You might find yourself traveling solo for any number of reasons — for a business trip, to visit relatives, to study or just because you don’t want to be fettered by someone else’s finances and fickleness. Whatever your reason, solo international travel can be a wonderful adventure as long as you plan ahead and stay safe.
Getting ready to go
Regardless of where you go, your first step is to check for travel warnings; change your plans if they take you close to social or political turmoil.
If you’re traveling solo, it’s up to you to stay busy and interested. Plan, plan, plan! Creating an itinerary for at least your first couple days can help you avoid moments of indecision. Plus, if you know what you’re going to do, you can go about it more confidently, making you look less like a tourist.
Book a place to stay for at least that first night before you leave so you don’t have to deal with that hassle while you’re fighting jetlag. Also before you leave, collect all your travel and reservation documents — passport, airplane tickets and itinerary, hotel and car rental confirmations and proof of insurance (you did get international medical insurance, right?). Most of these go in your carry-on luggage, but you should keep your passport, proof of insurance and other ID with you at all times and put copies of everything important in your checked luggage.
Getting around in the world
Just because you’re traveling alone doesn’t mean you have to be by yourself all the time. You can befriend fellow travelers along the way by staying in hostels and by joining group tours. Not only is there safety in numbers, but you can start your list of international pen pals as you make new friends in exotic places.
Avoid traveling alone at night, even if you’re using public transportation. Getting a taxi can be safer, but climb into a cab only if it bears the official markings of a business. If you’re traveling by train, don’t sleep in an empty compartment. Find a family or a small group of travelers and ask to stay with them.
Stay safe out there
The best safety advice for a woman traveling alone is simply to keep your wits about you. Pay attention to what’s going on around you and trust your instincts. Follow these guidelines as you go about your daily travels:
- Walk with purpose and resolve. Criminals prey on the weak and vulnerable, so walk as if you’re comfortable in the environment and you know exactly where you’re going.
- Don’t look like a tourist. Take fashion cues from the women around you and try to match their style.
- Leave your bling at home. If looking like a tourist is bad, looking like a rich tourist is doubly so.
- Keep important documents with you. This includes your ID, passport and proof of insurance.
- Wear a wedding band, even if you aren’t married. Yes, wearing a fake wedding ring is un-feminist, but implying that your husband is waiting for you can help you sidestep uncomfortable and potentially dangerous situations.
- Don’t drink to excess. If you’re falling-down drunk, not only are you an easy target for ne’er-do-wells, but your inhibitions drop, as does your ability to make rational decisions.
If something bad happens, make a fuss. Go nuts! Yell, scream, hop around, throw things — anything that draws others’ attention to you will discourage would-be villains from continuing with their nefarious schemes.
Yes, safety is a big issue when you’re a woman traveling alone, but that shouldn’t discourage you from your adventure. A little planning, a dash of preparation and a heap of common sense can see you through some of the most amazing travels of your life. Who knows, you may enjoy solo international travel enough that you make a living out of it the way travelers like Runaway Jane, Solo Female Nomad and Adventurous Kate have!