If you’re a female digital nomad, or you’re thinking about becoming one, don’t feel afraid to travel solo.
According to a Forbes.com article on best trips for women traveling alone, solo female travel is on the rise and now may be a great time for you to hit the road. This goes for short-term and long-term travelers. As a woman, you may feel more vulnerable when traveling alone, but the tips I’m sharing are good for all travelers, regardless of gender. Safety needs to be top of mind for anyone who ventures far from home.
As a digital nomad woman, what you do need to do is prepare and also be vigilant while you’re staying in your location. We can’t pretend bad things don’t happen and that all travel is always 100% safe. Scary things can happen at home and on the road. But the reality is that when daunting things happen on the road, it can be harder to deal with. So, you want to try as much as you can to stay safe.
Here are five tips to help solo female travelers stay safe.
Research and Make Connections Before You Go
Before you go to your destination: Research, research, research.
And then research some more. What exactly should you research? Here are a few ideas regarding your planned destination:
- Where is safest? Where is not safe?
- Are there safety customs for the area (things you do, things you should never do)?
- Is there commonly accepted attire for women?
- How do you contact emergency services should you need them?
Remember that search engines are not your only means of research. You can learn even more accurate and nuanced information from people living in the area. You can use Facebook to find groups and make connections.
It would be ideal if you could connect with locals who’ve lived in the location for much of their life. But that isn’t always possible when you’re not yet there. The Facebook groups are your next-best alternative. For example, if you were planning to go to Lisbon, Portugal, you can search Facebook groups for ‘digital nomads in lisbon’ , ‘foreigners in lisbon’, ‘expats in lisbon’. There are Facebook groups for most locations. Here’s why these groups are a goldmine of information:
- The people/notes in the group can give you safety tips, dos, and don’ts for the area.
- You can connect with people who know the lay of the land.
- You may even find information that’s more up-to-date than ‘official’ websites.
- When you get to the location, you’ll already have connections and can maybe even meet up. Several groups I’ve connected with have regular meet-ups. This is excellent for when you arrive. You won’t feel isolated and already know a few people in the area who you can hopefully connect with in person.
While you’re there: Just because you’ve done research before you arrive, doesn’t mean you know ‘everything’ essential. Once there, continue to use your own observations and instincts about certain areas to get a feel for the safety of the location.
Also, because you’ll be alone, there are even more opportunities for connecting organically with new people. It’s a great chance to make meaningful connections.
Did you know you can download maps to your phone so they can be used when you’re offline?
While you’re there: There are some locations where it isn’t wise to be walking around, using your phone for directions. In places like these, if you need to use the map, try to pop into a store/café off of the street and use your phone there. It’s a bit more discreet. Of course, this is not foolproof (who knows who is the store?), but look around and use your judgment.
It’s impossible for us to 100% safety-proof ourselves – at home or while traveling – just be observant and do your best.
Know the Language Basics
This tip is for when you’re traveling overseas. In my article on how to overcome language barriers as a digital nomad, I wrote about the importance of knowing the basics of a language, especially when you’re not in a city where English – or your native language- is widely spoken.
The basics can help you communicate what you want, where you need to go, and also any urgent issues. The basics may also help you read signs so you have a better sense of safety and security being in a foreign country.
Before you go to your location: Make a plan for studying the basics. I find 90 days to be more than sufficient to learn basic vocabulary and to familiarize your ear with the sound of the language.
While you’re there: continue to learn the basics. Being a female digital nomad means you’ll be in a location for longer than the typical vacation time. Use that time to your advantage. There’s no place better than being in a target-language country to immerse yourself linguistically and culturally. For example, listen for announcements on buses and trains. Are there words you’ve never heard? If you can discretely take notes and look them up later.
Familiarize Yourself with Transportation Options
Before you reach the destination: research how people get around the city. What are the best modes of transport and what can you expect to pay? What’s safest? Quickest?
Also, have a plan for when you arrive. How will you get from the airport/train/bus station to your accommodation? Remember, not everywhere has Uber. Some countries have an alternative app and some countries don’t have any taxi apps at all. Find out what your options are before you go.
While there: talk to people. This can be friendly locals you connect with or other nomads, say, in coworking spaces. Ask questions to find out more about the best means of getting around.
Even though you’ve done the research, there’s always more information to be gained from people in the location over a Google search.
Saving Money Isn’t Always a Good Thing
Sometimes, saving money can be costly.
For example, you might find super cheap accommodation that has great pictures, and sometimes even great reviews – I could write an entire article about how you cannot trust Airbnb reviews – but the apartment could be in a dangerous area. Is it really worth it to save a few bucks if you don’t feel safe?
There are different levels of ‘sketchy’ neighborhoods so only you can use your judgment to decide what’s best. Just remember, savings aren’t always worth it.
Before you go: Do as much research as you can on the area of your accommodation.
While you’re there: be open to move if need be. Once you reach the location and can discern whether it is safe or not, be open to making a decision to move if needed. I’ve been a nomad (off and on) for almost a decade and have only needed to move for safety purposes one time. The Airbnb was in a neighborhood that was beyond my level of (dis)comfort, safety-wise. So I made the decision to leave. I lost a small amount of what I’d paid (this doesn’t always happen. Sometimes you don’t lose any money), but my peace of mind is priceless.
If you’re still on your journey toward becoming a digital nomad, check out my Massive List of Resources blog post. Hope it helps.