I love travelling solo! It’s so much fun and you get to meet new people whilst exploring somewhere new. It can be very daunting though, and I was super anxious when I set off on my first trip alone so I’ve decided to put together a handy-guide of tips for solo travelling as a woman but most of these can definitely be applied to everyone.
The main reason I started solo travelling was because I got sick and tired of waiting around for other people to have the same schedule or same desire to visit a place I wanted to… honestly, I would have been waiting around forever!
So I took the plunge four years ago to go off on my own. My first trip was to Madeira, Portugal in February 2016. It was during the inter-semester break of my first year at university, I really wanted to go travelling during this time but because of conflicting schedules and other reasons, there was no-one I knew who could go with me! Not wanting this opportunity to pass me by, I booked the trip through a website called LastMinuteLastMinute. I found what was a good deal at the time, which included flights and a stay in a very charming hostel in a central location. I also organised a taxi pick-up and drop-off service through the hostel since it was my first time travelling alone and I didn’t want to get too overwhelmed when I landed. Organising that service was one less thing to worry about as a newbie wanderluster.
The hostel I stayed in has to be hands-down the best hostel I have ever stayed in, and I am so glad it was my first experience of a hostel because I’ve been to some really shoddy ones since then. The place was colourful and vibrant, and had such a great vibe to it. It was so clean! The staff were amazing and friendly. The best part? Fresh cake every morning. What more could a gal ask for??
The hostel also had a restaurant attached to it, which I went to on my first night because I was exhausted and didn’t have it in me to venture far for food. It did not disappoint! Though it was a little on the expensive end, so I didn’t go back – I was staying in a hostel for a reason 😉 The hostel also had breakfast included, which was great and one less thing to worry about/spend money on whilst I was out there.
I was in Funchal for several days, I had planned some things to see/do but I kept a lot of my days free so that I could remain flexible and go to any events that I found out about once I was there. The best adventures have always been spontaneous. I also read it was a good idea to stay flexible in case I met up with other solo-travellers. I ended up meeting two other solo travellers towards the last few days I was there. One girl was staying in the same hostel and the guy I met through her because they met on one of the many Levada Walks the country is famous for. As a group we went on a tour together, went to some bars and it definitely made the last few days of my trip way more enjoyable because I got to share and create memories with other people which is always really nice. I love my own company but some things are better when shared with other people.
Since then, I’ve been to Dublin, Sri Lanka, parts of Spain, Belgium and Nantes on my own. I’ve usually met people whilst out there so even though I start off as a solo traveller, I’m never truly alone.
Why I love solo-travelling:
- I can do what I want whenever I want which is probably the biggest perk. My main issue with travelling with others is that often we have different interests and we don’t always want to do the same thing. So we compromise and someone isn’t entirely pleased with the outcome. When you’re solo-travelling, you only have yourself to worry about
- I love meeting new people and there are plenty of other solo-travellers out there to meet. It is pretty scary at the beginning to start up a conversation with a stranger, but the more you do it, the easier it gets. The best place to start is in your hostel, there’s communal areas where you can hang out and meet people. The hostels organise loads of events as well like pub crawls, walking tours and much more. I also recommend apps like CouchSurfing and MeetUp. The Female Solo Traveller Network group on Facebook is also pretty great! Use it to find a coach to surf, meet with locals and other solo travellers or find a travel buddy!
How I Solo Travel
- I almost always stay in a hostel unless there’s a special reason not to. It’s cheaper, you can meet other travellers if you don’t want to be totally alone for the whole trip, they have great organised events and you can save money on meals (if you get breakfast included – if the spread is good you can even make a lunch out of it)
- When booking a hostel, I opt for a female-only dorm just because I have heard really bad experiences from females who have been in mixed dorms. Mainly issues dealing with privacy and men not knowing boundaries. For peace of mind, I am happy to pay a little extra. Of course, there are many females who have had good experiences in mixed-dorms, so it is really up to you what you decide
Hostel Cheat Sheet
Bring flip flops! Hostel showers are communal and notorious for being N-A-S-T-A-Y especially if you get there late
Don’t forget a padlock for your valuables. Most hostels provide lockers which can be super useful if you don’t want to carry everything around all day
Hostels don’t always provide towels, so it’s a good idea to bring your own. Though in some in cases you can buy one when you get there
If you want a super chilled holiday and don’t want that party vibe, make sure to read the reviews so you don’t end up at a party hostel
- I also pay attention to the location, facilities on offer, check-in and out times and also the reviews. I use HostelWorld to search for somewhere to say and you can filter for all of these when looking. Location is important because whilst I’m choosing a hostel to save money, if it is super far from everywhere and everything I want to do I’ll be spending money on travel which is counterproductive. Facilities like Wi-Fi, luggage storage, entertainment spots all contribute to a more enjoyable stay for me personally. And the check-in and out times are also important to consider especially if you arrive/leave late or early morning!
- I love a cheap flight, so I always look around before I book anything and then I wait a few days to see if the price will lower. My flights to Colombia were down to £547 including two large suitcases and hand luggage when typical prices are £600+ because I checked frequently rather than jumping the gun. I use SkyScanner and Google Flights to look for the great deals. It’s almost always cheaper to book your flight and hostel separately rather than trying to find a package deal.
- If you notice that your flight prices have gone up since your last search, open an incognito web to remove your cookies – when they know you want the flight, prices will increase
- Found a cheap flight on SkyScanner or Google Flights? Try searching on the airline site directly in a separate incognito window to see if it is cheaper buying from them directly – sometimes it will be
- Some places you only need a few days to see! I made this mistake with Funchal and I was there for way longer than I needed to be and by the end of it I was ready to go home. I felt like I could have done and seen everything I wanted to do in four days, but I was there for a week I think and it wasn’t even that warm in February so I couldn’t waste away at the beach
- If I’m only on a city break (a few days), I do a free walking tour (you pay what you think it’s worth). I highly recommend Sandemans if you’re in Europe. They do general walking tours and custom ones if you have specific interests like history or art. The tour guides are so well informed and you get to see a lot of the city in a short time. I took the tours when I was in Madrid, Porto and Dublin
Things to consider
- Travelling alone as a female can pose some dangers in certain places, so it is best you don’t announce to everyone that you are there alone because it makes you vulnerable and a potential target for unwanted attention from men or thieves. Some people decide to wear wedding rings as a way to fend off would-be predators and it is truly sad that predatory men will respect a ring (or the idea of a man) rather than the person saying no, but unfortunately that is the world we live in
- Some people I wouldn’t go alone as a black female, hell even as a female because the places are notorious for harassment against women and are simply not safe on your own. Do your research and make sure you are 100% sure you would feel safe there
- The dangers are the same as anywhere when you’re a foreigner abroad, keep your valuables safe, hidden and exercise caution in unfamiliar places