Do you want to travel solo but haven’t pulled the trigger yet?
Traveling as a single female is more accessible than ever, thanks to a growing number of kick-ass women who take the plunge and hit the road for their own adventures. Whether heading out on a gap year, taking a career-break or simply going on a holiday, no one says you must have a companion at your side.
In fact, solo travel can open people up to a wide world of experiences that people traveling with others aren’t always so fortunate to have. Solo female travel pushes women to become more adaptive. To have faith that they can do whatever they set their hearts to. That they can be independent and see the world, without needing anyone else.
As a first-time solo female traveler, it can be daunting to book those tickets, make those plans and dive into the world of travel. But, it doesn’t have to be!
I’ve been a solo female traveler my entire adult life, and it has been one of the most fulfilling, eye-opening and awe-inspiring decisions I have ever made.
How can you make your first-time out an incredible one? Here are my go-to tips for solo female travelers.
1. Find Out Where You Want to Go
Not all solo female travel experiences are created the same, and we certainly are not all created the same. Take a good look at you and what you want out of a trip. Do you want to start off with something comfortable, like perhaps a weekend away, or do you want to plunge right into the travel world and challenge yourself in a country where you don’t speak the language and the culture is different from yours?
There is no right or wrong path to take when it comes to where you want to travel solo for your first time. Listen to your heart. While others will certainly try to share their travel insights with you, at the end of the day, remember: this is your trip.
For those who have never traveled outside of their home country, heading somewhere totally foreign definitely gets people out of their comfort zone. Are you ready for that? Or, would you prefer something a bit more chill?
If you’re a first-time solo traveler looking for something that has some comforts of home, but in a different world, I always suggest Europe. The big name cities (Paris, Rome, London, Barcelona) are all fine choices to start as a solo traveler. But, these all tend to be pricey. Lesser known cities, or less tourist-y cities make fantastic first-time options.
My favorites — and the ones I think are excellent spots to launch your wanderlust — are Ljubljana and Berlin. These cities are both easily accessible (it is way cheaper to get to Ljubljana via car, bus or shuttle service versus flying direct), English is more common, and they offer plenty of things to do, without being overpriced.
Over in Southeast Asia, Thailand is incredibly easy to travel as a solo female. People are friendly, it is super cheap, and transportation is very accessible which allows for more exploration. Thailand also happens to be a solo traveler hot spot, and it is easy to meet others during a trip.
2. Don’t Overpack
Aside from being charged for going over the weight limit on planes, overpacking can put a damper on your travels. Remember, whatever you pack, you’re going to have to carry. While I prefer using my Kelty Ascender (it converts from carry-on to checked luggage, can convert to a backpack and is on a two-wheeled chassis), many opt for a backpack.
If you decide to go with a pack, go to a store like REI and have an associate show you the correct way to wear the pack. Trust me. I didn’t do that, and my 65L backpack ended up hurting my back a lot, resulting in numerous dumps of clothing along the way.
To make your packing easier, get some packing cubes to help organize your belongings. I’m a big fan of the Eagle Creek Travel Gear Pack-It Starter Set.
Speaking of clothing, be mindful of what you pack. There are plenty of resources online, like Her Packing List, which provide thorough packing lists and can help you pack lighter.
Don’t forget to pack adapters and a converter if you’re traveling to a different country. In addition, I bring a power strip to plug in all of my gadgets. If staying in a shared room, this is a biggie since many places have a limited number of places to plug-in.
3. Bring a Lock
While this sounds like a no-brainer, it is one I often forget. Especially if staying in a shared room, bring a durable lock to protect your valuables. Most hostels and guest houses offer lockers to stash your goods. Take advantage of that!
4. Get a Theft-Proof Bag
I’m a huge fan of PacSafe’s products, especially the Citysafe 200 Gii Handbag. Their bags are slash-proof, offer secure zips and even have a special RFID pouch.
5. Don’t Act Like a Tourist
While I like to think the world is good, people are good and places are safe, stuff can happen. Walking around with a guidebook open, looking at maps and leaving your phone/laptop lying around can be open invites for petty thieves. Instead, download apps on your phone to help guide you, and never leave your phone, purse or laptop on a table in public … even if you’re sitting there.
6. Go Out, But be Mindful
Always be aware of your surroundings, especially at night when walking alone down quiet streets. If you’re concerned about being robbed, stash your money or phone in your bra and have a fake wallet in your purse. While many advise to always have your passport on you at all times, I tend to leave it locked in a safe or locker and only carry a photocopy of it on me. Also, scan a copy of your passport and credit cards and keep them in your e-mail.
I am all for going out and enjoying myself, but it is important to never get too wasted if you’re solo and have to go home alone. Know your route ahead of time, and opt for well-lit, trafficked streets versus dark alleys. Should you get a bad feeling when walking alone, duck into a place or change your direction. Trust your gut.
7. Be Social
When traveling solo, an entire world is at your fingertips. If you want to meet other travelers, it is necessary to be social. Instead of checking into a hotel, opt for a hostel or a guesthouse. These are a hotbed for other travelers — both solo and in groups.
Staying social doesn’t have to mean making life-long friends (but, chances are, somewhere along the way, you will pick up a few of those), but it does give you a chance to have some conversations and learn more about other people. Plus, you never know who you will meet. In my travels, I ended up making a lot of friends and later, meeting up with them in other parts of the world.
As someone who has grown more introverted over the years, I try to make myself talk to others at least a little when I’m on the road. Even if it simply means grabbing a drink at the hostel bar. There are plenty of times where I have been stuck in my head (hey, traveling solo can certainly facilitate that), so meeting others has been vital in getting me out of funks and the dreaded travel fatigue.
8. Don’t Just Stick to the Guidebook
While guidebooks are great jumping off points for visiting a city or country, some of the most authentic experiences aren’t contained within those pages. Do a little exploring, ask questions at reception, and learn about places locals head to.
Then, go and check them out! Hitting up more local spots is an excellent way to learn more, not only about a place, but about the people who make that place so special. Ask locals questions, grab a coffee with one. So many people are so happy to share their city with you, take advantage of it.
9. Tours Aren’t a Bad Word
A lot of people blast group tours. I know I used to. But, not all tours are created the same. If group outings and events aren’t your thing, try a day trip or free walking tours of the city. A shorter experience lets you get out, learn about places you might not have visited, plus maybe meet some like-minded travelers.
Personally, I adore walking tours and food/wine tours which give me a different perspective on the places I visit. Then, when they are finished, I can either choose to spend time with people I have met on tour, or head back to my life as a solo traveler.
10. Be Adventurous
This one is a biggie — at least for me. Sometimes, the easiest way from Point A to B is also the most boring. I like to challenge myself, so often I opt for getting lost in a new destination versus taking public transit. I also will almost always choose a bus or train versus an airplane (if I have the time).
Saying “yes” is a part of being adventurous, too. It’s easy when traveling solo to become complacent and not challenge yourself or endeavor in experiences. If someone asks you to do something with them, say “yes!” You never know what will happen.
Are you ready to dive into the world of solo female travel?
There are heaps of online resources to ask questions, share ideas and experiences, as well as plan meet-ups with other solo female travelers along the way. I’m a regular in Girls Who Travel, Solo Women Travelers, #HPLWorld and International Female Travelers. These Facebook groups are an excellent way to get inspired, learn about places you’d like to visit and exchange ideas and support. Remember: traveling solo can be challenging. Groups like the ones I mentioned provide heaps of support when the going gets tough.
Pinterest also is helpful for first-time solo female travelers! Check out my Pinterest board dedicated to solo female travel for some tips, stories and more.
There are also some excellent books to read before heading out that help conquer any fears you might have of traveling solo as a women. My personal favorite is the new memoir out from Lauren Juliff, How Not to Travel the World: Adventures of a Disaster-Prone Backpacker. I don’t want to give anything away, but Lauren shows readers that traveling — even when prone to anxiety attacks and more — is possible. The book is inspirational and one I couldn’t put down!
Books I recommend for helping plan your solo travels:
Do you have any tips for solo female travelers to add?
Editor’s Note: Some of the links above are to affiliates. While there is no additional charge for you, purchasing products using this links helps fund my site and travels.