Traveling as a Solo Female? YESSS!!! This post is long overdue, especially because I’ve received so many DMs/questions on traveling solo as a woman, places to visit, where to stay, how to be safe… I decided to dedicate a blog post to document my thoughts and planning checklist on Traveling Solo as a Woman… for it is an incredibly liberating experience!
When I told my mom I wanted to travel solo, my big fat conservative family had a LOT of opinions, all out of love and care for me, but they definitely thought I was a crazy woman, unhappy with my life and wanting to run away from reality. None of which was true! Luckily my husband was super supportive and even encouraged me to do it before they made me change my mind!
Traveling is for EVERYBODY! Unlike many travel bloggers, I’d say you Don’t need to quit your job and pack your bags to experience the world! A little planning and foresight goes a long way!
Few things to keep in mind however:
While the world is a hospitable and inviting place, we cannot neglect the value of being safe and well planned. Definitely not as a solo woman on the streets in an unknown land.
- Be Responsible: You are responsible for every step you take. If you want to explore the remote mountains hiking alone or indulge in nightlife amidst locals, make sure you watch your back, coz no one else really is looking out for you. If you are out making new friends, having a good time, don’t get carried away. Stay calm, collected and aware of your surroundings.
- Know your way back: I ALWAYS enable data on my cellphone when traveling. I rely entirely on Google Maps to get me from anywhere to anywhere! That also includes bus and metro timings – just like we do back at home. Yes, I’m a modern day traveler and don’t see the need to shut off all technology just because I’m in another country! For travelers like us, AT&T and other carriers have reasonable 30 day international packages so you can stay connected on the go.
- Different Cultures: Depending on where your travels take you, you need to be mindful of how women are perceived in different cultures. While in some places like Tulum it may be perfectly fine to walk the streets in a bikini and shorts, some other countries are relatively more conservative. Make sure to research how locals go about their lives and try to blend in. The more you inculcate the local culture, the more you will feel invited and notice their willingness to help you.
While I highly encourage every woman to face their fears and travel far, and wide and alone… I am not one to just pick up my bags and hop on a plane. Unlike me, lot of travelers are of the jet-set mindset and don’t necessarily plan their trips because they like the adventure of not knowing what’s to come.I’m quite the opposite! I’m an incredibly (almost alarmingly) organized person, at work and at home. So there’s no reason for me to change my personality into a reckless vagabond when I travel. That being said, I’ll share with you how I began my “solo-travel” journey and how it completely changed my life!
While I’ve wanted to travel solo to a remote country since I was 22, I never really knew why I wanted to travel. I’d just moved to the United States from India to study and that was a huge step for me. I was still young and naive. I’d see a ton of others who travelled solo and figured I’ll just save up and get on a plane. Of course I’d come from a middle class home, money was and still is limited, and having a stable job and source of income was always (and still is) my priority.
However, by the time I was 29, I’d been through multiple jobs in multiple cities, numerous heart breaks, one divorce, and eventually married my soulmate and moved into a happy home with 2 beautiful doggies… I’d say, between the 22 year old me and the 29 year old, I’d aged a 100 years! There was just too much on my mind and I really wanted to just get away from it all …and breathe. So for my 30th birthday, I decided to travel far… to be alone. So I went to Italy…. to photograph, meditate and write. As I sat staring at the Venetian lagoon in the rain through twilight, in that moment, it all came together for me. After a long and winded 30 year journey, I finally felt peace – for life had been so kind to bring me where I am today – a soulmate, family and a job that brought me to Milan. 30 couldn’t have felt better another way!
I’m a big planner. I prefer to know how I’ll be spending my next 10 days in a foreign land before hand so I can optimize my travels. Keep in mind, you CANNOT see it all. And you really don’t have to. Me, for example, I’m not big into art and museums. I’ll probably visit one in a city but I love architecture, landscapes, people, culture, food… and photography. So for me, my journey ma be significantly different from a lot of you – and yours will be significantly different from a lot of other bloggers you read about. Some folks love adventure and are adraline junkies, I’m not! So things like bungee jumping and zip-lining are not to my interest. I love wine and can spend hours biking through vineyards, stopping for a glass to taste and hop back on to the next one.
So, when you plan to pack your bags for the next 10-14 days, try to be optimal with your time. Give yourself sufficient time to just sit back and observe, explore the cafes, walk the cobble stone streets, shop, drink the good wine or the local spirits, stop for a moment at the piazzas to get a gelato and watch live musicians play their melancholic tunes… collect memories, don’t make it a checklist of places to hit.. make it a memorable journey.
Once you pick the place(s) you want to visit, here’s a few quick things you could get out of the way:
Book your roundtrip air ticket asap – once you make that booking, everythign else seems to fall into place! Until you take that step, you’re gonna keep pushing thigns around and wait till everything else is figured out… don’t do that! Book atleast a month (or 2-3 months like me) in advance and give yourself sufficient time to plan the rest of the trip.
A lot of people prefer to leave the hotel bookings till the last minute, not me 🙂 Whether its Airbnbs or Hotels, I prefer to shop around in advance, ensure that any place I choose is closest to the metro stations. The primary things to keep in mind when choosing your hotels is know research what areas/neighborhoods you want to stay in. I prefer areas which are in the center of the city with easy access to all the places I want to visit. If its too expensive to stay there, I look for the next best areas to stay around, but ensure the hotel I choose is only minutes to the metro. This way I ensure I can easily lug my suitcase to/from the station and I’m able to get to anywhere I want.
I recommend getting these done atleast a month before you depart. Tickets tend to get expensive closer to the travel dates, and especialy during peak season, they run out of seats pretty quickly. So if you are me, you’ll have your train vouchers purchased as well!
My go-to site for any travels in Europe – http://www.europeandestinations.com ! I’m not paid by any means to recommend this site, this is just something I’ve used for years now and have been able to customize my itinerary and having my hotels and train vouchers in my hand weeks before I depart for my trip.
If you’re interested in some of the guided tours, such as at the Vatican or the Buckingham Palace, or some of the museums in Florence & Rome, I recommend checking out http://www.viator.com for discounts. I thought they had great guides and the tours were actually very informative and fun!
Make sure to apply for your visa at least 1.5 months before your travel. In case of delays or such, you’ll have sufficient buffer to make any changes to your plan. Keep in mind, some countries have a requirement that your passport is valid for at least 6 months from the day of your travel. We tend to not realize this requirement, but my trip to Brazil had to be canned because of this!
Places to go:
I’m obsessed with Europe, so my natural choice was to visit a place in Europe. And if you’re new to traveling alone, Europe is about as convenient and safe as it gets. You can plan everything before hand, from your laptop in your living room. I’m of-course biased when it comes to Europe, and having traveled to other continents now, you can really travel to any place you your heart calls out, just be sure to know your boundaries.
I’m someone who doesn’t like to hop cities across countries, coz that’s too little time to really grasp whe essence of a country. So I tend to plan my vacations such that I spend the entire time exploring the far and wide corners of a country. Having already travelled to Spain and France, my next country on top of the list was of course Italy!
My top recommendations for Solo female Travelers:
Greece (Santorini, Mykonos, Crete),
France (Paris, Nice, Burgundy, Marsailles),
Italy (Milan, Venice, Rome, Florence, Cinque Terre),
Spain (Madrid, Granada, Seville, Barcelona),
New Zealand (Auckland, Arthur’s Pass, Queenstown, Wanaka),
Mexico (Tulum, Puerto Vallarta),
USA (San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Maui, Seattle),
Canada (Vancouver, Banff), Iceland
For me, convenient and reliable transportation is KEY! So wherever I go, I need to plan my transportation before hand so I know I don’t have to worry abotu getting from one place to another. Of course I am not comfortable relying on 3rd party taxis and prefer using Public Transport. For that reason, I’m biased toward Europe. You can get to anywhere from anywhere within minutes, no matter which city you are in – thanks to the underground metro. London was probably the best I’ve seen so far, but even the other cities had incredibly confortable, very frequent and reliable metro system.
I like to pack light. Especially if I’m traveling solo, I like to make do with at most one checkin bag that is light and something I can manage to lug from hotel to bus stations to metros and such. I don’t like to ask for help so I ensure I can manage my belongings.
I always pack versatile clothes and layers. You never know if you’re gonna be caught in the middle of a thunder storm while hiking the hills of Cinque Terre (like I was 🙂 )
Carry comfortable shoes (no room for heels coz you’re gonna beon your foot a LOT).
Carry an umbrella.
When in Europe, yes pick pocketing is a real thing. We’ve been pickpocketed in the middle of Paris and didn’t even realize until couple hours later. So I normally carry just enough cash to get me from point A-B and rely on debit cards a lot more. IF you do want to carry cash on you, I recommend getting them converted to the local currency once you land. Most Travelex pretty much give you the same rates, so its not a big difference.
Safety of Valuables – Passport, Cash, Docs, Keys etc:
Fannypacks anyone? haha well I’m a fan! I have a tiny body-fanny pack that sits inside my sweater that holds my passport, cash and anything valuable. I may be a tad paranoid since we got pickpocketed, but better safe than sorry! This is so comfortable and un-noticeable, you won’t even know its there.
Where to eat:
I’ll say it – food is one of my biggest motivations to travel! I could spend a lifetime just trying different cuisines and local spirits and not get tired! That being said, it can get pretty expensive to get brunch at one of Champs Elysses or dinner amidst the Heart of Rome. For a budget traveler like me, its important to plan your meals. I try to keep one lavish meal – preferably the beginning of the day coz I’m a big Breakfast person.
Definitely save couple nights for a romantic dinner by sunset so you get to experience the luxuries and the fine culinery of the area. For the rest of my meals, I try to optimize. I avoid fast food chains like the plague, but there are always affordable options if you look for it. Carry power bars with you too so you can stay alive till you find a place you like to eat at!Water – can cost an arm and a leg in Europe and most other places int he world! Always carry your own bottle with you!
If you’re in it for capturing the memories, make sure you carry your equipment with you!For solo travels, I try to keep things lightweight and multifunctional. So I keep my full-frame camera and at most 2 lenses of which one if definitely a wide angle. But probably the most important one honestly, is a good phone camera.
I highly recommend the Google Pixel or the iPhone – coz then you can ask Any stranger to get in position and capture the perfect shot for you, instead of whipping out your tripod and hooking your camera and all that jazz!
Make sure you have fun! And its okay to deter from your planned itinerary. If you fall in love with a place and want to spend more time there, don’t hold yourself back. Me? I left my heart in Venice… and I regret not spending more days there. Having an itinerary and a plan means you know where you want to go and what you want to see. But once you’re on the go, let your guard down and live in the moment.
The memories you’ll collect will stay with you your whole life! So make the most of it! 🙂 Feel free to DM me or Comment if you have Any questions 🙂