Randi | December 25th, 2018 | 18 Comments

backpacking Guatemala, travel tips for female travelers

When Women Travel – Top Tips for Solo Female Travel

Traveling has been one of the best experiences of my life, but there are a few things I wish I would have known as a female traveler before I left home.

Before setting off on my first trip in 2014, I did a lot of research to find travel tips and spoke to my travel partner at great lengths about what to bring, what to expect, and what to prepare myself for.

However, most of the research I read was written by male travelers and my travel partner is also male. There are a few things I’ve learned on the road that are only relevant to female backpackers that I wish I would have known before I left. So, naturally, I decided to write them all down in this handy little list.

I truly hope these tips help all you gals as you get our and explore our big beautiful world. Safe travels, and see you on the road!

Here are my top travel tips for solo female travelers!

Opt for Daytime Travel & Direct Routes

travel tips for female backpackers

If I’m going the solo female travel route and traveling by bus or train I always opt for direct routes. There is nothing worse than being dropped off on a desolate street in an unfamiliar town late at night and having to make your way to the opposite side of town to make your connecting bus or train. It can be a scary experience to find yourself alone in this situation.

Additionally, I choose to travel during the day whenever possible. I’ve personally known a few solo female travelers who have been sexually assaulted on overnight buses and have had my own uncomfortable experiences sitting next to strangers on dark overnight buses.

Finally, regardless of when I do travel I always travel with a simple combination lock to lock my backpack during my journey. It can really be a lifesaver and having your passport and wallet stolen on a bus is an all too common occurrence.

Always Have Your Wits About You When Traveling

travel tips for female backpackers

Most places are perfectly safe to travel as a solo female traveler but it is always a good idea to be alert and aware of your surroundings, don’t go down dark streets late at night and keep a close eye on your bag/purse at all times. Also, don’t leave your drink unattended at a bar and never accept drinks from people you don’t know. If you’re really nervous about traveling alone you can always carry a safety whistle with you.

Is Travel Insurance Necessary

Solo Female Travel & Catcalling

Solo Female Travel Catcalling

Catcalling is something I truly hate. While this topic has gotten a lot of negative media attention in The States in the past year (that has hopefully reduced the frequency in which it happens) it’s still quite common for men to verbally or visually express their interest in an impolite way to women while walking down the street.

I don’t think there is any right answer on how to handle this uncomfortable situation. Sometimes I ignore the offender, feeling it’s better to not even acknowledge their existence, and sometimes I feel it’s better to confront them about it and express my disgust. Either way, I mentally prepare myself for the sad fact that it is quite likely to happen at some point when I’m traveling alone or with a girlfriend.

Solo Female Travel – Take a Lyft, Uber, or Taxi

travel tips for female backpackers

When I’m doing the solo female travel thing and out late at night, I usually opt to take a Lyft, Uber, or taxi back to my hotel or hostel. Unless I’m in a major city with excellent and safe public transportation, I always opt to pay a few bucks more to have door to door transportation.

Taxi apps like Uber and Lyft are fantastic because your moves are tracked which usually ensures safe transport home, but if these apps don’t work in the city/country you are in be sure to only take clearly marked, legitimate taxis. If one isn’t readily available on the street ask the place you are visiting to call one for you. They’ll usually be happy to.

When Women Travel – Make Friends

travel tips for girls

This may sound like a no-brainer but traveling solo or even with a male companion means you miss out on female companionship. Hostels are super easy places to make new girlfriends to hang out with on the road, especially if you stay in an all female dorm. Some of the best friendships I have were made while traveling.

Airbnb discount

Solo Female Travel – Female Dorm Rooms

tips for female backpackers and solo female travel

If you’re a solo female traveler and don’t want to fork out a lot of money for a private room, staying in a hostel with an all female dorm rooms might be a great option for you. It’s pretty common for hostels around the world to offer all female dorms, and although I haven’t had any real issues sleeping in mixed dorms, it is never fun to be woken up at 4:30 in the morning when a very drunk guy that is sleeping in the bunk above you loses his balance and falls into your bed. Plus, and I’m sorry to say this, the super loud snorer who is keeping everyone in the dorm up all night is always a guy.

Staying in all female dorm rooms means you avoid these situations, plus if the dorm room has an en-suite bathroom having an all female bathroom is great.

If you want tips on how to find an awesome hostel while traveling check out our guide.

Packing Tips for When Women Travel

Pack Lots of Underwear

Female Packing Tips - Women Travel

When I travel, I pack lots and lots of underwear. I know light packers will take issue with this but while it’s totally possible to wear other clothing multiple times, wearing underwear more than once without washing it isn’t really an option. I do typically travel with a small bag of ldry laundry soap so I can hand-wash my underwear, but having several pairs in my suitcase is preferred, especially if I’m moving from one place to another quickly.

If you’re curious about the other things I pack you can take a look at my full packing list here.

Invest in Natural Oils

Natural Oils for Travel

If you plan on spending a lot of time at the beach during your travels you may consider investing in some sort of natural oil like argon, coconut, or macadamia nut oil to treat wind and beach damaged hair.

I know this may sound like a random tip but it became a pretty important one for me when traveling to hot destinations because not only are natural oils great for your hair but can be used to moisturize your skin too.

Decide on the Right Feminine Hygiene Product

Feminine Hygiene Products When Traveling

There is nothing worse than realizing you’re out of tampons in a town that only has pads for sale. This was a big shock to me when I first started traveling. Tampons aren’t always easy to find in many countries around the world, especially in smaller towns.

For a few years I was a bit obsessed with finding tampons while traveling. I checked for them everywhere I went, regardless of whether or not I had my period. When I did manage to find tampons while traveling, they usually didn’t have applicators. So when I hit the jackpot, I’d buys several boxes and fill up every bit of empty space in my backpack with them.

Recently, however, I discovered a product that changed my life and made traveling as a woman so much easier. The menstrual cup is a life saver. It takes up almost no space in my suitcase or backpack, and is reusable. I never have to go on a tampon scavenger hunt again.

You can read about my experience with menstrual cups here and all the reasons I left tampons behind. I’d highly suggest that any female traveler who is menstruating consider giving them a try, and if you’re not interested pack plenty of tampons before you leave home.

Essential Travel Items for Women

Bonus: Southeast Asia & Central or South America Tips for Women

Randi in Salento

Toilet Paper

Always carry a roll of toilet paper with you.  You’ll be lucky to find restrooms stocked with toilet paper anywhere in many countries in Southeast Asia and Central or South America, and if you do you have to pay for it.

Handi Wipes and Hand Sanitizer

Soap is also nowhere to be found in many restrooms so pack a few hand wipes and stock up on hand sanitizer to carry with you wherever you go.

Natural Bug Spray

There are a lot of mosquitoes in Southeast Asia and Central or South America and you can easily find bug spray. However, if you’re looking for natural spray it’s best to pack your own before you leave.

Accessories and Clothing

packing tips for solo female travelers

The Sarong: A sarong is an essential travel item for women who travel. I don’t travel anywhere without mine but they particularly come in handy in Southeast Asia and Central America. In Southeast Asia, you’ll likely be visiting a lot of temples and can use it to cover your shoulders. Additionally, asarong is the perfect beach wrap or blanket.

Cross Shoulder Bag: the Cross Shoulder Bag is great for the busy streets in cities where bag theft can occur. It is more secure and your hands will be free for things like shopping or sampling tasty street food.

Tights: Tights are great for cold bus rides and can also come in handy on other modes of transportation in Southeast Asia and Central or South America where motorbikes are common..  Trust me, it can be quite tricky to get on and off of one in a skirt.

Face Cream and Soap

In Southeast Asia pale skin is highly prized and almost all face creams and soap contains some sort of bleaching agent.  Apparently even white armpits are preferred because the deodorant has whitening powers as well. So stock up and pack your own Face Cream and Soap before leaving home.

tips for female travelers

For information on what to pack as a female traveler, check out our article on Essential Travel Items for Women.

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Top Tips for Solo Female Travelers - How to stay safe as a solo female traveler. Plus what to pack as a female traveler. For essential solo female travel tips click here. #femaletravel #solofemaletrael #packingtips #packinglist #traveltips #travelpacking

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18 thoughts on “When Women Travel – Top Tips for Solo Female Travel

  1. I would also suggest a small medical pack with essential meds, such as aspirin, bandages, Imodium or anything you usually keep in your medicine cabinet and use on a regular basis.

  2. Dry shampoo/talcum powder and braiding your hair for when showers are a tiny cold drizzle! Try to pack only clothes that match all the others other – you can take less stuff. Don’t pack more than carry on size backpack – you’re more mobile and less of a target. Lastly, I’ve found that we are lucky in that people are way more likely to smile at us and help us with directions than our male friends!

  3. Great tips – it’s so true about the face wash with bleaching agent!
    I do braid my hair to avoid having to wash it too! And walking or any day tours really are great for meeting other solo female travelers – I am still in contact with the girl I met in an Amsterdam biking tour in Mid-October!

    1. Nam, thank you for both of those excellent tips! Making friends while on the road is one of my favorite things about traveling.

  4. I don’t think we agree on the quantity of knickers. Sure, I’d love to have a 2 week supply but I really don’t want to carry them and I’m happy to hand wash. 4 pairs maximum.

    So agree with you on tampons. It’s not just that you may not find them, it’s that you may not find the right ones. It does make for an interesting shopping trip though.

    I’m interested to know, too, since this article is now a couple of years old, whether you would change/add anything to this list? I’d love to see an updated article.

    1. Hi Sharon!
      Oh how I wish I could travel with only 4 pairs of underwear for 2+ years. 🙂

      Yes, you’re right about the tampons. When you do find them, there are usually very limited options/brands. I’ve just bought a diva cup so I don’t have to worry about this anymore.

      The article was written in 2014 but I have been updating as I go. Everything in the SE Asia Section was added after originally publishing it. 🙂

  5. Fantastic tips! I have been travelling in S E Asia for a year and a half now and couldnt agree more. Buying underware in Asia is not easy. So if you are travelling for a long time, take lots or have some organise for someone to send you during your trip!

    1. That’s an excellent point about finding underwear in Asia Kelly! Anyone who isn’t extremely petite might have a difficult time finding some there. Thankfully I brought a lot with me! Thanks for sharing that tip. 🙂

  6. I sometimes stayed in a mixed dorm and sometimes in a female dorm.
    For me it depens on the city… if it is a touristy, party city, i might chose for a female dorm, because i do not want to deal with drunk boys and their stuff.
    So I do get your point, boys can be a little loud, chaotic etc… but the times I did stay in a mixed dorm I had no problems with the boys (i also believe I am one of the few backpackers who has not experienced people having sex in the dorm…knock on wood right?).

    1. Stephanie, agree with you. It all depends! I’ve stayed in mixed dorms often and usually there are no problems. But in some cases and locations, it’s nice to be in an all female dorm. Thanks for sharing your insight. 🙂

  7. I suffer from allergies, I always pack my allergy medications, from the simple ones Benadryl, Claritin,to the ones who helped me in severe cases like alkaselzer for flu ( also food for urinary track infections) and, mucinex 24 hours
    I never know what my body would react to allergens, better be prepared
    Also, headache, tummy, body aches pills are in my medicine bag

  8. I suffer from allergies, I always pack my allergy medications, from the simple ones Benadryl, Claritin,to the ones who helped me in severe cases like alkaselzer for flu ( also food for urinary track infections) and, mucinex 24 hours
    I never know what my body would react to allergens, better be prepared
    Also, headache, tummy, body aches pills are in my medicine bag

  9. Great article! Although, I personally prefer mixed dorms. From my experience, unless you get to share a room with drunk guys (less common in some hostels, more in others) or laud snorer, they tend to act more quiet and respectful than women. Also, guys are more eager to help a girl who’s traveling solo.

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