Solo travel can prove to be both challenging and rewarding. For this solo female traveler, the positive aspects far outweigh the negative! Us females need to be particularly cautious regarding our safety. However, I have never let that prevent me from travel to any destination. With careful planning, any solo traveler can feel at ease venturing out on their own. Vegans, vegetarians, and anyone else can enjoy and benefit from the experience of solo travel!
Regarding safety, there are several points to consider. Some of these concerns can be alleviated with proper research and knowledge of your destination region.
1. Is my destination city safe during the day and at night? How late into the evening can I stroll around town seeing the sights, feeling confident that my safety is not at risk?
Doing a quick google search on the web can alleviate or re-enforce your fears on this topic. Accommodations staff or local police can provide a wealth of knowledge upon your arrival.
While speaking to a local tour guide during one of my previous holidays, it came to my attention that a tall and strong-looking gentleman was mugged and attacked during the early evening hours several years prior. However, he had been walking along a side alley, during the dark winter months.
When I visited that city, it had changed quite a bit for tourists. Police officers wearing bright vests were stationed every few hundred yards along the main road where most hostels were located. That provided a strong sense of safety for travelers. I felt quite at ease going to restaurants along that stretch of town during the evening hours.
The web can provide most of what you need to know for each destination town including recent crime, what areas of town are safe into the evening, where not to tread day or night, and so forth. Guide books are a good resource also, as are local newspapers and tour guides. In general, most tourist towns across the globe are safe enough. I have wandered about town late into the evening, while feeling perfectly safe. Keep in mind, that other tourists are doing likewise. Holiday destinations are packed with tourists, so you never really feel alone. Enjoy the adventure!
2. What modes of transportation are available and how safe are they?
Again, the web and your hotel staff are great resources. In many international cities, both tram and bus are cost effective, clean, and safe options. However, in some destinations, that is not the case. Muggings, pick pocketing, and even physical assault by gangs may occur. When it gets to that level, it typically makes the international tv news. Nonetheless, it is always best to research online and ask the hotel staff for their thoughts on local transportation. I have found that in some regions, a taxi is the best option when a tourist attraction or restaurant is off the beaten path or not located close to bus and train stops. In some cities, there are several types of taxi services. Some are independent cabs. While they may be perfectly safe in some regions, others are known to be either dangerous or to “jack up” prices by taking the tourist on the long route to their destination.
In my experience, the tram(train) is usually the fastest, most cost effective, and easiest form of transportation! I love it!
3. Can I carry any valuables on my person, such as a camera or necklace?
The general “rule of thumb” is no..it is best to abstain from wearing nice jewelry or displaying your camera in the open. Camera bags tucked into a tote or on a string like a necklace are the safest options.
Fanny packs that can be tucked into a pair of pants is a great idea. Another option are undergarments that have been designed with special pockets that can be used to store your cash and credit cards for safety.
4. Is it ok if I chat with the locals, as I usually converse back home or do I need to be aware of certain cultural taboos or expectations?
In most destinations, it is safe to chat with locals or ask for directions. Most people are kind and hospitable to visitors in their country. Unfortunately, as is the case everywhere, those traveling on their own do need to exercise some caution, especially females. Make sure you are never completely alone and that there are others within your range of sight.
Be careful when you bargain in markets or bazaars. At times, savvy shop keepers can fool tourists into thinking that their items are authentic and worth the asking price. This holds even more true for the solo traveler.
Another note of caution.. Certain gestures or signs possess different meanings in different cultures. While making an “A OK” sign in the West, it is seen as a very negative connotation in the Eastern cultures. A simple nodding of our heads to signify a “yes” or an agreement is interpreted as just the opposite in another culture. Guide books explaining local culture are available at travel-related bookstores. We, as tourists, definitely do not wish to offend anyone or any culture during our global travels!
Female solo travelers need to be very aware of their surroundings. While walking from my bed and breakfast inn to the downtown area of a particular tourist town for lunch, I was stopped and ogled at by many young men along my route. Fortunately, they were just being friendly. I just smiled and returned their “hellos”, and went along my way.
Researching this topic on the web, is very beneficial. For example, in some countries, solo female travelers are thought to be lacking in morals, just from the fact that they are traveling alone. In these countries, it is advised that solo female travelers should ask for help or directions from local women, instead of local men. Guide books on certain destinations insist that solo travelers should not say a word to locals who approach them, otherwise the locals may get the impression that they want to purchase some souvenirs from them or that they are willing to pay to get directions.
The “Pros” of Solo Travel:
There are many “Pros” to solo travel. I enjoy all of the cultural experiences during my travels. I would never want to miss out on travel to an exciting destination just because there is no one in my life that is available to travel with me at that time! Many people feel that solo travel is lonely. Indeed it can be. However, you can make the most of it and end up having some great conversations with locals and with other tourists as well!
1. Staying at a hostel or a couchsurfing home are the best options for solo travelers. They provide inexpensive accommodations. Solo travelers have the opportunity to meet many other solo travelers. These conversations can lead to having others to join you for sightseeing trips or simply to experience and learn from other cultures. I truly enjoy speaking with other solo travelers from across the globe by staying at hostels. This is my preferred accommodations choice! It is always wonderful to have these travel-loving room mates to share your day to day sightseeing stories!
Although I have yet to experience couchsurfing, this phenomenon has gained wide popularity across the globe. Local residents provide free accommodations to weary travelers for short stays. Sometimes the tourist gets their own room. While at other times, they may need to share a room with other travelers or stay on a spare couch. The locals and the tourists both benefit from cultural exchange through conversation. In addition, some couchsurfing hosts have been known to prepare a few meals for their guests or to accompany them to favorite restaurants in town. This could prove especially beneficial for vegans! A vegan traveler can request a vegan host on the couchsurfing website. Couchsurfing can be a safe option, as many hosts have been given a rating and positive reviews that a potential traveler can read online.
2. Solo travel means that you can dine wherever you wish. Traveling with others, some of whom may be carnivores could prove difficult when selecting a restaurant for meal time.
Photo: Moroccan pizza in Erfoud, Morocco
3. Joining a local tour group proves much more cost effective! For solo travelers that book a sightseeing tour from home, it typically includes a hefty ‘singles supplement’ fee. Staying at hostels and arranging day trips with local tour operators at your travel destination, can surely alleviate some of that cost. This leaves more in your budget for souvenirs that will always remind you of your wonderful travels! You will not feel lonely on these tours, since the solo traveler can always strike up a conversation with others on the tour.
4. Take buses to travel to long distance destinations. For budgeting reasons, I took a bus(as opposed to a plane or train) from The Netherlands to Belgium and from Wellington, New Zealand to Auckland, New Zealand. This choice suited me for a couple of reasons. I could view the breath-taking landscape along the route and I could converse with other travelers.
5. You can go sightseeing at your own pace. Maybe there are certain sections of a museum that you wish to visit for a lengthier time span than other areas. Possibly there are certain sights in town that do not interest you at all. As a solo traveler, you create and maintain your schedule and interests.
Photo: The Belgium ComicStrip Center in Brussels – home of Smurf and Tin Tin characters
6. Finally, I would like to make mention of one other positive. However, I must stress that you need to proceed with caution. Everyone always states that the best part of travel is meeting the local people. What better way to experience local culture and people than by spending an afternoon or evening with a local resident! As a solo traveler, I am frequently being approached by locals for conversation. In a few cases, the locals did indeed invite me to stroll about town with them, converse in a tea shop, and even to meet their relatives in their home. For a female, solo traveler, it is important to determine the safety factor. Fortunately, in one particular town, my tour guide knew the person that extended an invitation to join me for tea. The guide(from a very reputable tour agency) told me it was perfectly safe. So in broad daylight, I got to meet a local family and experience how they live, dine, and to share community. It was a wonderful experience! It is best to accept invitations during daylight hours and in the open, such as a tea shop.
All in all, traveling on your own will provide for satisfying encounters with local sights and peoples! With just a bit of exercised caution, solo travelers can experience just as many rewarding journeys, as those who travel with others!
Photo: Me with other solo travelers at Pamukkale small thermal pools. I met these travelers individually on the overnight bus from Cappadocia to Pamukkale in Turkey.
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