Is female solo travel safe? Absolutely. We can take on the world, solve any problem, be our best selves, and ooze independence better than Beyoncé.
When it comes to travel, it is sadly a fact that there still remain some places that are not all that safe for women. But should that stop us? Absolutely not. Travelling solo always requires a certain amount of care. Unfortunately, as females, we need to harbour that extra bit of vigilance. For a first time traveller, it can be difficult to pick a destination, and your safety is something you may be extremely worried about.
We females are a diverse bunch, and travel destinations across the continents are more diverse still. There are literally hundreds of places to choose from for your first trip, and a whole host of ways to pick one. Spin that globe and plant your finger on your next adventure, or start your journey into the unknown with a little bit of order amongst the chaos.
But if safety is a big concern, we’ve curated a list of hot spots and not-so-hot spots for your first solo trip abroad.
Here’s a short and informed list of places that would be fantastic starter countries for any travelling gal, as well as some that are maybe best left for the more seasoned femme.
1. New Zealand (Best)
New Zealand is a top spot when it comes to safety for travellers. They are pioneering advocates of women’s rights, with their third female prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, elected in 2017. Having travelled the entire country from north to south, it’s safe to say I felt safe every inch of the way. It’s not just the locals who are welcoming — even the wildlife is happy to accommodate you here in the land of the big white cloud. The most terrifying animal here is probably the Kea, a beautiful yet curious alpine parrot that is not afraid of pulling off your windscreen wipers.
It’s absolutely recommended to get around by car, and driving as a solo female is a breeze. Companies like mycaryourrental.com hire out rental cars at a fraction of the price of the big companies, as they’re owned by locals. Bonus for directing your hard-earned cash directly to the kiwis.
Other options are hitchhiking, buses, and planes. The major cities in New Zealand all have airports with connections to each other. Many people, tourists and locals alike, prefer to get around with a quick thumb in the road. As a first-timer and solo female, it’s probably safer to stick to the bus or hire your own car. However, many people do hitch and it’s absolutely safe to do so in the major areas such as Queenstown.
New Zealand is a massive contender in the greatest road trip stakes, and camping options are numerous up and down the islands. Airbnb is also a fantastic asset there. The locals in New Zealand are some of the friendliest, kindest, and most enthusiastic people around. You’ll really feel welcome in people’s homes.
2. Saudi Arabia (Worst)
Perhaps not at the top of every woman’s travel bucket list, and for good reason. Women face fierce restrictions in Saudi Arabia. Times have certainly been worse; at one point females were not even allowed out in public without a male guardian.
That law thankfully is no more, but the dress code is still strict, with women expected to cover up with long cloaks (abaya) and head scarfs. Mixing with members of the opposite sex who are not direct family members in public can lead to criminal charges.
Saudi Arabia started issuing tourist visas from December 2018, and the current Saudi prince vows to change matters in the coming years in order to attract more foreign visitors. However, it’s certainly not at the top of the list as a perfect place for beginners.
3. Japan (Best)
Japan might seem like a bit of a daring choice for a first-timer — urban landscapes, a large language barrier, almost an entire world away. But don’t let that deter you one bit! Japan tops out as one of the safest places in the world. Period. It’s the perfect choice for a single female girl to expand her horizons.
Even on the bustling streets of Tokyo, and in some of the shadier spots in downtown Osaka, you’ll still feel safer than most other places. It’s the kind of country where you can drop your wallet on the street and return three hours later when you’ve realized your mistake to find it still there. It might even be propped up in some prominent position for you to rediscover by some kind local.
Japanese people are incredibly accommodating and will go out of their way to help you and make you feel safe. Whether they’re leading you back to civilization if you’ve lost your way, or are inviting you into their homes. The culture of Japan is built on respect, and the hospitality of the Japanese is second to none.
Japan might be busy, compact, and overwhelming at first glance. But the transport system is incredibly advanced and efficient. Once you get the hang of it, it’s an absolute breeze to travel the well-connected train and subway lines around the country. Not to mention the fun you’ll have whizzing your way across the land on the zippy Shinkansen (bullet train).
There are a plethora of options for accommodation all over Japan, whether it be hostels, hotels, Air BnB, or traditional ryokan. There’s more than enough choice for all budgets.
4. Brazil (Worst)
Brazil is the home of beautiful, bronzed, bikini-clad people everywhere you look. It’s the perfect destination for sun, sea and sand. Unfortunately, it also has one of the highest rates of femicide in the world. There has been a slew of violence towards women in recent years. It’s not often that it stretches to tourists, but the fact that exists within the culture is reason enough to make this list.
5. Canada (Best)
If you’re a keen outdoorsy kind of gal, pack your bags for a whirlwind adventure in Canada. If the scenery alone is not enough to tempt you for your first foray out into the world of solo female travel, the country’s solid track record for female rights might tempt you to fly away to the crisp air and incredible diversity.
Canada is super multicultural and many nationalities have made roots there over the years. Expats from all over the world have loved the place so much they decided to make it home. There’ll be tonnes of other solo females here so you’re certainly not alone choosing such a beautiful country. Canadians have a reputation for being some of the friendliest people in the world. They love to strike up a conversation and gush about everything they love in their home country. Looking around, it’s not difficult to see why.
The major cities such as Toronto have fantastic public transport systems, making it easy to get around. Canada is also one of the best places for a road trip, so hire a car or van and get out there on the road to discovery.
Camping is a fabulous option in the summertime if you really want to get out into nature. All the major national parks will have government-run campsites. Otherwise, there are heaps of accommodation options around the country from hostels to luxury hotels.
6. Australia (Worst)
A possibly surprising addition to the list, since Australia earns a place on many people’s bucket lists. It can happen anywhere in the world, but only in Australia have I had my boobs unsolicitedly groped twice in the same hour, in broad daylight, next to the beach. Travelling to the outback by yourself can bring a whole host of problems, especially as a female traveller.
Australia is one of the top countries for experiencing astounding road trips. But is also one of the most dangerous if you end up breaking down in the back of beyond in a land where even the birds want to peck your eyes out.
7. Italy (Best)
Make like Julia Roberts in Eat Pray Love and ‘attraversiamo’ straight to Italy. The magic of Italy is perfectly alluring for solo females. They’re also one of the most passionate nationalities in the world when it comes to food. If you’re the kind of gal who’s main travel dream is to eat your way around the world, it wouldn’t hurt to make your dreams come true and your pants a size bigger in Italy.
The Italians are also known for their great conversation. They’ll be damned if they let a passing traveller dine alone. Of course, you’re never truly alone at the table in Italy when you’re joined by giant portions of delectable pasta and exquisite pizza. The food, the sights and the culture are enough of a great reason to choose Italy as a solo female traveller.
But if that isn’t enough, Italy has been a tourism hotspot for decades. It’s well set up for visitors and English is spoken prevalently. Plus if you don’t want to feel alone, there’ll be plenty of other travellers right there with you. If you do encounter any unsolicited behaviour from the local men, do as the locals do: ignore them and walk on like the queen you are.
Most cities are very well connected by the rail system and it’s super easy to travel between them. Buses and taxis are also a good choice.
Make use of the many affordable hotels, Airbnbs and hostels throughout Italy. There’s a range to suit every budget, but make sure you do a little research for best practices in your area of choice first. The Airbnb situation in Venice has pushed prices up for locals exponentially, so stick to the hotels if you don’t want to offend.
8. India (Worst)
India is unmistakably beautiful, incredibly diverse, and full of culture. As a first time destination for a solo female? There are safer and more manageable countries.
The sheer number of people that live in the main cities in India can make it extremely overwhelming. Trying to catch an overnight train in Delhi takes a black belt in karate to battle the crowds. At times, just waiting in a queue can be stressful. As people are happy to push and shove with reckless abandon. It’s their culture and people here do what they have to do in their everyday lives, but it can be a massive culture shock to a foreigner.
9. Iceland (Best)
It’s been a long time since that Icelandic volcano erupted and stranded flights on the ground for days, forcing airlines into absolute chaos. Iceland is now firmly on the list of safest destinations to travel, not least for its pure landscape and unforgettable landmarks such as the Blue Lagoon. Iceland is a fabulous destination to pick for a solo jaunt.
There are more seals in Iceland than people, and they won’t bother you either. Catcalling and harassment is just not a thing here. (They don’t even have a word to translate it into Icelandic.) It simply doesn’t exist. Also, almost everyone speaks perfect English, so you won’t have a language barrier to contend with. Iceland is also one of the biggest advocates of gender neutrality and equal rights, annually hosting the world-renowned SlutWalk that has been protesting for women’s rights since 2011.
In Iceland, you’re free to be you, whoever you are — solo female travellers definitely included.
Renting a car is a fabulous way to discover this wondrous island by yourself, but it can be a little on the pricey side. Thankfully, there are also many tour options on offer for exploring Iceland. They are also a great way to meet people.
Accommodation, and indeed anything in Iceland, comes at a price. Quality is to be expected though, and there are numerous hostels and Airbnbs with many price points.
10. Kenya (Worst)
Kenya is incredibly picturesque, and one of the best places to travel for an unforgettable safari experience. But travelling in any developing country entails a higher level of care. It takes a little more effort to avoid muggings, petty theft, and even carjackings. But women need to be extra wary in Kenya due to the prevalence of sexual violence in the country. There’s a fantastic project ongoing in Kenya to teach boys that ”real men’ would stop rape”, and the changing attitudes for the future will hopefully bring security for all women.
11. Morocco (Worst)
There are some fabulously friendly people in Morocco, and the sights and sounds of the country are utterly divine. However, Morocco is not a place you’d want to find yourself wandering lost and alone down a back alley. Street harassment, wolf whistling, and a general sense of impropriety can be expected from groups of men, and sometimes even women in places like the bustling souks.
If Morocco is top on your hit list, there are a number of things you can do to help yourself feel safer and have a great trip. Watch how you dress. As a muslim country, most local women are dressed demurely. You’ll stick out like a sore thumb wearing high cropped shorts and a bikini top. As women, we shouldn’t have to dress differently to avoid the unsolicited advances of men. Alas, in some places and situations, it helps.
All in all, there some choices that are ‘safer’ than others. But anywhere you pick is sure to be an epic adventure. As a solo female, you can also help yourself enjoy your first trip by doing a bit of planning. Here are some quick tips to help out.
Research the country you pick
Do some Googling, make a spreadsheet, make a Pinterest board. Whatever floats your boat. Have a basic plan of what you want to do. It’s great to just wander around and discover a place, but you might miss a hidden gem if you haven’t done a little reading first. Sometimes you may come across something super special. On my travels, I’ve frequently found secret spots even the locals didn’t know about. Maybe you can introduce something new to their lives also.
Learn a little language
Learn a few words or phrases here and there and you’ll be well-equipped to get yourself around the country safely and happily.
Meet other travellers
If you do want to meet people whilst abroad, social media is a fantastic tool to get the word out. Post in Facebook groups specific to that country and see if anyone is in town and wants to meet up, join you on a walk, or indulge in a spot of lunch. Other travellers are usually more than happy to meet and talk to people traveling in the same country, and you can bond over a shared love of travel. Of course, don’t be afraid to speak to the locals. People love to meet others who have an interest in their beloved home country.
Look the part
Find out the mode of dress in the country you want to visit and pack accordingly. That way you’ll look like a local, equipped with the right outfit and the knowledge of your surroundings. Even locals will be fooled.
One of the most important things to do whilst travelling is to use your common sense. Always keep your valuables safe, don’t have them on show on your person or in your mode of transport. Don’t walk around looking like Ms. Tourist in an ‘I heart New York’ t-shirt with a giant camera around your neck, giant sunglasses, and a bum-bag full of cash. Be sensible and use the same logic you would at home.