If travelling alone has taught me anything, it’s that people firmly believe women who travel solo are brave. I didn’t really understand this when I set off on my journey but, looking back, I now appreciate what they were getting at. Travelling alone as a woman does come with precautions attached. This should by no means stop women (or anyone) going it alone, but there are a few things to keep in mind to help maximise the fun times and minimise the concerned calls from home.
The following tips could be useful for anyone, regardless of gender.
Know your route
I always found the journey from transport to accommodation the most nerve-racking. The last thing I wanted was to get lost and let my confident backpacker façade slip. To get around this, I would access Wi-Fi before I arrived and take screenshots of my route - this way, I was just another person looking at my phone, rather than at a giant fold-out map that emphasised my just-arrived status. Luckily, Google has offline maps now, so make sure you download the map for your city before you get there. Try to also pin down public transport maps beforehand, as you may not have access to 4G.
Pro-tip: There are certain cities where tourists are targets. Careful as I was, I got duped out of my train money once. Be confident, dress like a local and keep your train money close.
No matter how much preparation you do, the truth is that you’re a tourist who potentially has no idea where you’re going. Which is why it’s best to arrive while it’s still light. Being in a new city can be intimidating, so don’t catch the midnight express to who-knows-where. Arriving during the day will probably put you among plenty of other tourists, so you can blend in with the swarm of Kathmandu backpacks and make your way to your accommodation.
I would also suggest that train is a better mode of arrival than planes (despite the potential for train money theft). Yes, the journey takes longer but you will arrive in your destination’s CBD, not an airport in some rural village two hours away.
Pro-Tip: While you’re worrying about being judged by tourist-hating locals, just remember that you could be taken for a local yourself. Dress as you would back home and don’t wear that bum bag and $3000 camera around your neck.
I chose to stay in hotels when I first travelled alone. This was quite lonely and very expensive, and felt less safe than staying in a room with other backpackers, so after a few weeks I switched to female hostel dorms where I felt at ease. In general, hostels are also a great place to make Facebook friends to last a lifetime, or at least until they start posting too often.
Pro-tip: Stick with dorms of eight people or fewer. Some dorms hold as many as 24 and can be loud, uncomfortable and a potential hunting ground for thieves.
Going it alone means there’s nobody to remind you to do all those things that adults are supposed to remember, and travel entails a more complex checklist than ‘phone, wallet, keys’. As someone with the upper-body strength of an infant, my suggestion is to only pack what you feel you can comfortably carry, and items you’re not afraid to lose.
While there’s no way to convince over-packers not to stress-pack their whole wardrobe, travel insurance is the best way to safeguard against the anxiety you’ll feel about losing important items. It’s one of those adult things that’s easy to dismiss, but will help you rest easy about everything from unexpected sickness to your luggage ending up in Birmingham, Alabama, instead of Birmingham, UK.
While everyone might tell you how amazing you are for undertaking such an adventurous solo pursuit, it can be difficult and isolating to travel alone. Sometimes you need to hear something empowering to give you that extra push, so find your power tune and blast it whenever you need that added dose of confidence that everyone back home keeps telling you that you have!