Solo female travel: What to know when it’s safe to go
SHERYL NANCE-NASH | 11/5/2020, midnight
After months and months of mostly staying put, you’re probably dreaming of places to go as soon as possible in the new year. The travel bug is buzzing so strong that you’re ready to hit the road, even without your sistah girls who might have lingering apprehension about flying or otherwise leaving the safety zone of the familiar. So for the first time you will go solo.
No worries, you got this. Here’s what to know before you do.
Cynika Drake, president of Lavish Lifestyle Concierge, started traveling solo in her late 20s to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico and domestically. Now in her early 40s, she is even more comfortable traveling alone. Pre-pandemic this year she traveled by herself to Doha, Qatar and Bali, Indonesia, Olhão and Lisbon in Portugal. The travel advisor/planner has a slew of tips for females venturing on their own.
Research the destination you’re traveling to, including checking the U.S. Department of State’s website to see if any travel advisories have been issued for the destination. Read up on local customs, so you don’t do anything to offend the local people as it pertains to manners and customs.
Forget the flash. “Dress modestly, do not wear a lot of designer labels, do not show a lot of skin, do not wear your best jewelry. When in doubt I also lean to comfortable casual. Loose fitting pants, blouse and comfortable walking shoes or a nice long sundress with cardigan depending on the weather,” says Drake.
Do not post the name of your hotel on social media until after you have left the hotel/ area. “Safety first, as there are people who prey on tourists and women traveling alone,” says Drake.
Don’t broadcast that you are by yourself. “Do not tell cab drivers or strangers you meet that you are traveling alone and that includes other women. Sometimes human traffickers use women to lure their targets especially if you’re in your 20s. I always tell people my friends are back at the hotel or I’m meeting friends, or my boyfriend is in a business meeting and I’m just killing time until he’s out of the meeting,” says Drake.
Stay at reputable hotels and Airbnb’s. “I do not advise hostels for safety reasons. I’ve heard too many horror stories. My rule of thumb with Airbnb’s especially is to never book an Airbnb with no reviews or less than 50 good reviews,” says Drake.
Solo women travelers can include in their accommodation options Femmebnb, the social networking vacation rental platform that alleviates safety issues associated with women travel by helping women rent spaces from other women to maximize safety, along with a 24/7 Travel Assistant (companion) powered by artificial intelligence. In addition, the platform is designed for women to connect with other women before and/or during their trip through the HerCommunity feature, an unique online space, where women travelers are able to find travel buddies, find friends in real time no matter where they are, and connect with women with similar interests.
Much as everybody is loving road trips right now, proceed with caution. “Try not to travel at night. It’s best to get on the road early morning when the sun is rising and be to your destination before nightfall. In the event of a flat tire or car trouble it’s best to wait for a tow truck in the daylight and not at night. Even if you need to stay at a hotel overnight it’s best to only drive during the day,” says Drake.
If you’re driving your own car, and not a rental, make sure it is in mint condition. The last thing you want is to get stranded and need repairs in a place where you don’t know the lay of the land. And for goodness sakes, don’t wait until your tank is nearly empty before you get gas, especially at night.
Speaking of nighttime, if possible, arrange flights so you arrive early morning or afternoon so you can get your bearings during the day. Be mindful of getting into unregulated taxis at the airport. Better still if your hotel has airport pickup.
Kristin Addis, founder of Be My Travel Muse, a solo female travel blog, has three pieces of advice. “Have an offline map downloaded. I love maps.me for this. It’s a free app that tracks you even if you’re not connected to Wi-Fi or cell signal. It’ll save you from getting lost!” Secondly, she says to carry a dummy wallet or purse—it’s basically a purse that you can easily hand over if needed, and keep the valuables in your bra, boot, or cash rolled up in a tampon applicator in your pocket. Finally, do act as you would at home to stay safe. Be aware of your surroundings. “Don’t get intoxicated out alone, and generally be smart in the same ways that you’ve managed to stay alive thus far. It’s not rocket science.”
Spencer Coursen of Coursen Security Group shares his expertise. When traveling abroad, he says to have the phone numbers of the U.S. Embassy 24 hour hotline pre-programmed into your phone and be sure to test the numbers; sometimes the international dialing codes can be tricky and you don’t want to be figuring out if you need the +1 before the number when you’re in the middle of a crisis. One of the first things you should do when you get overseas is learn where the Embassy is and confirm that you know how to get there. This means which door is for you as an American, not where everyone else is going to apply for a Visa. “Just ask the friendly U.S. Marines for help. Seriously, they know the country better than anyone,” says Coursen.
Leave your passport locked in your hotel and carry a laminated color-copy of it instead. “If you’re asked to show ID, you won’t have to worry about it being taken and held for ‘donations,’” says Coursen. Do not keep all your cash and credit cards in one place.
Lastly, he says, “Trust your gut. If something feels wrong, walk away. Your unwillingness to offend should never be greater than your willingness to defend. You’ll never see any of these people ever again, so don’t concern yourself with being rude. Politeness may be a courtesy, but your safety is a priority.”
Now, go girl!