At Homestay.com we’re big fans of travelling solo. Getting out in the world by yourself, is a wonderful, liberating experience that should be tried by everyone at least once. Often, those who have never travelled alone before think that it takes a certain amount of bravery, in particular for a woman.
While travelling alone can certainly be intimidating, it is something all of us can do. Yes as a woman you need to keep your wits about you when you are abroad, and yes there are horror stories out there but the vast majority of women travelling alone in the world are having a great time doing it.
If it’s your first time travelling alone as woman or you’re going for an extended trip and are not sure what to expect, here are 16 handy tips to keep you safe, organised and hopefully stress-free when you travel.
If you are first-time solo traveller or if you are still on the fence about whether or not to go it alone, seek out testimonials from those who have gone before you. Solo female travellers like The Blonde Abroad, Adventurous Kate and World of Wanderlust are fantastic resources of first hand travel information, both in terms of destination guides and the experience of travelling alone as a woman.
One of the reasons travelling alone is intimidating is that feeling that you will stand out from the crowd. Most likely you inevitably will as it's a natural part of the travel experience but it’s important to be aware of the different perceptions of women and the traditions and values of the country you are visiting. By knowing what to expect, you won’t be so out of your comfort zone if you encounter these differences.
Things to look up include average weather conditions, terrain and transport links as well as local customs and expectations so that you know where you stand. A good starting point for this is reading up on other solo traveller’s experiences of a destination as well as picking up a decent guidebook on the area you're going to.
Travel insurance is one of those things you hope to never need, but should the situation arise, you will most certainly be glad to have it. Travel insurance policies are relatively cheap compared to other kinds of insurance and can protect you against theft, injury, loss of luggage and cancelled or delayed flights. Basically all manner of things that can cause you a headache when you travel.
Policies can often be purchased online so you can sort one out pretty easily before you travel. EU citizens should also ensure that they have their EU Health Insurance card with them at all times when they travel.
This tip has a twofold benefit: one, it helps you to get organised and forces you to sort out your itinerary. By doing this you will see if you have any gaps in your travel plans and have a sense of your trip before you travel. Two, it means that your loved ones back home will know that you are safe and will be able to raise the alarm in the unlikely event that you get into trouble along your travels.
By that same token, let your homestay host, hotel or hostel receptionist know if you are going out, particularly if you are going somewhere remote alone, such as a hike or a bike ride for the day.
Check in regularly with those back home as well as whoever you are staying with. You may think it a bit unnecessary, but a little caution can go a long way.
I love the look of an old-fashioned paper map however many of those provided in tourist offices do not have a lot of detail or only hone in on a small part of a city. While the likes of Google Maps and City Mapper are great, you can cut down on your data usage by downloading an offline map of your destination before you travel. Apps like Galileo and Maps.me will give you all of the detail of Google Maps without the ugly phone bill at the end of the month.
This may sound obvious but having a decent bag is the difference between heaven and hell when it comes to travel. For most trips I now prefer to use a backpack rather than a suitcase for my luggage as I find them much easier to carry around. Suitcases left me with sort arms and shoulders and are a nightmare to get on and off a metro or underground, but this is my personal choice. Invest wisely in your luggage choices and it will take the headache out of a lot of travel.
When you arrive in your destination, make sure you have a decent bag you can carry around with you that ideally zips up rather than buttons closed, and that can fit your daily belongings without weighing you down.
The one thing everyone wishes their phone had is better battery life and while it can be a pain in the neck for your battery to die on a night out at home, when you are abroad it can be downright scary.
Considering that your phone will most likely contain your accommodation address, maps and of course will allow you to call for a taxi and in some cases even pay for items, it would seem foolish to let yourself get caught without it.
Pack your charger in your handbag and you can charge your phone in a café and pack a portable charger so you won’t end up stranded in the wee hours wondering if there is an offline way to call an Uber.
From your accommodation arrangements to your train tickets and your passport, have a photo of all your travel documents for your trip, that way you won’t need to carry them around with your every day but you will still have the information to hand. Likewise, if you happen to lose them, you will still have all the information that they contained.
This may sound like something of a platitude when it comes to travel, but oftentimes seeing just a few words that are familiar to us make us feel so much more comfortable when we travel.
While it obviously not easy to pick up a new language for every country you visit, having a phrase book or translation app on your phone can make things a lot easier.
This may seem like something of an odd one, but if you are stay in a hostel or any kind of communal accommodation, a small padlock to secure your valuables in a locker or failing that your suitcase, can be a godsend.
If you are doing a lot of back and forth travel in an out of a destination, it may be worth finding some travel storage lockers to leave heavy or unnecessary items. Theses can usually be found at central train or bus stations.
As mentioned earlier, you will most likely stand as out a foreigner to all the locals when you travel and while there is no need to play dress up, it is important to be respectful of the customs and culture of the country you are visiting and to avoid any unwanted attention.
Be mindful of the fact that if you are visiting a religious site or country pack light, cool layers to cover up so you can literally keep calm and travel. Many sacred sites will not allow you to take photographs or may require you to cover your head when you enter: be mindful of those at worship and keep a scarf with you in your handbag in case you come across a place you wish to explore.
This is obviously a pretty basic tip but there are a few different ways to do this so you don’t get caught out when you travel. Make sure you have online banking set up on your account and if your bank has an app, install it on your phone so you can keep track of your finances.
Make sure your bank or credit card works abroad and if you have a credit card in addition to your current account card, keep it separate. Should you lose your wallet, you will still have this back up card to withdraw cash from.
Apps like XE Currency are great for helping you keep a handle of how much you are paying for items in a currency you are not familiar with, and if you are travelling with a group or splitting expenses, apps like Splitwise or Splittr ensure that you won’t get short changed if you are the one paying.
Provided you have followed my advice from number seven, this should be fairly straightforward. Save your accommodation address and make sure you know your way. Check how to get home at night in particular and see if there is a public transport option as well as how much a taxi should cost.
If you are taking a taxi alone, keep an eye on the route you are taking with your phone and if at all possible, avoid walking home by yourself late at night. This shouldn’t in any way inhibit you having a good time, but just keep your wits about you as you would on any night.
Packing for a trip, particularly if you have multiple stop-offs planned, does require a bit of organisation but always go with the less-is-more idea when it comes to what you bring. Unless you are travelling to a very remote destination, you most likely will be able to pick up anything you forgot and packing too many things for you to carry around is only making life harder for yourself.
Headphones are easily one of the most useful things you can travel with: download some podcasts and you’ve got something to chill out with for a plan or train journey. Pop them in your ears while walking or travelling in a new city and they instantly make you look more like a local. Sit by yourself in a café with a pair in when you want to be by yourself and no one will try to bother you.
15 different things do think about before you even travel may seem like a lot, but don’t let that put you off. Start with a short weekend break if you’ve never travelled alone before or stick with somewhere close to home to dip your toes into the world of solo travel.
Build up your confidence with your trips rather than throwing yourself in at the deep end and try staying with a female host or a women-only dorm if it makes you more comfortable. And remember that even if something bad does happen, nine times out of ten, it will all be okay in the end.
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