Travelling is the best thing that happened to mankind, of-course after animals that love us unconditionally. They say the more you travel, the more you grow. Travelling takes you places you never knew existed and lets you experience and be part of new cultures and traditions. It opens the doors of your heart and mind and brings you closer to yourself. It changes you in many ways. Most of which begin to make you feel happy and contented and self-aware.When we travel in a group, we miss out on time to be by ourselves, sit and introspect, feel aware of our innermost feelings and thoughts. Hence, travelling solo is the best gift you can give yourself. But when travelling alone as a female, there are a lot of precautions you need to take. And it can become the most enriching experience of your life. Here are the 12 best tips for solo female travellers.
Read up about the place
It is very important that you do your homework before deciding on a place for your solo trip or even if you have frozen down on the destination. Read up all that is there to know about your chosen place of travel, right from its geography to climate and culture and scams and the do’s and don’t’s to be followed there. Knowing about where you are headed to, gives you a better understanding of how the place and its people are and what should you be wary of and where can you let loose and enjoy your trip. Being an Indian, I decided on Bombay as my first solo trip destination, since it is known to be a city that never sleeps and where people are too busy to bother you and the place has everything under the sun to grab your attention!
Reach your destination before it gets dark
Well, now this is a no-brainer. A female travelling alone best reaches the destination before it gets dark. While booking your air, train or bus ticket, choose a slot that gets you to your destination before the nightfall. That will allow you to see and observe the place in the daylight and also get your emergency supplies before its dark and unsafe to venture out and most importantly, you are not roaming the streets or in a cab with luggage, becoming the ‘tourist target’ for unsocial elements. If possible, get your hotel or hostel to arrange for a pick up from the airport or station.
Be aware of your surroundings – ALWAYS!
If there was one rule I stuck to, no matter how cumbersome it felt at times, it was to keep my ears and eyes wide open and be aware of my surrounding. When travelling alone, you are your only safety net and it is your duty to protect yourself and your luggage. Keep your zip pockets towards the front, properly zipped up. If carrying a back-pack, wear it in the front and if need be, carry your luggage with you when using a public restroom. If you sense someone following, mix into a crowd or quickly go to the nearest café you see. Avoid taking deserted lanes.
Keep your friends and family updated
While you are far away from home and your comfort zone, it is important to keep your family and friends posted on your well-being. Regularly posting on social media not only will assure them of your safety, but it also acts as of proof for your whereabouts. A quick check in or a photo upload with the location tagged in can come handy in case of any emergency. Also, before heading on with your solo travel plan, decide on a time-frame with your family and friends about your calling and posting online. At times, poor internet connection in remote areas makes it impossible to keep in touch constantly. But your family back home should know that if you haven’t called or posted anything in the last 5-7 days means they should check on you. When you reach a new place, leave them with local contact numbers of the hostel/hotel or the tour company.
The best way to get any unwanted attention off you is to blend in. Before heading to the destination, do some research and understand about the culture and lifestyle of the locals. It is not necessary that you are a localite, but act as if you are an expat, moved in a while back and who understands and knows the place and culture fairly well. Its always good to dress like a local. If in India, dress like one or for that matter, in any part of the world, think, act and dress like a local. Even if it might be a little uncomforting in the beginning. But nothing is more important than your safety.
Don’t get drunk when alone
Again, a no-brainer. You are in a place that is new to you and you have no one to watch your back. Hence, if you do go out partying or to any local pub or bar, it’s alright to have a drink or two. But under no circumstances, should you give in to the flow and just get wasted. Of Corse, if you bump into an old friend from back home, by all means, go all out and party. But when alone or with new friends, by no means should you get drunk and attempt to reach back your hostel alone or let a stranger drop you.
Keep your cash and valuables safe
Well, let’s just say there is a long list of ‘no-brainer’ points to be kept in mind when travelling solo. Do not wear flashy jewellery or carry a fancy backpack or cash in pockets that are too obvious a target for local thieves. Stash cash in your socks, boots or inners and to fool local thieves, carry a dummy wallet with fake cards. But keep cash and valuables away from their sight. Do not count cash in public. Have just enough cash to come handy. Rest, keep it stashed in safe places.
Know that you will feel lonely and homesick
When you start on your journey, you will feel a mix of nervousness and excitement and the nervousness will be replaced by excitement for the first couple of days, may be even weeks. But remember, at some point on your journey, you will feel lonely and miss your family, friends and life back home. And might regret your decision of travelling alone long-term. But trust me, after a while, you will learn to deal with your emotions and evolve as a person. You will make new friends and cherish the old ones a lot more. So, accept the bouts of loneliness and help yourself grow out of it.
It’s an unsaid rule in travelling. When alone, travel as light as you can. If possible, carry just a backpack and a light handbag/sling bag. Many a time, we women tend to pack a lot of stuff which is either not needed or can be bought locally. You should ideally be carrying clothes as per the climate of the place, a pair of jeans,4-5 tank tops or sweat shirts. 2 leggings and a couple of pairs of innerwear and basic makeup. Carry toiletries to last you for the first week. Cary re-fillable bottles and buy stuff locally.
Don’t open up to strangers
It’s not the best of ideas to open up to people about your whereabouts or place of stay or plans when in a new place. While I am not saying you doubt and push away every person you meet on your journey and just be alone throughout your stay, opening up to people you don’t really know and have met just sometime back might not be a very good idea. Certain information should be kept to yourself and conversations should revolve mainly around the place of travel and culture and similar topics.
The world today is becoming more accepting and encouraging of solo travel journeys, which actually helps us evolve and grow as a person. But if you are new to the world of solo travel, it is best you start small. Instead of heading straight out on a week or a month-long journey, start by taking weekend trips to places near by. Let that experience be a stepping stone to then gradually planning 4-5 days of travel , then to week or two week long and once you feel more confident, you can plan long-term!
Respect the local law and rules
You are in a new place and all by yourself and you do not want to land yourself in any kind of soup. To best avoid that, respect the local law and regulations. There are countries where certain signs or gestures are offendable and some places where you need to be careful about your language or how you dress or how you drive. Before reaching the place, do a thorough research on what are the local rules and laws and abide by them.