Solo Female Travel 2022

I never considered myself a ‘female solo traveler’ until my trip to Puerto Rico at the start of 2022. Before that, girls would ask me what it was like being a solo female traveler and I wouldn’t really have an answer. I had only traveled through Europe and the U.S. by myself, and besides, I was really living in places rather than traveling. That is a whole other article, but the majority of my solo ‘travels’ have been living in one place and working for a couple of months. I take small trips in between destinations, but for the most part, I have a normal life and don’t do a whole lot of typical travel activities (like going on tours, partying, eating out, etc). Considering all of this, I didn’t feel like a female solo traveler. However, my first day in Puerto Rico changed that.

My first days in Puerto Rico were definitely hard (and at the same time amazing because of the girls I worked with at the hostel, delicious food, beaches, etc.). I couldn’t walk down the street for five minutes without being catcalled, stared at, or honked at – which reminds me, I need to start a petition to remove horns for cars owned by men in Puerto Rico. I don’t think I ever heard any man use his horn for the right reason. On one (special) occasion, a thoughtful gentleman reversed his car on a busy street to ask me where I was going and if I needed a ride. It brought back a lot of memories from traveling in Latin America with my parents. Even when I was a preteen and walking with my dad, I would be catcalled and harassed on the street. I distinctly remember several men on bikes turning around to look at me and almost swerving into cars, as well as the one guy on the bus who turned to stare at me and hit his head on the overhead compartment. (That, granted, was hilarious). At the time, I felt mildly disgusted with all of these unwanted encounters. Now looking back I’m even more horrified to think that grown men acted this way when I was as young as 10. I certainly didn’t look old for my age either.

I began this article while living in Puerto Rico and my stance at the time was that first-time solo female travelers should avoid Latin America. However, I realize now that this is a bit of an overstatement. Yes, I still think the destinations listed below are the most comfortable and safest options, but that shouldn’t dissuade you from visiting  Latin America on your own. I recently solo traveled to Costa Rica and am currently in Mexico, and have met many first-time solo women travelers who are loving their adventures. And of course, I also loved Costa Rica and think Latin America is amazing and should be on everyone’s bucket list.

Arenal, Costa Rica

Personally, I wouldn’t have chosen Latin America for my first solo trip. Besides machismo and street harassment, it is generally less safe. Sure, there are many other places I wouldn’t go for my first solo trip alone either, including India, Morocco, South Africa, and Egypt. These places are obviously as dangerous (or even more so) for women, but I also don’t hear many women who say they want to travel there alone. More than anything, I find that girls want to travel alone to Latin America, which is why I am focusing on it, so you can just know what you are signing up for. 

All of that being said, if you are set on going to Latin America for your first solo trip, you should definitely do it! You will have an amazing time, eat incredible food, experience rich cultures, meet wonderful people, and fall in love with the natural beauty. Just be prepared and know what you are getting into. Of course, if you are from Latin America or grew up in an area where street harassment is normalized ( New York, for example), you might not be bothered by such things traveling here. I might just be extra sensitive because I grew up in a small town (which had many, many issues but street harassment was not one of them) and am just generally a sensitive person.

So, finally, here are my personal recommendations for solo female travel! (take it with a grain of salt).

So what are the best destinations for female solo travelers?

I would recommend Spain, Portugal, Australia, New Zealand, Bali, France, Austria, Iceland, Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Belgium, Netherlands, Hawaii, Alaska, Croatia, Germany, U.K., Scotland, and Ireland. Remember to take into account language barriers when choosing your destination. For your first solo trip, I would recommend a place where you know the language (at least somewhat). As a bit of a disclaimer, I haven’t solo traveled to all of these places (and I actually haven’t been to Bali or Iceland yet), but I know from traveling to these countries with others and from hearing the experiences of other female solo travelers, that these are excellent spots! I plan to travel much more (as in, the rest of my life) and will surely be adding on to this list with time.

Best destinations on a budget:

Portugal, Croatia, Germany, Bali, Austria, Hungary

Braga, Portugal

Best destinations for English speakers:

Australia, New Zealand, Bali, Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Netherlands, Hawaii, Alaska, Germany, the U.K., Scotland, Ireland, Iceland, Belgium

Lund, Sweden

Best destinations for trekking:

Spain, New Zealand, France, Switzerland, Hawaii, Alaska, Croatia, Austria, Ireland, Iceland

Maui, Hawaii

Safest destinations (although all are very safe in my opinion):

New Zealand, Portugal, Austria, Denmark, Switzerland, Sweden, Netherlands, Australia, Norway, Iceland 

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Best destinations for solo female travel in Latin America?

Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

These are all gorgeous touristic destinations that are safe for female solo travelers. Towns that are tourist destinations tend to be the safest places to visit, which is unfortunate if you want a more traditional experience. However, you can always explore new places when you have had more experience traveling and feel more comfortable.

Costa Rica: La Fortuna, Manuel Antonio, Nosara

Mexico: Merida, Puerto Escondido, San Miguel de Allende, Sayulita

Panama: Playa Coronado, Boquete, Bocas del Toro

Ecuador: Galápagos Islands, Cuenca, Baños

Peru: Arequipa, Aguas Calientes, Puno-Lake Titicaca 

Uruguay: Montevideo, Ciudad de la Costa 

Chile: Valaparaíso, Pucón, La Serena

I should also mention that you need to filter all of the water you drink in Latin America, except for Costa Rica. That means you have to be careful when brushing your teeth, ordering drinks and food, and showering. (I don’t know why, but sometimes I randomly drink some of the water in the shower. Who knows why). Half of my trips to Latin America have ended with me sick from accidentally drinking unfiltered water; it really isn’t that bad, but hey, you want to avoid getting sick if you can. Luckily, most of the places I listed are very touristic and are accommodating about serving filtered water. It isn’t necessary, but you can also travel with your own filtration device, I’ll leave a list of options here

General travel safety tips?

  • Bring a lock, most hostels offer lockers but not locks.
  • Bring a travel wallet or purse to keep your passport, cash, and other valuables.
  • Never keep your phone in your back pocket and make sure to keep your bags close.
  • Invest in a roaming cell plan or local SIM cards.
    • I’ll never forget the one month I decided to forgo a foreign SIM card in Portugal, thinking I wouldn’t need it. I was completely fine until one night I found myself walking on a dark road in the middle of nowhere, waiting for my friends to pick me up. It was the only road leading to the retreat where  I was working and they had said they would be there in five minutes, so I decided to leave the retreat and walk down the road to meet them. Thirty minutes later, I realized they weren’t coming and that something must have happened. We didn’t have that much time to reach the pizza forest rave we were going to (and yes, it was really cool when we eventually made it). So I turned on my data which cost $10 a day. It turned out they had taken a dirt road and the car was stuck because nobody was used to driving a car with a manual transmission. Long story short, I should have invested in a SIM card with Vodafone like I normally do, because it costs 10 euros a month for 12 GB and unlimited calls. You never know if you’re going to get lost in the woods looking for a pizza party, so you should always get a SIM card.
Lagos, Portugal

Solo female travel safety tips in less safe countries?

Cape Town.
source: Azamara

If you are traveling to Latin America or Africa for example, this would be my advice for solo female travel. 

  • Wear conservative clothing (I don‘t really follow this advice in Latin America, but in Africa, Morocco, for example, you’ll probably want to dress modestly).
  • Be very careful when choosing your taxi. In some countries, people drive ‘fake’ taxis (which by the way, don’t google search that term because it definitely does not come up with a picture of a taxi) that pick up tourists to rob them. I can’t say how to tell which taxis are fake (very helpful, I know) but just ask the locals.
  • Always ask how much something costs before you buy it; the prices for tourists are often higher and you can also negotiate lower prices.
  • Always count your money when you get change back.
  • Travel with your backpack in front of you to avoid being robbed. This applies to places that feel especially unsafe or in crowded public transportation.
  • Don’t respond to men when they catcall you or try to engage in conversation. Don’t look when you hear them calling after you (although, I’ll never forget the one time I heard a man calling after me and I ignored him until he finally caught up and handed me my AirPods case I had dropped). Of course, feel out the situation for yourself, but in my case, 9.5/10 times the men talking to me on the street aren’t doing it to be friendly. 
  • Know when it is appropriate to get angry. Every girl I know has a different approach to when they are catcalled on the street. I personally believe it is best to ignore them (or glare or shake your head). It isn’t great to allow men to continue to treat women in this way and ignoring their advances doesn’t teach them anything (hence the glare or shaking the head). I haven’t found that yelling back, flipping them off, or any other variation to be productive or safe. When my friends have done this they are usually laughed off or become aggressive. The only situation I would say is appropriate for anger is if they approach you and are relentless. In this case, you may need to show them that you are serious. But to each their own, and the bottom line is that you need to do what will keep you safest.

How to make travel plans?

Flight: I use Google Flights, I find it is the best way to find the cheapest flights. I used to use Skyscanner and know many people who use it as well, but I prefer Google Flights.

Accommodations: I recommend hostels over Airbnb’s or hotels all day, every day, for solo women. You will meet so many people in hostels and it is a great way to get out of your comfort zone when you are living in a dorm with several other strangers. I also recommend choosing female-only dorms, which many hostels offer. I have had one too many weird experiences with guys in my room and the female-only dorms are always a safe bet.

My favorite hostel chain is Selina; it is a hub for digital nomads, yogis, and just generally cool people. The prices are fairly expensive for a hostel, but their facilities are always very clean, modern, and beautiful. They also offer co-working spaces, yoga classes, and events; it feels like a hostel/resort for people in their 20’s. The ones in Latin America are especially amazing.

Travel experiences: I tend to find landmarks and points of interest through Google Maps and then spend a lot of time walking around and seeing absolutely every part of the city. I don’t do a lot of tours (mainly because I’m working full-time), but hostels usually offer experiences as well as Airbnb’s. 

Nightlife: If you like to party, stay at a ‘party hostel’ (reading the reviews on Hostelworld will make it clear what type of hostel it is, very quickly). These places are usually less clean but you tend to meet a lot of younger people and make friends quickly. Also, try to find a party hostel that offers bar crawls, these are usually a great time.

Travel insurance: I have yet to meet someone who has bought travel insurance and I have never purchased it myself. Granted, my health insurance covers me internationally so I have never been motivated to research any other type of insurance. Personally, it seems like a waste of money for my own situation, but it might be different for you. 

Eating: I’m on a budget so I’m not eating out that much, so I usually cook at the hostel or get cheap street food. But here is my advice for choosing a traditional restaurant:

Avoid restaurants that have:

  • English menus (unless you are in an English-speaking country).
  • Big menus displayed on the street with lots of pictures of the food.
  • People outside trying to convince you to come in.
  • A location near the main square/street/etc.
Tamarindo, Costa Rica

These are all big red flags that you have found an expensive, touristic restaurant. Sure, they can have good food and a fun atmosphere, but they certainly aren’t the best options if you want a cheaper and more traditional meal. 

Solo female travel tips for apps or social media?

My favorite travel apps are Worldpackers, MeetUp, Maps.me, HostelWorld, and Omio. 

Worldpackers: This app is full of volunteering opportunities all across the world. Depending on the program, you can expect to work between 15-30 hours a week in exchange for accommodation and sometimes meals. On this site you will find work exchanges at hostels, farms, holistic centers, and schools. It is a great way to meet people and save money. However, I would advise calculating the hours they ask you to work and the value of the accommodation. A few months ago I started work at a hostel in Lisbon, it was 30 hours per week in exchange for a bed and daily breakfast. However, the room was pretty depressing and much worse than the guest rooms. The beds were $12 a night for guests (Including breakfast), so I was basically working for $2.80 an hour. Later, I worked about 15 hours a week at an amazing hostel in San Juan, where beds cost about $25, so I was essentially ‘earning’ $11.66 an hour. Of course, you aren‘t earning any money, but it is important to value your time and choose carefully when picking your work exchange. They are all very different! Besides Worldpackers, there is also WorkAway but I found it pretty crowded with lots of exchanges that didn’t interest me (such as AuPair jobs or home stays) but I do know others who like it. Worldpackers costs $49 a year and WorkAway is $44 a year, and with both, you can apply to as many opportunities as you want. Another option is WOOF, World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. This is another work exchange platform, and all of the exchanges are on farms. I personally don’t enjoy farming so I don’t have much to say about it, but I’ve heard great things about WOOFing.

MeetUp: I love this app and I’m hoping it will grow even more in the future. This is a platform where people offer classes or events in your area. They are either free, donation-based or cost a certain amount. You can usually find yoga classes, language exchanges, art sessions, and other fun events. If you plan on staying in one place for a while, you can pay a fee and offer your own classes. 

Maps.me: A boring one, but definitely very useful. This is a lifesaver if you don’t have data. With Maps.me, you can download maps and routes while you still have service and then use those offline maps later on. It still amazes me how well it works, even better than Google Maps, and it works offline. I downloaded the entire map for Costa Rica in less than a minute and when I was offline, it showed me every hostel, restaurant, and grocery store I needed. 

Omio: Use this when you are traveling through the U.S., Canada, or Europe. This is how I find the best deals on transportation, although I recommend searching on here and then going to the transportation company’s page instead of buying through Omio because they charge extra. Omio shows routes via buses, trains, planes, ferries, etc.

Hostelworld: This is the best platform for finding hostels all around the world, but once again, I would find the hostel here and then go to the hostel’s homepage, if they have one. Some hostels don’t have their own booking page, in which case you would have to pay directly through HostelWorld, which is fine. Of course, avoiding extra fees is always great.

My favorite social media tips for women travelers: Girls Gone International, Facebook Groups, and TikTok. All of these tips are mainly applicable if you are staying in one place for a longer period of time.

one of the amazing girls I met through GGI

Girls Gone International: This is a Facebook group and company for women travelers and it is one of my favorites. They offer group trips and much more, but I only know them through Facebook. If you look up Girls Gone International and then the city you are in, you should be able to find their Facebook Group. In these groups, you will find international girls living in your city (not just travelers) and they will post events, helpful tips, apartment rentals, and meetups. While I was living in Barcelona, I met some pretty amazing girls through this group, so I definitely recommend it if you are staying in one place for a while. 

Facebook Groups: It is also worth a shot searching Expats in *your city* or Travelers in *your city*. Random Facebook Groups can be surprisingly helpful and it is really the only reason I still use Facebook.

TikTok: This is a funny one, but if you are extroverted and like making Reels or TikToks, you could definitely make some friends on your travels. Posting your experiences in a new city or filming niche content (like yoga in Lisbon or crocheting in Amsterdam) will probably attract locals with similar interests. (Thank you for the incredibly invasive algorithms). I’ve had friends meet others through TikTok and even meet up because they have similar interests and live nearby. I’ve never had that happen but I could definitely see the potential!

Sign up for my newsletter and follow me on Instagram @honey_gouda for more solo adventure/travel content and other various musings. Also, keep an eye out for my next blogs about traveling on a budget and work exchanges.

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