A 2019 survey by the ABTA Travel Association found that the average solo traveler is 47 years old and that 84 percent of all solo travelers are women. It also found that 65 percent of women from the United States have already taken a vacation without their partner and that 59 percent of those female solo travelers would travel alone again within the next 12 months. These statistics show that plenty of women are traveling alone and thoroughly enjoying it.
It took me until my mid-40s to finally try solo travel for leisure. Before that, I only traveled alone for work. Business travel is perfectly valid solo travel, of course, but I found that business and leisure solo travel require different mindsets and skill sets.
Having now experienced both business and leisure solo travel many times, I have found that there are certain resources out there that make solo travel easier, safer, and more enjoyable for women, plus less stressful for loved ones left behind. After all, while every trip involves inconveniences and risks, a woman traveling on her own -- no matter her age -- will face additional challenges.
The following resources are great for intrepid female solo travelers, whether new or experienced. You don’t need to use each one each time you travel, but it’s good to know what’s out there and to plan ahead, using some of the tools on one trip and others on the next.
I came across this site for female (and LGBTQ+) business travelers years ago, and I still recommend it. Set up as a source of information and training for women traveling around the world on business, Maiden Voyage offers a variety of helpful resources, from lists of women-safe and women-friendly hotels to city guides and travel tips specifically for women traveling abroad.
The Maiden Voyage team checks out all the hotels it endorses and looks for potential pitfalls like dark underground parking garages as well as bonuses like women-only floors or women-only taxi availability. The city guides are written by local ambassadors familiar with the sights, local customs and etiquette, and networking opportunities in the area.
Maiden Voyage is a great site to check out during the planning stage of your trip, whether you’re traveling for business or leisure. It’s especially helpful if you're intending to travel to a destination that may make solo female travelers uncomfortable.
Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)
The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is a superb resource to have access to, especially if you are a bit of an adventurer and like to travel to places that are off the beaten track. I haven’t used it personally, since I am not a U.S. citizen, but I wish I had had access to something similar when I was on a road trip in Australia. There were times when I went hours without seeing another car, and I didn’t have a phone or Wi-Fi connection.
Consider participating in the STEP program if you are traveling to a politically unstable destination, will be on the road for an extended period of time, or will have limited access to the Internet or news. It will not only make you feel more secure, but it will also give your family members and friends at home peace of mind, since they’ll be able to get in touch with you more easily than they normally would under the circumstances.
To participate, you’ll need to register with the government and provide your travel plans, dates, and contact details. You will get regular safety updates for your destination, and if an emergency arises in the region you are in, the embassies will know where to look for you and will work together to help you contact family back home.
Traveling solo is all well and good, and often we choose this path so that we can be alone with our thoughts and see and do whatever we’d like. But if you get lonely and would like to learn more about your destination or simply chat with like-minded people, the Meetup app can help.
The website lists countless groups across the world in pretty much every large city; you’re sure to find a group that shares your interests. I have used the site to practice my French while in Paris. I chose a level of language skill and met a group made up of some expats and some travelers all sitting around a table in a Paris cafe, chatting in French.
But you can also meet up with locals willing to take you for a walk around their neighborhood, go with you to the theater, or teach you to paint. The opportunities are limitless.
Even if you are set on traveling solo and not being accountable to anyone else, sometimes it’s nice to have a travel buddy to chat with and share experiences with.
Tourlina is a women-only app that can connect you with a like-minded woman who is traveling to the same destination at the same time as you (or a local who is willing to meet up and share her knowledge with you). There’s no need to spend your entire trip with this person, but it could be fun to connect for part of the way. The app brings together women in 160 countries and caters to all sorts of travelers, from backpackers to luxury vacationers.
There is absolutely no doubt that knowing a few phrases in the language spoken in your destination is a good thing. Even if you don’t go beyond “hello” and “thank you,” the locals will appreciate your efforts and treat you better. There is nothing worse than a tourist bellowing loud English at someone abroad.
There are plenty of apps that can help you learn a language. Personally, I have used Duolingo, and while I found it useful for the in-depth French I needed when I moved to the country, it might be too tedious if you just want to master some phrases. Memrise is great for basic vocabulary and is easy to use. For vacations, I like Mondly because it allows you to learn vocabulary for certain situations, such as restaurants or the weather, and while it doesn’t go into too much detail as far as grammar is concerned, it works well for the basics.
Viator is probably the largest online provider of local tours and trips. I have used it many times in order to visit certain sites that may well have been reachable by public transport, but where with an organized tour you not only get to learn and see more, but also get to chat with other people on the tour. It is not the cheapest option, but it offers trips to most major attractions around the globe, and these trips come in a variety of formats, from small-group tours to large-group tours and half-day trips to several-day-long trips. It’s easy to book online, even at short notice.
One of the most annoying things about solo travel is that there’s no one to watch your bag. Radical Storage helps people find venues such as cafes or stores that are willing to look after your bags for a few hours at a low price. With this option, you can be free to roam without worrying about your items. Radical Storage has storage facilities across the world in most major cities, and it’s really easy to use.
Now, it might just be me, but wherever I am, and whatever the time of day, I am looking for restrooms. Yes, you could stop for a coffee each time and basically pay for a potty break, but the Flush app shows you all the public options near you -- so much easier.
TripWhistle Global SOS
In pretty much every country, the local emergency number is different. The TripWhistle Global SOS app will tell you what emergency number to call for any emergency in your destination. It’s simple and useful, should you need it.
These are just a few of the handy resources out there for female solo travelers. They cover all your bases, from hotels to tours and from new friends to potty breaks, making for easier and happier travels.