Five things I learned the hard way travelling as a solo female

By Okki Klijn

Travelling solo can be daunting, especially for females.

Your comfort zone is left far behind and there are countless moments when you find yourself thinking, “what is going on and how did I get here?”

From hopping on the wrong buses in Tanzania, to wandering streets alone at night in Vanuatu, and attempting to cut urchin spines out of my feet with rusty pocket-knives in Zanzibar, I’ve learnt a few lessons about travelling solo the hard way.

Solo sightseeing at Nordkette, the Jewel of the Alps, in Austria. Photo by Okki Klijn

Here are five tips for female travellers planning their first – or next – solo adventure.

  1. Act confident

Fake it until you make it, even when you’re feeling the total opposite. The biggest hack to travelling solo as a female is to act confident. There will be moments when you will feel frightened and alone, but the best approach is to never appear vulnerable. Getting approached by a group of men asking for money in a third-world country has, let’s just say, not made my list of top 10 travel memories. I’ve learnt it’s best to fake confidence and be assertive. Don’t let anyone take advantage of your touristic status.

  1. Travel smart

Always be aware of your surroundings and safety. This is vital no matter what culture you’re visiting. Walking back to your hostel alone after going for a few drinks is not travelling smart. Neither is getting in a taxi alone at midnight. I have, again, learnt this the hard way. You’re not invincible; travel smart and always buy travel insurance. Travelling smart also involves being cautious of your belongings. Don’t leave your backpack with your passport and spare cash lying around in your dorm room. They will get stolen.

  1. Research, research, research

The internet is your most efficient resource when you’re abroad. Find posts online on different transport systems, cultural appropriations, the best tours, hostel recommendations and streets to avoid. A moment of appreciation for the internet, please. Buying a SIM card will make you feel much more confident when travelling. I’ve wandered through cities without any form of connection available and, while turning your device off and reconnecting with nature sounds great, I would highly recommend avoiding this when you’re solo.

Travel life’s a breeze: A dorm room in a bamboo hut at Kipepeo Hostel in Zanzibar. Photo by Okki Klijn

4. Make friends

Travelling solo gives you the opportunity to interact with incredible people from different walks of life. The best way to meet people is to book tours, go on pub crawls and stay in hostels. Hostels provide an affordable and safe environment for you to socialise and make friends, and they also provide for some great stories. One hostel I stayed at in Zanzibar had bamboo huts for rooms. The concept of floors had been disregarded and bike locks wrapped around the doors for security. Probably not the safest accommodation I’ve booked, but I met some incredible people and absolutely loved the experience. Personally, I also enjoy interacting with locals. Most solo travellers avoid doing so but I find that locals often have great advice and, more often than not, they genuinely want you to enjoy your travels. Again, remember to stay assertive when it’s needed. If a 70-year-old African man offers to rub Aloe Vera on your sunburn, firmly decline. Or just run.

  1. Enjoy the freedom

The main purpose of travelling solo is to experience the world on your own time. Go wherever you please, whenever you please. Enjoy the company of people you meet along the way, but also enjoy the flexibility you have to be alone. Nothing beats it. I’ve met people for an hour in Venice, then met up with them a month later in Paris. I’ve met people in Brussels and, after realising I couldn’t stand them, left the next day. I’ve met people in Tanzania and spent the following four weeks travelling with them. Travelling solo will teach you to enjoy your own company and become more independent than ever. Enjoy the journey!

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