Nothing should stop someone from seeing the world, especially being a woman! I am here to demystify the notion that a woman traveling alone is an unsafe, foolish, or a radical idea. From traveling solo in Europe to South America, I have found that hosteling offers an immediate community of friendly travelers that create inclusive, safe, and amazing experiences. The following are tips, curated for women, that I have compiled from my own personal experiences of traveling solo.
Do your research: Know the environment you are entering, whether your destination is just a couple of states away or on a different continent entirely. This means researching the transportation system, the hours of those transportation systems, safe/unsafe areas of the city, and jotting down the contact information of the US embassy and the local police. Be well informed.
Pack lightly: This is a general tip for all travelers, but perhaps even more applicable to women. If you pack less, you have less baggage to look after, which means you can better focus your attention on yourself and your surroundings. Number one thing to leave to leave behind is frivolous shoes; choose a comfortable, practical and hopefully still somewhat stylish pair.
Stay in touch: Tell your mom, tell your friends, tell someone. If something happens they will know where you are, and how to get in contact with you, or how to help you.
Learn the language: If you are traveling to another country with a foreign language, learn a few basic phrases to use in potential situations.
Drink responsibly: If you drink, keep an eye on your drink and drink moderately. Like any place on earth, it is important to be aware of your drink. I suggest going out with a group that you have known for at least a couple days. While abroad I made a pact with one of my friends that we would NEVER leave a bar/club/night out without each other. It may sound overly cautious, but it is not. It is simply being smart.
Be aware of cultural differences: Unfortunately, in many cultures around the world, men see any type of contact initiated by a woman as an open invitation for harassment, including the simple act of making eye contact. This does not mean that you should not interact with the opposite sex; it is just a reminder that other cultures perceive the actions of women differently. The best way to prepare is to do some research on the place you are visiting to get a better understanding of gender roles and customs.
Dress appropriately: Many cultures expect women to dress modestly, including covering arms and legs (no tank tops, no shorts), and in some cultures, even covering your head. As I mentioned before, it’s important to understand local cultures before you go. Ignoring local customs when it comes to how you dress may attract unwanted sexual attention or harassment. To keep it simple and stay safe, be prepared to cover up.
Share carefully: A guy on the bus asks you where you are staying. What do you do? Best to say that you forgot the name of your hostel or make up a name. Ninety-nine percent of the time the intentions of someone asking about your travel plans will be innocent, but it is worth it to be vague for that 1% chance that they aren’t.
Invest in safety: Safety is ALWAYS worth the money. Trying to save a couple bucks by staying on the less safe part of town? Don’t. It is not worth it. Keep your peace of mind, spend a little more, and prevent the problem before it happens.
Listen to your instincts: If something feels wrong, it is wrong. Do not take the risk. Leave the situation and find a safe space. I cannot stress this enough! Your internal judgment is more accurate than you think it is. As a woman traveling alone it is essential that you are in tune with your instincts. Safety is about being well-informed, alert and aware, and preventing a problem before it happens.
Now go see the world! Keep my tips in mind, and I’m sure it will be nothing less than amazing. Cheers!
- Alicia Flores, HI Madison