Ten tips for women traveling alone

by , SmarterTravel Staff
Woman viewing wildlife in Belize with binoculars (Photo: IndexOpen)
Editor's Note: This story was originally published on July 10, 2006. To see the most recent SmarterTravel articles on related topics, please click on any of the following links: Christine Sarkis, vacation package, women's travel.

For women, solo travel brings its own set of joys and challenges. It can be an extraordinary experience, to go where you want when you want and meet new people along the way. Many women who have traveled alone describe an incredible sense of freedom and possibility. But there are also the challenges, ranging from loneliness to safety, making solo travel daunting enough that many women never attempt it.

That's not to say it can't be done. To help you get the most out of a trip, here are ten tips compiled from the advice of women who have traveled alone and will do it again.

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1. Exercise hotel safety

There are many ways you can make a solo stay at a hotel safer. At check-in, you might consider asking for a room near the elevator so you won't need to walk down long, potentially ill-lit hallways to reach your room. When filling out guest registration forms, consider using your first initial instead of your name, and skip the "Mrs/Miss/Mr" check box. Additionally, make sure the clerk writes down your room number instead of saying it out loud. This will prevent anyone in the vicinity from knowing where to find you later.

If you're at a hotel that requires you to leave your keys at the front desk, make sure that a desk clerk is there to put your key in a safe place; never just leave it on the counter. SmarterTravel.com's Executive Editor Anne Banas cautions to never hang a filled-out breakfast card on your door; doing so lets people know you're alone in the room, and means there's a situation already set in which you'll be expecting someone at the door. If I'm not sure about my accommodations, I bring along a rubber door stop to wedge under the door in case the lock is unreliable.

2. Arrive during the day

Arrive in new cities during the day. Areas around bus and train stations can be scary and/or deserted, and small towns tend to shut down early. Veteran solo traveler Mara Rothman of San Francisco notes that plenty of beautiful towns can appear eerie at night, and locals who are genuinely trying to help you can appear unnecessarily threatening. Arriving during the day means you'll be able to find a place to stay and get your bearings before dark.

3. Keep your documents safe

If you choose to wear a money belt, use it for storage and not as a purse. Constantly reaching under your shirt for money draws attention to it, and tends to defeat the purpose. Instead, keep your passport, extra stores of money, and other important documents tucked away, and use a bag or purse for carrying daily spending money.

Keep copies of your passport and credit cards in a separate and secure location. Rothman suggests slipping copies of such documents under the insoles of shoes. They may not smell great, but they'll be there if you need them.

4. Dress appropriately

To avoid attracting unwanted attention, dress as conservatively as the women you see around you. This doesn't necessarily mean donning the traditional dress, as that can sometimes backfire. When she arrived in India to travel on her own for six months, Eva Winter of London purchased the traditional Salwar kameez long tunic and pants. But as she traveled around the country, she noticed that she was actually attracting more attention from men who were curious about the six-foot-tall blonde in the customary cultural dress. Suspecting she might be giving the impression of attempting to appear traditional to attract an Indian suitor, Winter switched back to conservative Western dress and was hassled far less often.

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