few things are as freeing and empowering as traveling alone — especially for women. Travel is a form of self-care and does just as much good for your physical wellness as it does for your soul. Sitting on a beach drinking a fruity cocktail or getting a cabana massage will most certainly leave you feeling carefree, but that feeling may last beyond your return home. According to a 2018 study, even taking a vacation as short as a four-day weekend can lead to lowered stress levels for five weeks after the trip.
As lovely as a vacation sounds, those going it alone will almost certainly have their own solo travel concerns. The vast majority of globetrotting women are open and honest about the added burden when traveling by themselves. A study by Solo Female Travelers — an online women’s travel forum — revealed that 64% of women who travel extensively on their own say safety is always in the back of their minds. To be honest, I’m one of them.
Many of my trips have gone off with few complications. But I’ve had my share of problems that will resonate with other women traveling alone.
I was once drugged at a nightclub in Ibiza, though I made it back to my hotel without incident. The experience did teach me the value of keeping a close eye on your bartender and not accepting drinks from strangers, even if they come from bottle service at a table where multiple bottles are chilling in the ice because one may possibly be the “designated” bottle used to take advantage of friendly female tourists.
During another excursion, I was stranded in an isolated area of Spain for nearly two hours because I got off at the wrong train stop in a remote area on the way to visit Montserrat in the countryside.
Despite those moments of concern, I’m a huge advocate for solo travel for women. Why? Safe international travel is entirely doable, and it’s a major source of empowerment and confidence. You just have to be prepared for multiple complications.
Planning How to Travel Alone Requires Preparation
Overplanning is essential when you’re about to head out for an adventure of a lifetime in an unfamiliar place. When you spend time upfront prepping for your trip, you’ll set yourself up for fewer moments of uncertainty.
Having enough destination-specific currency upon arrival comes with its own peace of mind. The moment you get to your destination, you’ll be able to buy food, pay the cab driver, or tip the bellman or concierge. If you arrive with local cash on hand, you won’t have to wait in currency exchange counter lines or waste time (or risk your safety) going to ATMs for withdrawals.
More big-picture planning can include researching the local customs of your destination. As a woman, you don’t want to flag the authorities and get into cultural snags with locals or officials. For example, displaying uncovered knees or upper arms in Vatican City is prohibited. As a foreign visitor to some Middle Eastern countries, you must cover your head and wear full-length clothing.
Travel agents have made a comeback. They are a fantastic option to help you properly prepare for international travel with all of the complications of ever-changing entry requirements — like COVID testing documentation, travel visa requirements, and destination-specific vaccinations. For example, traveling somewhere like Africa requires very specific inoculations.
Not only are travel agents experts in finding enjoyable and safe places for women to travel alone, but they can also provide guidance on proper social etiquette for countries with unique expectations. Many tourist brochures try to downplay safety concerns because they want to encourage tourism. A smart and trustworthy travel agent will give you a more comprehensive understanding of where to go and areas to avoid. Your agent may even cover details that wouldn’t cross your mind, like making sure your travel visa documentation is completed in time.
Want more strategies to ensure your next expedition alone is the best of your life? Here are a few others:
1. Use hotel safes.
Hotel room safes can be a valuable safety resource for women travelers. Select a hard-to-guess code like your dog’s birthday or your hire date at your current job. Use hotel room safes to feel confident that your spending cash, passport, and jewelry items are secure while you’re down at the pool.
2. Bring physical navigation documents for backup.
Wi-Fi is worldwide, but it’s not available everywhere. Additionally, you never know when your phone will need to charge. Under those circumstances, having a hard copy of a city map, an atlas, or a train schedule will be a lifesaver. After all, you don’t necessarily want to ask people for help right away, particularly if you’re uncertain of who to trust.
3. Bring local cash.
I can’t stress enough how crucial it is to have local currency from the onset of an international trip! Finding a place to exchange American dollars isn’t as simple as it used to be. Most airports no longer have exchange kiosks due to worldwide pandemic-related closures. It is not advised to use foreign ATMs. You never know who’s watching, especially at night after a few cocktails when inhibitions are down and you could be targeted for robbery. Further, you will undoubtedly pay exorbitant fees at overseas ATMs.
How much you take along in foreign money is up to you. Generally, you should take at least the equivalent of $100 U.S. per day so you can pay for coconut drinks from street vendors, food at a cafe, trinkets, and tips for boat crews or taxi drivers. All that matters is that you have some with you when you arrive. Credit cards are declined frequently, but paper will work when your plastic does not.
The world is opening again, and if you have the opportunity to travel solo, go for it! International travel enriches your life with exposure to exotic foods, beautiful art, and gorgeous natural beauty. And it allows you to connect with other cultures in a new and meaningful way. Awesome travel stories are great for cocktail party conversation, too!
This guest post was authored by MJ Vogel
Ms. Career Girl strives to provide valuable insights you can use. To see more from our columnists and guest authors, check these out! Or subscribe to our weekly email featuring our latest articles. We’re also present on Medium!