Best Travel Tips for Women Who Travel Solo

Based on experience from my years of traveling solo, I’ve compiled a list of the best travel tips for women. When you travel solo, you quickly learn that no one has your back except you.

Since we don’t have eyes like owls or reflexes like a big cat, staying alert and aware is a necessity. It’s important to learn every solo travel tip that you can. If you’re think of cruising solo, don’t confuse it with traveling solo. There’s more to know. 

Ship's doctor rolling my small carryon bag to the ship.
Ship’s doctor rolling my small carryon bag to the ship. I really over-packed! (Photo: Sherry Laskin/Cruise Maven)
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My Best Solo Travel Tips for Women

It’s not sexist to say it. In my opinion, women traveling solo face different challenges than men. There are a few overlapping similarities and there are major differences. As a solo travel enthusiast and someone who does not ever fly, I’ve accrued a lot of miles and a bit of knowledge on solo female travel over the last two decades.

As a solo woman traveler, I’ve traveled across America, throughout the Caribbean and visited nearly every country in Europe. All without flying. Just ships and trains. While these solo travel tips are geared towards women, some tips can apply to almost anyone in a general sense.

Know Where Your Ship or Hotel is Located

Whether you’re staying in a hotel or aboard a ship and go exploring on your own, make sure to get either a card with the hotel’s name, address and phone or a contact number for your ship’s port agent. These are both available for the asking at the front desk.

Also, if you’re exploring a port in a country that you don’t know the language, be sure to write down the name of the port and your ship in the language of the country you are visiting. This includes an emergency phone number to reach your ship.

I was in Lisbon and the cab drive professed to not know English. I had to draw a picture of a cruise ship in order for him to get me back to the port.

You’d be surprised at how many passengers, maybe after a few drinks, don’t remember the name of their ship. Always write down your ship’s name, too.

Pack Light for Easy Transiting

You must be able to manage all of your bags on your own. I’m not just referring to the previously mentioned overhead bin on an airplane or train. I’m referring to steps, curbs, cobblestones and even train platforms.

If elevators and escalators are broken, you’ll have to haul your luggage up and down staircases. I’ve done this in shifts at small train stations in Europe. You hope that no one runs away with your suitcase that you’ve left at the bottom of the stairway while you take the second one halfway up the flight of stairs and hurry back down to retrieve the other one.

If you can, buy the lightest weight, four-wheeled spinner bag that you can afford.

Solo Travel Tips When Dining

This can be a major issue for many women (and men, too). I always bring something to do. On ships when I simply don’t feel like being social, I’ll bring my iPhone and headset and watch a movie that I downloaded before I left home.

I used to do this with my iPad but it seemed a bit intrusive to others dining nearby. I was seated in a corner at a solo table, and the maitre d’ scolded my for using my iPad. Now I use my phone.

Of course, a book or a crossword puzzle is always an option. There are times when I’m content to just sit at a café and people-watch and forego the electronics. But if this makes you uncomfortable, take along something to do while you dine. Works the same at a bar or pub, too.

Solo Taxi or Ride Share Tips

One often overlooked solo travel tip includes local transportation. Whether Uber, Lyft or an old-fashioned metered taxi, a solo woman traveler needs to be alert.

If arriving at night into an unfamiliar city there are a few safety steps to remember. Make sure you have a way to open your door in case of emergency.

Without a manual pull-up door lock, you’re stuck if the driver uses the override child lock. Know your route. Program your destination into your phone and make sure your driver is going in the correct direction.

You can call a friend or pretend to call a friend (cheaper to do when in Europe) and state that you’re in the taxi and should be there in a few minutes. I’ve done that dozens of times.

Stay Safe at Your Hotel

Inspect Your Room

Every time you return to your room, whether hotel or ship or vacation rental, with phone in hand and pre-dialed to emergency or hotel reception, check under the bed and behind the curtains. Make sure the windows or balcony doors are locked.

Safety Alarms

I recommend and always travel with a small wedge-shaped door alarm for both hotel rooms and staterooms. Placed a tiny bit away from the bottom of the door, if someone tried to enter your room, this little device gives off a sonic blast.

Don’t forget to move it before you leave your room!

Personal Safety Items

Pepper spray is a necessity. While it doesn’t guarantee it will stop an incident, it surely gives you a better chance to make a run for it.

Some women I’ve met on my travels wear a whistle on a necklace. Another good device that I’ve been shown is an easy-to-trigger sonic alarm on a keychain.

Walking Solo at Night

You’re in a new city and maybe you want to attend a concert or a local event. As the saying goes, there’s safety in numbers. Walking at night on an unfamiliar street, it’s a good idea to tag along with a group of women.

I was in Rome and it was daylight when I walked the few short blocks to see La Traviata. When the opera ended and I exited the theatre, it was darker than I expected. I saw a few women walking together in the direction I needed to go. I asked if they would mind if I tagged along.

Not only did they not mind, I was escorted safely back to my hotel’s front door. Also, when you are staying in a small hotel or pensione, it’s a good idea to let the front desk person know where you are going. At small hotels in Europe, you’re supposed to hand your room key over to reception when you leave so it’s easy to remember to state your destination.

Notify the American Embassy

If you plan to be in only one or in many cities outside the US, it’s a good idea to let the Embassy know that you’re there. Go to travel.state.gov for more information and warnings.

Listen to Yourself

Listen to your inner voice…that nagging feeling that puts doubt in your head. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. Turn around, get out, move away. Don’t feel awkward if you feel the need to abruptly leave an area. You’ll never see those people again, anyway.

Get Married??

Well, not really. Buy a cheap gold ring or a silicon wedding band. Believe or not, it does give some men a bit of pause, especially if you’re taking local transportation or sitting at a café and don’t want to be bothered.

Buy Travel Insurance

Make sure it includes Cancel for Any Reason. Yes, you’ll pay a little bit more for it but it’s better than losing your entire investment should you need to cancel any portion of your trip for a non-medical reason.

Know Your Limitations

This is what I do in preparation for a cruise or any trip. I have 5 lb. weights that I use to get my arms and upper body in shape. It’s important to check with your doctor before starting any exercise. For me, this is a big help especially when I have to hoist my carryon bag into an overhead bin on a train.

Also, many times when you board your ship, there are several long gangway switchbacks to navigate. With heavy luggage, walking up three or four of these uphill gangways can be exhausting.

If you plan to do self-assist walk-off on debarkation morning, it’ll be all downhill. However, just getting to the elevator over carpeting with all of your luggage can be difficult if your arms aren’t up for the challenge.

Best Solo Travel Tips for Women

Remember these solo travel tips. Or call them solo travel advice or hacks. Whatever words you call them, I’ve used every one and multiple times.

Once you are comfortable as a solo traveler, you might just find it difficult to share space with a travel companion. Ah…the joy of doing what you want, when you want and going where you want…is addictive.

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