Traveling on your own has a host of benefits and can be a ton of fun! While there are many cities that are particularly safe for women to travel alone in, traveling solo differs quite a bit from traveling with a partner or group and so it’s easy to make mistakes when setting out solo for the first time. While we aren’t suggesting that you become paranoid and don’t enjoy your solo travels, we are suggesting that you take reasonable steps to increase your safety. So to help you prepare for your trip, here are 24 common mistakes women make when traveling alone.
1. Posting On Social Media
Social media is a fun way to connect with friends and family and share your travels, but it’s generally safer to post after you’ve left the location you’re posting about or to post without tagging your location. It’s one thing to post about being in a specific large city, but don’t use specifics, which could be used maliciously to track you. If you have a private account, this is less of a concern, but the majority of people have public accounts allowing anyone to see the details you’re sharing online. It’s also important to not post about being on vacation as some insurance companies are refusing to honor tenants or home insurance if a break-in and theft occur while the homeowner (or renter) has posted about being away on a public forum, like social media.
2. Partying Too Hard
We’re not trying to be party-poopers, but when you are traveling alone as a woman, it’s not generally a smart decision to go out and party hard. Even if you go out with people you’ve met while traveling and who seem nice, it remains that you don’t truly know them or their intentions. Being too inebriated with people you can’t trust can be a dangerous thing without another trusted friend to watch your back, so you’re better off to limit yourself to a drink or two. You should always be sober enough to have your own back. Being drunk can also get you lost in a city you don’t know your way around, which is never a great idea. Additionally, public intoxication can result in a huge variety of fines and punishments depending on where you’re traveling, with some consequences being far more serious than others!
3. Looking Lost
The best defense when traveling alone is confidence. If you look overly confused or lost, you may become more of a target. That’s not to say that you can’t ask a local shopkeeper for directions if you don’t have your phone, but try to avoid looking naive, lost, or generally confused, as it may make you more vulnerable to someone with bad intentions. Be intentional and choose who you’re going to ask for directions or help, rather than letting the person choose you. Families tend to be the safest bet when looking for a little assistance!
4. Being Out Of Touch With Loved Ones
Not checking in at least semi-regularly with a loved one is a common mistake that solo travelers make. It may seem like a drag – after all, you’re traveling alone for a reason! However, checking in via phone call, text, or even a quick email is an easy way to add a level of safety to your adventures. This can help reassure any loved ones who are nervous about you traveling alone, but also acts as a checkpoint in your travels. That way, if something does go horribly wrong, your loved ones know a little bit about where you were, when the last time they talked to you, and anything that was going on. Checking in is particularly important if you’re planning on taking part in any high risk or outdoors activities while you travel, such as hiking, bungee-jumping, or skydiving.
5. Disclosing Personal Information
It’s great to strike up a conversation with locals or other travelers you meet at your hostel, but avoid oversharing personal details and your future itinerary when you’re traveling solo. Wait a week or so (or even longer – there’s no harm in waiting until you’ve left the city!) before adding or accepting new friends on Facebook until you have a decent sense of whether you can trust them and they’re someone you want to keep in contact with. Similarly, don’t tell people you’re traveling alone who won’t obviously know – it’s safer for people to assume that you’re just momentarily not with your travel partner. Telling people you’re alone can lead to unwanted attention and unwarranted opinions and questions.
6. Not Leaving Your Travel Plans With Someone
Many people don’t leave their travel plans with someone back home because they think it’s overkill, but when you’re traveling solo, it’s a definite must-do. This is even more important to do if you’re traveling somewhere with travel warnings, high rates of crime, or you will be spending time doing higher-risk activities or solo in the outdoors. In a worst-case scenario, someone will know where you were and what you were planning on doing and be able to relay that to the proper authorities. It also helps for someone to know where you are and how to contact you, should something serious happen at home while you’re abroad.
7. Being Too Polite
As a woman, you may default to being overly polite when strangers strike up a conversation. While there is nothing inherently wrong with chit-chatting, it’s important to remember that you don’t owe anyone an explanation or discussion, especially if they are making you feel uncomfortable in any way or the attention is unwelcome. When you travel solo, you have to be your own advocate, so don’t put up with any unwanted attention! Though you may be tempted to tell a person off, it can sometimes be safer to simply ignore them, be firm (but not angry) with your words, or simply walk away confidently. However, if you feel threatened, don’t be afraid to publically shame the person by loudly calling attention to what they’re doing. Your safety is more important than being perceived as “nice”.
8. Telling People Where You’re Staying
This is a hard rule: Never disclose where you’re staying when you’re traveling solo as a woman, especially if you’re travelling in a foreign country. If you’re not staying in a “public” place such as a hostel, remain in public spaces with new friends you meet on your travels and opt for public transportation, walking (though not in the dark), or licensed cabs to get around together. Most importantly, don’t bring guests (male or female) back to your accommodations for any reason. The potential cons far outweigh the potential pros.
9. Accepting Food and Drinks From Strangers
As a woman, this rule generally applies even if you’re just out at a bar in your hometown. While you may find it difficult to think the worst of people, not accepting food or drink from people you don’t know (and that includes people you’ve become friends with on your trip) and safeguarding anything you’ll consume is an important thing to do. It’s easy to get lulled into a false sense of safety and trust with people you meet on your travels, especially if they’re friendly, charismatic, or good-looking. Avoid falling into that trap and keep an eye on your drink and only consume your own food or food you see coming out of the kitchen of a restaurant. You can still have a ton of fun with new friends without being naive.
10. Arriving Late At Night
Sometimes arriving late at night is inevitable, but if you’re traveling to a place you’ve never been before, it’s best to avoid it. Both larger cities and smaller towns tend to be more difficult and intimidating to navigate in the dark with reduced transportation options, closed shops, and (though perhaps stereotypical) more high-risk behavior and people participating in those activities. It’s easier (and to some degree, safer) to get the “lay of the land” during the day as a solo traveler. If you’re going to be arriving at night, have a detailed plan ahead of time. You should know how you’re going to get from the airport/train station/bus depot to your accommodations, know your route if you’ll be driving a rental car or taking public transportation, have safe (and if you can afford it, private) accommodations for the first night, and have a plan in case something goes wrong.
11. Ignoring Maps
It’s all too easy to show up at a new destination and have no idea where anything is, but that doesn’t mean it’s the smart thing to do. Ahead of your trip, take a look at a map to get a sense of where north versus south is, where your accommodations are relative to public transportation, and so on. If you’ll be using your phone, consider downloading an offline Google map to help you if you get turned around. A map is even more important if you’re someone who doesn’t have a great sense of direction or if you’re traveling somewhere there will be a language barrier, making asking for directions more challenging.
12. Flashing Expensive Items
Wearing expensive items when you’re traveling solo as a woman is more likely to attract attention and make you a target for theft. Opt to leave those things at home unless they’re absolutely necessary. Expensive items like your phone or camera obviously need to come along on your travels but do your best not to flash them around or leave them out (like on your table at a restaurant) and keep them concealed in a day bag. If you’re someone who prefers to wear a fake wedding ring while traveling solo (or maybe you’re actually engaged or married!), only wear a simple band that is diamond and fake-diamond free. It comes down to this: Don’t flaunt any wealth.
13. Assuming Men Are The Only Threat
This may sound scary, but depending on where you’re traveling to, there may be a greater risk of violence, sexual assault, kidnapping, and theft and traveling solo can make you more of a target. It’s good to be vigilant – though not scared – about your safety and keep an eye out for people who may be targeting you. Most women think of men as the primary threat, but it’s important to keep a watchful eye out on women as well. Many cartels, human traffickers, and other dangerous groups use women to lure or entrap other women, so don’t assume you can trust someone just because of their gender.
14. Being Sleep Deprived
When you travel alone as a woman, you have to be on alert more than when you’ve got a travel partner. This becomes more difficult if you’re sleep-deprived! Schedule enough downtime and rest days, even if you’re spending them at the beach. Don’t plan too many or back-to-back late nights out or partying either, as these will contribute significantly to being tired and generally less aware of what’s going on around you. Being too tired can lead to poor judgment and making bad or lazy (read: unsafe) calls, so rest up! The longer your trip, the more important this is. It’s easier to go hard for a week or less, but for longer travels, make sure you’re practicing self-care!
15. Using Public Wifi
Using public Wifi is something we’ve all done, but it comes with significant risks, as it’s largely unmonitored. When you’re traveling, avoid using public Wifi, especially for anything requiring sensitive or personal information such as banking, online shopping, or a login. Many people don’t know that it’s extremely easy for someone to steal your information on the free unsecured networks at coffee shops, restaurants, and tourist attractions. Try to plan ahead to avoid needing to access your banking information or stick to your accommodation’s secure network if you absolutely need to.
16. Not Copying Your Passport
This is a good tip regardless of whether you’re traveling solo or with others, but many people don’t take this precaution. Before you leave, scan your passport. Leave a physical copy with whoever you’ve left your travel plans with and email yourself a digital copy. This will be a lifesaver if you lose or have your passport stolen while traveling! Do the same with any other important travel documents including proof of vaccination (if applicable) and Travel Visas!
17. Not Budgeting Well
This applies to everyone who is traveling, not just solo female travelers. However, it’s worth noting because when you travel solo, there’s no one to hold you accountable for how much money you spend. Figure out how much you’re wanting to spend on the trip ahead of planning and departing and then determine how much of that is for each category: accommodations, food and drink, attractions, discretionary spending, and any other categories you can identify. Do some online research or talk to people who have traveled to your location recently to try to get an understanding of what things cost in the area so you can accurately budget. Then head out on your adventure and stick to your budget! There is nothing glamorous about being broke when you get home from your trip.
18. Not Spending Extra Money on Safety
This may seem confusing on the heels of our advice to watch your budget, but many solo female travelers state that this is one of the most important tips when traveling alone. Don’t scrimp when it comes to your personal safety! Avoid walking late at night and shell out for a licensed cab ride. Pay for slightly nicer accommodations located in bustling parts of the city that have great reviews, instead of opting for a cheaper seedy hostel or motel. Choose the outfitter or guide company that has excellent safety ratings, even if they cost a bit more. Build a financial buffer into your budget so that you don’t have to choose between your safety and your wallet.
19. Not Trusting Your Gut
Whatever you call it – your instinct, gut, intuition – listen to and follow it when you’re traveling solo. As a solo female traveler, you’ll need to be on alert most of the time and your gut can provide the best warning when it comes to your safety. Many female solo travelers report that listening to their gut has kept them safe on many occasions. When you are unsure of what to do, take a moment to quiet yourself and listen. Then trust yourself and move forward.
20. Ignoring Local Norms
Local norms can encompass many different things, from tipping to appropriate dress, and they’re important to know and observe while you’re traveling solo. Do some research ahead of traveling to get a sense of local customs and traditions and then plan to follow them while you’re visiting. This is particularly important if you’re traveling abroad somewhere where the culture is quite different from your home or where a particular religion (which may dictate what to wear, how to address members of the opposite sex, and so on) is common. Not only is it respectful, but it’s also a way to avoid drawing attention to yourself – something you don’t want to do as a solo female traveler.
21. Flying By The Seat of Your Pants
A certain level of spontaneity while your traveling solo can be fun, but flying by the seat of your pants can be risky as it’s easier to overlook important things when you’re on your own. When you don’t have at least a general idea of where you’ll be and what you’ll do, your more likely to let things like Visa limitations, documentation requirements, and budgeting slip. It’s okay to reject the idea of planning every second of your trip, but creating a bit of structure when you’re in the planning stages will hopefully help keep a logistical nightmare at bay!
22. Not Bringing Backup Finances
This is an incredibly common mistake solo travelers make and an easy one to avoid! When you’re on your own, you’re limited to the payment types you have on you. There’s no using your travel partner’s credit card if yours is declined. Always travel with two credit cards, a debit card, and cash in the local currency – both some on hand for regular use and some emergency bills in an inconspicuous place that you don’t foresee having to pull out in public (like rolled up in an empty lip chap tube or a money belt). Having extra cash on you can also help you avoid being charged the withdrawal fee that many banks charge foreign debit cards.
Overpacking is an easy mistake to make regardless of whether you’re traveling solo or with someone else, but when you’re alone the consequences are magnified. Solo travelers tend to overpack more frequently because they pack every possible provision they might need while they’re away from the creature comforts of home. If you overpack, you may end up paying overage charges on your flights (and you don’t have a partner who can take some of your items in their luggage to even it out), which is a huge blow to your budget. Overpacking also tends to limit mobility, especially on days where you’re checking out of one accommodation and heading to another. As much as you can, pack lightly.
24. Not Having an Emergency Plan
Having a plan in case of emergency is extremely important as a solo female traveler and generally quite easy to prepare! Jot down the numbers of your country’s consulate and the local police. Keep your bag or suitcase in the back seat of every cab with you in case you need to hop out quickly. Grab a business card at your accommodations so that you’ve always got the address and phone number on you (in case you get lost). Have a plan and insurance in case something goes wrong medically while you’re outside of your coverage area. After all, the saying goes “hope for the best, plan for the worst”.