When I announced that I wanted to travel on my own for a year, my family were supportive. Everyone else urged me to be careful. There warnings echoed like a death bell. Most people couldn’t believe that I had the guts to travel alone and others were afraid for me. Maybe they were worried that I’d be abducted, kidnapped or hacked into tiny pieces. [Enter any other nightmare scenario here.]
I never worried about any of that, perhaps because I had a healthy dose of nativity, but also because I was sensible.
Now if you are a lone female traveller who has had the fear of God put into you, or if you are worried about a single female traveller in your life, here is why you don’t need to fret and how you can be prepared.
Most places are geared up for travellers; that includes a solo flying female!
When I travelled alone for the first time, I picked Thailand. Thailand is Mecca for travellers. It is geared up for the solo traveller in every way. If you are travelling alone for the first time (and are concerned about it), I’d recommend that you pick a place that is easy to adjust to. Here you can learn the ropes and if you decide to travel to a more ‘difficult’ place, you’ll know what to expect and what to prepare for.
If you are English speaking, Europe, America, New Zealand, Australia and South-East Asia are all excellent options. If you are travelling somewhere that is arguably more difficult, or a path less trodden and therefore somewhat more unfathomable, do lots of research, speak to people who’ve been and arrange to meet up with someone there who you’ve spoken with/met beforehand if possible.
Insurance is one of the most boring aspects of any trip. I know a lot of people who’ve travelled extensively and never bothered with travel insurance. They see it as a waste of money. Chances are, you won’t need to call upon your insurance, but there have been times when I’ve thought I’d be fine and dandy and I’ve had to use it. The truth is, you never know what is around the corner and as much as that can be exciting and adventurous, it can also be detrimental to your trip.
When it comes to insurance, you want to make sure that you are covered for realistic possibilities. You’ll want cover for delayed or cancelled flights, cover for theft and cover for illness. If you’re an adrenaline junkie, you’ll want to be insured for extreme sports. If you’re extremely wealthy and heading to a kidnap hotspot, well, you get what I’m saying.
If you’re working with animals, this will need to be incorporated into your cover. Your insurance needs will vary wildly depending on where you are going, what you are doing and the risks you are taking.
You’ll also want to be prepared if you need to cancel your trip due to an emergency. There is no greater agony than saving up and spending a load of cash only to have to backtrack due to an unexpected change of circumstances.
If you are from an EU country and travelling within the EU, bring your EU health card. Without it, you may have to pay through the nose for treatment. Keep it on you, as without it you will be refused treatment.
Follow the rules of the country
If you hail from a particularly lenient country, you’ll need to learn that the rest of the world doesn’t adhere to the same standards. It is vital to play by the rules. Familiarising yourself with the law might sound like a colossal waste of time, but it could save you trouble down the line.
A lot of people go a bit wild when they travel so understand the law surrounding drug use, public displays of affection and general crime. It’s not that most travellers intentionally commit crime oversees, it’s that people lose their sense of reality and their inhibitions. You’re meeting cool new people, going to a lot of parties and relaxing and having fun.
They feel like they are on a dream holiday and they forget that this beautiful place is still a country governed by strict laws and consequences which are often more severe than those of their home country. Some countries, for example, have harsh penalties for drug use. It is important to know what you are getting yourself into. Don’t assume that just because a country is tourist friendly, you can be a law unto yourself. If you know the law, you can stay out of unexpected trouble. Anyone who has watched ‘Banged up Abroad’ will know that this is not a position anyone wants to be in if they can help it!
So be sure to follow the tried and tested phase, ‘when in Rome, do as the Romans do.’
The truth is, nothing can happen to you oversees that can’t happen to you at home. The problem is that when people travel, they let their inhibitions all the way down. A lot of people do things oversees that they would never do in their home country. A few things you can do to exercise caution are:
- Keep your possessions in a locker at your hostel and actually lock it!
- Keep your bag on you at all times to avoid being stolen from or having items planted.
- Let your family/close friends back home know the address and phone number of where you are staying at every leg of your journey. Give them a contact name.
- Let family/close friends know when you arrive somewhere safely.
- Give family a heads up when/if you enter a WiFi black hole so they don’t panic unnecessarily.
- Always keep your phone on you and keep it topped up. You can always buy a burner phone and a local sim card.
- Make a photocopy of all important documents including your passport and itinerary. Keep a copy on your person and email a copy to your personal email address.
- Keep drinks, especially alcohol beverages, with you at all times. Watch as they are poured and take them with you to the bathroom. Don’t leave your glass with a stranger.
- Save the numbers for the police, hospital, your embassy and other vital contacts in your mobile phone and in a notebook and keep it with you at all times.
- If out late at night, try to stay in a group or stick to tourist zones.
- Stay in well lit, busy areas.
- Remember that the rules of the road oversees can be mental. Be extra cautious when crossing the road.
- Familiarise yourself with the cultures views of and treatment of women in a general sense to avoid cultural crossfire.
- Dress in a way that makes you feel comfortable and secure, especially if alone.
- Keep your wits about you.
- Don’t do anything that you wouldn’t do at home i.e. go off with a stranger, drink drive or take drugs.
- Look out for other travellers who may need your help.
- Practice safe sex.
- Always have money and a debit/credit card available if you need to quickly bail yourself out of trouble.
- Keep a dictionary/phrase book on you so that if you get lost or fall off the beaten track, you can still be understood especially in the event of an emergency.
One thing that you’ll want to prioritise before heading oversees is your health. A good few months before you fly, visit your GP or a tropical healthcare consultant who can inform you of the vaccinations you’ll need, when best to have them and the costs. A lot of people still take the risk of travelling without vaccines to save money or because they don’t trust them. Trust your doctor and make sure you get vaccinated! It is really not worth ending up ill oversees. If going to America, consider the extortionate cost of treatment and ensure that your insurance policy covers you for at least $1 million in terms of healthcare.
Know where you are vulnerable
If you have health concerns such as a nut allergy, epilepsy, depression or any other health issue that may impact upon your travelling, make sure that you travel wisely. If you need medication, bring these with you clearly labelled and stored in your hand luggage in case your hold luggage should get lost.
If you have food allergies or intolerances, be cautious in restaurants especially if there is a language barrier to muddy the waters. Tell someone you are travelling with about your issue in case they need to call anyone to help in the worst scenario. If you are travelling to a malarial zone, discuss options with your GP or healthcare provider. A lot of people choose not to take malaria medication but it is always best to make an informed decision. What’s worse? A little discomfort from a pill or malaria?
Eat well and drink plenty
When I went to Thailand to volunteer, I met an American from the US Navy. He was keen to keep up his training in the sweltering heat of Thailand. He got cocky and didn’t drink much. He ended up hospitalised for dehydration. I remember as a kid being called out of the pool every 30 minutes to drink some water. I wasn’t thirsty and didn’t see why it mattered. It is so easy to get into the habit of not drinking and before you know it you are severely dehydrated and suffering from sunstroke to boot. If you are somewhere very hot or are doing a lot of physical exercise, 2 litres plus is highly recommended.
Water is cheap – drink it.
Food is typically dirt cheap oversees. Eat well! Keep your physical body strong.
Use your female intuition
Intuition plays a huge part in keeping us safe. If something feels wrong or off, don’t do it. Only do what feels right to you. Remember, this is YOUR trip, YOUR adventure, and you deserve to feel safe and comfortable. Think of women that you idolise and be brave, courageous and go for the experience that you dream of! Remember, this path has been trodden by many a solo female traveller before you.
So, the key is to be smart, safe and healthy and most importantly, enjoy yourself!
Do you feel safe as a solo female traveller? In which country have you felt the safest? What measures do you take to prioritise your safety when you travel?
All my love