I joined the Peace Corps when I was 21. I was assigned to move to Bulgaria where I lived alone in a post-communist block apartment building at the edge of town…all by myself with no English-speaking neighbors and tons of cockroaches. I loved it. THIS was hands-down the BEST life choice I’ve ever made and has since shaped my entire life…but I almost didn’t go.
I come from a smallish town full of people who rarely travel beyond North America but sure do watch a lot of CNN. Naturally, many travel opinions are created by sensationalist media stories. And so, I had more people than not trying to convince me not to travel because it was dangerous. Stories about kidnapping, shootings, and stolen purses were the topic of conversation the months leading up to my departure.
My favorite phone call of all? “God told me that you’re going to die”. Not kidding.
Ten years later, I have not been kidnapped or shot. Although I did have my purse stolen (see tip #5). And hey, I’m still alive. I often imagine what my life would look like if I listened to those friends and relatives. But I chose do my research instead.
Instead, read this blog. Buy an anti-theft travel purse. Pick your travel destinations wisely. And you’re ready to travel solo.
Seriously, a quick Google search with keywords like “best countries for solo travel” and “safest countries for solo female travelers” will show you where to go and where not to go.
You’re going to see a similar pattern in travel blogs in which the same countries are always recommended
And you’re going to see countries that are on the no-go list
You will see the same countries over and over. Trust these patterns. The research has already been done for you. Tested, loved, and approved by travelers across the world. These places are up to date and change naturally over the years.
Plan exactly how you’re going to get from the airport to your hotel. Use a vacation planner like this to clearly map it out.
Know how much cash you’re going to take from the ATM or exchange at a counter in the airport.
Choose a hotel that is in a safe, walkable location. You’re going to be hungry after that flight; choose a hotel with food options nearby.
Once you’re at your hotel – safe and sound – you can wing the entire trip, if you please.
Hong Kong is one of the safest countries on Earth. No one expected a round of violent protests to break out during the summer of 2019. Shit happens.
So before you go, double-check the current status of a country before you travel so that you can decide how to handle protests, military coups and all that might interfere with your travel safety.
This little alarm, when yanked apart, sounds an ear-piercing alert and flashes a light that will a) scare off any attackers and b) bring attention to you so that others can help.
Although I’ve never had to use it, this little alarm has brought me such comfort when I’m walking down a street at night, walking down a street with lots of dogs (who hate sirens) or even holding it in my hand or under my pillow when sleeping in a sketchy hotel. I never travel without it.
Mandatory for solo travelers. Don’t be a cheap ass fool. You are not invincible; especially on vacation where you’re snorkeling, island hopping, jungle trekking, scooter riding and eating weird food that your stomach has never met before.
✓ Motorbike accidents happen.
✓ Cutting your foot on coral is common.
✓ Drunken face plants are a rite of passage out here.
If you’re doing something adventurous (whitewater rafting or rock climbing):
If you’re just traveling around or living your digital nomad life:
Your purse should go across your body and have a decently thick strap!
Only carry a purse with a zipper or snap closure. Fanny packs are also awesome.
The best way to avoid getting robbed? Don’t make yourself a target. Thieves are opportunists who look for fast money and easy prey! When you are wearing a crossbody travel purse, thieves look at you and say, “Nah, not worth the trouble”.
Pro Tip: Also bring a small travel purse that is so slim & comfortable that you won’t need to take it off and put it on the table like we often do at bars and restaurants.
What happens if your purse gets stolen with your credit card, passport, and cash? You’re screwed.
Instead, divide your belongings. Put your passport in your backpack. Stash your cash in your cross-body purse. Put whatever credit card you’re not using in your hidden travel bra pouch.
For total anti-theft protection, visit my article:
Blogs are suggestions; Travel Guides are bibles. Travel blogs are best for finding WHERE to travel. Travel guides are best for WHEN you’re traveling.
Travel guides have the nitty-gritty details that will help you navigate a country or city like a local. The Solo Girl’s Travel Guide was written for women traveling alone. Check to see if there is a guide for your vacation spots.
I hear it all the time: “When I go to Thailand, I’m just going to use Verizon’s international plan for $10 a day.”
No. Your Verizon/Sprint/T-Mobile plan will be weaker and more expensive than a local SIM plan. A local SIM card is 10x cheaper AND has 10x better coverage outside the big city (which will account for 80% of your trip).
A SIM Card will keep you safe.
❤️ Use Uber or GrabTaxi instead of getting in a random car
❤️ Access GoogleMaps so you’re not getting lost in a foreign country
❤️ Call the local 911 in case of an emergency
To get the full scoop on Travel SIM Cards and where to buy them + more travel insight from me- scroll to the bottom of the homepage to sign-up for my newsletter.
For a safe trip, the name of the game is Keep a Low Profile. When traveling alone as a woman, you want to deflect attention and blend in as much as possible.
For example; There are some destinations – like South Korea or Singapore – where walking around with a $1500 camera strapped to your neck is okay. But in many foreign countries (hell, even your own country), you’re putting a target on your back when your flash your fancy stuff.
❤️ Put your camera away when you’re not using it.
❤️ Leave your fancy jewelry at home (many women don’t wear their wedding ring while they travel).
❤️ Avoid dressing in super sexy outfits that draw attention.
It’s so easy to fall into that “nothing bad ever happens on vacation” mode. You reach a tropical island with white sand and coconut cocktails and you just want to live it up.
News Flash: Bad things can happen anywhere.
Just like back home, you need to use common party sense and know your limits.
〤 Don’t accept drinks from strangers.
〤 Limit your alcohol intake by alternating cocktails with water.
〤 Don’t decide you’re tired and walk home alone at midnight.
〤 Set a bedtime plan, including how you’re going to get home.
〤 And DO NOT blindly trust cute guys on vacation; snakes are everywhere.
Whether it’s a simple, “Hey mom, I’m traveling to this ancient city tomorrow” or a similar post on your Instagram story – you should be leaving a trail for your loved ones to follow in case something goes wrong.
Not only will this act as an extra insurance policy for you…your mom will also really appreciate it.
In my new book, The One-Way Ticket Plan: Find and Fun Your Purpose While Traveling the World, I have an entire chapter on safety which includes all the ways to keep your family in the loop.
Read the book.
You guys! The biggest mistake solo travelers can make is this!
The most common travel problem I see is this: Solo travelers traveling halfway across the world with only ONE debit card…which inevitably gets flagged for fraud, blocked by the bank and rendered useless for 48 hours. No cash = stuck and stranded.
Travel with 2 Bank Cards + 1 Travel Credit Card.
1 main ATM card (for cash)
1 travel credit card (for hotels and flights)
1 emergency travel credit card (to fly yourself home in case of emergencies or bail yourself out of jail…yes, I’ve seen it)
Here I explain the best travel credit cards and debit cards for solo travelers.
Don’t have data? No wifi? Signal out of reach? You can still use GoogleMaps offline if you pre-download your maps!
The scariest situation I ever found myself was in Vietnam after sunset with a dead phone and no sense of direction. It took me over an hour to find my way back to the hostel. And it started raining because that’s how my life goes.
Don’t be lost in the dark rain in a foreign country! Carry a phone bank, especially for those long days of exploring new cities and restaurants. Just make sure you charge that baby, too.
✓ Charge on the Bus
✓ Don’t run out of juice after a long day of sightseeing
✓ Don’t worry about your phone dying when you need to call an Uber at 3am.
Scenario: Mr. Thief Man comes up to you from behind, grabs your bag and tries to run away with it.
The moment you feel him tug, sit down.
Sit down. On the ground. Curl your body around your bag.
This is going to surprise the thief and throw him off his game. It will also change his physical center of force giving him less leverage to yank and run. Practice this with a friend…cause it’s kinda funny.
This weird but genius method will help you sleep better at night by giving you extra safety and assurance that you’re door can’t and won’t be popped open by some weirdo. When you’re traveling on a budget through guesthouses and hostels…you stay in some humble abodes with less-than-secure doors and locks.
So here’s what you do: lock your door and then stick this baby at within 3 inches of the opening corner. Now your door has extra fortitude.
You’re in a tropical country. It’s hot. You’re exploring. You want to wear a breezy outfit. Go for it.
But once you step into a local neighborhood – BAM – shawl. Cover up around locals, around men, and around religious areas.
Modesty is important. And to be blunt, bare shoulders or thighs can often be taken as an invitation for promiscuous activity. That sucks, but it’s just a travel fact. This travel shawl is also a sweater and a blanket. Highly recommend.
You can avoid food poisoning by avoiding street food and stalls with slow turnover. Slow turnover means that the ingredients are sitting out all day, collecting all sorts of icky bacteria. Thailand Blogger, Jess from ImJessaGirl.com says, “If there’s a line of locals waiting, it’s safe to eat!”
Sometimes, you’re stomach just needs a couple of days to adjust to new bacteria…but as you’re traveling from city to city (home to new types of bacteria in each one), you’ll find your stomach upset during your whole trip.
Easy fix: Activated Charcoal serves as a gentle detox BEFORE and AFTER bad tummy bacteria.
Activated Charcoal Pills absorb the bad bacteria that causes nausea, vomiting, and the runs. They don’t stop you from….going. Rather, they wrap the bacteria up and escort it out of your system.
Take 2-4 capsules with 8oz of water either before a street food adventure or once your stomach starts acting up.
OMG I’m kidding. Really though, it’s so easy to stay safe and avoid dangerous situations by taking an hour to research where you’re going and how to prepare. Once you’ve put your plans and prep in place – let go of all that travel anxiety and fear. Trust yourself. Have confidence that you can do this. And if you’re still no confident – fake it cause’ you’re going.
Below, I’ve put together a travel checklist for easy travel prep.
Want to contribute to the blog? I love to feature the perspective of other solo female travelers.
I'm a bestselling author, hotel reviewer and pickleball player. I teach women how to travel the world solo without going broke or getting kidnapped.
In 2011, I left Seattle with just $200 in my pocket to travel the world solo. Today, I'm the founder and creator of The Solo Girl’s Travel Guide, the #1 travel guide book series for women - and the author of The One-Way Ticket Plan.