Healthy Travel

10 Tips for Adventurous Solo Travel for Women

Travel Belles know that exploring the world has it rewards: seeing beautiful scenery, meeting new people, experiencing different cultures and, of course, trying the delicious flavors of other countries. Still, we also recognize that adventures often come with challenges, especially when traveling alone. With the right kind of preparation, though, you can minimize or even eliminate certain problems and hazards. Here are 10 tips for adventurous solo travel for women and smooth sailing on your next big solo trip.

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1. Finances
You don’t want to find yourself in a foreign country
without access to cash. Set up a special checking account with only a 
little more money than you will need for your trip. It’s important to 
do this at least three or four months in advance to allow enough 
time for the permanent ATM/debit card to arrive; if the temporary card expires while you 
are traveling, you could end up seriously cash strapped. Travelers checks are 
fairly obsolete these days, so you will rely heavily on your ATM/debit 
card to get local currency and ready cash, especially on weekends and 
holidays. Always double-check with the bank that the card 
will work in the place where you’ll be traveling. Also, make sure your 
credit card company knows when and where you will be going so they 
don’t refuse any charges on the assumption they are fraudulent.

2. Document and money protection
A money belt may not be the most flattering look, but it will keep your cash and important
 documents safe. Money bags tend to absorb the sweat in the waist area, so it’s a good idea to put your passport, health insurance card and other
documents in a plastic bag before securing them in the money belt. Your
money, credit and debit cards should go in another plastic bag. Put
enough money in a purse or fanny pack for your daily use so you don’t
have to keep exposing the money belt. Always put a copy of your
passport photo and info in a separate, secure place, like a compartment
in your backpack or bag, along with a copy of your credit and debit card
numbers and emergency phone numbers. Double check that you have any
necessary visas. Losing an important document could put you in a vulnerable position. And if something happens, seek out your home country’s embassy.

3. Safety
Bring a small flashlight. The kind that loops on the outside of your backpack or purse is especially useful, because it’s easy to find in the dark. Never wander
the hallways of a hostel or hotel at night, especially on your way to
or from shared bathrooms. Never wander anywhere alone in the dark
without a flashlight and something to protect yourself with. You can no longer fly with a Swiss Army or other utility knife
or pepper spray in a carry-on, but you can pack them in your checked bag. A utility knife can be handy for
many things but is an important weapon/deterrent to keep in a pocket or
fanny pack just in case. Keep it by your pillow when sleeping in dorm hostels.

4. Security
Keeping yourself safe is important, but you’ll also want to take care of your things, too. Purchase small locks and at least one large lock for
all of your backpack or suitcase compartments. Don’t put the locks on
until you’re through customs at your destination, because airlines and custom
agents will sometimes cut locks open to inspect baggage. Once you are
out of the airport, secure all openings in your luggage, particularly if you plan on taking some form of public transportation. If traveling by train or bus, you can use the large locks to secure your backpack or suitcase handles to the 
luggage railings above your seat so you can use the bathroom or nod off without having to
hold onto the bag. And for the hotel or hostel, bring a rubber door stop in case the lock isn’t reliable. No one will be able
to open the door, not even hotel staff.


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5. Healthcare
Feeling sick when thousands of miles from home can be miserable, so don’t forget to talk to your doctor before you jet off. Make sure all of your vaccinations are up to date, and as far as packing goes that you have 
all possible medications for any illness that the area is known to 
harbor. You certainly don’t want to end up sick in a hospital or clinic by
yourself, even in a country where you know the language. Always pack a small first aid kit that
 includes an antibiotic cream. A small infection from a simple cut can
 become a large nightmare in a third-world country. It’s also helpful to
 carry along a small supply of aspirin, antacids, and more than enough of
 your prescription medications in the original bottle with the label.

6. Hygiene
Bring packets of tissues and moist towelettes as well as things for those female “emergencies” like tampons and panty liners. You can use the thin panty liners all the
 time to keep your underwear fresh, so you only have to wash them every 
other day if you don’t sweat a lot. Also, bring along a 
handkerchief or wash cloth since many foreign bathrooms don’t offer 
anything with which to dry, or even sometimes wash, your hands. A roll of toilet paper can also be handy. Keep a small, folded wad or roll in a pocket for those poorly equipped bathrooms. And remember, although washing with water is more hygienic and better for the
 plumbing and environment, you can get an infection from using
 the water from buckets or hoses in public toilets like in train 

7. Hydration
Sometimes when overwhelmed by the sights and sounds of a new place, it’s easy to forget to hydrate. Even when not traveling in a hot 
climate, you can grow dehydrated if you don’t drink
 about 2.5 liters of water every day. You
 should drink more than that if you are traveling in a hot climate. 
Bottled water can be expensive, sometimes unavailable, and not always
 safe for foreigners, while plastic bottles also pose an environmental hazard. You can bring a reusable bottle with you. Many hotels and hostels will boil
water for you in the kitchen if you ask, and some hotels offer electric 
kettles in the room. You can also purchase a steri-pen water purifier, which works by dipping the pen into the water in a
steel water bottle (it must be made of stainless steel) and twirling it around 
until the ultraviolet light goes out. Just like that, you have purified drinking 
water! And to get a little extra out of your water, bring packets of an electrolyte powder to mix with it.

8. Laundry
You’ll probably
 want to wash clothes, especially underwear, in your hotel sinks as you 
travel, especially on long trips. A flat rubber drain stopper is helpful, but if you forget to pack one, try using a washcloth as a plug for the sink. Also
 bring string. You can tie a line from a chair to a window or another 
chair to hang up your clothes for drying. And of course, throw some of those small, travel-size packets of detergent in your bag, or just use hand soap or shampoo, which can 
be equally effective. For those clothes you don’t end up washing, bring along a plastic bag to keep them separate from your clean garments.

9. Clothing
Do your research ahead of time and pack climate-appropriate, but also culturally 
appropriate clothes. Many countries outside of Western Europe and
 America are very conservative, so don’t wear shorts and sleeveless shirts
 even if it is hot. Instead, opt for light-colored, cotton pants or skirts and blouses or 
T-shirts, which are cool but modest enough to not invite unwanted attention.
Women dressed in clothes the locals see as immodest are prime targets 
for assaults and harassment. Sometimes it can even help to wear a wedding ring, even if it’s fake. Depending on the country you’re traveling in, you will probably be
 subjected to all kinds of advances, from the subtle to the blatant; pretending you’re married or just don’t understand is often the best 

10. Basic safety while traveling
Avoid wandering around places late at 
night unless there are a lot of other people. If you get so crowded 
into a bus or train put a backpack or
 knapsack between you and any strangers. Sometimes they are just as uncomfortable as you are and a barrier may well be welcome to them, too. Don’t
 be too friendly, use common sense and be 
discerning. If you do enter a conversation with a stranger, make sure it’s
 in a crowded place where you feel safe.

… and a final word of advice for adventurous solo travel for women: Don’t let fear stop you from having fun, though. The best travel experiences are often about having adventures and testing your limits!

Photos property of and by the author.

Enjoy these travel tips for women? You may also like 10 Things to Do Now to Prepare for International Travel

This article has 5 comments

  1. Ayelet - All Colores

    These are fantastic tips and some of them are new to me. I think it’s so important to share these tools, so no travel belle fears taking on adventures. Many hostels will do their best to put you in an all-women room if you ask. Chances are higher for this to happen off season, as there are less travelers and more room options. I even got rooms all to myself while traveling off season. While it is very important to respect other cultures’ tradition and while I don’t know statistics outside the Western world, to the best of my knowledge, most sexual assaults in the Western world are done by people the victim knows, and in any case no matter what she wore. Therefore, I think one of the most important trip preparations is to learn self defense. Thanks again for the informative post!

  2. inka

    I don’t hold with a money belt. I use a pouch around my neck with the strings going under my bra. It’s far less obtrusive than a money belt. The rubber door stopper and the (fake) wedding ring are fantastic advice. I’m using the wedding ring often, especially when traveling in the Middle East.

  3. Jane

    Also disagree regarding the money belt – all potential muggers pretty much know of their existence by now, and a mugging is a far pleasanter experience if you just have a wallet to hand over. Rather than being forced to strip and have someone wrestling with you ‘down there’…

    Something I discovered in Malawi recently: if you want an excuse to ignore the constant cat-calls from guys and just can’t be bothered with them, walk along with your headphones in. They’ll think you are listening to music – except that you aren’t. Because walking along drowning out the sounds would be insanely unsafe half the time. The pretence, though, allows you to ‘politely’ ignore them while remaining on your guard.

  4. Margo Millure

    Excellent advice on the headphones! Also, your comment on the money belt has reminded of a product I heard about a while back, that I need to find the name of – will report back!

  5. Jeca Armstrong

    The other tips are fine and dandy, but I think keeping a pocketknife by your bedside is a terrible idea. If you haven't trained to fight with a knife, when you find yourself in an emergency you are not going to have the sense to use it without *increasing* danger to yourself. I doubt a tiny knife cut would deter someone who's already made the effort to break past your locked door and door stopper to attack you. And what if they sneak in and take it before you wake up? You've just armed your assailant.

    Frankly, the vast majority of the world isn't *that* dangerous. Crimes against tourists are more likely to be crimes of opportunity – your purse hanging on the back of your chair or you've let the wrong local walk you home from the bar.

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