Would you like to travel but have no one to go with you?
Don’t despair. Not having a travel companion shouldn’t discourage you from experiencing all the wonders the world has to offer. You can travel by yourself! While traveling alone may sound daunting at first, it is rewarding and gets easier with practice.
Here are ten pointers to get you started.
The personal safety aspect unfortunately stops a lot of women from traveling alone. This doesn’t have to be the case.
Instead of walking around late at night, use a reputable cab company. If you do walk at night, stick to well lit, busy pedestrian areas. Minimal or no jewellery (certainly nothing expensive), don’t flash around a wallet full of cash and never take a stranger back to your room.
Watch out for lightning fast pickpockets. Don’t keep large amounts of cash, credit cards or your passport in your pocket. Avoid handbags that gap open, instead choose one that shuts securely and keep it close to your body. Money belts worn under clothing are a wise choice for some destinations.
When using public transportation choose who you want to sit next to. As tempting as those spare seats look, you can’t control who sits next to you.
Stay in touch with family and friends back home so they know where you are and don’t go overseas without travel insurance.
Use caution when telling people you are traveling alone. Most often, it’ll be safer to say you are with a group, or your friends are back at the hotel.
2. Research Before You Go
Use the Internet and guidebooks to determine whether your destination is friendly towards solo female travelers. Research your accommodations before booking to ensure they are close to restaurants bars and shops so that you are not walking or catching cabs long distances. Check train and bus arrival times. If you catch a night train, make sure you have a hotel booked before your arrival. I made this mistake in Paris and found myself walking around at midnight looking for a room.
3. Respect the Local Culture
Research the culture of your destination, acceptable behavior at home may be illegal or frowned upon in a foreign country. Be respectful particularly in regard to dress standards and conduct. In non-English speaking countries, learn a few basic words and phrases, so that you can be courteous and friendly to the locals.
Drinking impairs your judgement so know your limits and stay within them. As a wine drinker, I like to try different varieties of wine when I travel. Whilst in Berlin, I would have dinner and a glass of wine in a local restaurant and then have my last drink for the evening in the small bar of my hotel. This meant I didn’t have to worry about walking home from the restaurant after a few drinks. Overindulging makes you a potential target, so be smart about your drinking habits when traveling solo.
5. Seek Out Other Women Traveling Alone
It is easy to meet other single women if you are staying in hostels. Talk to your roommates and socialize in the hostel bar, if there is one.
On a trip to Thailand, I befriended two Norwegian girls traveling together. We were approached by a woman in the street (who was also traveling alone) looking for people to fill a day tour. We happily accepted. My new friend and I then traveled through Cambodia together. Keep your eye open for opportunities to travel with other women.
Traveling by yourself doesn’t mean you can’t go out at night. I prefer to go to nice restaurants and bars. If I go to a bar, I tend to sit at the bar where it’s easier to engage in conversations, meet people and it provides a good way to survey the room. I leave nightclubs for the nights I meet fellow travelers.
Summer in parts of Europe means it gets dark much later, so use that to your advantage. Bear in mind, men can range from respectful to highly enthusiastic to downright sleazy all around the globe any time of day, so keep your wits about you.
7. Use Common Sense
During a trip to Florence I noticed a commotion at the central train station. Uniformed men were swarming out of vehicles; something was obviously happening. You would be surprised how many tourists started to head over for a look. Personally, I was walking swiftly in the opposite direction. Trust your instincts. If you feel uneasy, get yourself out of there.
When traveling alone, it helps to blend in. Don’t dress outrageously or in a provocative manner. Avoid looking like a tourist, where possible aim to be mistaken for a local. If you are regularly getting asked for directions by other tourists, consider that a positive sign.
No matter how lost you are, try to look like you know where you are going. Don’t panic if you get lost, it’s bound to happen at some stage and can often lead to exciting discoveries. However avoid getting lost at night, work out where you need to go prior to leaving your hotel room. Reading a map on the street will make you a target in certain cities; in others people will be only too glad to help you. A trip to New York City uncovered friendly people willing to assist with directions before I even had the map unfolded.
If you feel uncomfortable traveling by yourself, book a trip with a tour group. Tours are a great way to meet people and familiarizing yourself with a city makes it easier to go back on your own at a later time.
Soak up the food, history, art, people and culture. Did I mention the food?
Don’t let a lack of travel companions stop you from experiencing the amazing array of travel destinations and adventures available… You never know what you will learn, or who you will meet. And, who knows, you might even find you.
Thea is a freelance writer/blogger. Having resigned from her corporate job in February 2011, she is now working full time on her freelance writing business. Her blog www.writechangegrow.com
offers inspiring tips on writing, career change and personal development. For more information, click here
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