Every woman should experience independent travel at least once in their life. There is so much to uncover in the world that it’s important to get out of your comfort zone.
Every day I see more and more women getting out there and making the most out of their life. They witness strange cultures, meet new people, and watch the day begin and end with fresh eyes. They are moments that will never be forgotten.
I travel the world with Cameron, my partner now, though it wasn’t always that way. Like many young women, I started off traveling solo. First in Australia, then New Zealand, Iceland, and made my way around Europe before continuing on to Asia.
It was a moment in my life that was full of excitement. I made new friends and my perspective on the world and home changed forever. Solo travel can be an intimidating experience at first, but after a week or so it all feels natural.
We still get emails and messages from a lot of nervous travelers. So, I wanted to put some of my top female travel tips together in a post. This isn’t just geared towards solo female travelers either, it’s for all the ladies of the world! (Maybe some men too)
Top Travel Tips for Women
If you’re anything like me you need a dousing of conditioner over your hair every time you shower. One thing I’ve learned from my travels is that most hotels will provide you with soap and shampoo, but only the high-end ones will leave you with a small bottle of conditioner. And even when they do leave those bottles it’s usually not the good stuff you may be used to back home.
I always travel with my own conditioner wherever I am going. If I travel carry on only, I wait until I arrive at my destination to pick up a big bottle of conditioner of my choosing. When I leave that country I will store the conditioner in my checked luggage or I leave the conditioner hopefully for the next frazzle-haired girl. I would rather overpack conditioner than end up like a blue frizzy hair Nazi Fascist.
In general, I recommend packing all your own toiletries. This means you have all of your favorite products and you don’t have to waste plastic by using the single-use bottles at hotels. Read more eco-friendly travel tips here.
Pay More for Female Hostel Dorm Beds
For the first two years of my travels, I stayed in a lot of hostels. But it only took a few sleepless nights in mixed dormitories with smelly men snoring up above I decided, no more mixed dorms. I then decided to not pick the cheapest dorm bed available on HostelWorld any and instead paid the $5 more for female dorms. Trust me it’s well worth it. No more loud snorers, no loud 4 am entries turning all the lights on, and no more wandering eyes.
I’m not saying that men are terrible – I do love men, but I have found that in general women are much more considerate roommates and I felt more well rested when staying in all-female dormitory rooms.
I’ve even stayed in all-female hostels before and loved meeting so many fabulous women, classily drinking wine, and of course, watching Bridget Jones on repeat instead of drinking the night away in Europe. #WhoRunTheWorld
Pick a Cappuccino over a Drink
Speaking of drinking try to limit yourself when you are abroad, especially if you are traveling alone. I’m not saying to give up drinking, just to be aware of your surroundings, hang out with people you trust, and don’t lose control.
When I travel alone I like to meet groups of people at my accommodation or hang out with new found friends from social media. However, for the most part, I would rather spend my money on drinking tea and cappuccinos at a quiet cafe then drinks at the bar.
Don’t Forget About Contraceptives
Contraceptives are something that should be thought about prior to any big trip. The longer your trip the more you’ll have to plan as contraceptives may not be readily available abroad.
The first time I left for a year-long backpacking trip I had nine months worth of birth control pills in my bag. That was not convenient or easy to get the pharmacist clearance for so many prescriptions.
On our next big two year jaunt, I decided it was time to get an IUD and not worry about birth control pills or periods. This may be TMI, but the last time I had a period was in 2015 and it is glorious.
The no period no worrying really came in handy when we were camping across Africa and dealing with flow would have been a major headache. Read more about contraceptives while traveling here.
Ditch the Hair Irons
Curling irons, blow dryers, and straighteners take up a lot of room and add weight to your suitcase. If you can go all natural and leave these tools at home do it.
This is a bit easy for me as I have pin-straight hair and never really dress up, but if you would rather have a hair tool and look even more fabulous in your Instagram photos then consider getting a travel-sized iron.
I rarely travel with hair tools, but for an easy look, I put my hair in braids overnight for a natural curl in the morning. I also travel with plenty of bobby pins and hair bands to put my hair in braids and buns. For the most part, I generally travel around like the photo below.
Start With an Intro Country
One of the benefits of solo travel is that you get to pick anywhere YOU want to go. If it’s your first solo trip and you’re a bit hesitant why not start with what I like to call “intro countries?” What I’m referring to are countries that are in general very safe, easy to navigate, and have a strong infrastructure for tourists. Countries that are great for first-time solo female travelers are Japan, Iceland, New Zealand, Norway, Canada, Portugal, or Singapore.
My first solo trip abroad was to Australia, and then my next was New Zealand both of which introduced me to the wonderful world of travel. Then a year later I flew to Iceland and had the balls to try couch surfing for the first time, made heaps of friends, and the rest is history.
Some of the other great easy countries to travel through are Austria, Denmark, Czech Republic, and Ireland. I always like to check the Global Peace Index as well before gearing up for any big solo trip too.
Have a Valuables Backpack
This carry on backpack carries my laptop, chargers, kindle, passport, extra money, chapstick, lotion, hard drives, and whatever other valuables. This backpack does not leave me when I travel. It never gets checked, it never goes below the bus, it never goes in the trunk of a taxi. The only place it is safe is back at my accommodation and even then I’ll put the precious items in a locked safe.
I can’t believe that some travelers are okay with their valuables in their checked luggage. I would like to think nothing will happen to it, and most likely nothing will, but the reality is that anyone can easily get into your luggage, take what they want, and there won’t be much you can do about it besides making a claim on your travel insurance. Tip – If you must travel with valuables in your check luggage at least get luggage with a TSA approved lock.
Put Extra Cash in a Pill or Chapstick Bottle
It’s never a bad idea to have a stash of emergency cash on you when you’re traveling. There have been times when we have had nothing but our credit cards in developing nations and have had to rely on Paypal transactions to pay for things.
The extra cash shouldn’t just be there to pay for a spur of the moment hotel room though, it’s there to get you out of trouble should god forbid you to be in it. A good amount of emergency cash to have is $100-$200. Enough to get you out of a bad situation, but not enough to where if you lose it or it gets stolen you’ll be destitute.
A great place to hide extra cash is rolled up in an aspirin bottle or empty chapstick bottle. Just make sure you don’t lose it!
Embrace The Yoga Pant
Would you believe I travel with a bunch of yoga pants? A lot of those are dedicated yoga pants for working out or practicing yoga, but others are typically solid black and for traveling. Black yoga pants go with everything and with a pair of heels and a nice shirt they can even make for a nice outfit out.
They are perfect for travel since they are light, roll up small, and the most comfortable thing a woman can ever wear. Invest in a few good pairs of yoga pants for your trip – I promise you won’t regret it. My favorite brands are Alala, Yoga Democracy, and 5.11.
Get Travel Insurance
In my opinion, if you can’t afford travel insurance you can’t afford to travel. Travel insurance is an essential part of traveling and should be budgeted for when you are planning your trip. Travel insurance, like any insurance, is best not used but there in case you need it.
I have had travel insurance for four years now. I pay almost $500 a year for two million dollars worth of emergency medical insurance. Thankfully I have never had to make a claim, but I have heard many stories of travel insurance kicking in for anything for extreme food poisoning, to luggage theft, or even medical air evacs.
We personally use IMG Global for our travel insurance as it is meant for full-time travelers and expats abroad. However, World Nomads is what we have used in the past for short term trips abroad.
Remember to Check In or Post to Social Media
When you’re traveling alone it’s important to check in with friends and family every few days so that they know you are safe. Shooting a text to your mom, posting to Facebook, or uploading to Instagram is a way of letting everyone know you are still alive. Obviously, phone calls are the best way to check in and let others hear your voice.
Since we are travel bloggers I have informed my family that if we go three days without posting to Instagram or Instagram Stories something is wrong unless we told them before we would be without the internet.
Before booking your accommodation it’s important to do your due diligence and read the reviews carefully. Take note of anything sketchy in the reviews especially when they are concerning managers, owners, staff, or the area itself.
When we book hotels I don’t even look at hotels that have a review score lower than an eight, and try to find places in my budget that are a nine or higher with more than 50+ reviews.
Reviews are even more important is if you are using Airbnb because you are essentially staying on someone’s private property. While I may give more of a skim on hotel reviews I actually read every single Airbnb review for a place. Again, I pay particular attention to comments about the host and if anyone mentions they ever feel unsafe in a review I steer clear. You can read more about my process for booking Airbnb’s here.
If you have a bad experience where you felt unsafe or threatened somewhere it’s important to note it in your own review for future female travelers.
Have a Power Bank
Invest in a power bank so that you don’t ever risk your phone dying when you need it the most.
Have a Plan for Nightly Arrivals
I try to plan all my solo travels so that I do not arrive in a new place after dark, but sometimes it is unavoidable. If you find yourself arriving after the sun goes down make sure to have a plan and don’t wing it. Have your accommodation booked and grab a licensed taxi from the airport to be safe.
If you’re like me you’ll definitely be hungry, but resist the temptation to walk out and look for food without checking that you’re in a safe well lit area. If possible, eat near your accommodation, or go out with a new group of people from your hostel. In the morning you can get acquainted with the destination and then scope out the place in the daytime.
Don’t Wing it Your First Night
I’m all for winging it when I travel. It’s often led me to some pretty amazing experiences like dancing with Greeks at the Samos Wine Festival or doing the Flamenco until the wee hours of the night in Spain. However, I never wing it my first day in a new place.
I always have my accommodation booked and know where I will be sleeping at least for that first night. It gives me a chance to rest after a long travel day and then plan out the rest of my adventurous days from there.
Track Your Route on Google Maps
When taking a cab or Uber follow the route that you’re taking on your own device. Stay aware and make sure that your cab is going to where you should be going. I usually rely on Google Maps to determine my location. Whenever possible, I download offline versions of these maps which let the app run smoothly without WiFi.
Oh, and It doesn’t matter what part of the globe you’re around the world travels take you. A cab can be one of the best ways to get scammed. To avoid overpaying or being scammed it’s important to always ask for the meter to be turned on or agree to a set price beforehand.
Don’t Be So Trusting
If you’re reading this post you’re likely a female, and you have made it this far in life so you know that sadly we don’t have the same privileges of men in life. Whether you’re traveling or not you know not to be too trusting. It can be easy to become too trusting of a new place or person when you travel.
After all, you’re after a great experience and it’s tempting to join something new. Many times this can turn into something great, but other times it could have been something to be avoided.
There are con artists around the world that prey on female travelers. They are experts on earning your trust and when you give it to them they betray you. It’s best to err on the side of caution before giving someone your complete trust.
Keep Valuables in Your Bra
Your bra is the perfect place to keep valuables in when you are traveling in crowded places. I keep cash and my credit card in my bra when I am in crowds so that I’m not a target of pickpocketing.
You can also get a small satin pouch so that you don’t have dirty cash against your body.
Avoid Currency Exchange Offices
I can count the number of times we have used currency exchange offices on one hand. They typically give crap exchange rates and have hidden fees – we avoid them like the plague and my best travel tip is that you do too. We get our cash from the ATM for the very best rates. Our minds are always thinking about the amount of foreign currency we carry when we are in a new country.
We also never leave a country with leftover currency even if it means buying an unnecessary trinket at the airport as once you leave the country chances are you won’t use it again unless you are a frequent traveler to that area. See more of our travel finance tips here.
If There is a Washing Machine – Use It
One of the most dreaded tasks while traveling is washing clothes. It’s always a hassle and is never ever fun to take time out of your day to do laundry while exploring a new destination. I’ve never met anyone who feels comfortable paying to wash their clothes starting at $13 a pair of socks at a hotel either.
Free washers are a rare find, but should never be passed up. If a hotel or hostel offers free or cheap laundry service, I always take them up on it, no matter the number of dirty clothes I have. I do my wash about every three weeks, and when that time comes I try to specifically seek out a good Airbnb with a washer or affordable service.
If you are camping or would rather skip the watching machine check out the Scrubba!
Learn At Least Hello and Thank You in the Local Language
I hate to admit it, but I am a horrendous linguist. Sometimes, I travel fast through certain regions and the languages are always changing. Despite this, I always learn “Hello” and “Thank You” in the local language. These two words can make all the difference in your experience with a local.
Language Skills are Not Necessary
You do not need to know the local language to travel internationally. I mean, of course knowing French, German, Spanish, or even Zulu will help and probably enhance your experiences in a country.
However, do not let that keep you from traveling. I travel all around the world, and sadly, cannot speak another language besides English fluently. I still get from point A to point B, and we have a great time doing so.
Travel In the Off-Season
Traveling outside of the summer months will generally yield lower prices, friendlier locals, and fewer crowds. Not to mention peak summer is a miserable time to be outside in most places.
We travel during all periods of the year, but truly love traveling in the fall and early spring when crowds are dwindling and we get a destination all to ourselves.
Document your Documents
Take a photo of your passport, credit cards, insurance cards, and anything else that may be important. Send it to your parents, email it to yourself, save it in the cloud, or print out extra copies and keep them with you.
You never know when you may need to revert back to these. I always know that I have these documents saved somewhere online in case I ever need them. I also like to travel with passport sized photos in case I ever need one at a border (this recently happened in Vietnam and Thailand).
Get up for Sunrise
Wake up for sunrise every once in a while on your travels. I promise you it’s worth it.
Above all be grateful, confident, independent and enjoy the journey!