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Advice for Any Solo Woman Traveller Aiming to Go International

March 27, 2024
Photo by Mesut Kaya on Unsplash

Independence, a chance to do what you want to do without compromises and a will to satisfy a deep wanderlust are all reasons why women might wish to travel solo.  But how can you do that as safely as possible?  As we approach International Women’s Day on March 8, Europesure Travel Insurance has some travel tips for anyone journeying as a solo woman traveller.

Finding your wings can be exciting, deeply satisfying and liberating - perhaps why we’re calling our advice PALOMA, the Spanish word for dove. Take our PALOMA tips on board and you will hopefully have the experience you have longed for, with no hiccups along the way.

PLAN

Preparation is everything for your trip.  Firstly, choose a destination with no current issues such as political unrest or a high level of terror threat.  As part of this planning phase, use your government’s travel website advice resource, to assess any situations that may not make major headlines and so have gone under the radar.  Also, make sure you know of any vaccinations or anti-malarial treatments you will need to arrange, ahead of travel. 

Once you have decided which of your must-do destinations to choose, consider where you will stay.  Will it be in a hostel?  Are there women-only hostels available?  If you choose a hotel, are there any with women-only floors?  If not, can you request a room not on the ground floor?  Before you book, do some checking up on the area in which the accommodation is located.  Does it seem safe?  How far would you need to walk, to or from a train or metro station?  

Next, turn to your flights.  Book a flight that will get you to your destination in daytime, so you can enjoy a safer transfer to your accommodation and even perhaps change it, if you arrive and decide it’s not for you.  In daylight, you can get a better feel for the area but do also remember things can change at night.

Work out the routes you might wish to take around the city or area and spend some time studying a local map.  This can help you get your bearings when you arrive.  How does the metro operate, for instance?  Will you need a pass or travel card?  Do you need to validate tickets before boarding a train?  At what times do trains, buses and metro lines run?  Are there any public holidays during your intended stay?  What are the local opening hours? Where are the chief landmarks located, in terms of the overall local geography or cityscape?

Also, what local scams are in regular operation?  Research these and you should avoid being caught out by them.

Next, put the relevant local emergency numbers in your phone, so you have them stored.  Take copies of your passport, visa, vaccination certificates, travel insurance and credit cards.  Keep one copy with you (in a place separate from the original documents), load another copy into the Cloud and leave a third with a friend or family member.  Photograph any valuable items you are taking, so you have evidence of ownership.

Then, plan your reaction to the time-zone you will be in.  Make sure you allow time to adjust your body clock or get some sleep before heading out and about.  You don’t want to fall asleep on public transport or be caught unawares through tiredness.

Photo by Chris Anderson on Unsplash

ADAPT

As a solo woman traveller, you need to adapt to your new environment as much as possible.  This may mean learning some of the language before you travel.  Some online aids can make this easier.  Whilst it is tempting to just use Google translate, that could draw more attention to you as a solo traveller and would also mean flashing your phone around.  Knowing some key phrases can not only help you ask for directions or help but also potentially enable you to understand some of what is being said around you.

Learn about the local culture.  What is a no-no?  Are there rules women need to follow?  What would be deemed ‘modest dress’ in the country?  Are there rules about what to wear when visiting historic or religious buildings? What local laws might unwittingly catch you out as a solo woman traveller?

You can also adapt by trying to blend in as much as possible.  This means not flashing your wealth and avoiding wearing expensive jewellery and watches.  Don’t have a camera constantly on show and keep your phone tucked away as much as possible.  Avoid packing too much for your trip, as you alone will have to lug it around.  

Also consider wearing or purchasing a simple wedding ring, which can be a useful way to avoid unwanted attention.

LINK UP

You could also link up with an organisation such as Worldpackers, if you wish to stay with a host somewhere around the world, or perhaps do some volunteering and receive free accommodation via this route.

Try to forge some friendships with other solo women travellers. Having dinner alone can be hard to do, but perhaps you don’t have to.  Also try to forge links with trusted local people, who can offer advice on where to eat, what to see, how best to reach places and how to stay safe.  Listen to what they say about local crime or areas that should not be explored alone.

Don’t forget some basic safety rules if heading out alone somewhere.  Tell people – either locally or back at home, or ideally both, where you are going, who you are going to meet, if that’s the case, and when you expect to be back.  Turn on location tracking on your phone.

Photo by Jamie Brown on Unsplash

OUTREACH

Be very wary about oversharing.  In person, this means, in particular, not revealing where you are staying, if talking to strangers.  However, providing too much information about yourself in general is not a wise thing to do.  Be guarded.  Follow your instincts.

If you become aware of someone following you or behaving strangely around you, don’t be afraid to ask for help or ask someone to contact a police officer for you.  Better to be safe than sorry.  If someone is bothering you, there’s also nothing wrong with making that evident to others. They might help form a protective ring around you.

Do not post pictures of your ‘journey’ on social media.  It can make you trackable as a solo woman traveller and will highlight that you are alone.  Save all of this until you return home.

MANAGE RISK

Do what you can to manage your risk as a solo woman traveller.  On arrival at your accommodation, request a room on a higher floor, if you have not been able to pre-arrange that.  You could also pack an alarmed travel doorstop, which will prevent anyone entering your room, whilst you are inside, and also sound an alert.

Manage your risk when taking taxis, by only getting into marked cabs, ideally with a meter, or using an Über.  Note the registration of the cab and send that information to someone.  If using a pre-booked service, check the registration plate matches the details you were given when booking.  If there is no meter in the cab, agree a price beforehand.  Try to call someone to tell them where you are and the cab details.  Even if you have no connectivity, you could fake a call.

Don’t wander around looking lost.  Walk purposefully and only check a map if you can get inside a store or café, where it is less evident what you are doing.  Try not to use maps on your phone, as that will also highlight that you have a high-value gadget.  Always be alert to what is going on around you and keep checking that you are not being followed.

Pick up a hotel or hostel business card, if you can, so that you have the contact details.  If leaving your room, try to leave a light on or even a TV, or hang a ‘do not disturb’ sign on the door handle, to make it look as if someone is in.  If you feel you need an escort back to your room at night, ask the hotel to assist you.  Lock belongings inside a safe, if there is one, or hide money and valuables in unexpected places, choosing several, to lower the theft risk.

Be extra wary about pickpocketing around train stations, on trains and metros, and within markets and busy tourist locations.  If in such a location, wear a rucksack on your front and not on your back.  If you see signs warning you about pickpockets, do not immediately check a pocket in which you are keeping money or valuables.  Pickpockets actually watch out for people who do that, so they know where something valuable might be located!  

Be wary when taking pictures and putting a bag down to do so, or even when using your phone for a photo.  It could be knocked out of your hand. Only allow someone else to take your photo, if you feel they are trustworthy.  It could be a ruse to steal your camera or phone.

If in a restaurant or café, do not leave a bag on the back of a chair.  Put its straps around a chair leg or keep it firmly under the table, wedged in as much as possible.  Never leave your food or drink unattended, as it could be spiked.  When leaving the eatery, always check you have picked up all of your belongings.

Solo woman traveller in New York
Image by Courtney Cook on Unsplash

ANTICIPATE

Plan for the worst possible scenario as a solo woman traveller and it should help you stay better protected.  Consider a bra-pocket – an anti-theft device attached to your bra, keeping money and credit cards out of view.  

You could also consider an anti-slash, cross-body bag, complete with RFID blockers and locking zippers, to prevent bag theft and skimming of cards.  

There are also devices like Loctote bags that can be physically locked to an immovable object and safely left there. Similarly, there is pickpocket proof clothing.

You could get tactical and create a dummy purse, with a bit of cash in it, which you could hand over if challenged, keeping your main purse safely tucked away.  Maybe also consider attaching a whistle to your bag or clothing, so you can attract attention, if needed.  Similarly, a police approved personal attack alarm could be an ally.

Remember that drinking a lot of alcohol will lower your defences, so don’t do it.  High heels can also be an issue, if you need to quickly exit a location, so wearing flat shoes – or packing foldable flats in your bag – may be a better strategy.

Finally, make sure you purchase a good level of travel insurance protection before you travel.  Ensure this will cover the number of days for which you intend to be travelling and applies to the destination that you will explore.  Do also check that any existing medical conditions are covered by the policy, as well as any activities that you may wish to enjoy whilst away.  

If you choose Europesure Travel Insurance, you have three different levels of cover from which to select and can also delete any elements of cover you do not need.  You can also add on extra components of cover, such as Covid cover, terrorism disruption cover, car hire excess insurance and protection for gadgets.

Europesure covers travellers from across the UK, EU and EEA, as well as those who are resident in Monaco and Gibraltar, so more or less wherever you reside in Europe, as a solo woman traveller, we can probably offer you travel insurance protection.  Just select your country of residence when buying your cover and that will allow it to be purchased in Sterling or Euros.

From there, pack your bags and get ready for your adventure.  Preparation is everything and if you’ve done your homework and worked out your strategies, you should have a fantastic time travelling solo.

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These travel insurance products are brought to you by Europesure Insurance. For EU and EEA policies: Status Europesure Insurance Cyprus is a trading name of Status Insurance Agents, Sub-Agents and Consultants CY Ltd which is authorised and regulated by the Insurance Companies Control Service in Cyprus, number 5015. Incorporated in Cyprus, Number HE394801: 5 Rafael Santi, 1st Floor, Office 101, 6052 Larnaca, Cyprus. Status Insurance Agents, Sub-Agents and Consultants CY Ltd is a wholly owned subsidiary of Status Insurance Management Ltd. For UK and Gibraltar policies, Europesure Insurance is a trading name of Status Insurance Management Ltd which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) in the UK. Their FCA number is 305697. Registered in England Number 1785590: First Floor, Jebsen House, 53-61 High Street, Ruislip, Middlesex, HA4 7BD.
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