The Best and Worst Places for Female Solo Travel
13 March 2018By Hillary Hoffower
A few months ago, one female crew member took to our forum seeking suggestions on where to travel solo. Traveling by yourself can be daunting, especially in a world where dangers increasingly seem to be lurking right and left, but the number of solo female travelers has been on the rise over the past few years. Done right, it can be a relatively safe and rewarding experience. In the second part of our travel series, we talked to the experts on four of the best - and worst - places for female crew to travel to by themselves. While this list is not exclusive, you’ll definitely want to mark these locations with a green or red light.
The Land of the Long White Cloud is one of the most visited countries by solo travelers, according to global marine travel company ISS GMT’s marketing manager, Julia Russell. “It's extremely safe and easy to get around and meet people,” she says. She recommends joining in with a local adventure planner, such as Women’s Adventures NZ, to meet other solo female travelers. With breathtaking views around every corner, outdoor adventure is available everywhere. Fun fact: commercial bungee-jumping began with New Zealand’s own A.J. Hackett — release some adrenaline and take the leap at one of these four locations.
While certain areas of Costa Rica have more crime than others, if you proceed with caution and hit the right places, the country can be a fun and adventurous choice for female travelers. Katie Stewart of Regency Travel recommends joining a group trip. “I often send single girls on surf camps or yoga trips to Costa Rica,”she says. “With surf camps, they’ll pick you up at the airport and take you where you’re going.”
If you really want to be on your own, indulging in a resort is a safe — and luxurious — option. Tabacon Thermal Resort & Spa in CostaRica’s rainforest merges wellness with nature, complete with a unique healing thermal mineral spring river from the volcanic earth.
The Nordic land of Iceland has been on the rise as a travel hot spot. Not only does it offer the chance to see the Northern Lights (if you're visiting from September to mid-April) and waterfalls, but it’s also a safe country to explore individually, according to both Russell and Stewart. In fact, the Institute for Economics and Peace reveals that it’s the safest country in the world, with a low violent crime rate. It’s easy to navigate, and as a popular destination, there will be plenty of people around at tourist spots. “Iceland…[is one of the]safest countries in the world [with] pro females traveling alone,” writes one Dockwalk.com member in the forum. “I just recently returned from Iceland and it is amazing. Beautiful scenery, safe to hitchhike, incredible landscapes, nice people, and an interesting culture.”
Test out your adventurous streak by exploring ice caves,diving between the tectonic plates, or taking a horseback ride on Icelandic ponies.
The Emerald Isle received a positive nod from both Russell and Stewart. “I would have no trouble going to Ireland and renting a car and driving around on my own,” says Stewart, who points out that English speaking countries are a more obvious choice for those traveling solo. “If you don’tspeak the language and you get into trouble, how are you going to get yourself out?”
However, she does warn that in relatively safe places like Ireland, you do open yourself up to the chance of more crime, such as pickpocketing, when you go to the country’s biggest cities — but bear in mind this is true of essentially any major city around the globe.
From the rolling green countryside to countless castles, Ireland offers up a ton of magic to explore. If your time is limited, consider a multi-day Shamrocker tour,which offers tours for independent travelers that cover Ireland’s best highlights.
Photo: iStock/Roney Jon
“India is constantly showing up on the radar for the worst countries to travel to as a woman,” says Russell. The U.S. Department of State currently has a Level2 warning for exercising increased caution due to crime and terrorism in the country and advises not traveling alone there, particularly if you're female. According to the site, violent crime, such as sexual assault, has occurred at tourist sites and in other locations. “A lot of girls are going to India, but it’s not a safe country,” says Stewart. “You read in the news all the time of people getting [into] trouble in India."
Take, for example, Russell’s experience when touring the Ganges River in Varanasi with the group she was traveling with. Thousands of locals were there at dusk; one of them took Russell by the arm to the base of the river and had her place candles in the water for her mother and father. “Not only is the water there horribly polluted and unsafe but I was then forced to dish out some rupees in order to reunite me back with my tour group,” I dub the experience spiritually horrifying.”
If you do go, wear long, loose clothing that covers your shoulders — Indian clothing will obviously be your best bet — and end your day early so you’re not out at night.
Photo: iStock/Douglas Olivares
Both Russell and Stewart warn against traveling to Venezuela by yourself. Not only does the country have one of the highest murder rates in the world, but it’s also witnessing an increase in human trafficking - a problem for both local women and tourists.
The Australian Government currently has a travel advisory for the country, warning citizens to reconsider their need to travel. For the border areas within 80 kilometers of Colombia, that advisory heightens to a “do not travel” warning. “We advise against all travel here due to the very high risk,” it reads. “If you do travel, you should typically seek professional security advice.”
The U.S. Department of State has a similar travel advisory, calling the country a high-risk area. Even some U.S. airlines have stopped flying there.
Photo: iStock/Jodi Jacobson
There is currently a Level3 warning to reconsider travel for Honduras from the U.S. Department ofState due to violent crime and gang activity. Russell recalls a time when thedaughter of ISS GMT’s general manager of North America, Chris Podolsky, visitedHonduras on business and had armed guards with her and a co-worker at alltimes. “Gangs set up road blocks to rob anyone who happens to be at the wrongplace and the wrong time,” she adds.
Its neighbor, El Salvador, isn’t much safer, also rankinghigh on Russell’s list of places not to visit while traveling solo. “In manyCentral America countries, you have to be aware of your surroundings,” warnsStewart. “Make sure your valuables are on you at all times, pack light, andmake sure you can see your stuff.”
Photo: Unsplash/Jeremy Bishop
The dual continent country of Egypt ranks low on both Russell and Stewart’s list of places for female solo travel — even if you're not traveling by yourself, it’s still a dangerous place. “Terrorist groups continue plotting attacks in Egypt. Terrorists may attack with little or no warning, targeting tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets/shopping malls, and local government facilities,” reads the U.S.Department of State website. The Sinai Peninsula, the Western Desert, and Egyptian border areas have the most increased risk.
However, the Egyptians’ hospitality and the country’s ancient history still hold an allure for travelers. If you can’t resist the pyramids, sign up for a small group trip to travel with during your time and get a good pair of sunglasses — making eye contact can be considered flirting in Egypt.