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How to ace being a solo female traveller

Chloe Brewster

Thursday, 27 October 2022

Chloe, a French finalist, describes the advantages of travelling solo during the year abroad and how to do so successfully!

Usually when we think of holidays abroad, we visualise being surrounded by friends, family, or partners, which corresponds to the social norms of travel. But what about travelling solo, particularly for women? The world is sometimes seen as a ‘dangerous’ place for a woman, more so if she is alone, but there is something empowering and exciting about embracing yourself and evolving into a self-assured solo female traveller. And why not discover this side of yourself during your year abroad?


The background


Prior to my study placement in France last year, I had only embarked on a handful of solo day trips (who hasn’t treated themselves to a cosy afternoon in a chilled coffee shop?), so I threw myself somewhat blindly in the phenomenon of solo travel. My first big ‘trip’ took place during a freezing February weekend to Munich, which was just over five hours away by coach. I braved a rather long coach journey to the Bavarian capital which was perhaps not the most comfortable mode of transport, yet it only cost £15 per way from my departure point (Strasbourg). A win-win and proves that you can be both a brave and a savvy solo traveller!


Since those exhilarating and magical forty-eight hours in Munich earlier this year, I have embraced my inner traveller and travelled solo several times for the sheer enjoyment of it. Is it always easy? Not at all, and it wouldn’t be fair to gloss over the difficult moments that you may experience once in a while (top tip – always bring a phone charger so that you never risk being cut off from Google Maps!). But it is those challenges and hurdles which strengthen and make you into the dynamic person that you are destined to be.

Marienplatz, Munich (Germany).


With some hard-fought wisdom and perspective, here are some top tips for successfully acing solo female travel:


Be organised


You have probably gritted your teeth many times when your head of year has implored everyone to be ‘organised’ and keep track of things, but I really can’t stress this point enough. Your future travelling self will be grateful if you make some plans in advance. For example, download maps of the key places that you will be visiting during your trip, such as the train/bus station or airport in case you lose internet access. Don’t panic if you can’t find the bus station twenty minutes before the final one leaves like I once did in Munich – being prepared will hopefully keep you cool (albeit not in a scorching Parisian heatwave!) come what may.


The same also applies for accommodation (Airbnb, hotel, hostel) – prepare all documentation and check-in beforehand if necessary. Unlike in the UK, proof of ID is generally mandatory in European countries, so keep your passport/visa with you to check-in with ease (and in case you are stopped for proof of identity which can happen). Of course, the trip should be about having fun but sorting out the basics makes a difference so you can enjoy yourself without worry.


Stay safe


An obvious, yet undeniably important element of solo travel is ensuring your safety. Perhaps this factor is the most influential in discouraging more young women from travelling independently, but it needn’t be a barrier. Websites such as the Solo Female Travellers Club and numerous social media groups aimed at female travellers are really helpful for advice and support in planning and going about your travels. Certain countries are regarded as ‘safer’ for female travellers so it may boost your confidence if you visit those places first before adventuring further afield. So do your research but aware stereotypes and don’t automatically dismiss places which are deemed ‘dangerous.’


During my solo travels, I made sure to message a friend or family member every so often (usually to send some of the many pictures I had taken during my museum or cultural visits!) and carried an alarm just in case anything happened. These small measures can be very reassuring and are often part and parcel of women’s daily lives, whether we are going out with friends or travelling abroad.

Musée des Beaux-Arts (Dijon)

Meet other people!


When you are travelling solo, there is no right or wrong way to do it. You should simply pursue the activities that interest you the most - otherwise, why go travelling?. But of course, the experience is even more enriching when you can meet and speak to other people which truly transforms you into a global citizen. For example, the below picture of myself in the Musée d’Orsay was taken by a fellow solo female traveller who I then pictured because, despite our linguistic and cultural differences, we shared a common aspiration: travelling and immersing ourselves in foreign cultures (and fabulous art!). It is those unexpected encounters which are usually the most poignant during a solo trip abroad because you probably wouldn’t meet these people – especially those who are alone – if you were travelling in a group, and so being a solo traveller broadens your perspective of the people surrounding you.


If you are really keen to make friends during your trip, go on guided walking tours of cities or stay in a hostel (many have female-only dorms). After meeting a fellow Erasmus student in a tour of Munich, I subsequently visited a majestic palace with her and treasure those memories. Hostels can be hit-or-miss but you definitely have more opportunities to socialise and encounter fellow solo travellers than if you stay in accommodation alone.

In my artistic element at the Musée d’Orsay (and gratefully escaping the 35c heatwave!)


You do you!


What often holds back young women from travelling alone is the fear of being stigmatised or judged for being ‘lonely’ and ‘friendless.’ Indeed, there have been awkward moments when I have asked for a ‘table for one’ in certain eateries, and yes the world really does need to evolve into being a more hospitable place for solo people, especially women. But don’t wait until that happens – go out there, do what you want, explore for as many hours as your feet can tolerate, eat your heart out in a restaurant even when surrounded by couples or groups. It takes a certain strength and audacity to be your authentic self, and you will discover more about yourself by taking the plunge and travelling.


And who knows, your friends may want to follow suit, too!


About the Author

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Images provided by Chloe Brewster.

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Barbara Dawson

average rating is 3 out of 5

Lovely tasty dish. Try it you won’t be disappointed.

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Aunty Liz

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Very tasty and cheap. I often have this for tea!

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average rating is 3 out of 5

Being a bilingual family (French mother and British father,) living in France I thought your article was extremely interesting . Have you research on bilingualism ? It seems that when the mother is British and the father French and they both live in France their children seem to be more bilingual than when the mother is French and the father is British . This is what we called mother tongue , isn't it ?

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average rating is 3 out of 5

Such an interesting article!

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