Traveling alone, especially for the first time, can be pretty daunting. While both male and female travelers face risks on the road, it can be particularly challenging for women.
But of course, it can be done. There are a lot of women out there who travel alone because it’s a very rewarding and liberating experience. Here are some safety tips from daring women who have managed to travel alone around the Philippines and are now conquering the world.
Stick to public places
When it comes to solo female travel in the Philippines, one of the top authorities is Gael Hilotin of The Pinay Solo Backpacker. This adventurous Filipina travel blogger has visited all 81 provinces in the Philippines, inspiring many other travelers, including myself, to follow in her footsteps.
She says that if you keep your wits about you and make sensible decisions, you can travel anywhere in the world. One piece of advice she gives for first-time solo travelers is to visit public places.
“It’s likely you’ll meet a lot of amazing people during your travels. While you’re still getting to know them, stick to public places such as restaurants and bars. Avoid, for example, going to someone’s house or somewhere more remote with people you just met. When it gets dark, stick to well-lit roads.”
Get to know your destination before you even head there
Claire Madarang of Traveling Light managed to travel solo around the Philippines for two months, and around Southeast Asia for three weeks. She emphasizes the importance of researching about the destination before embarking on any journey.
“Always do your research, especially if its culture is vastly different from yours. Research on customs, taboo behavior, and notorious scams, among others. This is for your own safety, even more important now that you’re traveling alone.”
Make sure you someone else knows where you’re going
Avid hiker Christine Fernandez, who chronicles her adventures on her blog Jovial Wanderer says that a standard safety tip in hiking is to never go alone. However, she’s had to go on solo hikes when companions suddenly become unavailable. In this case, she says it’s best to hire a local guide and inform trusted people of your whereabouts before going somewhere.
“Always inform someone where you’re going or leave them a copy of your itinerary. You could also ask that person to start looking for you if you fail to contact them again after a certain number of hours. As much as possible, let someone know where you are. This would help the rescuers determine a starting point for their search (in case something happens to you).”
Book accommodations in central locations
Nina Fuentes of Just Wandering, who has been traveling solo locally and internationally since 2006, suggests first-time solo travelers start with a weekend trip to see how they’d fare on their own before moving on to longer trips. When it comes to choosing where to stay, she suggests women take the location of their hotel or hostel into consideration.
“Consider paying extra for accommodation in a more central location. This way, if you have too much fun exploring and stay out too late, you won’t have to go far to head back to your hotel or hostel. You also save money on transportation, especially if most of the attractions are within walking distance.”
Trust your gut
Aleah Taboclaon, who started traveling alone at the age of 11 and went on a 70-day solo backpacking trip in Europe, offers a lot of guides and travel tips on the topic in her blog Solitary Wanderer. She advises female travelers to practice protective behaviors and trust their gut.
“Listen to your intuition. Wherever you are, pay attention to what your body is telling you. Do you, for some reason, feel uncomfortable in the situation? Don’t bother analyzing why, immediately leave the situation and seek a safer place. The nervous feeling you have (even though you may not be able to identify the reason why) is your body’s way of telling you there’s something wrong. Listen to your body’s discomfort and seek refuge. I have done it a couple of times during my travels and while I don’t know if I was right, I was happy not to find myself in a situation where I regretted not following my intuition.”
Have fun, but do it responsibly
Mica Rodriguez of Senyorita, who has traveled solo in places like El Nido, Batanes and Chiang Mai, says she finds it more fulfilling to travel to an unfamiliar place on her own. She agrees that female travelers should take the necessary precautions but still have fun—which, you know, is the whole point of traveling, anyway.
“Be alert of suspicious behavior, but not to the extent of being paranoid. Bring a small notebook containing all important contact numbers and address of your accommodation. Your cellphone might run out of battery and having a physical copy of these details helps. Have fun responsibly. You can do this by not drinking too much, and by dressing appropriately.”
However, traveling solo doesn’t mean you always have to be alone. When you go solo, you have a chance to befriend locals or form genuine connections with other travelers you meet on the road. In which case, Mica has this piece of advice for women: “Also, bring at least one black dress that you can wear which fits any kind of occasion. You’ll never know when you’ll be invited to a formal party or even a romantic date.”
Got more tips for first-timers? Post them in the comments!