Traveling alone as a woman is a powerful experience—but it’s also often an intimidating one.
How should you get started traveling alone for the first time? Where should you go? What do you need to know to keep yourself safe? And what will it be like once you’re on the road alone?
Fortunately, I’ve got all the answers you need right here as an experienced solo female traveler. Let me tell you why you should travel solo, how you should do it, and what you need to know!
My Experience as a Solo Female Traveler
At this point, I’m a bit of a solo female travel guru. I’ve been to 30 countries, almost entirely alone. I spent a year traveling the world alone too. I lived as a digital nomad abroad for three years, and now I’ve moved to Greece (also on my own!).
I’ve made so many deep and lasting friendships by getting up the courage to travel alone, and it changed my life. I would never have had the courage to move abroad alone if I hadn’t started traveling by myself.
And if I can do it, you can too! I’m naturally a very shy and anxious person (as in, I have a full-blown anxiety disorder lol). It’s just a matter of motivation, preparation, and practice.
Why Solo Travel for Women is Wonderful
Traveling by yourself isn’t always easy, especially the first time. But the benefits it brings to your life are more than worth it.
You Get to Go Where and When You Want
We’ve all experienced the agony of trying to get your entire family or your girls group chat or even just one or two friends to go on the trip you want to take. Maybe they don’t have a lot of money, or time off (hello Americans), or they just aren’t into the things you are.
Well, when you travel alone the only person you have to make decisions with is yourself. Want to spend five hours in a single museum? That is hell on earth to most people I know, but it’s absolute paradise to me—so when I travel alone, I get to do that guilt-free. (As a recovering people-pleaser, the guilt is very, very real!)
Making decisions on your own can certainly be challenging. But oh, the glory of spending a whole day, or even a whole week, doing exactly what you love and nothing else? Every woman should experience it at least once in her life.
You Meet So Many People
Traveling alone doesn’t mean you’ll end up spending all your time alone—far from it! It’s actually much easier to meet people when you travel solo than with another person or people.
Think about it, if you’re going to strike up a conversation, who are you more comfortable picking: someone on their own or in a couple? As a shy person, I rarely go up to anyone, but I’ve found people love coming to talk to me so I meet people everywhere—at cafes and restaurants, on tours, in hostels, even waiting for the bus.
You’ll only be alone as much as you want to in most places. And you meet the most fascinating people while you’re traveling by yourself—I’ve formed so many intense and long-term friendships, especially with fellow solo female travelers!
You Get to Stop Waiting
Tell me if this sounds familiar—you have trips you’ve dreamed of taking, but you’re waiting for… something in your life to happen first. For many women I know, this is having a boyfriend/girlfriend or a husband/wife or a partner to travel with.
But why are you waiting to live your life? If traveling is something that matters to you, feeling like you can take those important trips on your own is really empowering. You’re no longer waiting for something you don’t have control over. (And if you do find that spouse or partner, who says they’ll want to go on that trip?)
Take control and take the trip! Life is short—often too short—and living it on your own terms means you’ll have many fewer regrets. Stop waiting and start living your best life, even if that means going to a romantic destination like Santorini by yourself (I did it and loved it!).
How to Start Traveling Alone
Ok, that last sentence might sound great, but how do you actually start traveling alone for the first time? It’s not an easy jump to make, at least it wasn’t for me.
And I’d caution you against making a giant jump if you’re feeling apprehensive too—maybe don’t book a two-week solo trip to Laos if you’ve never been abroad alone before. (Although if diving in headfirst works for you, don’t let me stop you!)
First, get comfortable doing things alone in your current home, like going out to eat alone, if even that makes you nervous. Once that feels fine, perhaps pick a place nearby you’ve never been before and spend a weekend there. And then book that trip to the place of your dreams (or just the one where you found a really cheap flight because that’s what I did!).
I started solo traveling by taking baby steps—you can read about my whole process in detail to figure out how to do it in the way that makes the most sense to you. Don’t let anyone else tell you how you should or shouldn’t do it, because we all have different comfort levels and interests and that’s what makes travel so individual.
Picking Your First Time Solo Travel Destination
The same goes for picking the place for your first big trip alone. I can write you a list of the top places for first-time solo female travelers (oh I totally did that lol, can you tell I’m the oldest child in my family).
What will get you moving and motivated and excited? Well, that’s all up to you. But I’ve got a couple helpful questions you should ask yourself first to decide on your perfect place.
What Do You Find Most Intimidating?
In traveling alone for the first time, what makes you most nervous? Find out what your biggest anxieties there are and you can pick a place where it’s not an issue—the world is wide and there’s a place for you!
For example, if you’re really worried about navigating a language barrier, you can go somewhere you know the language or with really widely spoken English (if you’re an English speaker).
My first big solo trips were a weekend in Iceland, where pretty much everyone speaks absolutely flawless English, and time in France where I speak enough to get myself around. Ireland and the UK are fabulous destinations with no language barrier for English speakers (although that West Cork accent might be an exception).
On the other hand, if driving alone makes you the most nervous (hi it’s me), go to a place with fabulous public transit and cut that out of the equation altogether! Rural Ireland in that case isn’t ideal, but a super walkable city like Split, Croatia or Tel Aviv will fit the bill perfectly.
And if you’re worried about being lonely, go to a place with a friendly culture where people will interact with you and chat you up! Greece, Ireland, and Thailand are all really good spots for this, I’ve found personally.
What Do You Find Most Exciting?
But don’t let your fears be the only driver of your destination choice—be sure to pick a place that really excites you as well! For me, that was Greece, because I studied Ancient Greek history and art history and even the language in college so I was dying to go.
What places are you most desperately longing to go to? You want to pick somewhere that balances out those very normal fears with tons of excitement too, because that will help keep you going even in a rough moment.
It’s also more emotionally satisfying for your first time to be somewhere you’ve always wanted to go but haven’t had the chance yet! It feels great to take that control and do something you love alone, and realize it’s not actually as scary or intimidating as you thought.
Solo Female Travel Safety Tips
But of course, we come to the eternal question every solo female traveler is asked: is it safe to travel alone as a woman?
Of course we always have to talk about safety, and it’s important to consider. But frankly, as a woman existing in the world, you likely already take a lot of precautions to keep yourself safe in your daily life.
There are definitely places you’ll face more street harassment, or have to take more precautions. In Laos I got quite a lot of sometimes unpleasant attention, for example. And in most cities everywhere I am cautious about walking alone in the dark—but I was back in Boston too.
Also, as an American, you might be surprised by how much safer things feel abroad depending on where you travel. I feel, and am, much much safer living in Athens than in Boston even though the former has a less savory reputation. And in places like Croatia, I walk home alone at 3 am all the time and have even hitchhiked with no issues at all.
So remembering that you still need to keep your safety in mind and your wits about you like you would as a woman anywhere is important. Do a little research too on what other solo female travelers have experienced in places you’re considering going—don’t let uninformed people put you off with their own fears, but do listen to people who have been somewhere alone.
But you probably want some more actionable tips if you’re anxious about traveling alone for the first time! I’ve got you covered.
Listen To Your Gut
If something feels off when you’re traveling, listen to that feeling! Don’t let anyone talk you into anything you’re uncomfortable with, especially if you’re worried about being “rude” or “mean.”
If you feel uncomfortable, remove yourself from the situation and find somewhere you feel better about, whether that’s a different hostel room, another part of the bar, or not getting into a taxi that seems dodgy.
It’s so much easier to maneuver and navigate when you’re not dragging a suitcase that weighs as much as you around everywhere. It also makes you a little bit less of a target (just in case!) because you’re more agile and mobile. And it will save you money on checked bag fees so you can spend more on actually fun things.
Don’t miss my complete guide to packing carry-on only, even for international trips and long-term travel. The super-light travel life is the way to go—remember, you won’t have anyone along to help you wrangle your bags.
Ask People For Advice or Help
Wondering if a part of the city you want to visit is safe? Ask a local! Want to know if you should avoid walking alone at night? Ask someone who’s been there! Need help because you’re lost or something feels not quite right? Ask someone! People all across the world are almost always kind and helpful when they can be.
I do pick who to ask, especially if I’m trying to get out of a sketchy scene—another woman traveling alone, an older couple, or a group of women is pretty much always a safe bet. And of course, I’ve lots of groups of men or men alone help me as well. Once I asked a guy just sitting around an ancient Roman amphitheater in Bulgaria how to get to the entrance, and he opened up the closed-off spots for me and pointed out some things I would never have seen on my own.
Also, asking locals is the best way to get really good restaurant and cafe recommendations. And they might give you some extra tips to make your trip really special. People often like to be asked for help, as they typically love to show off their city too.
Make Sure You Can Access Cell Data
This is my most specific tip—if you have cell data, you can navigate safely almost anywhere, call someone for help, and get out of places that don’t feel great with a quick Uber request (or whatever the local version is).
If you’re just going for a few days and your home provider lets you add on roaming for like $10/day, that’s easy and a good way to go. If you’re going for more than a week though, you can always get a local SIM card if you have an unlocked phone. They’re often sold at the airport and tend to be pretty cheap, and then you have a local number and data to run your phone on anywhere in your trip.
You can also download Google Maps of specific areas or cities to your phone to use offline, which is great for spots without much service. And you can do the same for languages in Google Translate so you can figure out what something says when you don’t have service.
Let Someone Know Where You Are
I live alone and travel alone a lot, so I share my location with my sister, my mom, and my best friend all the time just in case. When I go somewhere alone, I’ll share an itinerary and a local contact (if that applies) with one or more of them so someone knows where to find me. I tell my friends when I’m going on a date or out late and put on my tracking. But again, that’s something I did in Boston too!
If you have a friend or a parent or a partner who’s worried about safety when traveling alone, that can be a good option (as long as they’re not tracking you and texting you 24/7!).
And remind them that despite what sensationalist media headlines would have you believe, traveling alone as a woman is something plenty of us do every single day without getting kidnapped or murdered.
If they start talking about that stupid Liam Neeson movie, just shut the conversation down because that is fiction and Liam Neeson is not your dad. You’re smart, you’re savvy, and you’re gonna be just fine.
Solo Female Travel Inspiration
If you’re all pumped up to go, yay! This post did its job. Welcome to a whole new way of life, full of exciting adventures, more confidence, and great stories to tell while you’re waiting for your next Zoom meeting to start.
Now go book that first trip and see how you feel!