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. Female travel and traveling as a man are two different stories.
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 with 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 female travel!
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Safety Tips for Female Travel
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
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 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 at 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
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.
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 fewer 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, and sometimes I’m so shocked by it that 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
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
If you’re 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 who keeps everyone up all night is always a guy!
Staying in all-female dorm rooms means you avoid these situations. And you usually get access to a kitchen in a hostel, to keep travel costs down even further.
Let a Friend or Family Member Know Your 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.
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
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, instead, prefer to devote a bit more space to underwear in my suitcase.
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. 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
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 buy 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 lifesaver. 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!
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 sight.
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!
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 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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