Backpacking 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 backpacking 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 backpackers 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 female backpackers!
Try Staying in Female Dorms
Though 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. This has happened to me one time too many.
Staying in all female dorm rooms means you avoid these situations and sometimes just having a female only restroom can make a big difference. You can read more here about how to find a great hostel to stay in while traveling.
Invest in Natural Oils
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. Just put a pea size amount in the palm of your hands and rub through the tips of your hair. These oils can also be used to treat dry skin and are naturally fragrant.
Feminine Hygiene Products
There is nothing worse than realizing you’re out of tampons in a town that only has pads for sale. For whatever reason it isn’t always easy to find tampons in many countries around the world, especially in the smaller towns.
For a few years I was nearly obsessed with finding tampons abroad. I checked for them in nearly every new town I visited, regardless of whether or not I needed them. When I did manage to find some I’d fill up every bit of empty space in my backpack with them.
Recently I discovered a product that changed my life and made travelin as a woman so much easier. The menstrual cup. You can read about my experience with menstrual cups here and all the reasons I left my beloved tampons behind. I’d highly suggest that any female traveler who is menstruating consider giving them a try.
If you’re not quite ready to embrace menstrual cups, check out this webpage,
Daytime Travel & Direct Routes
Some overnight bus routes will drop you off in the middle of the night on a desolate street on the opposite side of town as your connecting bus. Traveling during the day is the safest option but if you do travel overnight (which can save you a night’s expense on accommodations) choose a high quality bus and only take direct routes that arrive at your destination during daylight hours. I always travel with a simple combination lock and use it to lock my backpack on overnight journeys.
Have Your Wits About You
Most places are perfectly safe to travel as a single female 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.
Expect Cat Calling
Verbal and visual expressions of interest are normal in many cultures around the world. Even so, it can be surprising and uncomfortable at first. It is best to just ignore these gestures as further advances are pretty unusual.
Take a Taxi
If you’re out alone past 10:00 PM in most places in the world it’s a good idea to take a taxi back to your hostel or hotel. Be sure to use only clearly marked, legitimate taxis. If one isn’t readily available on the street ask the place you are visiting to call one for you.
Look for Ladies Night Specials
This can be a huge money saver and a good way to meet other female travelers.
Pack Lots of Underwear
As opposed to our male counterparts, at best we can get one days wear from our panties. While we can wear shirts, skirts, shorts, etc. several times, I tend to have my laundry washed according to how many pairs of clean underwear I have left. I’ve also found it helpful to travel with a small bag of powder laundry soap so I can hand wash my underwear, bras, and bikinis when doing a full load of laundry doesn’t make sense. Take a look at my full packing list here.
This may sound like a no-brainer but traveling solo or even with a male friend means you miss out on female companionship. Hostels are super easy places to make new girlfriends to hang out with on the road. I’ve even been lucky enough to make several new girlfriends while traveling that I plan to keep in touch with for years to come.
Bonus: Southeast Asia Tips for Women
Always carry a roll of toilet paper with you. You’ll be lucky to find restrooms stocked with toilet paper anywhere in Southeast Asia and if you do, you’ll have to pay a fee for it.
Handi Wipes and Hand Sanitizer
Natural Bug Spray
There are a lot of mosquitoes in Southeast Asia 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
The Sarong: chances are you’ll visit a lot of temples in Southeast Asia. All of them require women to cover their shoulders and sometimes knees. Some temples do have free covers you can use (that probably hundreds of other women have worn that day) but sometimes you have to rent them. Better to bringing your own sarong with you to cover up with.
Cross Shoulder Bag: the Cross Shoulder Bag is great for the busy streets of Southeast Asia 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 but can also come in handy on other modes of transportation in Southeast Asia. Motorbikes are one of the most common types of transportation but can be tricky to get onto and off of in a skirt. Pack a pair of cut off tights to wear under your dress or skirt if you’re modest or haven’t perfected the art of riding a motorbike sidesaddle like all the local women.
Face Cream and Soap
In a culture where pale skin is highly desirable, almost all face creams and soap contains some sort of bleaching agent. Apparently even white armpits are prized because the deodorant has whitening powers as well. So stock up and pack your own Face Cream and Soap before leaving home.
For information on what to pack as a female traveler, check out our article on Essential Travel Items for Women.
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