1. Do your research
Read up on your destination before your travel – as a solo female explorer, knowledge is power. There are plenty of guides online to travelling alone in specific countries and cities, and guidebooks usually list information and dos and don’t for lone female travellers in their safety section. Arriving clued-up to customs and behaviours is a big confidence boost in a new culture.
2. Book ahead
If I’m travelling somewhere brand new, I always book my first night’s accommodation in advance. Knowing that you’ve got a decent hotel or hostel booked for the first night, and knowing how to get there from the airport, makes the first day or two of adjusting to a new country a lot easier and more relaxed, especially if you’re jetlagged.
3. If in doubt, take a taxi
I usually like to travel as the locals do, going everywhere on subways, train and buses – it’s the best way to get under the skin of a new destination. But if you’re ever lost, feeling uncomfortable or if it’s late at night and you don’t feel confident getting home – just get in a (registered and official) taxi. Better safe than sorry.
4. Download MapMe
I’m writing this article on a bullet train, speeding through Japan as I travel solo between cities. The very best tip I was given for this trip, and one I’ll use again, is to download MapMe, a free app that allows you to save maps on your phone for a new country and then access them even without Wifi or using your data. The maps are very detailed, so you can follow them around a new city and work out exactly where you are (and where to grab a coffee or a bite to eat) even in Airplane mode. My new must-have map app.
5. Stay safe
There’s absolutely no reason to be afraid as solo female traveller – in fact, you’re likely to find that locals are often keen to help you - but basic precautions will make you far more likely to have a hassle-free trip. Consider carrying your valuables and passport in a hidden money pocket beneath your clothing, or at least carry cash and cards in different places on your person, not all stashed in one place. Carry printed copies of your passport, information on your travel insurance and information on your country’s embassy. Use common sense -don’t do anything you wouldn’t do in your home city, such as walk around unknown cities late at nights or blindly accompany strangers.
6. Don’t go overboard
There’s nothing wrong with having a few drinks, but try to avoid getting drunk in a new place, especially if you’re alone – it can leave you very vulnerable. And just avoid drugs – you have no idea what’s being supplied to you in a foreign country and it’s even more likely to leave you incapacitated and an easy target.
7. Stay in hostels
Want to save money and meet new people to travel with in one double whammy? Head for backpacker’s hostels. You’re likely to meet other solo travellers to chat to or even travel with if you fancy. My advice is not to pick a random hostel – do some research and find one that is good quality, clean and recommended by other travellers, ideally with a communal area or bar for socialising.
8. Be brave and eat alone
When you’re exhausted and in a strange city it can be tempting to buy snacks and hide yourself away in your hotel room. But be brave, head for the centre, pick a busy restaurant and eat alone. I promise you’ll relax fast and enjoy having a beer and some exotic new dish with some excellent company – yourself.
9. Just plan a weekend
Confidence as a solo traveller is all about baby steps and building up to bigger adventures. Never travelled alone before and not sure if it’s for you? Why not book yourself a short weekend break in a European city you’ve always wanted to go to, and see how it feels? If you’re not a fan then you’ll be back home in a jiffy, but I’m willing to bet you’ll have a blast.