Even though I've never really labeled this blog as one for solo female travelers, the truth is that I AM a female, and I DO tend to travel solo roughly 90% of the time.
And as a frequent solo female traveler, I get all the usual questions. The questions about why I travel alone (it's because I haven't found an ideal travel companion yet, and am not about to let that stop me from traveling). The questions about how I pay for my trips (it's called budgeting, people). The questions about how I deal with loneliness on the road (it's a mixture of enjoying being alone, and having the nerve to go up and make friends with strangers). And then there are my favorite questions: the ones about safety.
“But don't you get scared?” people ask me. “You're all alone and a girl. Don't you get scared?”
The truth is that, no, I don't really get scared about traveling on my own, whether I'm off to London, San Francisco, or Istanbul. There have been very few times that I've felt uneasy while on the road, and not one time when I have actually felt scared for my safety (well, other than that one time I almost died on a mountain).
Yes, the world can be an intimidating place (and a downright scary one if you listen to the media), but you have to remember that most of that is just hype. Despite my media background (or perhaps because of it?), I've managed to retain a rather rosy outlook on the world. Sure, traveling can be dangerous. But it's no more dangerous than getting in your car and driving to the mall, ladies.
Traveling safely as a solo woman is as simple as using common sense. Don't go out on your own after dark if it makes you feel uneasy. Don't go anywhere with questionable strangers. Don't call unnecessary attention to yourself by acting stupid (this includes getting drunk and messy). Keep someone at home updated on your plans. And, most of all, listen to your gut instincts.
But, if you're still a bit uneasy and unsure if solo female travel is really for you, perhaps my best advice for you is to ease your way into it by choosing destinations that are extremely solo-female-travel-friendly.
Even though nearby England is home to my favorite city in the world (London), it's Scotland you want to add to your itinerary if it's your first solo trip abroad as a woman. Not only is the country easily accessible and gorgeous, but it is also extremely safe and populated with friendly locals.
- English is the main language (assuming you can decipher a thick Scottish brogue)
- Scotland is a safe country
- Scottish people are extremely warm and welcoming
- There are some great hostels all over the country that offer up safe ways to meet other travelers
- Scotland is close to the rest of Europe — if you gain confidence here, you can easily take your solo show to the rest of the continent
- Scotland is SO pretty — with all of its castles and glens, you'll feel like you stepped right into the setting of a fairy tale
- Scotland isn't the cheapest destination in the world (it's on the British pound, remember)
- The weather in Scotland isn't always great, and it can change in an instant (tip: bring layers!)
- The ideal way to get around Scotland is by car, which can be pricey when you're traveling solo (though there are also trains and buses between major cities)
- If you visit outside of high season, many attractions (like castles) will be closed
New Zealand still remains my favorite country in the world, even after having visited at least 2 dozen others by this point. There's just something about it — a combination of a laid-back attitude, SO much to see/do, and some of the most breathtaking scenery anywhere in the world — that keeps drawing me back. It, too, would be a fantastic place to begin your solo travel adventures (just beware that you may never want to leave!).
- English is one of New Zealand's official languages, making communication a breeze
- New Zealand is a very safe country
- New Zealanders are laid-back and friendly
- New Zealand is easy to get around (by train, bus, car, or plane — you don't necessarily need a car)
- The country has a fantastic system of hostels — some of the best quality I've seen anywhere in the world
- Lots of young solo travelers make their way to New Zealand, and there are established backpacker bus routes should you want to use them
- New Zealand is tourist-friendly year-round, regardless of season
- New Zealand is extremely diverse when it comes to landscapes — no matter what you're into (mountains, beaches, volcanoes), you'll find it here
- New Zealand can be pricey, especially when it comes to food and it's popular adventure sports
- New Zealand is not convenient to get to from ANYwhere, unless you're coming from Australia
Lastly, I'm going to suggest you consider Iceland. While not a “typical” tourist destination, Iceland is definitely an up-and-comer. Not only is it convenient to get to from both Europe and the U.S., but it also offers a ton of unique activities against some of the most dramatic backdrops I have ever seen in real life. The fact that Iceland is also a very safe destination makes it ideal for the adventurous solo female traveler.
- While English is not the official language of Iceland, 99% of Icelanders speak it very fluently
- Iceland is an extremely safe country (seriously, there's like zero crime)
- Icelanders are welcoming and fun-loving
- Iceland has one of the strongest tourism infrastructures I've ever seen
- The country is ALL about day tours — sign up for a few from Reykjavik and you'll automatically have travel buddies
- Iceland is easy to get to both from Europe and North America (it's only a 3-hour flight from the UK, and a 4-hour flight from Boston)
- You can visit year-round and still find plenty to do (such as midnight golfing in the summer when there are nearly 24 hours of daylight, or hunting for the Northern Lights in the winter)
- The landscape here is out of this world — so dramatic
- Iceland is expensive — on par with the UK and even Scandinavia
- Outside of Reykjavik, there are few budget options for accommodation
- Iceland is best explored by car if you're venturing outside of Reykjavik, which can get expensive when you're traveling solo (there aren't really bus or train services to the rest of the country)
- Iceland is far north, meaning it gets very few hours of sunlight in the winter months (though tourism still operates during the dark months)
Of course, if none of these destinations sound appealing, there are plenty others out there that would be just as suitable. The important thing is that you get out there and travel. Don't let the fact that you're inexperienced or on your own or (God forbid) a female hold you back.
Traveling solo as a female doesn't have to be scary. In fact, it can be exactly the opposite — fun and liberating and life-changing. And hopefully this post will help convince you of that!
What other destinations would you add to this list?
Some great items for the female traveler:
*A caveat: Yes, these destinations are listed with an American, Canadian, or perhaps Australian woman in mind. This is simply because I myself am an American woman who travels solo, so it's what I know. And yes, I have been to all of these destinations as a solo traveler!