Return to Home Page

March 17, 2009

Solo girlin’ it: Tips for Women Traveling Alone

When I was nineteen, I went to Morocco, by myself.  It never occurred to me to go any other way, actually — I wanted to go, nobody else I knew either wanted to travel or had the means, and I couldn’t think of anyone I even *wanted* to go with me.  Far from being an uncomfortable experience, it was one of the best trips I’ve taken (short of going to Guatemala with my friend Colleen, which was remarkably similar to traveling by myself, which leads her to deserve kudos).

There is a lot of fear-mongering about women going places, especially by themselves; if I had an eighth of a nickel for every time someone’s clutched my arm and said, “Aren’t you SCARED?” every time I go somewhere alone, my children’s college education would be paid for. I saw an article once about “dangerous” travel that said travel is only as dangerous as you choose to make it; obviously if you go striding through downtown Tehran in a spaghetti tank top and hot shorts, demanding liquor, you might have some problems.  Be conscious of your surroundings and the social mores, just as you would in any public situation.

Consider checking the State Department travel warnings for the latest in beleaguered nations, but take the information as a guideline, not a rule.  Most places suffering from problems are only suffering from problems in certain areas…in Yemen, for example, only the Governorates of Sa’dah, Ma’rib, al Jawf, Shabwah and Hardramaut are considered truly dangerous for Western travelers.  The rest of the country is gagging for your tourism!  Do more research on exactly what is going on in every place you want to go, and consider avoiding the cities or townships that are high-risk.

Use common sense. Lock your hotel room at night, try to avoid shady alleyways, and if a hotel-owner solicitously offers you the use of his own bed and his weather eye to “watch over” you as you sleep, say no. As women, we have not only basic safety to watch out for (knowing fire exits, avoiding electrical shocks, staying out of mobs) but also gender-based safety.  Be confident in your own abilities.

Try to get the window seat in trains and buses; you can use it to lean against for napping, and it also tucks your bags between you and the wall, rather than between you and an open aisle. If you are traveling by train in Europe, hook the ladder for the upper sleeping bunks over the doorway at night (most trains have a rail for this purpose).  This is a good tip for anyone, not just solo women.

Be aware that you may get propositioned.  A lot.  Sitting by yourself in a cafe, no matter how much you enjoy it, is usually seen as a sadly lonely state of affairs (yep, in North America just as much as anywhere else), and you may be besieged with unwanted attention.  If you don’t want to be alone, great!  Enjoy your new friends!  If you do, even a book is often no deterrent, but it can help.  Consider bringing a large unattractive pet and sitting it next to your chair.

One interesting thing about traveling alone is that you never have to remain that way for long unless you want to; everyone on the road will often welcome a lady on her way somewhere, and you can often take that road as far as you like.  Backpackers in hostels, friendly locals on weekend car trips to the country…I was invited — nay, ordered — to stay with a doctor’s family in Rabat because they couldn’t believe a woman was traveling around on her own.  They gave me Nutella and tea and Arabic lessons for a week.

Finally, remember that this is your chance to do what you want, when you want to do it, and wherever you want to go.  Embrace your alone-ness.  Sing in the shower or in bed, change your plans at the last minute, spend all day shopping for knick-knacks or exploring the library without worrying that someone is waiting for you.  Bring a book to dinner.  Write in your journal on the seawall.  Sleep diagonally.  Enjoy.

Posted by | Comments (4) 
Category: Notes from the collective travel mind

4 Responses to “Solo girlin’ it: Tips for Women Traveling Alone”

  1. jill Says:

    “obviously if you go striding through downtown Tehran in a spaghetti tank top and hot shorts, demanding liquor”

    That, my friend, is a hilarious turn of phrase.
    Viva ladies alone.

  2. Lisa Says:

    I’m leaving 3 kids and hubby home for 2 weeks and going off to Seattle , I’m glad I read this as all people say is “won’t you be scared? ” Yes I will but that is the best part , conquering that fear!

  3. Vicky Says:

    I am wanting to travel long term and do some work along the way that makes a difference in someone’s life. Any suggestions? I am nervous because I don’t have a big bank account to fall back on.

Leave a Reply













Vagabonding Audio Book at

Marco Polo Didnt Go There
Rolf's new book!



Val: I’m troubled by the same issue: how to keep habits while travelling? I...

Roger: I hardly ever have the opportunity to go anywhere on a whim, but thanks for...

Stacey Ebert: Thanks, Dane. Glad you enjoyed the post. There are some pretty amazing...

Dane Homenick: Wonderful story Stacey! I can’t way to make it back there and to...

Ric: Dyanne – you are quite the inspirationist for vagabonding. I enjoyed your...

Tom: Glad to hear people are writing their memoirs. Alun, please alert this list when...

Dane Homenick: You’re awesome lyndsay. Living!

Alun: Hi, I travelled from UK to Turkey in avan in 1972, and left southern Turkey...


Jenni: “But the thing is once you understand the “normal life” is...






On Baksheesh
Morning Rituals
Why you should be reminded about “mistake-fares”
Vagabonding Field Report: Magnetic Island and Barbie Cars
Australia’s Red Center: The beautiful nothing
Travel writing is about what the place brings out of the writer
How Africa got in my soul (and stayed there)
Vagabonding Case Study: Dyanne Kruger
Long-term travel, consumerism, and purging
Vagabonding Case Study: Lyndsay Cabildo

Subscribe to this blog's feed
Follow @rolfpotts