Randi | January 31st, 2020 | 19 Comments

Let’s face it, when women travel we have a number of considerations that are quite different than our male counterparts. I’ve been traveling since I was a teenager. However, it wasn’t until I my round the world trip in 2014 with my friend Michael that I realized something. Traveling as a woman and traveling as a man are two different stories.

backpacking Guatemala, travel tips for female travelers

Women are getting out and exploring the world! Solo female travel has increased drastically in the past few years, for example. Women only yoga and fitness retreats are growing in popularity, and women are opting to take hen parties abroad. Additionally, I’ve personally met hundreds of amazing women traveling either solo, with partners, or friends all around the world.

That said, I want to share everything I’ve learned in the past few years about traveling as a woman. Here are all my travel tips, hacks, and safety recommendations for when women travel!

When Women Travel – Safety Tips

I’m a highly independent woman. I have no issues traveling alone, however I always keep safety in the front of my mind. Here are a few of my best safety tips for women traveling.

Opt for Daytime Travel & Direct Routes

travel tips for female backpackers

Being dropped off on a desolate street in an unfamiliar town late at night with all my travel belongings (camera, laptop, GoPro, etc.) isn’t something I’m comfortable with. Having to make my way from the opposite of town to a connecting train, bus, or to my hotel can be tricky. This is especially true when there is a language barrier or when I’m in a smaller city or town.

In addition to arriving in a location late at night, taking overnight buses can sometimes pose safety issues. I personally know a few women who have been assaulted on overnight buses.

To try and avoid these situations I opt to travel during the day whenever possible. Arriving in a destination before nightfall is also more convenient when it comes to checking into a hostel or hotel, and finding dining options. Because we all know the first thing we want after a long journey is a nice hot meal.

Additionally, regardless of when I travel I always do so with a simple combination lock on all my bags. I don’t need the hassle of having my passport or wallet stolen while traveling, especially while abroad.

Always Have Your Wits About You

travel tips for female backpackers

I am not one of those people who will try to scare you from traveling by talking about all the dangers lurking around every corner. I’ve been to plenty of places that are “dangerous” according to most of my friends, family, and the US government. However, I’ve yet to have any serious issues or occurrences.

That said, it’s always a good idea to be alert and aware of your surroundings. Don’t walk down dark streets late at night. Keep a close eye on your bag or purse at all times. Don’t leave your drink unattended at a bar. Never accept drinks from people you don’t know. These are things we as women normally do in our day to day lives, yet it’s surprising how often this doesn’t translate to traveling. 

Always, always, always keep your wits about you.

Is Travel Insurance Necessary

Catcalling Abroad

Solo Female Travel Catcalling

I fucking hate catcalling.

Thankfully, we as a society are becoming more aware of the fact that catcalling someone is disgusting. When I say we…I mean men are being called out and publicly shamed for this kind of terrible behavior.

Hopefully this trend will continue and less women will be verbally assaulted. However, I can tell you that catcalling is somehow still seen as acceptable behavior in some countries. I don’t think there is any one way to handle this uncomfortable situation as a woman. Sometimes I ignore the asshole throwing indecent remarks my way, sometimes I tell them off, sometimes I’m so shocked by it I freeze up. Regardless, I do try my best to mentally prepare myself for this kind of behavior when traveling.

Take a Lyft, Uber, or Taxi Late at Night

travel tips for female backpackers

When I’m traveling and out alone 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 think that door to door transportation is always worth the additional cost.

Taxi apps like Uber and Lyft are fantastic. Your whereabouts are tracked and it usually ensures safe transport home. I know there have been some stories of drivers attacking passengers so I don’t rely on the app alone. I also take a picture of the license plate and driver and send it to a friend. If for some reason I do get an uncomfortable vibe from the driver I immediately call a friend and talk to them for the duration of the trip and until I arrive safely at my destination.

If taxi apps don’t work in the city or country you are in opt for a taxi. However, make sure you only take clearly marked, official and legitimate taxis. If you’re unsure or one isn’t readily available on the street ask an employee in the place you are visiting to call one for you. They’re usually happy to do so.

Solo Female Travel – Female Dorm Rooms

tips for female backpackers and solo female travel

If you’re a traveling solo and don’t want to fork out a lot of money for a private room, a hostel is an excellent option. If you’re new to this type of travel or just generally uncomfortable with the idea then staying in an all female dorm room is a great option.

It’s pretty common for hostels around the world to offer all female dorms. I’ve never had any real issues sleeping in mixed dorms. However, it’s a bit scary to be woken up at 4:30 in the morning when your incredibly drunk bunkmate loses his balance and falls into bed with you.

Safety aside, and I’m sorry to generalize, but the super loud snorer that keeps everyone up all night is always a guy!

Staying in all female dorm rooms means you avoid these situations.

Let a Friend or Family Member Know Your Plans

women travel plans

If you’re traveling alone be sure to give a close friend or family member your itinerary. Let them know where you’ll be staying, what flight you’re taking, and any additional details about your trip that are important. Someone should always have a way to get in touch with you or track you down if unforeseen circumstances occur.

Also, don’t forget. If your plans change during your trip, always update your contact person at home with new information. 

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

When Women Travel – Packing Hacks

After traveling for about a week in Central America I realized that I hadn’t done a very good job packing. All the advice and tips I got online and from friends came from men, so there were a few big things missing. I’ve learned a lot since then and now prioritize my packing in a very different way.

Here are my best packing hacks for when women travel!

Pack A LOT of Underwear

Female Packing Tips - Women Travel

I know light packers will take issue with this but packing a lot of underwear is super important for me.

While it’s totally possible to wear shirts, pants, skirts, and even bras multiple times, wearing underwear more than once without washing it isn’t an option. Packing several pairs of underwear is key. Alternatively, you can invest in a few pairs of quick drying travel underwear and just wash them every night. While, I typically do travel with a small bag of powdered laundry soap, so I can hand-wash my underwear, it’s not something I want to do every night. I prefer to instead devote a bit more space to underwear in my suitcase.

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. Argon, coconut, or macadamia nut oil is excellent to have on hand to treat windblown and beach damaged hair. It’s also excellent for moisturizing dry skin as a result of getting a bit too much sun.

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. Yup, you guessed it. The menstrual cup. It’s 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. But I’d suggest you do so for a few cycles before traveling. There is a bit of a learning curve.

If you’re not interested in the cup, then pack plenty of your favorite tampons before you leave home!

Essential Travel Items for Women

Bring Toilet Paper

While we’re on the topic of hygiene, always carry a roll of toilet paper with you. This is especially handy if you are traveling around Central America or Asia. However, I’ve been on plenty of trains and buses in Europe where a square is nowhere in site. 

If you do find restrooms stocked with toilet paper, many countries in Southeast Asia and Central or South America will charge you for it. Better to just have your own.

Handy Wipes and Hand Sanitizer

Americans are spoiled. We head to a public restroom and expect to find not only toilet paper, but also hot water and soap to wash up with afterwards. Well…this is certainly not the case in many countries. Traveling with a few handy wipes, a small bar of soap, or hand sanitizer can really come in handy!

Natural Bug Spray

There are a lot of mosquitoes in the Southern United States, Southeast Asia, Central and South America and many more places around the world. Finding bug spray is usually not very difficult. However, if you’re looking for natural bug spray that can be more tricky. Just pack your own to be on the safe side.

Accessories and Clothing – Must Have Items!

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 it really comes 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. Apparently the gods are offended by them. A sarong is the perfect beach wrap or blanket too. Plus, if you’re staying in a dorm room it’s super handy as a towel, or to hang outside your dorm bed for a bit of privacy.

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. This is especially true 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: Bringing enough of your preferred face cream and soap to last the entire trip is important when traveling to some destinations around the world. For example, Southeast Asia pale skin is highly prized. So, almost all face creams and soaps contain some sort of bleaching agent. Apparently even white armpits are considered illustrious because deodorant there also has whitening powers. 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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Women are owning travel lately, especially solo travel! Here are my best safety travel tips for women. Plus, some essential packing hacks for female travelers!

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Comments

19 thoughts on “When Women Travel – Safety Tips and Travel Packing Hacks

  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?).
    x

    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.

  10. Solo traveling is not easy for traveling. Most of the female is a solo traveler but she is all things are clear before the solo traveling for example: destination chooses, traveling issues, etc. You share the right information for the solo female traveler. Great blog! Making friends while on the road is also my kinda thing:-) Thanks for such post and please keep it up.

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