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How to Travel Solo as a Young Woman

Traveling solo as a young woman in Turkey can be wondrous.
Traveling solo as a young woman in Turkey can be wondrous.

II remember the day with great clarity. It was a Sunday in late October, my third day in the Argentinean town of Puerto Iguazú. The settlement itself had little to offer apart from a few tourist shops and restaurants; I had come here primarily to visit the spectacular Iguazú waterfalls, along with three American friends. I mention their nationality because all three would have needed a visa to enter the Brazilian side of the falls. Since the visa cost about $80 and applications must be made well in advance, my friends decided to skip the Brazilian side and head back to Buenos Aires.

I decided to see the Brazilian side of the waterfalls as well. The never-ending debate about which side is "better" should probably be left to each visitor to decide. I am glad I saw both. Soon after, I returned to the Hostel Inn Iguazú and still had a few hours left on Sunday. I asked at reception what could be done for the rest of the day and was recommended the Aripuca, a museum-like park dedicated to honoring nature. It was supposed to be within walking distance.

Getting there was no problem. From the main road, there were clear signs leading to the Aripuca; all you had to do was follow the dusty and uneven terracotta paths. Completely enthralled by the museum upon arrival, I realized that I had paid less attention to the fact that it was getting dark. Seeing the colors of the trees dimming, I headed off toward what I thought was the main road. In the deepening dark, however, all the terracotta roads assumed the form of a labyrinth, and the previously clear signs were now seemingly absent.

I began to panic. The situation was certainly not part of my plan of seeing Iguazú. Straining to keep the tears from my eyes — it was already apparent that I was a tourist in the area and did not need to attract additional attention from strangers — I finally returned to the Aripuca. The museum was closing, but in my despair, I found a friendly employee and asked him to call me a taxi. "To where?" He asked. "The Hostel Inn," I replied. "But that's only a 10-minute walk," he said.

"I know, I know, but I hurt my knee," I pretended; I did not want to confess that I could not find my way back alone. The taxi arrived, and I had to explain why I was taking a cab for such a short distance. The male driver began to ask me whether I was traveling alone; once more, I pretended, "No, and my boyfriend is waiting back at the hostel." A white lie, of course, since no one knew where I had been, and no one would come looking for me. When we finally arrived at the main road, I asked the driver to stop, paid, and bolted out the door, running towards the hostel. He must have been surprised; my knee seemed quite alright after all.

What It Means to Travel Solo as a Woman

After bolting out of that taxi, I only remember spending the night covered by bed covers. My trip diary entries are scarce, but I wrote prolifically here. Writing then proved to be a kind of therapy, allowing for reflection upon what it means to travel, travel solo, and to travel solo as a woman.

Traveling Solo, But Not Completely

Although initially, such an experience may leave one with the desire never to travel alone again, the perspective lasted only a short time. Solo travel can be a great learning experience because of exposure to such situations. (And as long as all goes well, the experience is bound to be meaningful, if not life-changing. The reasons for and against traveling solo merit an article in and of themselves, so I will not go into detail here, though others on this site have.)

Know Yourself

Whether female or male, as a solo traveler, it is essential to be honest with yourself. Though it seems easier said than done, know your limits. As young backpackers, some like to put themselves in extreme situations. Many young people like the thrill of adventure, whether climbing the highest mountain peaks, paragliding, or simply going out at night alone. But for safety's sake, there should be some reflection about when to set boundaries.

Know Your Surroundings

Of course, determining whether you can venture out alone will vary significantly on your destination. The difference is related to the country and the precise area of the country you find yourself in. Going to a museum in Buenos Aires at six in the afternoon would probably have provoked in me less of a panic attack than doing the same in the rainforest of Iguazú. It always depends on what you are used to and how you react. Some of us have no problem reading a compass and journeying into the mountains, while others may be more comfortable in the city. Combine your knowledge of yourself and your surroundings to craft a wonderful trip.


  • Tell people where you are going. Traveling solo does not mean you cannot talk to other people. If you venture out by yourself, tell someone about your plans. Whether it is the guy at the front desk or a friend you made a few days earlier, make sure it is someone you can rely upon.

  • Carry a cell phone. For some, our dream of traveling is to disconnect entirely from the world. But for safety, have a cell phone with you – keep it off if you want — so people will not call you, but you can call them. And save the emergency number of your current location!

  • Be informed. Know the country, area, or town you are in. Reading the guidebook section on "safety" really does not require a whole lot of effort. A section of many guides is dedicated to traveling as a woman in the respective country.

  • Make friends with locals. Guides, paper or online, can only tell you so much. Locals, on the other hand, will give you the "down-low" on the area. You can get great tips for restaurants and the streets to avoid even more helpful advice.

  • Do not look and behave like a tourist. Observe the locals around you during the first couple of days you arrive. See what they are wearing, especially the women. If they ever wear short skirts, you should not either. The idea is to fit in with your environment.

  • Learn the local language. Communicating in the native tongue will allow you to befriend the locals and learn about their culture. In situations that may have caused you panic, knowing the local language can save you a lot of trouble. Also, people are more likely to take you seriously if you try to integrate yourself into their culture as much as possible, and show respect for their way of communicating.

  • Do not make yourself vulnerable. If you find yourself in a dangerous situation, try to maintain calm. It sounds easier said than done. Use your common sense and try to rationalize.

  • Use common sense. Basic instinct is essential to preventing danger. Do not walk around alone at night. Do not drink excessive quantities of alcohol or drugs, as this is a sure way to make yourself vulnerable.

Above All, Enjoy Your Travels!

Ultimately, there is no need to panic. It is possible — and enjoyable — to travel solo as a woman. Keep in mind the advice above, and you should encounter few, if any, problems. Take things as they go, be respectful, and you will share in the reward.

For More Info's Women's Travel Portal

Women Travel Tips: Useful articles offering different advice about what to do before you go abroad.

Women on the Road: A website committed to women's travel and other travel subjects.

Journeywoman: A website dedicated to women's travel.

Related Topics
Women Travel
Independent and Solo Travel

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