10 Safety Tips for Solo Female Travelers

Are you thinking about taking a solo trip  Good for you! You will not regret it. Just a warning, you may only want to travel this way from now on and will find yourself making excuses when others want to join you. Solo travel has many benefits but the first time can be daunting. Everyone in your life will be full of advice, most of it uninformed. Try to politely ignore people who truly don’t know what they are talking about. Instead, listen to other travelers who have successfully solo traveled and will cheer you on. Here are my top safety tips for solo female travelers. (Spoiler Alert:  Most of these tips work for the big boys too!)

1.  Do Your Research

Learn the Currency    

You should have a basic idea of the exchange rate so you don’t get ripped off and also don’t spend too much time staring at the ATM wondering how much to get. Disclaimer:  I have often been on the bus on the way to country X frantically googling “what currency do they use in X?”  or standing in front of an ATM feeling like an idiot while people wait because I have no idea how much to get.

Also, research where to get money.  If you are going somewhere remote you may need to get all the cash for your entire trip upon landing at the airport. For example, I recently traveled to Bolivia. The airport in the capital, La Paz, had ATMs and money exchange places. When I flew to Uyuni, a much smaller airport, there was no ATM and I had to pay for a taxi. The taxi driver had to take me out of the way, into town to find an ATM. I found 2 that were both out of money. I ended up having to exchange money inside a bank.  This just shows how you need to have multiple methods of obtaining money as well.

Traveling solo and finding yourself without cash is scary so don’t let that happen. Money can get you out of many jams

Language   

Learn a few useful phrases. “Hello”, “Thank you”,  “Help” and “Where is the bathroom?” can get you pretty far!

Dress Codes   

This is incredibly important for the solo female traveler. You don’t want to draw unnecessary attention to yourself so try not to stand out too much. Some females “poo-poo” this advice but showing respect for the locals by not showing too much skin, if that’s not the custom, is never a bad thing. Being a different color than everyone else and being a solo female already will get you attention so why invite added scrutiny?

Get the lay of the land

How safe is the neighborhood where you are staying? How will you get around? Find out what types of taxis you should take. Many places have official taxis and unofficial taxis and the latter can often be trouble. As much as Uber gets bad press, I’m still a fan because at least there is a record online of you being in a certain person’s car. Never let them go “offline”. Some will try to convince you.

2.  Protect Your Money and Important Documents

Think about what you will do to keep the following items safe and also what to do if they are lost.

Money and Credit Cards

I don’t always carry all my money and credit cards with me, in case my purse or wallet is stolen. I have my money stashed in various places throughout my luggage. This may not work for everyone if you are forgetful or don’t have good hiding places but if you have a safe in your hotel, definitely utilize that.

Write down the credit card companies international phone numbers. Keep them handy. You can also take photos with your phone of the credit card backs and fronts and email them to yourself or someone you trust, in case they are lost and you need the info from them.

Passport 

Always travel with a copy of your passport and keep it separate from your actual passport. I also email a copy of my passport to my mother and myself. I typically keep the copy with me and leave the actual passport locked in my room.

Phone    

I once broke my phone and it was such a disaster. From now on I have a cheap back-up phone that I travel with, just in case. This may seem like overkill but at the very least, have your phone locked and maybe have one of those “find your phone” apps installed. If you want to have a laugh and read about my drama here is the link.

Read More:  That Time I Was Lost in the Mountains of Bulgaria

Safety Tips for Solo Female Travelers

Phone numbers      

Have a few emergency contacts phone numbers WRITTEN DOWN. Don’t only store them in your phone. Have a hard copy somewhere handy with a few phone numbers of your friends or family, your credit card company numbers, and insurance company as well as your country’s embassy. I don’t know about you all, but I only have one person’s phone number memorized so I’m totally screwed without my phone contact list.

3.  Secure Your Stuff

Handbags and Backpacks

Never walk around with an open bag. Consider a crossbody purse since you can hold them in front of your body, making them harder to steal or to take things from. I always walk with my hand sort of touching the bag. Be careful with backpacks   Again make sure they are closed. I once had two teenage kids practically unzip my bag without me noticing. When I know I’ll be in an extremely crowded situation, I put a lock on the zippers.

Bring extra suitcase locks. If you have no safe, you can lock a section of your suitcase or backpack. I always lose locks so now I carry extras.

Travel Bra

There are travel bras you can buy that have secret compartments for money or credit cards. These are great for when you are on a bus or plane. Speaking of planes, before the plane lands, check your bag under the seat and make sure your passport is still there. If it’s not, tell a flight attendant immediately. I know someone who had the person in the seat next to her steal her passport and she landed in a foreign country without her passport and only noticed at immigration!

Don’t Let Certain Things Out of Your Sight!

If you are checking a suitcase, don’t have anything valuable in there. That includes jewelry (that you shouldn’t have anyway) and electronics. I always have my laptop, cameras, lenses, batteries, chargers, backup chargers, etc with me. Yes, my shoulder bag or backpack is heavy.

On public transport, keep the valuables with you at all times, even when just running to the bathroom. Even when they say they are locking the bus, take it with you. I’ve heard too much!

What to do if you are robbed

If the attacker has a weapon, do not fight. Nothing you have is worth your life. Throw your handbag on the ground and when he bends down, RUN. It is a good idea to know how to say “Help” and “Police” in every country you visit.

4.  Stay Connected

If your cell phone plan doesn’t include the country or place you are visiting, get a sim card.  Having a phone connection will make you feel safer.  You can have map access and notify someone if you are in trouble. The easiest place to pick up a SIM card is typically the airport. Cell phone plans like T-Mobile and Google-Fi offer most countries included.

Also, utilize the offline map feature of google maps. You can download an area ahead of time while you are connected to wifi and then it will be there when you are out of a service area.

5.  Get Travel Insurance

If you can’t afford travel insurance, you shouldn’t be traveling. I have used Travelex and Allianz and would recommend them. Research and read the fine print to find which policy works best for you. Many things purchased on certain credit cards can be claimed if they are stolen.

6.  Don’t Be Cheap

It’s good to splurge on safety. Don’t make this the area where you skimp. Take taxis at night when you don’t know your way around very well. If you arrive somewhere late at night, make sure you have transportation from your hotel arranged. They don’t offer it? Don’t use that hotel!  When booking any kind of tour or transportation, consider the safety records. There are ferries in Indonesia that are cheaper but others but may be crowded and not have proper safety regulations. Certain types of adventure activities in some countries may not be as safe as they would be in others. It is always worth it to pay more for a reputable organization.

7.  Personal Safety

Self Protection

You don’t need to be a ninja or Kung Fu expert but be aware of your surroundings. Notice if people are staring or following you. Try to stay in busy areas, especially at night.

I travel with mace. When I’m walking alone at night, it is usually in my hand.  I have never had to use it.  Some countries may have laws against this so double check. Make sure it is not in your carry-on luggage while flying.

Don’t look rich

Leave your 2-carat diamond at home. Don’t carry expensive purses. I find it helpful to look less like “rich American person begging to be robbed”.  Think about if you lost the things you have and would you be able to live without them? If you would be devastated to lose something then leave it at home.

Try not to look too lost

Nothing says “take advantage of me because I’m alone and lost” like a confused woman with a map. Walk with a purpose. Study the map ahead of time and if you need to consult it, try to do so inconspicuously and not in the middle of the road or sidewalk.

Know where you are staying

This may sound basic but if you don’t know the name and address of your hotel, sometimes you may have a hard time getting back there, especially if there is a language barrier. If you are in a country where they use characters other than the Roman alphabet, ask your hotel to write down the name and address on a card, IN THE LOCAL LANGUAGE. That way if you are lost, you can hand this to a taxi driver or police officer or whoever is helping you.

Safety Tips for Solo Female Travelers

8.  Meeting New People

Stranger Danger

All of us young ladies have been raised not to talk to strangers but when traveling this is all part of the fun and can really enhance the experience. So this one can be challenging. Of course, you are going to talk to all sorts of people. One of the best parts of solo travel is that you actually tend to meet MORE people than when traveling with others. As a woman, we always have to have a baseline level of vigilance.

Don’t Get Wasted

Ok, you meet a bunch of cool girls and have some drinks. Perfect. However, if you are wasted and go off alone or lose the group this can be bad news. If you are wasted and alone with a man…well we’ve all watched television, right?

Be Careful How Much You Share

Nobody needs to know every personal detail about you. Nobody needs to know about your $3000 hidden in your suitcase or how much money you make. Got me? Even with the nice people that you meet whether it be at the hostel or in a tour, don’t let your guard 100% down when it comes to your valuables until you really get to know someone.

9.  Dating

Ok ladies, you may meet Mr. Vacation Dreamboat and want to have drinks or go on a date. This is all fantastic. Just again, remember that baseline vigilance I mentioned. First of all, is this person on social media? If not, game over.  I’m serious. If there’s no online record of this person, they may have something to hide. It’s super rare these days to not have at least one social media profile and not worth the risk of getting involved with Mr. Tall, Dark and Scary.

If you met on Tinder or something like that, just lie about traveling alone. If this ends up being more than a fling and gets serious, you can fess up eventually and he will surely understand your efforts to be safe. Meet in public places and watch your drinks.  If things progress and you decide to go to a hotel room or home, you need to let somebody know where you are and who you are with. Screenshot the social media profile with his name and photo and send to a trusted friend.  What’s App is a free phone app you can use via wifi.

If you met at a hostel, you obviously can’t hide that you are traveling alone. Hang out in group situations with other people from the hostel. That way if anything happens, there were witnesses that saw you together. I hate to be so morose but you always have to imagine the worst-case scenario!

Don’t Go Crazy and Isolate Yourself

As important as it is to be safe, you have to let go and trust people every now and then. You’ll find that most people are extremely kind and helpful to a woman traveling alone. Follow your gut, keep a baseline level of vigilance and you will have the time of your life.  I know I’m giving somewhat conflicting information here but sometimes you have to use that special combination of common sense and your gut that really can’t be explained.

Don’t feel bad for lying if you don’t feel safe. Don’t feel bad for lying to get out of any uncomfortable situation. I lied my pants off all through Southeast Asia just because I was tired of annoying questions. Read about that here if you want a good laugh.

Read More:  Yes I’m Over 40 and A Solo Female Traveler. Stop Being Weird About It. 

10.  Relax and Have a Blast

Enjoy the solitude and freedom. Sleep in. Eat chocolate for dinner. Spend all day drinking wine at a cafe. You have nobody to answer to but yourself when being a solo traveler so live it up!

Enjoy the solitude and freedom. Sleep in. Eat chocolate for dinner. Spend all day drinking wine at a cafe. You have nobody to answer to but yourself when being a solo traveler so live it up! Read my tips for safe solo travel! Click To Tweet

Any safety tips for solo female travelers to share? Tell me everything!

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About The Author

Cherene Saradar

Cherene is a travel expert with 30 years of experience in over 100 countries and 7 continents. She has traveled solo to over 50 countries. She is also a nurse anesthesiologist with over 20 years of healthcare experience. Her passions include wildlife travel and visiting wine regions of the world.

9 COMMENTS

  1. Practical Tips for Traveling to Cuba - Wandering Redhead | 30th Sep 23

    […] 10 Safety Tips for Solo Female Travelers […]

  2. Federica | 12th May 19

    I travel solo often but I never thought about writing down credit cards international numbers. I will definitely folloe your great suggestion on my next trip.

    • csaradar | 13th May 19

      Glad to add to your solo safety check list:)

  3. travelgirlto | 11th May 19

    I can’t believe someone stole her passport on the plane. I would never think of checking for that. Thanks!

    • csaradar | 13th May 19

      I know I never would have either!!

  4. Jonathan | 11th May 19

    Definitely agree on being aware of where you can get cash. I made the mistake of thinking I could get cash in small towns in Colombia. I had to take a bus ride back to the town I was in before. Fortunately, it was only 40km. Had I continued my trip (I was on bicycle), I would have been in trouble.
    On personal safety, not only do you need to make sure you are aware, you should make sure your potential predators are aware that you are aware. Just like in the animal kingdom, predators want easy prey. If you eyes are buried in your phone, you are easy prey. If your eyes are frequently checking your surrounding area including looking directly at other people, your potential predator will not see you as easy prey.
    Finally, have a plan if you are robbed. If the predator has a weapon, do not fight. If you have space, throw your valuables on the ground and move away; run if he reaches to pick anything up.

    • csaradar | 13th May 19

      Absolutely..you have to be the one they don’t want to bother with. Someone not worth their effort! And very good point about a plan for if you are robbed. I’ll have to add this to the post 🙂

  5. Ana MG | 11th May 19

    Thank you for the useful tips… but except for the ‘travel-bra’ I truly believe they all should also apply to solo-male travelers…

    • csaradar | 11th May 19

      You are right and the 2nd person to say that so I just threw in an extra line in the intro about that 🙂

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