Solo travel can be one of the most exciting and rewarding experiences out there. However, it’s also normal to feel daunted at the prospect of exploring new places on your own.
This can be especially true for female solo travellers, for whom safety can be more of a concern.
However, despite this, solo female travel is on the rise – with recent statistics revealing an astonishing 142% increase over the past five years. And while, for many, the idea of travelling can still seem nerve wracking, the good news is that with the right preparation and mindset, it can be an incredibly liberating experience.
So, to help set you on the right track, we’ve partnered with house and pet sitting platform TrustedHousesitters, to put together seven tips for solo female travellers. Throughout, we’ll also hear from Sheryl, Tammie, and Amparo about their own solo travel experiences.
Fifty-nine-year-old Tammie, who has been travelling solo since her divorce almost 30 years ago, says, “Travelling solo is no longer sad, lonely, or less meaningful for mature women. I have become more courageous and independent the more I’ve travelled alone.”
1. Research the local culture and consider learning some local language
Every country has its own set of traditions and customs woven into daily life. And, in order to really appreciate how locals live and understand the do’s and don’ts of an area, it’s worth doing some research before your trip. Not only can this keep you out of trouble, but it can also make for a more authentic travel experience.
For example, in some countries, like America and Canada, it’s disrespectful not to tip people, and many Asian countries will expect you to remove your shoes before entering a building. Similarly, some areas will expect you to dress more conservatively – for example, covering your shoulders and legs in places of worship.
Another useful thing to do is to learn some of the local language, or at least brush up on some popular phrases – as this can make meeting and connecting with people much easier.
Simple words like “hello”, “please”, and “thank you” are good places to start – and it can help to learn phrases like “I don’t speak [local language]” or “do you speak English?”. You don’t have to be fluent for locals to appreciate your efforts to connect with them and their culture.
Sixty-six-year-old Sheryl, who’s always travelled alone, says, “It’s important to be respectful of other cultures, and asking questions about their country and language can be a really valuable way to engage with local people”.
Check out TrustedHousesitters list of 7 best language learning apps for travel for ideas on how to start. Depending on where you’re travelling to, you might also be interested in our articles; 9 most spoken languages that are useful to learn and 6 languages that are easier for English speakers to learn.
2. Invest in safety products
For obvious reasons, safety is a prime concern for the majority of women who consider solo travel. This can seem unfair and frustrating, and may make you wonder why you should have to alter your own behaviour to stay safe – but, ultimately, it’s better to be prepared.
While you hopefully won’t need them, it can be worth stocking up on some safety products before your trip. Many women find that simply having a safety product available to use should they need it can provide invaluable peace of mind.
Examples of popular safety products include door stop alarms, small flashlights, anti-theft messenger bags, personal alarms or whistles, and undercover bra wallets as an alternative to money belts. Some women also like to wear a fake wedding ring, because research suggests that females are less likely to be harassed if they appear to be married.
Knowing different countries’ 999-equivalent numbers and having these stored in your phone in case of emergencies can also be useful. And to make sure you have internet access and avoid high roaming costs, you might like to consider getting a local SIM card for your phone.
In terms of general safety, Sheryl says, “My advice would be to not drink with strangers and avoid walking alone at night in unfamiliar places. If you must go out, make sure you’re in a busy area, memorise your route home if you can, and walk with purpose. If you need a taxi, it’s always best to book one via your hotel or accommodation.”
Tammie also added that she likes to share her location with loved ones through her phone and keep her vehicle in good condition to reduce the risk of it breaking down.
3. Consider house or pet sitting
If you’d like to cut accommodation costs while solo travelling, why not consider house or pet sitting? House and pet sitting involves looking after people’s pets or homes (often both!) in exchange for a stay in their home while they’re away.
Aside from removing accommodation costs, many people also find that being in someone’s home or having the company of animals helps them feel more at ease and less lonely. Plus, pet and house sitting can be a unique way to experience local life, instead of staying in hotels or hostels in overly touristy areas.
Luckily, through platforms like TrustedHousesitters, it’s never been easier to connect with fellow pet-loving people around the world looking for loving sitters to care for their home and animals. For a small annual fee, you can book unlimited sits all around the world, with new furry friends for company. TrustedHousesitters offers great flexibility by allowing you to search for destinations, the length of your stay, and the types of animals you’d most like to care for.
Sheryl, who has been house sitting with TrustedHousesitters since January 2019 says, “House sitting means I don’t have to worry about finding accommodation, except in between sits, and I don’t have to eat out. When travelling independently I did get very tired of having to eat out all the time. I’ve saved thousands of pounds by house sitting and been to places I wouldn’t have otherwise.
“Plus, because of my love of long-term travel, I haven’t had my own pets but enjoy meeting and caring for a variety of other people’s. Apart from cats, dogs, and chickens, I’ve also had the pleasure of looking after rare sheep, alpacas twice, and have an upcoming sit with various animals, including Pygmy goats.”
Amparo, who started home and pet sitting after she retired in 2018 has 12 different sits coming up in four different countries. She says, “When I retired I had no idea what I would do next. Home and pet sitting while travelling solo gave me a new sense of purpose and a rewarding way of life.
“It’s allowed me to increase my independence and sense of wellbeing as a woman in unlimited ways, and I actually feel safer traveling solo. House and pet sitting has restored my faith in humans and I get plenty of love from the beautiful animals I’m trusted to care for.”
You might also like to read Angela’s story. Angela, who’s in her 70s, has travelled all over the world through TrustedHousesitters.
4. Connect with fellow travellers
For some people, loneliness is a prime concern when it comes to solo travel. And, often, connecting with like-minded people can enhance your travelling adventures. So, the good news is that, no matter where you travel, there are plenty of ways to meet new people.
Joining free walking tours can be a fantastic way to connect with others (and cut costs too!). Plus, you’ll probably learn a huge amount of local knowledge, which can help you integrate into a community’s way of life. Other in-person activities like volunteering, attending a local cooking class, or museum tours are great ways to connect with fellow travellers too.
Alternatively, if you’d prefer to connect with people online, then Facebook groups, online communities, and solo travel websites and apps are just some of the many options available.
For example, on Meetup, you can search for events, tours, classes, and activities all over the world; on EatWith, you can find unique culinary experiences with new friends and passionate hosts; and Thelma and Louise offer a fantastic find a buddy service. Check out TrustedHousesitters’ guide to connecting with local communities for more ideas.
Tammie says, “I like to search Facebook events in the area or even join local pages to see what’s happening. I also sign up for tours that interest me on websites such as Viator and Trip Advisor for group adventures.”
5. Remember to spend quality time with yourself too
It’s amazing to connect with other people on your travels, but equally important not to lose the opportunity to soak up some alone time.
Unlike holidays where you’re constantly in the company of others, many women find that one of the main perks of solo travel is not having to worry about what other people want to do. This is your time to spend exactly how you like. Fancy exploring the local town at your own pace? Spend the whole day if you want to. Prefer to spend the morning around the pool doing absolutely nothing? Go for it.
Some people also find that solo travel allows them to learn more about themselves and grow as a person. It can often lead to the development of invaluable skills, like self-reliance and boosted confidence. So, although it’s great to make new connections while travelling, consider going it alone sometimes too.
Tammie says, “Travelling solo is very empowering. To be comfortable in your own company is pretty satisfying in general. It gives me the opportunity to soak up the culture of an area and really focus on what’s important to me.”
Amparo added, “I wasn’t born brave. I’ve become more courageous and independent the more that I’ve travelled alone.”
6. Consider travelling to countries deemed ‘safer’
Taking into account factors like crime rates, security, peacefulness, and country conflicts, some areas of the world are considered safer than others. And if you’re new to solo travel or would simply like to explore somewhere that you’re more likely to feel safe, these areas can make good destinations.
For example, Japan, Austria, Iceland, Denmark, Portugal, and New Zealand are among the safest – not to mention happiest – places in the world. While it’s always important to be vigilant, travelling somewhere that’s statistically safer may help you feel more at ease and enjoy your trip to the fullest.
If you’d like more information and guidance on this, TrustedHousesitters’ article, 10 of the safest places for solo female travellers, is worth a read.
7. Pack light
It can be daunting knowing what to pack for a solo trip – particularly if you’ll be away for a long time.
However, while it can be tempting to pack a whole variety of clothes and outfits just in case you need them, it’s generally easier to pack light and stick to the essentials. This means planning for comfort rather than style – so depending on the trip length and type, it’s worth considering whether you really need that extra pair of shoes. Remember, you’ll want to be able to get around easily, which means not being weighed down by too much baggage.
Having quick access to key documents, including your passport and travel insurance, can also be useful – but it’s best to keep them out of sight too. Many women like to use a discreet bum bag travel wallet for easy access. Other packing essentials include a travel first aid kit, personal medications, and emergency cash if needed.
For many of us, travel is a passion – and being able to explore new places entirely on your terms is just one of the many benefits unlocked by solo travel.
If you’re interested in combining solo travel with your love of pets, house and pet sitting might just be the answer. Head over to the TrustedHousesitters website to find out more.
What are your experiences of solo travel? Have you got any other tips about travelling solo as a female that you’d like to share? We’d be interested to hear from you in the comments below.