If you’re anything like me, you are anxiously waiting for the day you can travel again. You’ve been feeling trapped for a year. Your house became a prison. Especially if you work from home, like myself. You can barely stand the sight of that room that became your office. And worst, you haven’t been taking enough days off because well… what is the point?
On Christmas 2019, I had photographed the angel illuminations in London’s Regent’s Street. Posted it on my Instagram saying all I wanted for Christmas was wings. Little I knew how my wings were about to be violently cut off my back. I had never faced such lack of control over my destiny. And a huge part of it is because I rarely wait or depend on others. And that definitely applies to travel.
Long gone are the days I tried to make my friends coming along with me. Everybody excited, everybody talks loads, but when it comes to make a decision… prices are rising, accommodations are selling out out. Eventually, they decide it’s not the right time, they don’t have the money, bla bla. That is how I started to go solo. And often, I don’t even ask anymore. It gave me such freedom, that it spoiled me. So I’ve been spending the last 12 months in a huge tantrum (joking. maybe not.)
But, again, if you’re anything like me, you’re desperate. And maybe your friends aren’t. So, just go solo. In Women’s History Month I thought I would give you some tips on travelling solo and doing it as a woman.
- Research your destination well
This is a basic one, right? And you’d say that applies for any traveller. But I don’t think so. If I were a man, I wouldn’t do SO MUCH research, especially when I was planning my trip to Mexico, a country considered dangerous to woman.
I actively searched for experiences from fellow women travellers who had been to Mexico by themselves. I researched the safest method of transportation. Thanks to all the immense knowledge the Internet can provide us with, I plan my itineraries according to what is safe and safest.
2. Use Booking.com
This is a my personal preference. I like Booking.com because I can see all the reviews and ratings of users from around the world, which gives me the confidence that a certain place is safe. I also would rather be in a place where I know there will be people sleeping in the next room, or a reception open for at least most of the days. I never choose accomodation with a rating below 8 (from 1 to 10) and I need to see a good number of reviews (at least 1,000…) so I know it’s accurate. I also read reviews from people, and if there are comments complaining about the safety of the neighborhood or even the accommodation. That’s my number one red flag.
3. Travel during the day
I’m not afraid of the dark. I’m scared of what can happen in the dark. What people can do to you in the dark. When I travel alone, I never use night trains or buses. I know it would probably help me to save some money and time, but I can’t risk it. And a big part of that is because I’m a woman. So yeah, pretty annoyed about it.
4. High risk destination for women? Join a Solo Travellers Tour
I know. It’s amazing to be able to explore a country on your own. Having the freedom to do what you want when you want, on your own rhythm. Taking your time to take the right photos. But, as a woman, some destinations that are very much on the top of my list, are dangerous. I know that. I don’t want to risk it too much. In 2019 I went to Morocco, on one of these tours. And, I was not solo, but with a friend, also a woman. We both joined a tour by Intrepid Travel that took us exploring North Morocco. And honestly, I missed the thrill of being alone, and planning the trip myself. But it was AMAZING! I got to meet new people from different countries. The fact that we had local guides only made the trip more rich on knowledge. It ended up being very relaxing as I had everything taken care for me, and I didn’t have to worry with being alone in a country where it’s not customary for woman to be seen alone. So, if solo travelling is something that makes you nervous, or if it’s the destination, check companies like Intrepid!
5. Learn to lie
I’ve always been a very poor liar. But I do lie a lot when I’m travelling alone. When people ask me if I’m alone I would often say, “no, I’m waiting for my boyfriend/friends”. I would lie about where I’m going next, or the accomodation I’m staying in. I don’t want to have people following me, or trying to take advantage of a woman they know is alone. So lie, lie and lie. Mexico was the country where I had to lie a lot, as guys in restaurants and so on would be very direct with these kind of questions.
6. Stay in contact with someone from home and share your itinerary with family and friends
I’m not good at this, I confess. I forget sending messages, I never call people. But people may be worrying about me and my whereabouts. It is important you agree that you’ll send a text message to someone everyday around the same time, telling them where you are.
It is also important you leave your itinerary as well as the accommodations you’re planning to stay in with your friends and family. In case something happens, they can try to get in touch with the hotels or can inform the police.
7. Get a SIM card if you don’t have mobile data in the destination
I’m so dependent of Google Maps to travel, it’s insane. But because I use my phone to navigate, I don’t get as much attention as a tourist trying to look at a huge paper map. I remember when I first started travelling and smartphones were still something for the wealthy. Mobile data was a mirage. so I used the the small city maps they give in the tourist offices. I would always have guys (some very scary to be honest) coming to me asking if I needed help. While their intention might have been good, often times, I just felt nervous. And I don’t want to tell to a total stranger, when I’m alone in an unknown place, that I’m lost. So, yes, use Google Maps!
8. If you’re lost or nervous, don’t show it
When I definitely don’t know where the hell I am and my mobile data isn’t working, I try to find a cafe or a shop where I can go in to sit down or ask for help. I instinctively look for a woman, if possible. I use my instinct though. There are indeed good people that will offer to help you without any second intentions. But if you show nervousness and helplessness you may get unwanted attention from people who will think you’re desperate and therefore more prone to be a easy target.
9. Take walking tours
Sometimes, solo travelling can be lonely, especially if you’ve been travelling for over a week by yourself. I absolutely love the free walking tours you can find in almost any city. They are provided by local volunteers, who are clearly passionate and knowledge about the place they live in. It is a great way to get to know other travellers and exchange conversation. And just the fact of being in a groups, having someone talking with you for about 2 hours, it’s a great way to break the lack of close human contact while you’re travelling solo. Plus, if you’re in a group, even if they take you to the dodgy part of the town… you are in a group. Not likely someone will try to attack you.
10. Blend in. Be a chameleon. Within possible.
Okay. This is the part I hate to say, because it does go again my principles. But as a woman travelling, I do adopt a different dress code. Often, this is really needed. You don’t want to disrespect the culture, like if you’re visiting a Muslim country. Before I visited Mexico, I read that despite the hot temperatures, in central Mexico, women rarely wore shorts or tank tops.
And yet, even when I travel in Europe, I also try to blend in. With style of course, I’m European after all 💁🏻 But I do avoid showing too much skin or wearing tight clothes. And, to be honest, it’s not even comfortable when you’re travelling… I just really want to blend in, like a chameleon. Which is hard when you’re freaking tall…
Going back to point 1 – also research the dress codes!
These are my main 10 tips for solo travellers. I’m aware some of these may seem extreme, when I talk about strangers approaching you, for instance, or lying about being alone or where were you will go. Of course you don’t have to be antisocial, and stop yourself from enjoying speaking with the locals, and fellow travellers. But these are methods I adopt when my instinct definitely tells me to be careful. Long story short, train your instinct and trust it. Remember deep down we’re animals. We can sense danger. And we will run away from it.
Hope you enjoyed this post and please do share any other tips you may have!
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