Solo female travel just keeps getting hotter. According to the George Washington University School of Business, nearly two-thirds of today’s travelers are women. And the Travel Industry Association reports that an estimated 32 million American women travel alone every year
So how are women making the most of solo travel and where are they going? I tapped into some accomplished travelers to get their top tips for traveling solo — and the best places to travel as a woman alone. Here’s what they had to say.
Keep an Open Mind: It might be easy to go to the tourist areas where everyone speaks English and can accommodate you, but take the extra challenge to step out of your comfort zone and try the path less traveled . It has its risks, as does anything in life, but it’s a great way to experience a culture or region. It’s fascinating to see how people live their daily lives in a regular non-touristy community. Eat like the locals, sleep like the locals, participate in activities like the locals. A smile (and Google Translate) can go a long way, even if you don’t speak the same language.
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Be Adventurous But Prepared: I got really (really) sick while traveling and it was terrifying. When I got home, I looked into a medical transport membership program called Medjet that the guys in my bike shop recommended. It’s super affordable, and when I found out they had a membership that also offered security response, I picked that one — MedjetHorizon. I feel a little more safe while being adventurous knowing they have my back (24/7 crisis response) and it makes my mom and grandma so happy that if something bad happened to me, they’d have someone to call.
Write in a Journal! When we travel, we think we will remember all the details, but in actuality so many new things are happening so quickly every day, and eventually the details will fade away. Even just taking five minutes a day to write down any major events or key memories will help to remind you of so much that you may forget over the years. I personally love going back and reading my travel journals. Photos are also a great way to capture the moments, but we have to be careful not to get completely obsessed over only taking photos and not actually taking in and living in the moment.
Where to Go: Morocco was one of my favorite places to visit as a solo female traveler. It was a unique and culturally different experience, but I felt extremely safe and welcomed everywhere I went. The people were all very nice and helpful in all situations and everyone made sure I was happy, safe and enjoying my travels. One time I even ran out of gas and got stranded overnight in a small non-touristy town. No one could speak English, there were no hotels for hours, I didn’t have any Moroccan cash, only Euros (which no one could accept) and no gas stations or currency exchange offices were open. I sat down at a small local cafe late at night and paid for a meal with the last of the change in my pocket. Some friendly local residents sat down with me, gave me a free hot tea and we managed to communicate with Google Translate. When they heard of my adventures and struggles, they immediately welcomed me to their family’s home and gave me a warm blanket on the floor (the same way they sleep), more food and a locked place to park my motorcycle. Once I was able to get my currency exchanged, I tried to give this family money and buy them food, but they absolutely would not accept. I was shown the most beautiful compassion and kindness. This family (along with many others) will always hold a special place in my heart and memories.
Talk! Talk to everyone, everyone, everyone. The more people who are familiar with you and who recognize you, the better. So, I talk to everyone in my hotel, everyone in my hostel, everyone on the bus next to me. For me, it’s about staying safe, and the best way to do that is to connect with other people who are looking out for you.
Don’t Overshare: I’m very aware of what kind of information I’m sharing. On social media, I do share where I am, but I don’t share specifics. So, I don’t do Foursquare, I don’t check in to like specific areas, but I’ll definitely say, “Here I am in Bangkok! If you’re here in Bangkok, let’s meet up.”
Where to Go: My favorite place for solo female travel is New Zealand (probably not surprising!). It’s the first country I ever went to, the first country I lived as an expat and it’s so naturally stunning that I still compare everywhere else in the world to the things I saw there. I’d have to say Argentina and Uruguay are a close second and third.
Who: Nneya Richards, founder of the blog, ‘N A Perfect World, fashion stylist and travel blogger who has written for publications like Vogue and Pop Sugar
Go Shopping: Support women businesses , even if it’s a store. This is a great tip that I learned when I was in Mexico (where I go surfing every winter). I met one of my closest girlfriends in a jewelry store. I was just looking at jewelry and she was working at the store there. Flash forward: We’re really close friends.
Smile: You’d be surprised like how much a smile leads people to you, and people want show you the best of their countries, their cities and if you take their suggestions, they’re really happy to help and to show you around.
Where to Go: As a solo female traveler of color, there’s a lot of navigation through spaces that have seen “tourism” primarily from white men. Comfort and safety are factors that we have to take into account as we explore other locales and cultures. One of the most magical experiences I’ve had as a solo female traveler — and the place that really gave me the confidence to travel solo even more — is Sayulita, Mexico. It is one of my favorite places in the world and I first went there solo when American papers were reporting the dangers of traveling to Mexico due to drug wars. This beach town — the people, sand, surf and sun — welcomed me with open arms and soon my New York apprehensions started to fade away. A big expat community, Sayulita is still a small town with small town vibes. Within days, locals knew who I was and I was welcomed into their community with them looking out for me, opening their hearts and their homes. The Riviera Nayarit is a magical place I’d recommend for any solo female traveler.
Who: Mickela Mazzoli, producer and star of Bare Feet with Mickela Mallozzi. Read about her in “How This Unlikely TV Star Created A Simple Idea That Allows Her To Travel The World.”
Dance: I like talking with people, hearing about what is important to them, what type of music they listen to and of course, I love to dance with people. Dancing is what brings me the most joy, but I also use it to get out of my comfort zone because most of the time I don’t know what I’m doing (I’m following someone else’s dance moves). I’ve learned not to care what I look like when I’m learning a new dance, and that has helped me tremendously.
Where to Go: I recently got back from Georgia (the country, not the state), and not only is it filled with breathtaking landscapes, delicious food and exuberant and beautiful music and dance traditions, but the Georgian hospitality is centuries old and embedded in the culture and the people. It’s an incredible safe, open and forward-thinking country – its people are beyond warm. I was initiated as a “da” or a sister to one of my new, Georgian friends, Mako, when I arrived. Friendship there is sacred, shared over the 8,000 year-old tradition of wine, and those friendships are expected to last a lifetime. From Tbilisi’s hipster scene to Kazbegi’s panoramic mountain views, you will find lifetime friends in the Caucuses.
Who: Alyssa Ramos, full-time travel blogger, social media influencer and founder of My Life’s a Movie. Read about her: “How This Woman Went From Broke To Traveling Full-Time (And Making Lots Of Money).”
Have Confidence: My top tip for a woman traveling solo is to always walk around with confidence, research the area before you go, be respectful of the culture and always be aware of your surroundings.
Where to Go: The Riviera Maya of Mexico is especially great for first time solo female travel trips, because it’s not a big jump to another continent (for U.S. citizens), you can use U.S. dollar, people speak English (yes, in Mexico they speak English as well as Spanish), there are tons of expats and visitors and also tons of adventures and sites to see all in one place, including one of the New Seven World Wonders, Chichen Itza. I know Mexico gets a negative stereotype sometimes, but in all honesty, if I were to ever live somewhere, Playa del Carmen or Tulum would be my first picks. That’s how much I love being there.
Where to Go: Japan — specifically Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka — tops my list for solo female travel because of how safe and respectful the culture is there. Despite thinking I’d stick out and get stared at with my blonde hair and blue eyes, I found that rarely anyone did, and I was only ever approached when people noticed I looked lost (typical when attempting the rail system there), and they helped me find my way!
Who: Lavinia Spalding, author of Writing Away: a Creative Guide to Awakening the Journal-Writing Traveler, and the editor of The Best Women’s Travel Writing series. Watch her TED Talk on pursuing a career in travel: “9 TED Talks That Will Inspire You To Quit Your Job And Travel For A Career.”
Give Yourself an Assignment: Solo travel is exciting and illuminating, but it can also get lonely sometimes. My top tip is to give yourself an assignment while traveling. It could be as simple as tracking down the tastiest momos in Nepal or seeing the best flamenco show in Spain. Or it could be a deeper mission, like enrolling in a course or doing meaningful volunteer work. Having a personal mission lends more purpose to your travels and increases your chances of meeting interesting locals and travelers, which helps you feel more connected and fulfilled. And my other top tip—of course—is to journal about it.
Where to Go: As for where to go, the possibilities are endless. But I might suggest Portugal or Sicily — if only because those two places had some of the best gelato I’ve ever eaten, and when you’re traveling solo, gelato can be really important.
Who: Pauline Frommer, co-president for FrommerMedia. Read her budget tips in “10 Smart Ways To Save Money On Your Next Trip.”
Buy Something: The best solo women travel tip I ever heard was from Evelyn Hannon who runs journeymen.com. She said the first thing you do in a new destination is you go into a local store (like a drugstore or market) and you just buy something small so you can have the bag, and that bag marks you as a local.
Tap Into Other Women: There’s an organization called Women Welcome Women, it’s out of Britain but it’s in every country in the world. It’s basically a directory service of women who just love to help and meet other women. It’s a nice way to have a safety net and yet still travel alone.
Where to Go: Paris is my favorite spot for solo female travel. No matter what age you are, when you’re there, you aren’t invisible, as you can become in other destinations.
Who: Marcia DeSanctis, author of The New York Times Best Seller, 100 places in France Every Woman Should Go
Just Do It: My top tip for a woman traveling solo is to travel solo. It is to not be afraid. It is that to understand the best way to make your connection with a place and with a new environment and in a new context is not to have to worry about somebody else. It is to be by yourself. You really notice things better when you’re alone.
Where to Go: Among my favorite places to visit alone is St. Petersburg, Russia, one of the great walking cities in the world. I can race through the Hermitage to have a look at a single painting (maybe Titian’s Danae) or take my sweet time. I’ll wander over bridges, along canals, past the white and gold buildings along the Moika and Neva Rivers. The city is dazzling and its watery beauty makes me feel contemplative, especially a stop in the Summer Garden or St. Isaac’s Square, looking up at the great cathedral’s dome.
Who: Erica Virvo, director of global operations at Nomadic Matt and budget travel lover who has been exploring the world for 10 years
Stay in Hostels: My top trip for traveling solo as a woman is stay in hostels. I love staying in hostels as a woman because you get to meet people — and you can meet people that you can then travel with. When you’re traveling with other people, it’s harder to do that.
Where to Go: Vagabond Temple in Kep, Cambodia is worth recommending for solo female travelers. This yoga and meditation retreat is a space of rejuvenation in a region where so many travelers go in search of something. It’s a great place to stop, rest, and collect yourself before you continue to wander through Southeast Asia (even if you’re new to yoga or meditation). It’s not restricted to female travelers, but mostly women come here. It’s one of those places that you book for a few days, and end up staying for a month accidentally. I highly recommend it for anyone making their way down the Banana-Pancake Trail.
Who: Juliana Broste, travel host, filmmaker and founder of TravelingJules.com
Put Down Your Phone: When you’re eating along, put that phone away and open your eyes, maybe there’s something exciting to see or someone exciting to meet. I love traveling solo because you have the opportunity to meet people. When you’re with somebody, people won’t approach you. But when you’re alone, say you’re at the bar, people will come up and chat with you, and you have nothing to do but to make a new friend.
Where to Go: My favorite spot for solo female travel is to go to a ski town. Embrace the feeling of freedom as you feel the wind in your hair while skiing or snowboarding down the mountain, and make friends on the chairlift riding back up in the singles line.
Who: Gillian Morris, founder and CEO of Hitlist, an app that helps you travel more for less. Read Morris’s packing tips: “Confessions Of A Packing Expert: 9 Business Travel Hacks.”
Use Tinder: This is a kind of edgy one, but I have a friend at Google who did a study of the top apps that people use while traveling, and surprisingly one of the top ones for meeting locals is Tinder. I’ve gone on Tinder, even when I’m dating someone, and said very clearly in my profile, “I’m just here to meet someone to go out on the town or explore with a local.” And I’ve always been very clear in the communication. It’s a really great way to meet people, and I think if you’re straight-forward, you’re not doing anything wrong and it can be a really wonderful experience.
Where to Go: My favorite spot for solo female travel is Turkey. Muslim hospitality ensures that you will be invited to many homes, and an extensive tourist infrastructure means that it’s easy to get wherever you need to go by bus, plane, train or ride share. The Airbnb hosts in off-the-beaten-track destinations in Turkey are some of the best I’ve ever been lucky enough to stay with and there are so many wonders — from the natural beauty of the coast to the historical riches of Capadoccia — to explore.
Who: Tami Fairweather, marketing communicator, consultant, connection enthusiast and event media manager for the Adventure Travel Trade Association
Don’t Sleep In! One of the tips I usually give my friends is: Those days when you really don’t want to get up early because you’re tired, don’t sleep in. Because you don’t remember how tired you were during a trip, you remember what you did. If you were feeling lazy, or even a little under the weather, that’s not what you’re going to remember. You’re going to be thankful that you got up early and saw that church, went on that hike to the waterfall, met those people, had that meal. In the moment, it seems like it’s going to be difficult, but the memories made from a full day are totally worth it.
Where to Go: Some of my favorite solo adventures have been on the road, pondering life while riding U.S. highways and byways destined for national and state parks. Finding a local outfitter that offers group trips is a great way to explore the parks and meet some locals for a more immersive cultural experience. I did something like this last spring in Louisiana’s Acadiana region on an overnight kayak trip in the swamp, and learned more about Cajun culture around the campfire than I could have on one visit to a museum.
Who: Julia Pond, head of editorial content at Skyscanner
Put a Ring On It: I’ve been hearing a lot of tips since we launched a “tips” feature for solo female travelers. One of the most interesting ones: Bring a wedding ring, even if you’re not married. Especially if you’re doing more intrepid travel, it can be really helpful to pretend that you’re attached, whether you’re attached or not, whether you’re straight or not.
Understand the Culture: It is so important to understand the customs of the place you’re visiting. See how the locals dress and adapt. If you’re going to France, dress a little more nicely, don’t dress like an American in slumpy shorts and flip-flops. You’ll get treated better if you’re dressed like a French person. In India, wear long flowy trousers and long flowy shirt and you’ll be in a much better situation than if you’re in a Western tank top that just makes you stand out.
Where to Go: Wildlife, surfing, yoga, tea and cinnamon — Sri Lanka is a fragrant, addictive destination for solo women. People are relaxed and super honest, and much of the harassment or bargaining you might encounter in its continental neighbor, India, is off the table. Take surfing lessons with an accomplished native (who probably started when he was 11) or meet up with other travelers (thanks to a healthy backpacking scene) to visit a tea plantation or go on safari in one of three national parks. Finish with freshly grilled fish for dinner. Repeat.