Ten years ago, if you would have told me I’d be a solo female traveler, one day I’d ask what you were smoking. It never appealed to me.
I’m a Libra. I hate making decisions. I hate doing anything alone.
But here we are, eight years later, in sunny Guatemala, right from Northern Ontario, Canada. I’ve already been to Mexico, Costa Rica, Peru, Honduras, London, and El Salvador as well.
And what a journey it’s been!
I realized you learn a lot about yourself when you travel alone. An awful lot. Some of it good, some of it not so good at all.
How Safe Is It Being a Solo Female Traveler?
So of course, before we get started, let’s answer the burning question: is being a solo female traveler safe?
Well. Mostly yes. As with anything, you must use common sense when you’re out and about. Sort of what you do in your own town/city anyway.
Now don’t get me wrong, we’ve all heard horror stories about how some young girl was raped and killed or mugged and beaten. I’m not gonna say it never happens.
I just think it’s really location-specific and you really need to be aware of your surroundings. I’ve traveled as a sole female traveler in Central America and South America and never once felt threatened.
Maybe by a dog or scorpion, but never by another human being.
So, is solo female travel safe?
Like anything else, do your research first. Where are you going? Where will you be staying? Are there any reviews of the city/hostel/neighborhood you’ll be in?
I love The Lonely Planet Books. So much valuable information!
If you’re ever unsure, just Google. But with that said, don’t go crazy and read a million different stories because then you’ll be overwhelmed and never leave your house.
That’s no fun either.
Stay informed. Stay alert. But remember to enjoy your journey too!
Another really smart thing to do is find Facebook groups for the town you are going to, join, and ask questions. People are always more than happy to help.
They will let you know if you will be in any crazy danger and things like what areas to avoid and identifying real taxis.
What are the best places for a solo female traveler?
I have to be honest, I’m no travel expert. I could rhyme off one hundred of the best places for a solo female traveler, but if you aren’t interested in any of the destinations, then what’s the point?
So many of my friends love Asia and tell me I should go, and that it is great for solo female travelers—hard pass. Asia never did and most likely never will interest me.
I could tell you that Guatemala is the bomb, but if you aren’t interested in Central America, well, you see where I’m going with this?
I think, as a solo female traveler, any place is the best place. No?
So enough with the small talk. Let’s get down to the things I learned as a solo female traveler, and some of these things might actually resonate with you or cause you to pause and think about your first solo travel trip.
10 things I learned as a solo female traveler
I now share these things with you (and a few solo female travel tips) because I think knowledge is power. When I ventured off on my solo travels, I was absolutely clueless. I didn’t know what I was doing, what to watch out for, or how to prepare for different things.
Yup. Totally clueless. So these things might give you that “aaah” moment. I hope they won’t stop you from traveling, though. That’s not my intention at all. Pack your bags. See the world. Explore. And then you can tell your stories too!
In no particular order of importance, here we go…
1 I hate bugs a lot
I don’t mean little bugs and stuff like that. No, not those cute little guys. We’re talking scorpions and spiders the size of the palm of my hand. Ya, those critters.
I have all my windows sealed up like Fort Knox. I’ve also sealed up every little slit and crack I could possibly find.
I’m used to earwigs, moths, and bees, but not these guys. Learning to remove a scorpion from my apartment for the first time, alone, was terrifying.
I’m kind of a pro now, though.
Be prepared for critters you’ve never seen in your wildest dreams. Get bug spray.
2 Learning a new language is hard
I was honestly a tad intimidated by the fact that not many locals actually speak English and I gotta get my butt in gear and learn their language. Fast. And I am, and I’m pretty proud of myself, really.
I never thought in a million years I’d be learning a new language at 53 years young. It’s pretty awesome.
I have a long way to go, but I’m getting by pretty good now (in my opinion). I still have yet to be able to read signs and words, which gets kinda tricky in a restaurant. Thank God most of them have English translations.
You should try to learn the basic words, especially numbers so you don’t get screwed over trying to buy stuff. But learn enough to be able to ask simple questions.
Duolingo is fantastic and free!
3 I’m actually rather shy
I bet some of my friends reading this are laughing right now, but really. I find myself feeling very shy, and the introvert in me comes out more than I thought it would. It’s taken me quite some time to make the few friends I have made.
I thought I would get down here and have many friends within a week. Such is not the case. I couldn’t talk to anyone, and I kept to myself.
I was actually, and in all honesty, kind of scared. (who wouldn’t be??) I’m getting better, though, and I’m pretty proud of myself.
Meeting and talking to new people can actually be somewhat intimidating unless you are a total extrovert. Kudos to you, babe!
4 I really do like being alone
I always did, but here, I am really alone. No one calls, no one banging on the door or showing up unannounced. They couldn’t anyway ’cause my house is pretty far away from town.
Seems not many want to make the trek.
But I’m really loving my own company. I feel so totally free here. I actually feel like I’m in Heaven some days. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t like some company every now and then; it’s just saying that I feel very free, happy, and alive, being alone.
I’m surprised by that. You may find this, too. You suddenly have a new lease on life and want to take it all in. Alone.
5 I learned how to light a gas stove without burning all my hair off
Ok, this one still freaks me out for the simple reason that I have always been afraid of gas stoves because I have a crippling fear of my hair going up in flames.
That’s the diva/former hairstylist in me that will never die.
So when I had to learn how to light my stove so I could eat to survive, I was really frightened. But I obviously did it, and I’m pretty proud of myself.
You will have to learn how to work foreign and somewhat terrifying things at first. Pull up your big girl panties. You got this.
6 Contrary to number 4, I find myself lonely at times
Not very often, but every now and then, it hits me and hits me hard. There have been a couple of times I actually thought I should go back home.
But where is home anyway?
I have nothing, nowhere. Such freedom! But at the same time, it’s not having that sense of belonging to anything anymore that may ignite that sense of loneliness.
I’m still not really sure about this one all I know is that every now and then, whammo, I wish I had someone.
If you are used to visitors and friends and a boisterous social life, in the beginning, it may not happen that way. You may get lonely and wonder if you made a mistake.
You didn’t. You’ll be fine. Embrace that time alone.
7 Becoming a vegetarian sounds good, but a vegetarian who can still eat bacon
So, like a pretend vegetarian. The only reason is that I had difficulty finding decent meat to eat in Guatemala. To me, it all tasted funny.
I have been eating more avocados, chickpeas, and other fiber and protein fillers, and I’m not minding a bit.
You may or may not have a hard time with the food. You may or may not get food poisoning. Sorry if you do. It sucks—a lot.
(speaking of food poisoning, make sure you know where the public health clinic is so you can get there right away)
But if you are a fussy eater, be prepared for some struggles. This is where your Facebook groups will come in handy, and the people there will tell you what you can and can’t find.
You may want to bring your own. Or do without. I do without a lot of first-world food, but when family or friends visit from Canada or the US, I have a grocery list ready.
8 I never know what day it is anymore
I don’t wear a watch anymore either, something I would never leave the house without putting on back in Sudbury.
I couldn’t care less. I wake up when I feel like it, eat when my tummy tells me it’s time, go out when I feel like it, and come home when I’m tired.
Days of the week don’t really matter much anymore. Every day is just a beautiful day. Why do we have to give it a name?
You will soon discover this. It’s rather normal. Days, hours, weeks, months. All irrelevant. And so liberating. Just enjoy life. Period.
9 I have way more balls than I ever thought any woman could legally have
I’m doing stuff that I never in a million bajillion years thought I would ever be doing.
From getting in beat-up wooden boats to go across one of the deepest lakes in the world to go see villages across the way to zip lining hundreds of feet in the air.
You’re going to feel compelled to do random crazy stuff. Do it all. Take it all in. Live on the edge. It’s so friggin amazing. You’ll see.
It blows my mind all the time. I’m actually now even thinking about going paragliding. Now THAT looks ridiculously awesome!!
10 I have patience??
I’m not sure where that came from. I’ve always been the most impatient person on the planet, but when you are in a different country, you learn to adapt to their culture quickly. You won’t be “Freaking out Felicia” anymore.
It took me a while to get there, but I’m here now—patience times 10. Mind you, I’ll be honest. Every now and then, something happens that ruffles my feathers, but when you realize no one gaf, well, neither will you.
You’ll just be all calm and doing your thing and letting people do their thing, and no one cares. And neither will you.
Tips for all travelers, not just females
I get that not all these tips are only for the solo female traveler but, that’s what I am, and that’s what I learned in my last eight years of solo traveling.
I just found that many of these things are girl-related (like the bugs). If you know someone who has been thinking about going solo, send this to her!
Oh, and I can’t forget one final travel tip for you. Don’t pay full price for anything, ever. They will instantly jack up prices when they see a foreigner. They will go high, you go low and meet somewhere in the middle.
Happy trails to you!!
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