If you suffer from wanderlust like me, you will understand when I say that the aspect of safety rarely crosses my mind when planning for my next great adventure. I get so engrossed in the fun and experience I plan to have and gain, I forget that I need to be alive and well to do so. As a solo traveller, you have to think constantly about your security as you go about your escapades. More so, if you are female.
The first time I travelled alone, I was 7 years old. I was moving from one point of my hometown to the next, but still, it was thrilling. I remember having so much fun with my classmates but it came at the price of a brutal whooping my mother gave me after that (she said I almost gave her a heart attack). She pointed out that it was not safe for a girl to be out in the world alone like that.
I guess that is the same lesson most females grow up with, and so solo travel becomes a no-go zone. I am here, however, to tell you that travelling alone can be scary but also liberating and enjoyable. With the proper safety measures, you can conquer the world, one destination at a time. Here are 10 tips on staying safe as a solo female traveller.
1. Clear your Head of Worry
If this is your first go as a solo female traveller, you need to get rid of the nay-saying small voices in your head. If you get into your trip with constant worry in your mind, you will take every little mishap as a sign of doom. Even normal things such as a long queue at the airport or a delayed flight. You should, therefore, first, find peace and then move forward with your plans. One easy and effective way of doing this is by starting small. Before you travel to London or Paris, consider exploring Kenya first. Travel to a town near you and see how that goes. Learn a few tips as you go and then slowly build your momentum from there.
2. Do Your Research
I will not say that all the information you get on the internet is the gospel truth. However, there are trusted sources such as Wikipedia that give precise details about places. Use these sites to get as much information as possible before making final arrangements. For example, if you are travelling to Kisumu for the weekend, research about the city’s operating hours. Look for areas to avoid as per local’s and other traveller’s reviews. You can use trusted travel websites like TripAdvisor to learn about the levels of security in other countries. Check embassy websites for any running travel advisories as well. Of course, you should avoid destinations that are war-torn or politically unstable, just to be safe.
3. Be Open to the Experience
The first time I properly travelled on my own, I was going to Egypt for an internship. I did not know what to expect or do. It was my first time doing everything. My first time in an airport and, therefore, my first time boarding a plane. It was all nerve-wracking because I kept thinking something wrong would happen. Perhaps I had carried an illegal item, or I would end up lost when I got there. The worst part was that most people spoke Arabic, so getting help was not that easy. However, I followed the given protocol, used Google Translate, and I got around until I found my facilitators. My point is, even when it is scary and new, push yourself through the anxious feelings and embrace the experience. More often than not, a great adventure awaits if you just let it in.
4. Always Trust your Instincts
I am not sure about the level of truth in the saying that women have sharper instincts than men do. I, however, know that a person’s instincts are there for a reason. If you pay close attention to them, you will stay safe. As a Kenyan solo female traveller, I can attest to this 100%. My intuitions have saved me from harm and making mistakes more times than I can count. So if you feel uncomfortable around a group of strangers in a joint, or when someone approaches you on the street, do not dismiss those feelings. Even if there is nothing to worry about, you are better off safe than sorry. However, do not confuse fear with intuition. The same way strangers can be potentially dangerous, they can also be angels in disguise.
5. Be Respectful
If you are in a new country with different cultures and beliefs from you, respect them, and act accordingly. This does not mean pretending. You just have to blend in to avoid offending the locals or landing in legal trouble. For example, if the culture requires women to cover their heads, arms, and legs, then do so. It will not cost you a thing, and you will still enjoy your travels. You will notice that travelling in metropolitan cities such as Nairobi and Mombasa are nowhere similar to visiting rural areas. When going to the more traditional parts of Kenya, for example visiting your grandparents over the holidays, you notice a change in your dressing choice that comes almost automatically. It is important to be courteous as much as it is to have fun. Blending in will also take away the limelight from you as a tourist making it easier to move around. Read the 7 deadly sins of travel for more on this.
6. Stay Sober
No matter how much you enjoy partying and going out, as a solo female traveller, you should always avoid getting wasted. Especially if you are completely alone. Being drunk and even passing out makes you more vulnerable to potential predators. If you must drink, do so minimally and then take a taxi back to where you are staying.
7. Avoid Nighttime Adventures
Most of the crimes happen when darkness falls everywhere in the world. Do not put yourself in harm’s way in the name of fun. Try to do all you need to during the day and then stay indoors at night. If there are specific events that you wish to attend that happen only at night, such as fireworks shows, make sure you let someone know where you are going. Check-in with them often and let them know when you are back safe. Avoid using deserted alleys or streets and keep to public spaces. Moreover, even though you are trying to save some money, always use a taxi at night.
8. Know how to Defend Yourself
Some solo female travellers take up self-defence classes so that they can continue travelling with less worry. Knowing boxing and martial arts significantly increases your confidence in touring by yourself. You should also carry items that can help you protect yourself from attackers such as pepper spray, a stun gun, or a comb knife.
9. Join Day Tours or Travel Groups
If you feel unsafe and uncomfortable exploring your new destination alone, consider joining day tours. Luckily, most hostel or hotel receptionists know just the right tours to take. Day tours are great because you travel with people but still maintain your independence as a solo tourist. Alternatively, thanks to social media, you can get in touch with other solo female travellers in the same location and explore together. This is one way of making new friends and getting knowledge, both of which you might have missed if you kept to yourself.
10. Avoid Giving out Personal Information
When travelling alone, be extra careful about the people you share information with. Do not tell anyone more than they need to know. Keep the fact that you are alone a secret unless you have to disclose it. Most importantly, be careful about what you post on social media, especially for your accounts that are visible to the public.
Although these 10 tips do not automatically guarantee your safety as a solo female traveller, they do help. But do not let fear stand in the way of your exploration. The world is big and beautiful, and it is waiting for you to see it. So shake off your worries, carry these tips, and head out to your next adventure.