“But why do you want to travel alone? How will you enjoy a trip without anyone with you?” asked my mom when I told her about my first solo trip in October 2016 when I wanted to go to Landour, a Welsh town in Uttarakhand. She was concerned for my safety which was absolutely obvious. I explained to her how travelling solo would mean the ultimate level of freedom for me wherein I will be able to boost my self-confidence by surrendering myself to the beautiful complexity of the unknown. Till date, I have taken enough number of solo journeys to understand that travelling alone has become my preference now. It has taught me lessons that no book or the company of any person could teach me.
I know you too want to take the leap of faith and go unaccompanied for at least once, but I also know that there are millions of doubts, fears and negative thoughts that are stopping you from doing so. Trust me, the hardest part is over the moment you take the final decision of going alone. And for the rest, I present here my top ten tips for solo female travellers that are definitely going to help you during your journey.
Tip #1- Fake it until you make it
Initially, no one is an amazingly confident solo traveller. With the passage of time, you get more comfortable finding your way by yourself and appear to be a strong girl. Navigate your way confidently through markets when ten people surround you and try to sell you the same necklace and anklet. Don’t look confused, lost or scared because this may attract the wrong kind of attention. Have that look on your face that shows you know where you’re going. In case of any discomfort, try to use your best judgment and seek help if needed.
Tip #2- Blend in
You should always try to dress like a local when travelling solo. This applies especially when you are travelling to another country. If that requires wearing full-length clothes, then wear full-length clothes. Or cover your hair, etc. It won’t harm to do some prior research about the local customs and act accordingly. You don’t need to draw attention to yourself. Avoid wearing such outfits or showing off anything that screams “TOURIST!!!” Also, never flash your expensive possessions like camera, phone, cash, etc.
Tip #3- Don’t be “forward”
In many cultures around the world, women who are outgoing can be regarded as being “forward”. This means anything ranging from making an eye contact with men walking down the street to being chatty with people in cafes.
I am an introvert and a reserved girl but when I travel alone, sometimes I love striking a conversation with the locals to know their stories. But after I have had one too many men think that I was trying to go out with them when in reality, I was just being myself, I have learned to be extra guarded.
Something on the same lines happened with me in the Philippines (my first solo international trip) when I was just chilling at the shack of a beach in Mactan. Two guys came to buy something from there and started talking to me casually. I was also conversing and laughing with them until the moment one of them told me that he liked me and wanted to go out for dinner and hang out with me later. The situation was handled by me intelligently without being rude. Bottom line is you should avoid being “forward” when necessary if you want to spend some quality time with yourself.
Tip #4- Don’t let anyone know where you are staying
If you are travelling alone, under no circumstances should you tell anybody where your hotel is. In case you make plans to meet someone later, then you should meet at a local landmark. No one should know the name of your hotel. Nothing will happen the majority of the time, but a little bit of self-cautiousness is mandatory.
Tip #5- Be a Morningbird
Whenever possible, wake up in the morning and travel during the day. It’s a known fact that more unfortunate incidents occur at night than during the day. Take day tours if you want to see the city. Also, plan your journey in such a way that you arrive at the destination during the daytime.
Tip #6- Booking a few things in advance is helpful
One of the situations I find unsafe while travelling alone is arriving in a new city at night with nothing booked. I am one of those travellers who prefer to see “how does it go” but I am extra careful about making advance bookings when I show up at a place at night. I try to avoid any unwanted scenarios as much as possible.
Tip #7- Read situations
This is an art and you should start learning it ASAP. As a solo female traveller, learn to read situations and trust your gut feeling (it never lies!!). If your instincts are telling you that a given situation is somewhat making you nervous or uncomfortable, get the hell out of there immediately. Forget about offending people. Staying safe is the most important thing.
Another instance from the Philippines...It was my second day in Manila and after roaming here and there the whole day, I took a cab to reach my hotel. It was taking a long time and I got a bit worried because I didn’t know the routes and also I was dependent on the hotel's WiFi for the internet. I asked the driver how much more time will it take, and it turned out that he didn’t know English at all. I tried to ask him in all ways possible but he was just unable to understand me. By that time, I was in tension and it was visible on my face. Of course, when I told him to stop the car, he did nothing. But thanks to the world-famous traffic of Manila. When the cab stopped due to a bottleneck, I rolled down the window glass and asked the nearby bike rider whether he understands English, to which he replied positively. Then I asked him whether I am on the right route for my hotel, and I was shocked when he said, “No. Your hotel is in the opposite direction.” At that very moment, I got out from the cab, handed money to the driver and said thanks to the bike rider.
Tip #8- Stay in touch
It is compulsory that someone back at home should know about your whereabouts. You should keep at least one person updated about your plans. In my case, I keep my sister and two close friends informed. Those, who love being active on social media, can leave a breadcrumb trail of their journey on any such platform in order to assure everyone of their safety.
Tip #9- Enjoy your drink but don’t get overdrunk
When travelling alone, make sure you don’t get wasted. It’s never a good idea because by doing that, you open yourself to all kinds of problems. Of course, you can drink in moderation and be aware of your surroundings, always. And if a person you feel is acting suspicious, then inform someone or go to the bartender for security.
Tip #10- Carry a pepper spray
One of my best tips for solo female travellers is to carry a pepper spray at an easily accessible place. It takes up no space and is very helpful if someone tries to force themselves on you or grabs you. More than that, having a pepper spray with you creates a sense of safety and assurance that you are ready just in case something goes wrong. Fortunately, I haven’t felt the need to use it yet.
The instincts and learning ways vary for different people, which means that what works for me can be completely different from what works for you. But at the end of the day, learning to trust those instincts is important. You will definitely develop good intuitions once you start hitting the road on your own.
Group trips are fun, couple getaways are super romantic and family trips are eventful. But solo trips are meditation. In a way, you can control your entire experience but at the same time you are also at the mercy of the compassion of strangers. You will meet a lot of people while travelling alone that at times you will find it difficult to find solitude. And sometimes, you will come across the most wonderful people. I have met one!
For first timers, I would suggest maybe you should head to an easier destination, where people speak your language and is tourist-friendly as well, for instance, Himachal Pradesh or Rajasthan for Indians.
Travelling solo is not scary. And I strongly believe in building experience on the road on my own.
So, ready to hit the road solo? If yes, then be prepared to discover what you're really made of.
Go Solo, Girls!!!
And if you are someone who really wants to travel alone but still not ready to act now, then tell me your biggest concern and I will help you in alleviating your fears.