“Do you really need to go there alone?”, “don’t you have friends you could travel with?” and “I wish you’d travel in a group instead of alone”, are just a few of many phrases that come out of my mom’s mouth upon embarking on a new solo trip. While I’m the first one to brush aside any danger and enjoy my independence, I get where my mom is coming from. When you’re a single woman travelling alone, there’s a lot you need to consider.
I’ve been in my fair share of sketchy situations that could’ve ended badly but I was lucky. So before you run off on your next solo adventure, here are a few things to keep in mind.
Getting to your destination
As a single woman travelling alone, you should always consider how you’re going to get to your destination. When you arrive at the airport, will you have a transfer to your hostel/hotel? Will you get an Uber/Grab/Lyft etc or will you take public transit? It’s important to have a game plan before you arrive, so you aren’t seen as vulnerable or lost by potential predators.
The most important aspect of arriving safely at your destination has to do with the timing of your flights. ALWAYS try to book a flight that will arrive during the day if you’re alone. It can be challenging to navigate a new place on your own and even more so when it’s dark out. This can also lead to potentially dangerous situations.
If you can only get a flight that lands sometime at night, prepare ahead of time. Have a ride set up in advance or if you’re getting into a cab, make sure you’ve downloaded offline maps with Maps.Me or Google maps. This will allow you to put in your accommodation and follow your driver to ensure they’re taking you to the right place if you don’t have a SIM card yet. I always try to get a SIM card at the airport so I have a way to contact friends or family in case of an emergency but if it’s not possible, keep your offline maps open and ready to go!
Following certain cultural rules
As you start to travel more, you’ll find that some countries follow cultural rules that you don’t at home. For example, in some places you’re expected to dress more modestly and if you don’t, you risk standing out like a sore thumb. The same goes for wearing flashy jewellery or expensive clothing that could make you more of a target.
When I was in Bali, there were many temples that didn’t allow women who were menstruating to come inside. Coming from Canada, this was completely new to me and something I had never experienced before but as the saying goes, when in Rome, do as the Romans do.
Learning how to handle unwanted attention
Most women will already have a few coping mechanisms for dealing with unwanted attention but it’s a whole new ball game when you’re a single woman travelling alone. Like most places, men will whistle or stare at you but when you’re in a country when you’re the minority race AND alone, the attention will come tenfold. Add blonde hair on top of that and you’re an easy target.
While I often travel solo, that doesn’t mean that I’m alone throughout the day. Looking back on my travels, I realize that I’ve subconsciously befriended male travellers at hostels to go do activities with. Although this hasn’t always been the case and I’ve spent time with women I’ve met abroad, I definitely felt safer when moving from one location to another with a man.
If you prefer spending most of your time by yourself or with other women instead of men, you’ll come to understand a simple truth. As a woman, you simply have to be more cautious, look over your back and question peoples’ motives when travelling solo. I hate not being able to be as fearless as men when I travel just because I’m a woman but we’re still far from the day that women can travel alone without facing issues of harassment or assault.
Dealing with that time of the month
Dealing with your period each month while at home is no walk in the park, so you can only imagine how tough it can be when you’re on the move. It took me a while to find what worked best for me. I started out with tampons but they took up too much room in my luggage. If I bought them at the destination, they didn’t have the applicator or weren’t the type I wanted.
Eventually, I discovered the Diva Cup a few years ago and it’s been life changing! Only, it wasn’t really because then it was a battle of when and where to clean it properly. If I had to choose the best method, I still think a menstrual cup is the way to go because you can leave it in for the entire day and clean it out in the shower but it’s still a bit of a pain in the ass.
I also discovered that it’s not unusual for a woman’s cycle to get out of whack when travelling. I experienced this first hand when I was on a solo trip for three months. After getting my period every two weeks and I couldn’t figure out why, I did a quick Google search. I found out that when you change between different time zones, your body will adjust to its surroundings and cause changes in your cycle. While it was cool to know that my body was in sync with nature, it certainly made travelling a little more challenging.
Facing potential dangerous situations
It goes without saying that a single woman travelling alone is an easier target than two women together or a man and woman. As a solo female traveller, I’m always on my toes. I know that there are many dangerous things that can happen. I control what’s within my control and don’t worry about the rest.
If you want to know more about how you can protect yourself as a solo woman, read my blog on solo female travel safety tips!
It’s time to get out there!
While there are many concerns that may arise for a single woman travelling alone, you shouldn’t let it stop you from seeing the world. You could take all of the necessary precautions and something bad could still happen. Or, something bad could happen as you walk out of your front door! Of course, you should be aware of the dangers that come with travelling by yourself but don’t let that stop you from doing it altogether.
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