If you’re travelling alone for the first time, it can seem a little overwhelming / scary / terrifying. I’m here to reassure you that you will be fine. Millions of people have done it before, and millions will do it in the future.
I travelled the world for three years solo and I’d recommend it to anyone who has the inkling or the opportunity.
I absolutely do not believe that travelling solo is any more inherently dangerous than travelling with a friend, or staying at home – your safety depends on what you get up to, how you look after yourself, the situations you put yourself in, and most importantly, the people you meet.
However, knowledge is power. There are some precautions you can take to give you confidence, and help you feel like you’ve got this.
Beginner’s Guide to Travelling Alone
- Safest places to travel solo
- Most dangerous places to travel solo
- So where to go as a solo female traveller?
- How to decide if a country is safe for solo travel
- 7 things to avoid as a solo female traveller
- The 5 questions solo female travellers are asked DAILY
- Special packing list for solo travel
- Choosing the right accommodation
- Solo travel pep talk
- 10 things to expect travelling solo
Safest places to travel solo
Gawd, this is such a debated and written about topic across travel blogs and travel sites. There are always going to be countries that stand out – Denmark, Japan, Canada, Switzerland – just because of the ease of travelling, the low crime rate and the friendly people.
I’ve felt safe in most of the world, and when I haven’t it’s usually because of something someone’s said to me, or something in the media. The safest places to travel solo are away from the dangerous places in any city. Before you arrive do a quick google search of places you should avoid, and always double check with your hostel or hotel owner if you’re worried too.
As long as your destination isn’t on the dangerous list as decided by the FCO, you’ll be fine travelling alone.
Most dangerous places to travel solo
Someone asked me recently which country I felt the most in danger in, without a doubt it would be the USA.
I’ve been to destinations traditionally thought of as dangerous – Mexico, Guatemala, Belize – yet the most scared for my life was in the US.
It’s the guns, it’s the huge disparity between the rich and the poor shoved down your throats, it’s the extremists, the drink driving, it’s the crossfires, the car parks, the drugs, the meth and the terrifying news. I’ve spent over a year of my life in the US, which gives me more insight than a lot of tourists, and that’s the conclusion I’ve come to.
And statistically, Thailand is one of the most dangerous places for Brits to travel to in terms of death count of tourists. According to figures issued by the Foreign Office, between 2014 and 2016, 1,151 British nationals died in Thailand, and the numbers are on the rise. Yet, is one of the most popular.
Despite this, I would totally visit both America and Thailand again.
A lot of what we consider ‘most dangerous’ is based on media representation and the history, rather than any current fact.
So where to go as a solo female traveller?
The same places as male travellers?
I’m an absolute feminist, but, I do think when it comes to travelling it’s different for guys and girls. For example, I really like Derek’s blog, wanderingearl.com, and had the pleasure of going to Israel with him a few years ago. He told me all kinds of stories of going to people’s houses for dinner following an invitation at a market, of hitch hiking and basically trusting others enough to accept what they offer.
All things I would never, ever, do as a female solo traveller. I’d be way too fearful of something bad happening if I was travelling alone.
But, when it comes to ‘where to go as a female solo traveller’ I’d say wherever you want. But when it comes to what do there, I think it’s just different for men and women. We have to be more cautious.
Have you heard my podcast?
Listen to the final episode of season 1 of the So She Travels podcast.
And you can listen on iTunes here
How to decide if a country is safe for solo travel
1. Check the Foreign Travel Advice for your destination’s advice.
2. Google to see if any solo travel bloggers have been recently, see what they say.
3. Do a quick social media search, check any negativity.
4. Make your decision!
7 things to avoid as a solo female traveller
This is my personal opinion but there are definitely some things I wouldn’t do travelling alone.
1. Hitchhiking – although I did in Japan.
2. Go back to someone’s house for dinner alone – unless it was part of a cookery school dining experience. You’re incredibly vulnerable in someone else’s home.
3. Disrespect the local traditions (wear a scarf etc)
4. Share a room with a guy I thought even mildly sketchy – hostels are a strange concept, but I’ve spent about three years of my life in them!
5. Meet sketchy strangers off the internet – be careful if you’re meeting people from Tinder etc. Stay in public spaces and stalk them online first to get their vibe.
6. Get too feminist and forget that females are easier to hurt
7. Be too trusting or polite – have you seen Room? She gets abducted (not a spoiler) and basically says it was because she was too polite and scared to say no, and got in the van. If it takes being rude to get out of a situation, do it.
The 5 questions solo female travellers are asked DAILY
Sometimes I forget that women are scared to travel. My travel friends are all strong women doing what they’ve planned with their lives, seeing the world on their own terms.
When I was in Barbados I got chatting to a couple who were visiting, and the woman – American and of about my age – couldn’t believe that I’d come all the way to Barbados by myself. I told her I’d done six weeks in Mexico and three weeks in Belize and her mouth hit the floor.
It’s not the norm in a lot of cultures though, and so as a solo female traveller, you’re kind of a fascination. When I was travelling alone I’d get these questions daily.
- Husband, boyfriend…? (anyyyything?!)
- How old are you? (with a cocked head kinda confused look)
- Do you not want children? (with a look of shock)
- Don’t you get lonely? – Am I Lonely, Travelling Solo?
- What do your parents think?
Special packing list for solo travel
- Make sure your bag is IDd, with some way to contact you.
- Pack a doorstop. I had one for Papua New Guinea, although I never actually used it.
- You could pack an alarm or pepper spray, but a better idea is to learn some self defence techniques.
- Carry some extra money in a secret, separate spot to your other money. You only have yourself to rely on.
- And an extra payment card especially for travel – I like Tandem and Monzo.
Choosing the right accommodation
When you’re travelling alone, your choice of accommodation is vital to making friends, or getting away from people.
Making friends when you’re travelling solo is getting harder and harder as everyone just sits around playing on their phones, but you can be the one to break the scroll and get everyone up to play with you.
If you do want to meet people when you’re travelling solo I’d suggest choosing hostels that run tours and activities from the hostel – that way you’ll have a set group of friends you’ll keep seeing. Join tours, join excursions, and sign up to evening tours. At that time people’s defences are lowered and you can get chatting. Also, seek out other solo people. Just be open and receptive, and do the initiating, and you’ll be fine.
First Time Backpacking? Your Ultimate Guide
Solo travel pep talk
Travelling by yourself is honestly brilliant. I wouldn’t have done it for almost three years if I didn’t think so. You get to do what you want, when you want, how you want, and experience new cultures and ways of living while you do it. I don’t know anyone who’s regretted their travels, and so, even if you can only get away for a weekend, a week, or two, go for it.
If you want to read more about any sticky situations I’ve got myself in while travelling solo, then click through to the post. Every one was worth it though – apart from the times I’ve lost my phones I’ve course. Don’t do that.
Your first time travelling alone is your big chance to try something new, to see the world differently and to explore on your own terms. It’s a chance to make new friends, or to have some needed time to yourself, and to be who you want to be – maybe even to make up a whole new history and future for yourself.
10 things to expect travelling solo
1. You’ll become more confident very quickly
You quite simply have to. In fact, without even thinking about it you will find that you are following your instinct and making key decisions and getting things right – or learning as you go along. Whether it’s trying to work out a bus timetable, a menu or describing your destination to a taxi driver, you will soon be able to handle these situations with aplomb.
2. You’ll learn more about the local culture
With nobody saying ‘I don’t fancy that’ you have carte blanche to explore and you can do more things ‘on the hoof’. So check out that little café on the corner or the street market in the middle of town, and enjoy being spontaneous.
3. You’ll learn the language
Of course you have no choice and you might have done some decent preparation anyway, but being on your own brings out your survivalist instinct.
You’ll be much more alert and observant and start picking up words from menus, in shops and from conversations around you, which means you can hopefully quickly interact with people and get by.
4. It can be more expensive
This is something not everyone realises until they are in the thick of a solo holiday: There’s nobody to share the cost of taxis, or the supermarket shop, or the hotel room. If you plan ahead, however, you might find hostels or the odd accommodation that doesn’t charge a single room supplement – especially if you travel in low-season. You can also travel as much by public transport as possible. Another way to save is by finding groups and joining them on shared excursions.
5. It’s easy to make friends
You’ll be conspicuous as a solo traveller. This can be a good and a bad thing and you need to keep your wits about you, but in general people are very responsive to solo travellers and you can use your judgement to make friends accordingly. If you plan ahead, you can find sociable hostels or group excursions which allow you to make friends easier, but put simply, if you put yourself in sociable situations, people will understand your status and start chatting and including you and often inviting you to join their little group.
6. There’ll be lonely moments
It’s inevitable that, however well you mix with people, or make friends in group situations, there will be periods of solitude during travel between places or late at night. Some people deal with these better than others, but do prepare yourself by having little things to do, bringing a book, or catching up on the local news back home.
7. You’ll need a good internet deal
Make sure you have strong, affordable and available Wi-Fi at all times. While it is great to escape all your emails and social media, there are times when you will need the internet for guidance, maps, hotel rooms and local info. And of course, in those lonely moments, a Skype call to friends or family can be just the tonic to get you on to the next leg of your adventure.
8. You’ll understand the true meaning of freedom
Not much can prepare you for that wonderfully liberating feeling of waking up in the morning and being able to do whatever you want, go wherever you want and meet whoever you want. Look after yourself in terms of food, sleep and security, but other than that you have no responsibilities, so make the most of it.
9. You’ll have fun
This goes without saying, but the key is to soak it all up and enjoy every part of it. Just getting back to your room after your first evening meal can provide a great sense of personal achievement, and every day gets better and better from there. Do things your own way, always use your common sense, and, no doubt, you will have the holiday of a lifetime and be ready to do it all again as soon as you come home.
10. You’ll come back a different person
It’s up to you whether this turns out to be a good or a bad thing, and it’s also something that you might not initially notice, but your solo travels will change you. Undoubtedly, you will come back more confident, with an eye for adventure and with plenty of stories to tell, but on the flipside you might find your regular life more mundane which might cause you itchy feet. While you adjust to life back home you need to get some perspective, be true to yourself and be understanding that not everyone has the same sense of adventure.
PIN THESE TIPS FOR TRAVELLING ALONE FOR LATER