In Paris, there is no shame in women going places alone and enjoying their thoughts. I’ve often noticed women of all ages sitting alone at sidewalk cafes, lingering over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine in the late afternoon while contemplating life, or resting with a good book under a tree in a park or garden. On my first trip to Paris, my boss hosted a small, late dinner at Brasserie Lipp. Around 11:00 p.m. a dignified older woman who looked close to eighty walked in and took a table alone. The waiters seemed to know her. They brought her a glass of wine and she settled into her booth. Opening a manilla envelope she pulled out a pile of newspaper and magazine clippings. As she sipped her wine she read the clippings, sorting them into neat piles. We left way past midnight and she was still there enjoying herself. Over the years the image of this independent woman stayed with me.
On my first trip to Rome, as a solo female traveler I was captivated to see local women sauntering down cobblestoned streets or sitting on the sides of fountains enjoying a gelato; office workers, moms on their way to pick up kids, and glamorous women in fur coats alike. They all had the confidence in themselves and their bodies to savor an ice cream, and the sensibility to take some time out for themselves while appreciating their city.
A dear friend of mine introduced me to the concept of spending time “with” myself rather than “by” myself. I’ve always enjoyed a lot of time alone, but somehow this phrase shifted my consciousness. Initially necessitated by work, solo travel has been one of my life’s greatest pleasures. In these quiet moments, I’ve been able to listen to my heart and notice reactions in my own time. It’s also allowed me to shed all of my labels and roles for a while, enabling revelations to surface that wouldn’t otherwise. It hasn’t always been easy, but through it all there has been a pervasive feeling of pride that I am a capable and independent woman. A trip may last a week or two, but its reverberations have been felt throughout my life and enabled me to enjoy traveling with others in a whole new way.
Below are some ways I’ve remained safe and kept up my confidence as a solo female traveler. Perhaps you are already a seasoned solo female traveler. If so, please share your tips in the comments. I’d love to hear from you.
10 Tips For Solo Female Travel
- The most important tip I can share is to trust your gut. Your body picks up cues you may not consciously detect and it could save your life.
- Do your research and select a hotel in a safe area of town.
- Look and act confident, try to blend in. I often put a little scenario in my head as if I were a local.
- Don’t make eye contact with men as they may take it as an invitation, especially on public transportation.
- Plan your routes, don’t look as though you have no idea where you’re going. This isn’t to say you can’t meander, but it’s safer to have a general idea of where you are. Also, sometimes it’s safer to take a taxi or Uber. You can’t put a price on safety.
- Be aware of who is around you. I’ve seen the same people at a cafe one night and at a museum the next day. More often than not, they are fellow tourists with a similar itinerary, but I kept an eye on them never-the-less.
- Don’t get drunk or hang out in bars alone. I’ll have a glass of wine at dinner or an apéritif at a sidewalk cafe, but no more than that. It’s important to remain alert and not let your guard down or appear vulnerable.
- I don’t like to tell people I’m alone or share too much information about my trip or personal life. It’s ok to be evasive, or say you’re meeting up with friends, you don’t owe anyone anything. As women, we tend to feel like we have to answer direct questions, but we don’t.
- Traveling alone doesn’t mean you have to stay cooped up in your hotel room as soon as the sunsets. There are certain cities where I feel very comfortable being out until 9 or 10 p.m. on my own. For instance, having a late dinner and lingering in the Plaza Santa Ana in Madrid or at an outdoor cafe in Paris when there are plenty of people and families around feels fine to me. However, I never take public transit alone when it gets late. If it feels safe and my hotel is close I’ll walk, otherwise, I’ll hop in a cab or Uber.
- Call me old-fashioned, but I think it’s important to be prudent about what and when you post on social media. It is so easy for someone to see who and where you are in real-time, leaving you incredibly vulnerable. Instead, editing photos and writing posts can be a fun activity while unwinding at your hotel, on the train, or at your next location for posting after the fact.
If you want to do something in a group or with a guide, below are three women I’ve been following for a while on Instagram who offer amazing opportunities to experience another culture and connect with others.
Baci di Dama
An Italian in Paris, Chiarra offers gluten-free food and chocolate tours of Paris. She can also tailor tours to be vegan or lactose-free. Traveling with food allergies or specific diets can be a challenge, and Chiara knows all the safe places to experience the best of Parisian culinary treats. She is a delightful person and you will have a great time. IG @bacididama_gf
Ishita is a seasoned solo female traveler who lives in India but has a passion for all things Italian. I’ve always been impressed by her penchant for finding amazing tours and classes as a means to connect with others and learn about Italian culture. You can discover many of these on her blog, but if you want help planning a trip she also offers trip planning services. IG @italophilia
Walks With Linda
Linda and her husband Steve, both Americans, started the Beehive hostel in Rome twenty years ago. Linda offers a unique service; rather than acting as a traditional tour guide, she tailors walks to each person’s interests or hobbies. It’s more like hanging out with a cool local and visiting places off the beaten path, discovering the real Rome. However, the service is also available in Orvieto, a small town north of Rome. Their hostel in Rome offers both communal and individual rooms in a homey atmosphere. They regularly host cooking classes, yoga, and story nights. If you want an opportunity to connect with like-minded travelers, the Beehive offers a strong sense of community. IG @thebeehiverome