What is the biggest mental challenge you face as a solo female traveler? For many women, safety is a top priority. The fear of encountering a difficult situation can hold us back from venturing out on our own. Traveling the world is my greatest passion in life. I have spent the past twelve years as a solo female traveler. As a result, I know how to prepare for my travels, and prevent issues that may come up. Sometimes situations don’t always go as expected. I have mastered the art of maintaining my composure under challenging circumstances.
What aspect of solo travel is the most difficult? The greatest obstacle to overcome is finding the courage to begin. Solo travel offers a variety of personal benefits:
– The freedom to travel on your own terms.
– The challenge of breaking out of your comfort zone and immersing yourself in new experiences.
– The confidence you gain from conquering your fears.
Whether you are an eager young explorer, late bloomer or a seasoned traveler, read on. This post will decrease the anxiety associated with solo female travel.
Preparation is the key to feeling comfortable as a solo female traveler. Research your destination to understand common dangers in a specific area. Knowing is half the battle. Focus on risk prevention. This will decrease the chances of getting caught in a sticky situation.
Register with the Embassy
U.S. citizens traveling abroad should register with the local U.S. Embassy. The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program alerts the embassy to your location. They will contact you in case of an emergency evacuation. Additionally, registering will save you much hassle if your passport is lost or stolen. The process of getting a new passport will be smoother if you have already have your information on file.
Keep your documents safe
It’s a good idea to make copies of your important documents. I keep copies on me, in my email, in my luggage, and at home. The originals should stay in the hotel safe. Make copies of your driver’s license, passport, and travel bookings. Furthermore, memorize your credit card information. In an emergency, you can purchase supplies online or a flight home before canceling a stolen card.
Set up an international plan with your phone carrier. Alternatively, you can purchase a local SIM card. With internet access, you can call for help and avoid getting lost. Additionally, you can easily access your documents, call a taxi, etc. Take advantage of opportunities to charge your devices and stay fully charged. Portable solar battery packs will help you stay charged in case of emergencies.
Share your plans
Share your detailed itinerary with a close friend or family member. If your plans change, update your loved ones with your whereabouts. Update at least one contact at all times. They can alert your local authorities if necessary. Furthermore, ride share services like Uber and Lyft have location sharing capabilities. Share the route with a friend.
Keeping Your Valuables Safe
Stash Your Cash
Always divide your cash and credit cards and keep them in multiple safe locations. Be sure to have enough small bills on hand to easily pay for purchases. Tuck away larger bills that you might need that day in a safe location. It is a good idea to keep the majority of your cash and one credit card in a safe location, such as the hotel safe. Always have a backup plan when it comes to your money.
There are lots of amazing products out there that are designed to hide your valuables. This water bottle is my favorite option. It is very realistic and has no obvious seams to indicate a hidden compartment. You can fill the water bottle to half capacity of a regular bottle and drink it as usual. Sometimes I also carry this refillable water bottle, which has a false bottom to store valuables. However, it is important to note that these bottles are only designed to carry cash and keys. The bottom compartment is unfortunately not deep enough to store credit cards. Nevertheless, it still does the trick, and you can rest easy knowing your cash and keys will be safely hidden in these clever bottles.
Keep Your Items Close
Another useful tip is to keep your luggage with you in the back seat of a taxi. Avoid putting anything in the trunk. It is out of reach. If things start going south or the driver is going off route, you can make a quick escape and not have to sacrifice leaving your luggage behind.
If you need to carry your passport while out and about, keep it close to your body. Clothing with hidden inside pockets can help keep valuable items from being stolen. If you don’t have any hidden pockets, you can purchase an inexpensive neck pouch for your documents. Wear it under your shirt and tucked into your pants.
Thieves are always looking for new ways to dupe the unsuspecting traveler. It is important to be aware of your surroundings, as well as research common scams in the area. In Europe pickpockets may spill something on your clothing (condiments, bird droppings) and then help clean it up. They are skilled at stealing your items while you are distracted. If this happens, do not let anyone help you. Find a restroom and clean it yourself.
Another common scam involves multiple thieves working together. One will create a commotion (e.g., a loud argument in the middle of the street). While you are distracted by someone causing a scene, another pickpocket sweeps in to rob you. Stay aware and if you spot an overly dramatic scene, chances are there is a second thief running the pockets of unsuspecting victims.
In many parts of Asia, thieves will use women and children beggers to take advantage of you. While you are donating money to a homeless or injured person, pickpockets are nearby, watching to see where you keep your wallet. Once they know the exact location, they can make quick work of stealing your items. It is difficult to know which scenarios are real and which are a setup. To be safe, I advise not handing any money out, especially as a solo female traveler.
Taxi scams are common all over the world. Sometimes a driver will tell you that the meter is broken. Once you get to your destination, they will charge you a very inflated fee. In order to avoid this, be aware of typical fares for a given distance. Negotiate an acceptable fee before agreeing to the taxi ride.
Other taxi drivers may inform you that your hotel is overbooked or an attraction is closed. They will take you to a more expensive option and earn a commission for bringing you there. If this happens, check with your hotel or activity directly, and see for yourself.
This scam usually targets female travelers. In some parts of the world, a friendly local will give you an item such as a bracelet or flower. Once the item is in your hands, they will demand payment and make a scene if you refuse. Never let anyone place anything on your body, and be wary of people offering “free” items. This is a very common tourist trap.
In some areas that are known for partying, someone may offer you illegal drugs. A second thief, posing as a police officer, will flash a badge and demand you turn over your passport and wallet. Never hand your valuables to a stranger on the street. Insist on calling the local police department to verify credentials.
If you happen to be a male reading this article, welcome! This scam is usually directed toward males, but can happen to anyone. If gorgeous local women are giving you much more attention than you usually get, this is probably a scam. Scammers may invite you to an expensive night out on the town. You may wake up drugged, robbed, and stuck with the bill. Even though it may be a temporary ego boost, read the situation and know what you might be getting yourself into.
Most crimes that occur against tourists are crimes of opportunity. Walk with a sense of purpose. This portrays confidence and makes you less of a target. Furthermore, attempt to blend in with the culture. Walk with your head held high, even if you are lost. Duck into a hotel or restaurant to reassess your location. Ask staff for directions.
Start a conversation with a stranger
In all my travels, I have only noticed someone following me twice. Both times I started a conversation with a group of strangers. I gave them a big smile, and started chatting about the best places to eat. The shady characters continued on their way, and the kind strangers were more than happy to help. When people see a solo female traveler, they are more likely to offer help than cause harm. Seek out the help of strangers. Trust your gut. Ideally look for couples or families with children.
Look them in the eyes
If you suspect someone is up to no good, do not shy away. Instead, look them in the eyes and acknowledge their presence. This conveys that you are watching them watch you. It tells them that you are not going to be an easy target.
Always be aware of what is happening around you. Avoid distractions. You should never have both headphones in your ears while walking alone. Do not look down at your phone. Furthermore, never sift through your cash in public. Keep less valuable currency easily accessible and conceal bigger bills. Roll bigger bills and tuck them into a tampon dispenser. Repackage, and stick it in one of your pockets (not your purse). This will keep your money safe. I promise you, no one is going to want to steal a tampon out of your pocket.
Don’t be a victim. In the rare event that you are attacked, be prepared. As a solo female traveler, arm yourself with knowledge. Learn how to defend yourself. There are lots of quality videos that will teach you how to protect yourself. With this knowledge, confidence will follow. Mace and pepper spray are considered concealed weapons in certain countries, so check the local laws. In a pinch, travel-sized hairspray or mosquito repellent will serve the same purpose.
Start with a staycation
If you are nervous about your first trip as a solo female traveler, take baby steps. Start small and work your way up. We often take our home state for granted. Book a fun hotel and become a solo tourist in a nearby city. Get comfortable exploring familiar areas on your own. This way you can rest easy knowing your home is well within reach.
Explore a different state
So many people have never been outside of their home state. It’s surprising! Jump in your car, turn up the music, and take a road trip to a neighboring state. Think about what you would like to explore. Then research the area, create a plan, and enjoy the experience.
Visit a country that speaks your language
Once you feel comfortable with surrounding states, try visiting a new country! Start with a country that speaks your language. This will lower your level of anxiety. Then break out of your comfort zone and move on to countries that speak a different language. Discover the freedom and joys that come with solo travel. Meet interesting new people and immerse yourself in exciting new cultures!
Visit a non-touristy destination
Although touristy locations may accommodate language barriers, less popular destinations can be trickier to navigate. Fortunately, learning a language is now easier than ever. Apps such as Babbel are very user friendly. If you make an effort to learn common phrases, locals are more likely to offer their help. Slowly learn to be comfortable in your own skin. And above all, find fulfillment in building a relationship with yourself.
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