Once when I told someone I had been solo travelling they replied, ‘But you’re a girl?’, as if that should stop me. When I first started writing this article on solo female travel, I decided to do a quick online search to see what other people say about it. Whilst I have my own experience, I wanted to remain unbiased. The first link, though, sent me to an article with ten top tips for female solo travellers and I just couldn’t get past some of them.
Of course, some were obvious points like keeping important documents and money safe, packing light and supporting the local economy of the country you visit – but these apply to all travellers, right? Other tips suggest that, as a female traveller, you should never eat alone and keep your accommodation to yourself. Whilst these are viable options, I don’t agree that you should necessarily abide by these.
On my travels I have shared accommodation with both girls and boys and had a great time. Initially I went to Australia and New Zealand by myself and chose all female rooms because it was my first time travelling and I didn’t want to feel uncomfortable as I was already doing something out of my comfort zone- going to the other side of world alone. But the following year, I went to Europe and walked into an 8 bed shared room in Barcelona with 7 other guys already in it. Yes, I’ll admit, this was a shock, but it didn’t bother me really (apart from the shared bathroom – that was an experience I’ll never forget!). From my perspective as well, I would definitely not advocate to have your own room when travelling alone – meeting new people is part of the experience of solo travel and, usually, your roomies are great people who you will quickly become comfortable with. Plus, most accommodation come with lockers that you can padlock so you can always leave special items locked away!
Eating alone is an interesting point to raise. I usually ate with others (I spent some time with a tour group and other times I met people in the hostel) but, equally, would never say you should always eat with other people. Sometimes I would be up earlier (or later) so I ate breakfast alone, or fancied trying a delicacy so I went off to find it. Eating alone in another city is great: you can people watch and take in another culture. But eating with new friends is as great as you make memories you’ll keep for a long time.
Their next tip was to meet other female solo travellers. And I agree, to an extent. It is nice to have people to relate to, and bond over things with, but I would say you should try and meet as many people as possible regardless of their gender. Or their age, race or sexuality. On my adventures I have met all kinds of people and have never looked at them and thought that because they were different (or similar) to me that that should stop me from talking to them and getting to know them.
Female solo travel can be scary. I am a worrier and a catastrophizer, so I understand. I spent two years of my life when I was younger going to bed fully dressed in case I was kidnapped in the middle of the night. Fast forward 8 years and I was on the other side of the world, alone, in a city I didn’t know. And I was fine. More than fine.
Don’t get me wrong, it was still daunting at times: getting on planes by yourself, using the city’s transport system, losing connection when you’re trying to navigate somewhere, jumping out of a plane without telling your mum, cutting your foot open and ending up in hospital, meeting 50 new people on a tour, trying new foods, being poorly, getting lost and so on. It is scary, but these things will be scary to everyone, not just females.
Of course, in this age, it is important to be aware of your surroundings and the people you are with but I don’t think you should solo travel if you are going to hold yourself back by having the mindset that everyone you meet is a bad person, or that you shouldn’t put yourself out there in case something bad happens. I would be naïve if I didn’t say girls are more at risk than boys, but this is the case in the UK as well. The world is full of good people doing good things just waiting to be explored.
On this note, I made my own top ten tips for female solo travel:
- Explore every city as much as you feel comfortable!
- Try new foods and enjoy them alone or with company!
- Do things that push you out of your comfort zone!
- Don’t overthink it (whatever it is)!
- You can never pack too many pairs of pants!
- The country you are going too also sells food: you probably don’t need to pack it!
- Remember when someone told you, you shouldn’t do something because of your gender/age/sexuality? Prove them wrong.
- Take in the culture of the city you are in!
- Never get so drunk that you can’t look after yourself.
- Smile and be yourself!
(NB: Notice how all of these can be applied to everyone???)
When I tell people I went travelling alone, I usually get told that I am brave – I think anyone who goes travelling alone is fearless! It can be scary and is full of the unknown, but it can be amazing and unforgettable too. It means you are putting yourself first, and doing something that you want to do, and that, alone, can be scary but once you make that decision nothing can hold you back!