Safety issues are probably the most discouraging aspect of traveling solo, especially as a woman. Many risks connected with being a solo female traveler can be avoided just by adjusting your plans and budget. E.g. giving up on parties and night walks, using Uber in places with uncertain public transport, skipping the dangerous districts. However, after a long day full of new experiences you always will need some rest.
So, what accommodation is best for you? How can you avoid unpleasant experiences traveling on a budget? Read on to learn more!
The first step is to decide on the standard corresponding to your needs. Luxurious or budget? Privacy or socializing? I won’t impose anything on you. While the safety tips in the further section are rather universal, here I’m only describing my experiences and preferences.
I tend to stay in quite luxurious hotels while traveling with my family, especially since I’ve started a “tradition” of women-only trips with my mum once a year. In the aspect of quality of service and utilities, it’s difficult to find bigger disadvantages.
However, traveling solo, staying in a hotel or other private room may not be the best choice. In February, I went for a 5-day training in a different city. My university was paying for the accommodation and I needed good work conditions, so for the first time, since I’ve started traveling solo, I decided on staying alone in the hotel. Did I like it? NO!
Solo in the hotel?
The biggest issue with hotels is… the boredom. February in Poland is rather cold, it was raining for the whole week and most of the museums were closed at the time. Not the best weather to go out and inside I was just sitting alone in my room. No friends around, not much entertainment (luckily I took my laptop) and nothing to do. It was even difficult to meet up with locals, as the weather was terrible and it was a middle of winter break.
One or two night in a hotel may be good for a luxurious treat between staying in worse conditions, to get a good rest after/before the long journey. However, as a solo female traveler, I don’t think I would decide to stay there for more than a few days. The same would probably go with
So let’s go to the total opposite – Couchsurfing. Never heard of it? It’s a social networking service going with a motto “You have friends all over the world, just haven’t met them yet”. In short, it’s all about meeting with locals, both for discovering the area with a local guide, as well as for staying at his/her place (or hosting other travelers). Have a spare bed? Empty coach? Or just a decent area of the floor for a mattress? In exchange for hosting you can listen to amazing stories about different countries, receive a small gift and above all, make friends all around the world. If you want to learn more, check my post about Couchsurfing experience in Tuscany.
But is it safe for solo female travelers?
It depends… I try to use Couchsurfing whenever it’s possible, mostly alone and with male hosts, but always stick to few rules.
- Choose only hosts with references – if they are overwhelming positive just few are enough, but the more, the better.
- Check the accommodation conditions – I’m okay with “shared room” (even if it’s just a mattress next to his bed), but would never decide on “shared bed”.
- Check negative references – don’t get discouraged by their number, read them! If it’s only about the distance from the center or about how amazing the host is you don’t have to worry about safety. When someone mentions sexual harassment or similar accusations, think it over!
- Keep in touch – I try to confirm my stay again a few days before arrival and when I’m already on the way (before bordering the plane, in the bus/train). Rarely your host may forget about your request.
- Be flexible and ready for a change of plans – once just a few hours before arrival, I’ve got a text from my to-be-host that… his couch got broken and I’ll “probably” have to share a bed with him. Immediately canceled and booked a hostel. Some people even run from their host after meeting or seeing their apartment.
Don’t be a freeloader!
Besides, be respectful and understanding. Give something back, if not your company (some hosts don’t have time or agree for not interacting with their surfers) then at least a small gift from your country. Keep everything clean and if they treat you with a meal, at least help wash the dishes.
And something in between. Good place for socializing, without invading stranger’s houses. When I don’t get to find a Couchsurfing host or need more independence on my trip, I decide on hostels. And if you’re not into CS, I recommend them as the best accommodation for solo female travelers. Even if you decide on a private room, most of the hostels have at least a common eating area with big tables encouraging to join others.
Female or mixed dorm?
If you don’t need so much privacy, you can also choose cheap dorms shared with other travelers. Many hostels thinking about solo female travelers offer “female dorms” where you are guaranteed to stay only among women. Sometimes they are a bit more expensive than mixed ones and from my experience girls tend to act less respectful toward others (turning on light or packing loudly in the middle of the night, talking while others are trying to sleep, etc). Therefore, in >6-bed dorms I usually pick the mixed ones. Once tried a 4-bed mixed dorm and ended alone with three guys (positive experience, one joined me during the breakfast and the conversation was going so smoothly that I almost missed my bus).
How to keep your belongings safe?
In most of the hostel dorms, you can find lockers, but they are often missing locks, so it’s good to bring your own padlock. If you can’t close your most important valuables (wallet and documents!) keep them always with you. In such situations, I put them in pillowcase during the night and use a plastic bag or waterproof vanity case to take with me to the bathroom (or even under the shower). If you’re worried about the safety of your luggage it’s also good to choose a top bed and keep your suitcase/backpack there.