It makes me happy that more and more women are trying solo travel. It’s one of the pieces of advice that I give my (very few) girl friends at least once a year. However, there’s a disclaimer: there are safety tips for solo female travelers that must be followed at all times to stay on the right track.
Below are some of my safety tips for solo female travelers.
As I’ve emphasized in my solo travel tips, doing your research about the place you’re visiting is the first step to staying safe.
Apart from learning the best places to go and things to do, do your homework and delve deeper into the culture and history of the place you’re visiting. Sometimes you’ll see safety tips for solo female travelers even in the comments section (e.g. if a specific spot has a lot of pickpockets, or they got scammed by a tour operator, etc).
I prefer reading blogs of female travelers so that I can get a grasp of their experiences. You can also reach out to them (and me) in case you have any questions about safety.
Spend Extra on Accommodations
Cheap accommodations always come with a different price, whether it’s located in a sketchy location or the overall stay is bad. Cut some things off your travel budget, but never compromise safety.
You’re not obligated to stay at a hostel, too. More and more hotels are adapting to solo travelers’ needs so you can easily score cheaper deals for one.
I tried staying at a hostel once (Lampara Siargao), and I knew right there and then that hostels are not for me. I still like having my own bathroom, and peace of mind, at the end of the day.
Keep Enough Cash on Hand
Carrying a huge amount of money is a no-no—I can’t stress this enough but there are pickpockets almost anywhere. Keeping enough cash on hand will also save you from the hassle of looking for ATMs while you’re on your tour.
Make sure to scan the area first before you withdraw cash from an ATM. I prefer the ones inside the mall or the airport.
Another thing: don’t rely on your credit card all the time. There are places out there with credit card skimmers, more often at gas stations.
It’s advisable to keep a secret, emergency cash, and hide it in your hotel safe.
So you understood the assignment, it’s time to put your research into practice and blend in with the locals. Think of it as a foolproof facade. Scammers won’t think of you as a target since—without sugarcoating it—you don’t look stupid, like you actually know the place.
If you can’t do anything about looking like a foreigner in a city, at least try to appear like you’ve been living there for a while and you already know the ins and outs.
Use A Day Bag for Your Valuables
A day bag is basically a bag for your essentials. What to pack in it depends on your itinerary for the day. For example, you can bring a small day bag or simple tote bag for a quick trip to the beach, while a backpack is recommended for hiking trips or if you’re going to be out all day.
I recommend a lightweight and waterproof anti-theft bag like this.
Keep Copies of Your Travel Documents
One of the worst things that could happen on a solo trip is losing your passport. Once it’s gone, it’s usually gone forever, so save yourself the horrors of getting held up and keep an electronic copy.
Just make sure your electronic copy is secured—the same goes if you’re keeping credit card and ID numbers on your productivity planner.
Don’t Trust Everyone
You don’t have to play nice and trust everyone. Like I’ve said, it’s different in every city so don’t let your guard down easily.
If the people closest to you can betray you, what more if they’re complete strangers? It may be dark to say but it’s better to be safe.
Update Family/Friends Daily
Check in with your family or friends every day, even if it’s as simple as telling them you’re okay.
Do not post too much on social media about your whereabouts. I was active on Instagram before I lived a quiet life without social media, yet I was always cautious about what I was posting. I’d typically upload Instagram stories or posts after my day was over so that there won’t be any stalkers lurking.
Memorize Your Emergency Contact
I know life is not a movie but how many have we watched where the protagonist doesn’t know any numbers to call in case of emergency? Memorize a number or two by heart, period.
Know Your Limits
Challenging yourself is one of the main objectives of solo travel. Still, knowing your limits is important.
You don’t have to do outdoorsy activities just because they’re highly rated, if you know yourself it’s something you can’t handle. You don’t have to try street food or every local food if you have food allergies or sensitivities.
For instance, don’t snorkel or scuba dive for the first time in a deep ocean, without a guide, when you don’t know how to swim. Don’t hike alone on a very difficult trail if you’re not prepared. Just don’t rely on dumb luck, please.
Drinking out is normal but know if you can handle your drink. Be mindful of strangers buying you drinks as you never know their motives. I never get drunk while on solo travel, unless I’m staying in a safe hotel the whole day.
Pepper Spray and Safety Whistle
I recommend carrying a small pepper spray for protection. Although I have a love-hate relationship with it because it always seems to leak in my day bag.
A safety whistle is also important as a self-defense tool or in times of crisis.
Dress for the Occasion
This takes us back to doing your research and blending in with the locals. If people in that city mostly wear casual clothes, skip the shiny dresses and do as the locals do.
Don’t wear expensive jewelry if you’re touring downtown or visiting large markets. You’re going to appear as an easy target to thieves.
Get Travel Insurance
Travel insurance is everywhere nowadays, so you only have to pick one that fits you well. This is important since we live in a world where there’s still covid, the horrors of lost baggage, and of course, the unforeseeable medical emergencies. Depending on the city you’re visiting, access to healthcare might be cheap or very expensive, so insurance come in handy.
Know the Local Emergency Hotline
911 may be the most popular emergency number though it’s different in every country.
I hear some underdeveloped cities do not have a reliable emergency hotline yet. If that’s the case, at least know the local police number available. I like saving the phone number of my hotel accommodations to be sure.
Learn Some Self Defense
You don’t necessarily need to enroll in a self-defense class prior to your trip but it’s a good thing to try. Apart from knowing the right moves, these classes will teach you how to assess your surroundings and potential threats. This will help you both in your travels and your day-to-day.
I personally took up self-defense classes back in college, and while we did karate, taekwondo, and judo, among others, and had sparring sessions every week, it’s different in real life. Still, it gave me a sense of peace and confidence that I know some moves and target points in cases of unfavorable situations.
You can watch some tutorials on YouTube and practice with a friend at home as well. While you’re at it, learn some first aid basics.
Be Extra Cautious at Night
I’m not here to tell you to stay indoors or wear conservative clothes at night. However, compared to any other time of the day, nighttime is where the threats—whether it’s a person, an animal, or natural occurrences—come to play. This is just a reminder to be careful.
I like walking around at night but I’m always cautious because 1) I’m small and one of my worst fears is falling into a manhole, and 2) I’m blind without my glasses, let alone when it’s dark.
It’s Okay to Lie to Be Safe
I always give a fake name when I talk to strangers while on travel. I also don’t tell them specifically where I’m from. Trust me, it’s one of the smartest things you’ll do especially now that people can easily Google you.
If you feel uncomfortable with a stranger talking to you, you can always lie and tell them that your parents are coming over or that you’re waiting for your boyfriend or husband. You can try to use a distress signal and other girls may come to the rescue.
If you really don’t want anyone hitting up on you at a bar, wear a fake wedding ring. Believe it or not, that thing does the trick. Another is to sit near the bartender if the bar is crowded—they usually feel when things are off.
It's usually better to be surrounded by a crowd, and not wander too much off the beaten path especially if you're just starting. Remember that things differ in each place you visit, so I suggest learning how to really blend in with the locals. Trusting your gut is important. As they say, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Get travel insurance prior to your trip, and always bring a whistle and pepper spray for protection. Better to be safe than sorry.
What other safety tips for solo female travelers can you recommend? Let’s help each other out and comment below!