Guest blog by Laura Cooper at tripcentral.ca
There’s nothing like finishing a term of school, or better yet, having vacation time for a break, and setting out on a grand adventure. Whether you’re trying to “find yourself” (does anyone ever really do that?), looking to see the world through a different lens, or just living out a life-long dream to check something off your bucket list, travel is one of the best things you can do as a young woman. But it won’t be possible without packing your smarts with you to stay safe while on the road – or plane, or train. Over at tripcentral.ca, we came up with 8 tips to pack with you for solo female travel in 2016:
1. Fit into your surroundings
There’s nothing like feeling like the odd one out or feeling uncomfortable safety-wise because you stick out like a sore thumb. If you’re travelling alone (male or female, really), don’t wear something that screams “tourist!,” because you’re really screaming “pick pocket me!” Keep your camera in your purse, and do your research before you go on the customs of the area – if the culture says women wear headpieces or don’t drink in public, look into respecting the country and doing the same. You’ll not only win over the locals for your efforts, but feel safer while blending in.
2. Struggle through the local language
As they say, a smile can go a long way. Really trying to make an effort at the local language can, too. In European countries, a lot of people you’ll meet at restaurants or attractions will say they don’t speak English – even if they do. My favourite line when I was in Prague was “your English is definitely better than my Czech!” When I stumbled around saying “thank you” (“Dĕkuji”) to those I came across, they’d open up and stumble through their not-so-broken English. Making an effort will not only get you smiles, but also help you make friends in your hostel, while eating alone, and probably result in some great insider tips from the locals you come across.
3. Introduce yourself to your bus driver
If you’re hopping on the local bus to get from place to place in a new city, introduce yourself to the bus driver as you get on. This can not only make you feel like someone knows you on a crowded bus between a local neighbourhood and a busy shopping centre or popular part of town, but also means you have a smaller chance of missing your stop. Let the bus driver know where you’re going and try and stay near the front of the bus – the bus driver might surprise you by warning you when your stop is coming up. You can never go wrong with trying to add a sense of security when you’re heading somewhere new, can you?
4. It’s okay if you don’t “find yourself”
If you don’t “think” you have found yourself in Europe – or if you’re really convinced that you didn’t…that’s okay. Your trip wasn’t a waste. The fact that you had the courage to travel is more than most and it will change you in ways you might not realize until years later: congratulate yourself! You just tried food you never have before, and navigated a new language. If you come home and don’t feel changed, don’t sweat it. Whether you realize it or not, you’re now seeing the world in a different way, and you’ve experienced things others don’t have the chance to. (And really, if you’re still not convinced…you have a reason for your next vacation!)
5. Backpackers beware: sew a pocket inside your pants
Whether you’re opting to sew an inside pocket on a few pairs of pants, or if you plan to wear a small purse underneath your shirt, we recommend making sure your passport, credit cards, and money is on the inside of your person. Good luck to the pickpocketers trying to get at it without you noticing! Not having to worry about holding on to your purse tightly in the midst of crowds and busy marketplaces will let you enjoy your surroundings even more…that’s what you’re there for, after all, isn’t it?
6. Leave the bling at home
The fashion police won’t catch you on the streets if you leave the diamonds, pearls, and shiny bling at home. Take it one step further and leave your designer clutch or purse at home and trade it in for something that isn’t as valuable – to you and to possible pickpocketers. You’ll feel more comfortable not worrying about a special piece of jewellery or item so you can let loose and enjoy the destination in the moment!
7. Don’t avoid your own company
Even if you join a tour for a few days of your trip, or just an afternoon, there’s a reason you chose to travel alone. Enjoy time with yourself, and do the things you love! It’s not often that we have that freedom. That means you can eat that second croissant with no judgement. Don’t feel like going to see the Mona Lisa in Paris? Who cares! Don’t do it. Do the things you want to do, and be impulsive – some of your favourite vacation stops might be places you stumbled upon unexpectedly.
8. Use your common sense
If you wouldn’t be out until the wee hours of the morning by yourself and intoxicated at home, why do it in a city that you’re not familiar with, or a country that doesn’t speak your mother tongue? Using common sense will get you far in your travels and we promise it means you’ll have a blast on your vacation.
Still worried about solo female travel? Try a Contiki! You get the benefits of “travelling alone” without friends from home accompanying you: that means your memories are your memories, and you’ll get to plan lots of coffee dates to share your stories and photos. Group travel means there is safety in numbers and you’re not left to work out the details of the best spots to go on your own.
So go get ‘em, girl. The world is waiting.
Laura Cooper is a travel blogger at tripcentral.ca, a Canadian travel agency based in Hamilton, Ontario. With more than 100 travel agents, tripcentral.ca agents specialize in destinations and tours that their travellers want to see and experience.