This is something I’ve wanted to talk about for a long time because solo traveling is one of the greatest traveling experiences I’ve ever had. However, there is SO much to say since this is so important to me so I’ve taken my time on deciding how to approach this subject. I’ve gone back and forth, written a few drafts, etc. and finally settled on the first thing I wanted to write about: how to stay and feel safe as a female solo traveler.
Safety is one of the biggest reasons I hear people say they don’t want to solo travel. This is TOTALLY understandable! Whether its general safety, or feeling comfortable on your own, I’m here to share how I overcame those issues and stayed safe.
Know the country you are visiting
One of the first things most people do before traveling somewhere new is google how safe it is. This is a normal thing to do, but that’s not what I mean when I say you need to know where you are going. The truth is, no matter where you go, everywhere seems to be “unsafe.” Don’t let this necessarily stop you or freak you out! Use this to be aware! So, you google the country you want to visit and it’s “unsafe”… what’s unsafe about it? THIS is the knowledge you want before visiting. For example, the country is famous for pick pocketers….. well, don’t carry around one of those cute, trendy backpacks as a purse! Don’t put anything in your back pockets! Use bags with zippers! With that knowledge alone you are already more prepared than you would have been.
Any place touristy, like this spot in London, is going to be a prime spot for pick pocketers. Be smart and zip your pockets!
Choose safe accommodations
A lot of people think they need to stay in an expensive air bnb, hotel, or resort to stay safe when traveling solo. I’m here to strongly recommend hostels! Did you know there are TONS of hostels geared towards and made for solo travelers? Me either, until I started to book my stays and do my research! Hostels are a great way to save money, a GREAT way to meet other people, and you can stay in extremely safe environments. Let me tell you how!
This is a great app and website to use when booking hostels. You can search for hostels in the area you are visiting and save any you might be interested in booking. What I did was first check the rating. I didn’t want to stay in some sketchy place. Then I would go and read “Information” that the hostel wrote. A hostel that is geared towards solo travelers will distinctly say that in their info section. Next, I would read reviews left by other travelers, specifically ones who travelled solo. After all this, I would finally book the room I wanted. Hostels usually have more than one bed option. For example, some options may be a 12 person mixed, a 4 person mixed, a 4 person all girl, a private room, and so on. I opted for a 4 bedroom all girl dorm room since this was what I felt the most comfortable with. This is a little more expensive than the mixed larger dorms, but this was important for me to personally feel safe. You can choose whatever you are comfortable with!
TIP: don’t forget to bring a lock! Most hostels have lockers or cubbies that lock so you can put any important items in!
TIP: Look for hostels that also include “events” that the hostel hosts. My favorite ones hosted “solo traveler dinner and bar crawl” where you paid 15 euros for dinner and an open bar with fellow travelers and then had a local take you around to local bars so you can safely enjoy night life.
Before I dove right in to backpacking to Europe by myself, I did smaller domestic solo trips. I went to a few concerts, took myself to dinner, had a beer by myself at a bar.. things like that. All of these helped me feel comfortable being alone and put into practice some of the tips I’m providing in this blog. I even stayed in a hostel by myself in Raleigh once…
Designate a friend to share your location and details with
In general, you should share your location with your loved ones while you are traveling, that’s just good peace of mind for them. However, you may not have service where you go and I suggest to share more detail than just the location… what if something did happen? The more detail you are sharing, the better.
This is why you should designate a FRIEND who you feel comfortable texting when, where, and who you are going with. For example, if this person is your mom, you may not feel comfortable telling her you are going to get tapas alone with Juan Pablo.. but this information should be shared just in case! What if Juan Pablo is a total jerk?!!
Know where you are going… or at least act like it!
I was just talking to a good friend of mine, Dani, about how important this is. Dani spent some time solo traveling in Belize and we were talking about important safety tips we think should be shared. We both agreed this is super important! Do NOT walk around looking at your phone. Before you leave your hostel, a restaurant, whatever, make sure you have already checked the directions and know exactly where you are going. If you get lost, keep walking like you know exactly what you are doing until you see somewhere safe to stop and pull out your phone (coffee shop, store, bench, etc.).
Tip: if you don’t have service, make sure you download google maps and the offline map of where you are traveling. You can mark locations you need and still see where you are and follow the dot to get to where you need to be.
How to download google maps offline before you travel
Make sure cellular data and wifi are turned on
Search the city you want (I’ll do Valencia for example)
Select the area you want to download
Turn off your cellular data/wifi and check for yourself!
Don’t keep your money/cards/passport in one spot
Be prepared for the “what if” someone DOES get inside your hostel locker, swipe your bag, etc. When I was traveling I would hide my passport somewhere deep in my bag, put money and a card in my shoe, extra cash in my bag somewhere, and then keep small amounts of cash and my ID in my wallet. Keeping everything spread out like this gave me a peace of mind so that if one thing went missing, I had the other three hiding spaces with cash, cards, and IDs.
This is something you should do whether you are walking downtown in your hometown or walking downtown through Madrid, Spain. No matter where you are, you should ultimately be aware of who and what is around you at all times. Unfortunately, walking around alone as a girl can be scary sometimes and possibly put you in danger. However, a strong, independent woman walking to dinner in a city she knows very well, fully aware of everything going on, phone put away, walking with a purpose… who will mess with her?!!
When traveling solo as a female, there are some things I think are some easy things you can do to be prepared and feel safe. If it’s allowed, you can carry mace or a pocket knife. I would also always keep extra power banks for your phone fully charged (I have a great story about a time I was stuck in Greece with no phone and had no clue where I was). Speaking of phones, make sure you are prepared for what sort of cell coverage you will have where you are going. Every where I’ve gone in Europe was covered by Verizon and I could pay $10 a day to have service. This adds up but on my short solo trip to Spain last year, I chose to bite the bullet. It ended up only being an extra $100 for me and it was very convenient. However, longer trips you may want to do some extra research on what others do in that country. The most popular way of messaging and calling international, no matter what plan you have, is WhatsApp. This is a free app you can communicate through using just WIFI if that’s all you can get! When I lived in Namibia, I had to get a phone plan for local calling and texting but had to use WhatsApp to contact friends and family back home.
Just because you are traveling solo, doesn’t mean you have to be alone! One of the main reasons I went on my solo adventure was to meet new people. I was RARELY alone! Making friends with people around you gives you someone to walk to the train with, someone to eat dinner with, and an easy way to look like less of a target! Staying at a hostel for solo travelers previously mentioned should make this super easy. Take advantage of hostel dinners, walking tours, and my favorite…. pub crawls!
Trust your gut
You heard me. Trust. Your. Gut. You don’t know these people. If you need to scream or make a scene because something feels weird… do it.
I really hope this blog hasn’t scared you. Solo traveling is a beautiful and wonderful way to connect with other people and cultures around you. You are forced to really immerse yourself, which is such an amazing experience. These are all tips that will help you stay safe, but don’t forget to enjoy yourself and the amazing journey you are on.
Sunset in Granada, Spain