Do Solo Female Travellers have it Easier than Guys Travelling Alone?

Dave from The Longest Way Home and Jodi Ettenberg from Legal Nomads.
Karate statues

Karate statues. Photo by Brenda Boonstra.

By Dave from The Longest Way Home

It niggled at me in Morocco. It snapped at me in Hungary. It tore chunks out of me in Iran and by the time China came along I’d given up on noticing how solo women travelers seem to get away with more than solo men. But, having spent so much time in the Philippines traveling solo, it reared its head again when I bumped into Jodi, another solo traveler in the Philippines.

3 Advantages of Being a Solo Female Traveller: A Guy’s Perspective

Easier social integration:

Solo women are not seen as threatening. They are welcomed into houses more often. They get invited to weddings and so on without hesitation. There is an incredible female bond even amongst two women that don’t share the same language nor culture. They simply get on.

Meanwhile the solo male traveller is often looked upon more suspiciously. Local women will stay clear, often times due to cultural necessity. Meanwhile, local men will often only engage in conversation if they think there’s profit to be made, or beer to be drunk.

It’s easier to complain:

I’ve seen the odd western girl shriek at the sight of a squat bathroom that’s not been doused in a litre of disinfectant for a day or five. It seems the male population have a problem with aiming in the right direction. Shame on us. Moreover shame that as a solo male I get looked upon as “not being man” enough if I complain about it. For the girls if they complain there’s often a nod of understanding, albeit only in hotels before action is taken. In public toilets; it seems whether you are male or female it’s often a hold your nose affair for everyone.

Getting hotel / hostel discounts:

I’ve seen the price drop – or full bookings disappear – for women who batter an eyelash at the male receptionist with a petite smile. Even when dealing with female receptionists, women can get a bargain because of female solidarity.

Some solo females may deny this has anything to do with the petite smile or female solidarity, but for a solo male it’s harder to get that bargain. After all that poor brave solo girl traveller needs a discount better than you. You’re a man, you should have a tougher wallet.

3 Disadvantages of Being a Solo Female Traveller: A Girl’s Perspective

By Jodi Ettenberg from Legal Nomads

Throughout this trip, I have been asked countless times how it feels to travel alone. In Asian countries, these questions come predominately from locals, and are often tinged with wonder and confusion. Why would I, a 5 foot tall woman, decide to embark on this trip all by myself? Aren’t I aware that the world is a very scary place? My answer is consistent and simple: traveling alone enables you to go where you want, when you want – and meeting people is far easier than you think. The main downside for me is not having someone to watch my bag while I pee.

That said, I’ve noticed certain inherent disadvantages in solo travel as a woman.

It’s not as safe:

Safety is easily the primary and most relevant downside to solo female travel. While men have their own share of issues to worry about (random bar fights innocuously caused by coughing in the wrong direction, anyone? Seriously – I’ve seen it happen…), it is undeniable that it is safer to travel alone as man than as a woman in this crazy world. As a woman by my lonesome, I tend to spend a bit more to stay in a central location or somewhere well lit, and don’t drink much if I don’t know the crowd. Seems like common sense, but many a guy I meet thinks far less of the consequences of a dark alley encounter than I do.

Travel in conservative, traditional societies is hard:

In cases where the society tends to be male-dominated from a cultural perspective, traveling alone as a woman has its detriments. To be fair, there are places in the world where this does not apply, but in many countries it certainly does. Men will address men, and strong, independent women who assert themselves are not necessarily well regarded. Of course, as Dave pointed out women are innately able to talk to other women with ease, usually worldwide. But those times when you need to get from A to B and you are being ignored because there’s no man asking the right questions? You tend to want to bang your head against the closest wall.

Peeing isn’t easy:

In most of the developing world, a toilet is an incredible luxury. Contrary to Dave’s assertion, above, I have no problem with a squat toilet. But when you really really have to pee and there is no toilet to be found, us women find ourselves at a significant disadvantage. Sure, there is the Freshette, but when I want to pee without standing out in a crowd, the Freshette doesn’t quite count as ‘subtle’. In places such as Mongolia and the Philippines, where men tend to pee out in the open, without compunction, being a woman is frustrating indeed. I’ve heard many guys tell the “yeah, the bus wouldn’t stop so I just whipped it out and peed out of the window. I mean wouldn’t you?” story. Uh, not exactly. My pee-envy knows no bounds.

Your Perspective

What do you think? Do females travelling alone have it easier than their male counterparts? Or is it the other way around?

About the author:

Dave is wandering the earth in search of home: a place he can call his own. So far, that search has seen him travel overland from Portugal to China. He has written about his journey on Point2Point and The Longest Way Home.

About the author:

Jodi Ettenberg is a former corporate lawyer out to prove that lawyers can have fun. Since April 2008 she has been travelling through South America, Africa and Asia. She blogs about her travels on Legal Nomads.

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Discussion »

  • #1Metalchick

    I couldn’t disagree more with Dave. Being an independent, female traveler myself, the advantages he lists above are cosmetic at best. I’ve personally seen men and women both equally good at achieving freebies, discounted hotel rooms, and rectify any sort of cleanliness issues without the fear of repercussions from the male population at large. In dealing with hotel and other personnel staff, the ability for a woman to leverage her strengths is equally as likely as a man to leverage his. The issue there is just learning how to negotiate well with confidence and a nice, polite attitude. However, the safety issue that Jodi points is is the most salient point of the whole article. There are times where I am limited in my travel experiences specifically due to safety concerns as a female. The vast majority of the time it doesn’t factor in but there are several times in my travels to places like South Africa and even downtown Cincinnati where the mere fact that I’m female limits my ability to walk in certain areas. This just my two cents for what it’s worth.

  • #2Nora

    Great perspectives, guys! An article I once wrote (for the non-traveling crowd) on long-term travel received a bevy of comments from guys suggesting that the only reason I can travel the way I do is because I’m a woman….I believe with every advantage comes an equal or proportionate disadvantage. But I hadn’t thought of the peeing issue as one of them (despite my own crossed legs more than once) – funny!

  • #3kimba

    As someone who has primarily only traveled solo (picked up a traveling companion here or there but never for too long) I can see where both Dave and Jodi are coming from.

    As a solo woman traveler, I wouldn’t say that I’ve gotten a lot of freebies, but I do find it really easy to meet people and be invited into their homes. I’ve also found it easy to create long term friendships with folks I meet in other places. I’ve often said that if I was traveling with a guy I wouldn’t have half the cool local color experiences I do because the attention of the travels would be totally different.

  • #4hoboxia

    I have to support Dave’s social integration point as a solo guy traveler, and I’m even an American traveling in America. It’s true I go three days between showers and have a massive beard by the end of the month, but I’m a likable enough fellow and only look Arab in certain lighting.

    Though I would say this is the only point where men have it harder than women (though it is by no means a superficial issue, if for no other reason than the loneliness problem). So overall, women don’t have it easier. I mean they have that smaller brain problem, they’re always getting pregnant, and they can’t own property.

  • #5Jodi

    Thanks for the comments! The peeing problem is common for me because I believe I have the world’s smallest bladder. On a 9 hour border crossing into Mongolia, I resorted to peeing into a 1L coke bottle, cut half way for a larger pee-radius. :) Safety is the most primary concern for me – I’ve met guys with great stories about solo travel through Pakistan and Papua that I cannot emulate without worrying about making it through in one piece.

  • #6The Longest Way Home

    @Metalchick I certainly agree it’s all relevant to the type of person you are too :) But I still stick to my guns ;)

    @Nora I like this very much. “I believe with every advantage comes an equal or proportionate disadvantage”

    @Jodi Please goodness tell me you’ve not had this issue on the banka’s up there!? :) btw I met some solo ladies in Pakistan. Good reports. While the solo guys seemed more worried; and hyped up everything!

    Dave

  • #7Jodi

    @Dave: During the alleged 5 hour banca from Port Barton to El Nido – which ended up taking over 12 hours – I jumped out of the boat to pee several times while the banca waited. Such it is, travelling with a teeny bladder :)

  • #8hiep tran

    It’s kind of funny the female author of this article is getting basically free room and food for several months at on of the most beautiful places on the earth. Plus, I noticed most modern, independent women travelers have short arms.

  • #9Bilety lotnicze

    I would think that it really depends on the areas one ventures too. If you take europe and n america I guess a female would have it easier than a guy – esp due to the less ammount of safety concerns. On the other hand asia or africa – not to mention the middle east would imo be too risky for any independent travel – be it male or female. There is always safety in numbers I guess.

  • #10Jodi

    @Hiep: My arms are not THAT short. I mean, I am 5 ft tall. Were my arms any longer, I’d look like a total freak. Also, the free room and board was in exchange for the website/menu that I did for The Alternative…but of course you know that since, you know, YOU STAYED HERE TOO. :)

  • #11The Longest Way Home

    @Bilety rather than the areas I would say it’s relevant to the type of traveler you are. Traveling in twos or groups certainly gives the feeling of safety, man or woman. But then you loose independence. Kinda where Nora’s comment comes in!

    @Jodi Ha ha, and I thought I’d get most of the pokes from this article :) Seriously though, fair play to you for getting the job for a room. More than what I achieved up there. It boils back to social integration; as a solo guy its harder to achieve this.

  • #12Pam

    Sorry, I don’t see this as a useful comparison of viewpoints. Here’s a guy saying “Women have it easy!” and a woman saying “Actually, not so much so.” More useful? Find me a woman who insists that women travelers have a easier time of it than guys do and set her head to head with one who says they don’t.

    Wit and charm will always win at the front desk, regardless of gender. But I’d argue that women are always faced with safety concerns in places where a man will stride through without a second thought.

    It’s different for girls.

  • #13hiep tran

    It is a joke when you tell someone they have short arms. It means when the check come to the middle of the table, the person with the shortest arms can’t reach for it. I wasn’t saying you have short arms. I have nothing but great respect for your honor and integrity.

  • #14Powered by Tofu

    I have to agree with Jodi on the safety aspect. While there are many ways you can make yourself less of a “target” in some countries: dressing conservatively, mastering the “don’t approach me” walk, making sure you arrive into towns during daylight hours etc, these are things that guys don’t even usually consider. So yes, it takes a little more work to be a solo female traveler. :)

  • #15Tanya

    I’m going to go ahead and say it’s way easier for a guy to travel solo than it is for a girl. Women in certain cities/countries/regions will be harassed by unwanted male attention the likes of which I doubt men ever see from women. For example, I was mostly left alone in Paris, but Nice and Cannes were a nightmare. You can’t go anywhere without getting catcalled, approached, propositioned, etc.

  • #16Sherry Ott

    I traveled solo around the world and spent most of my time in Asia – where I live now. I can’t say that being a solo female traveler in Asia is easy; nor were there any perks or advantages. In fact, I find that Asia is the land where western men rule…they walk in somewhere and they have a bunch of beautiful Asian women throwing themselves at the men. Fawning all of them. Where as I walk into a room and am completely invisible and generally not taken as seriously.

    I do agree that women bond easier together all around the world…and I do find that pretty cool.

    In my travels I always met more female solo travelers than men solo travelers – why is that? Why do fewer men travel solo?

  • #17Trudy

    I’ve never traveled solo when traveling internationally. My best friend, who is also female, travels with me. I find that it is great to have a friend with me while exploring interesting places. Honestly, the way women are treated and possible unwanted male attention does factor into where I go. Truth of the matter is that I live in South Florida and I encounter more rude, aggressive and disrespectful men here than any destination I have been to so far including Japan, HK, China, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. I am always alert, aware of my surroundings and plan things out well with my friend. I can’t say I am eager to travel alone though, not because I am worried about not getting discounts or even safety but because my best friend is better with maps than I am. Women should not let fear deter them from travel…besides most of us statistically face greater safety risks at home then abroad. I will admit thought that even as a traveler myself, when I see solo men traveling I am also suspicious. Maybe I have watched too many movies and read too many strange case studies in grad school but I tend to think that they are out looking for someone who is underage and trying to engage in something inappropriate. It’s just odd to me to see a sole male traveler who doesn’t even have a camera with him so the guy’s perspective writer may be right about easier social integration for women.

  • #18Babi

    I totally agree with Tanya. I am brazilian and visiting Paris and Rome was quite annoying. Sometimes you harassed just because you are a woman alone. Quite shocking even for me (with a latin background) but knowing other languages and act in a secure way are quite helpful in these situations.

  • #19The Longest Way Home

    Just on the point of harassment. I’ve known girls who’ve been groped, and spoken to in not so nice terms in many parts of the world. This we all know as travelers. But …

    Men also get harassed, and it’s becoming more prevalent. Walking down Las Ramblas in Barcelona in the evening, let alone night, I’ve been grabbed at rather viciously by prostitutes. Heckled and called at. I’ve seen guy’s with their families have to put up with this too. What’s more a lot of the time this is laughed at my all around. There is no rebuttal as people say your a man, live it up and get over it.

    Likewise in some parts of east Europe I’ve seen similar things mixed up with gangs of girls with guys in tow target men by creating a scene of sexual assault in the street. Then crowd around and claim for cash or the cops to come.

    In a different light in parts of Asia there are groups of “lady boys” who target men for both sexual harassment, or intents of crime. Likewise again the streets of prostitutes calling out, whistling and grabbing out with their hands.

    I’m not saying men have it worse here, but, I am saying its out there for men too just not spoken about; and, it’s getting worse.

  • #20hiep tran

    I never understood women complaints about unwanted attention. Men have been trying to offer their penises for you since you were 13. Men are more blunt in foreign countries because of the lack of english. Let me give a translation in men talk. In a bar:”Can I buy you a drink”=”Do you want some dick”. Weather:”Isn’t it a nice day”=”Isn’t it a nice day for some wild monkey sex”. Animal shelter:”Do you want to adopt a puppy”=”Please go to pen 15″. Church: “In the name of the father, son, and the holy spirit”=”Wow, your younger brother is cute”.

    I always heard about the safety condition of women travelers but I found the opposite is true. There are more stories of men getting mugged, stabbed, robbed, lied, cheated, assaulted, and all sorts of horrible things than women. Granted, most of the time the first thing a guy say when he start his story is “Man, I drank too much last night”. It is also the same line women say when they are talking about the guy they have met that they’re glad none of their friends back home will never know.

    Staying in an all male dorm is a all night session of farting and snoring. Staying in an all female dorm is a all night session of girls in bra and panties hitting each other with pillows.

    Men have pee envy too. This is one of my reasons why I wish I was black. In a moving bus, I would never have to lean over or asked the guy next to the window to switch seats. Just sit down and flip it over the opening of the window. The only thing I would worry about is not putting too much out the window or it might get entangle in the tires.

    Women have it so easy that they take if for granted.

  • #21Andy Jarosz

    I remember meeting a hitch-hiking young S African lady in the 1980s who travelled around Europe alone and without incident. She confided to me that she would take out an apple soon after got a ride and then with the knife she pulled from her shoe she would deftly peel it in sub 10secs. Being noted as a dab hand with the knife, she was never given any hassle. (Not recommending any carrying of knives here! :-) )

  • #22Koh Phangan

    I can agree with one thing, I have always felt bad for girls who have to go to the bathroom in some countries like china. It must be hard.

  • #23Bilety lotnicze

    quote: “Likewise in some parts of east Europe I’ve seen similar things mixed up with gangs of girls with guys in tow target men by creating a scene of sexual assault in the street. Then crowd around and claim for cash or the cops to come.

    In a different light in parts of Asia there are groups of “lady boys” who target men for both sexual harassment, or intents of crime. Likewise again the streets of prostitutes calling out, whistling and grabbing out with their hands. ”

    urm you just made me doubt any sense of traveling anywhere alone. None the less I think you are going to extreme – sure anyone can get into a bad situation (like even walking in a small group in Reo at times is risky – actually from my exp Reo is risky for everybody :D ), but we cant take minor? situations and make them the “norm” as it seems this thread is comming to?

    As to your earlier reply to my post – Id like to add that even an independent traveller can at times team up with somebody else when going to more riskier areas. At a point it becomes a question of safety vs independence. If one wants to place his/her life at “risk” for “independence” then he / she better get a reality check. On a side note I have seen some tourists in Botswana, where I lived in my youth, do real INSANE things in the wild.

  • #24Anna

    I would easily give up the “right” to flirt for better treatment (which doesn’t work with other women, and which I don’t do anyway) to not have to worry about sexual assault (unwanted comments is everywhere and more of a threat than compliment, unwanted touching is extremely common, and more serious things are always a risk). It’s unfortunate if this is increasing for men, too, but the majority of such things happen to women. They just don’t get reported (with good reason–police can make the experience even worse).

  • #25Stacey

    I think both Dave and Jodi make good points. As a female traveling by herself around South America (currently in Brazil on week 3 of what I hope will be a 9-12 month trip), I can attest to the fact that social interaction has been quite easy, even with the language barrier. As Dave says, women just “get on,” and I believe that we do (catty women excluded!).
    Also, I’m alternating between staying in hostels and couchsurfing (www.couchsurfing.org) and had an easy time finding hosts, whereas I’ve heard from my male friends that finding a couch is often a challenge. Both men and women seem to be more willing to open their home up to women.
    Of course, as Jodi points out, safety is a concern and a major one at that. Couchsurfing poses its own risks, but so far in my (limited) experiences, the worst I’ve had to deal with was fendng off a pass from my couchsurfer host!

  • #26Jodi

    I agree with Anna, above. It’s awful for both genders, obviously, but the reality remains that the majority of harassment does happen to women. The threat of sexual assault (be it rape or unwanted groping that spiraled out of control) is something that female travelers do not forget about. And as Anna said, oftentimes the police ignore it and/or make it even worse. That’s not to say that it’s at the forefront of my days, but it’s at the back of my mind no matter where I am, simply becauses the statistics of it occuring are staggering.

  • #27Laura Cococcia

    Just came across this site – and this article is dead on. I travel alone quite a bit, both for business and pleasure, and actually love doing it. It takes a bit of practice (the alone part) and practical planning (the alone and being a single woman part)…but it’s ultimately one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. And, I always, always meet great people along the way.

  • #28behlnai

    nah its definitely a LOT harder travelling as a solo woman. just the sexual harassement and strange looks you get (young woman travelling alone outside big cities?!) are a hassle. and like others mentioned, going out at night and stuff is always a little scary ahem.. *dark alleyway*.
    guys can pretty much do anything anywhere and no one would look twice.

  • #29Ling

    The safety concerns are different but equal.
    I think one of the biggest frustrations that solo travelers notice is from the social mores of how gender is treated in non-Western cultures.

    Race/Ethnicity and socioeconomic appearance also factors in how people may perceive or treat a traveler. That’s one issue that definitely will show in some areas more than others.

    Perhaps it’ll improve in the future given how new generations have less/no baggage are simultaneously exposed to wider horizons.

  • #30Claudia

    I have travelled on my own for bussiness and pleasure. When for business it is all straight forward. When you are travelling for pleasure I have been luck to find nice people around me. The hotels a stay at are rom Royal Holiday, a Great vacation club…..no worries

  • #31Mamon Roy

    Hey,fantastic blog..Topic on which you have discussed is really very interesting..I feel it doesn’t really matter whether you are female or male travelers when you are out for a tour. If you are in foreign land, you definitely have to be careful whether you are male or female travelers.

  • #32Varun

    Well,

    Interesting debate. From what i have seen, there is a definite soft corner for solo women travelers anywhere in the world.(for obvious reasons) and also because they have to deal with men, more than they deal with women.

    Things get interesting in interiors of Asia, where women dont enjoy the same social status as men. Men often get fascinated by mere presence of western women!! They do get lots of attention. However, they need to take care about the basic things for safety. A bit of common sense surely helps!!

  • #33Online Tourist

    It’s not safe, pure and simple. Not to get women paranoid, but disappearing female tourists are in the news, so there is a basis for this. Unless of course, the travel plan is well-mapped out. Backpacking solo females are not so safe.

  • #34lift surfer - the ride share guy

    Definitely not. Its dangerous being a female traveller. A male can generally go anywhere, any place. Trying doing that if your a solo female in say…. Iraq!

  • #35Florzzy

    I am Singaporean female. About 7 years back, I travelled solo to Thailand, Bangkok for 3 days.

    I stayed at a 2-star hotel near Chinatown or was it a 2-star, maybe 1-star(I was quite a goondu than, I didn’t check up on the hotel, cannot recall the name of the hotel).

    The hotel staff would tell me in a warning tone to lock my room doors since I travel alone.

    It was a free-and-easy trip but I joined the other people taking the same van that picked us up from the airport on organized trip offerred by the van driver to the famous Chinese monastry (I didn’t enter the monastry, just shop around the area and wait for the other people to finish), took a boat trip across the river where I saw huge cat-fish rushing up to eat the bread that was thrown to feed them. On and off, there were boat peddlers stopping alongside our boat trying to sell souvneirs in the middle of the river! In the evening we watched singing and comedy performances at a threatre, all the artise were men dressed like women. At the end of the show, you need to pay if you want to take photos with them. Then we visited the factory where they sold us leather bags and wallets.

    I didn’t like the hotel condition and would get out as soon as I woke up only returning there when it was time to call it a day.

    From the hotel, I took a cab to the Mah Boon Kong shopping center, the food at the Japanese restuarant there were good, then I visited the market where people say things were cheap there. I didn’t like it and I didn’t even dare eat the market food there, didn’t look hygenic to me.

    I was very cautious when taking the cab alone and everywhere I went I was on high alert because of the warning from the hotel staff and the travel guide.

    However, the people I travelled with were asians excep for two Australians who were mother and daughter, all of them were unfriendly and they kept to themselves.

    After 3 days, I returned to Singapore well and unscathed having explored Bangkok on a solo trip which I shocked my friends when I told them I went there for 3 days alone.

  • #36Harper Babin

    I see valid points in this post, but not thoroughly thought out. I disagree that females have it easier and are likely to get freebies with a bat of their eyelashes and a small smile. Receiving this type of treatment doesn’t matter if you’re a female or male it all has to do with how you carry yourself with confidence and if you are capable of negotiation. My father is an amazing negotiator and charmer and it was very common of receiving special treatment during our travel’s because of those characteristics.
    Also, I don’t think the safety concern of females traveling should be looked at in such a miniscule way. That is a HUGE concern to have if you are a female traveling alone. I feel Jodi didn’t think her post completely through. Because she says she’d rather travel alone because she can do what she wants when she wants however, that is not true because of safety restrictions. If you are being careful, as a female should if she is alone in an unfamiliar area then there will be many things you can’t do.

  • #37Travel-Writers-Exchange.com

    It’s a matter of perspective. You could say that a female solo travelers have an easier time of traveling solo because they seem trusting or friendly. However, there are certain countries where women are constantly hit on by men. This is why most female solo travelers wear a wedding ring and carry pictures of their nieces and nephews and pass them off as their kids. Safety can be an issue for any traveler. If you’re good at negotiating, you can receive discounts.

  • #38Solen Hussein

    Great topic and great responses. I traveled solo through Dubai and agree with the comments other ladies have made.I kept my arms covered and wore long pants the whole time, and donned my usual don’t-fuck-with-me expression, and was totally fine.

  • #39spletno oglasevanje

    Women traveling alone is a totally different situation than traveling whit a guy. I visit Kenya with my best girlfriend Maya and boyfriend Gasper. We were traveling mostly separated. Me and Maia were discovering seaside, from south to north. People were very friendly, specially guys, we were invited to dinner. .. On Diani beach we get to know “whisperer of trees” in one of the parks. It was so mystical and scary. We didn’t even feel so much fear there than after we left the park. We were so vicious, that we even heard trees grow and wispier.

    We didn’t have any problems with guys, we just said that we are married; we have a lot of fun outside. We visit one of the “Kenyan local pubs and it was so different than in tourist pubs. There were no “money girls” and “boys”. On safari there was a problem with peeing. We usually ask driver to stop and we went behind the car. When we were traveling together we look like tourists that are looking for fun and pleasure. I can say that traveling whit Maya was really better, people were different to us, they didn’t see just the bag of money in us, but also the person.

    We have to go to airport in Mombasa, for going back to city we ask some taxis for ride, they were too expensive so we went walking. After half an hour one of the taxies stopped and asks us, if he can drive us to the city for free. Because we were a little bit scared we didn’t went with him. We walk to the center and then we went by matatu. Later we meet again these taxi driver and we find out that he cames from Europe. We became friends.

    In Dubai I felt a bit neglected. I went with my husband. I don’t have experience of traveling alone in Dubai. Dubai is a wonderful city but in my point of view is separated on two parts, men side and women side.

    Traveling alone or with friend? By my experience you feel more authentic, genuine country or place if you are travelling alone or with girlfriends.

  • #40James

    I find it very interesting that all the people trying to disregard what Dave is saying are women. They often focus on one aspect of what Dave said (safety) and keep reiterating this point and disregard the other ideas Dave mentioned..

    Also, on the safety note, I think age makes a big difference. I’m 22, was an exchange student in South Africa for a year in High School, have traveled around the Caribbean extensively, and have backpacked Europe. I have witnessed numerous violent acts, most of which occurred between people below the age of 30. All of them were also between men. I think that the safest (statistically speaking) classification of people would be men above the age of 30. Next would be women above the age of 30. Then would be women below 30, and last would be men below 30. There are women, I feel, who had it much safer than I did.

    I backpacked Europe solo. My friend Lauren backpacked with her cousin. I think women, depending on how aware of their surroundings, have a hand up just because of what men will do for women. Lauren met a lot of guys, and was always with men to protect her if something happened. Me, being solo, made a few friends here and there, but Lauren basically had a bodyguard anywhere she went.

    We have to face the facts that although women are at greater disadvantage traveling alone, often times they do not remain alone, and a women traveling with a man is safer then just a man.

  • #41Nancy O.

    If you’re worried about a few yellow spots on a toilet seat, then maybe you should stay at home because India or China has a few more unpleasant surprises awaiting you.
    Age is the dividing factor in a traveler’s experience. I’ve done both, I hitched accross Europe as a young 25 year old leggy blond and done the bus route in Morocco as a middle-aged, gray-haired “old” lady. Yes, there are WAY more perks being young, no doubt, but don’t forget that you also have to be WAY more cautious, there’s the would-be predators, rapists and murderers (met a few). I can’t just drop into a bar by myself and get drunk and stagger home. I have to fend off all the local flies and mosquitoes and stay sober if I want to get back to my hotel in one piece. There are pluses and minuses with both female and male travelers, and both young and old. I’m currently blogging about my other experience, traveling with an 8-year-old girl, my daughter. It was, in many ways, the best experience because I wasn’t looked at as a potential lover, but as a mother, and I got a lot more respect from people.

  • #42LR

    Nice and Cannes in France is not that bad. The male-female ratio is equal. Look at India, China, Italy, Poland, Russia, Latin America, Africa, and even North America, for example, are far more dangerous countries for solo and groups of females to travel because males outnumber females population-wise, even in the Philippines. And that’s where men always pursue after women. It’s even worse to travel to countries in which there are more men than women, even for guys. Guys can risk being beaten or killed doing chivalrous things for local women, especially married women.

    Meanwhile the solo male traveller is often looked upon more suspiciously. Local women will stay clear, often times due to cultural necessity.

    Local women aren’t allowed to pursue and court men because it is a part of their culture. They allow men to pursue and court them first. It’s tougher for men to be sought after. Instead, you hear of solo or group male travelers pursuing local women and kidnapping them, especially married, engaged, or committed women and then risking violent attacks from the husband, fiance, or boyfriend.

    Solo women are not seen as threatening. They are welcomed into houses more often. They get invited to weddings and so on without hesitation.

    It’s easier to invite women than men. Men, on the other hand, are harder to invite. If local people invite them, they react very negatively and it emasculates them. They want to do the inviting instead.

  • #43Suzie

    I’m limited in my experience, however, I would say the most significant problem I have had as a woman is finding meaningful connections with locals. If they are men, their angle seems to always be about romancing me in some way. It could range from selling goods, flirting to wanting sex to wanting to marry me (e.g. VISA!). For women, it’s usually about selling me some good (fruit, jewelry, braids in my hair, you name it). It is very challenging to judge whether someone is truly interested in knowing you as a person or just wants to take advantage of you, as a woman. How do men feel about this? Do you experience the same?

  • #44wazza

    As a male solo traveler in America at the moment, I can would like to share some insite. I have a pee bottle in my Dodge Ram Van so I can go whenever!
    Assessing whether a situation, destination, area, person or the like is/has a level of risk of danger you are not willing to take is a personal assessment and changes from person to person depending on their prior experiences etc. Everyone’s level of risk taking is different, being aware of yours is important and listening to your thoughts and gut feelings will usually guide you well.
    Meeting people has been extremely easy for me when I’m in a town or city, sometimes having two or three offers a day to stay at their house simply because I think they believe I’m a nice, Interesting person (Australian) they would like to hang out with, get to know, sleep with, or just generally show some good hospitality for their country. Being polite, honest, caring, well mannered and smiling are a sure fire way to get what you want in your travelling endeavors regardless of gender.
    Being either male or female with the identical approach in any given situation will yield different outcomes due to the third person/s, environment, etc. You can only attempt to persuade others to help you get what you want whether it’s at the hotel reception or in a bar, although some are better than others at this ability, remaining honest is paramount for me.
    comments?

  • #45Michele

    I agree 100% with Dave.

    Whereas travelling females meet locals all the time and get invited to all sorts of activities (parties, trips to the beach), travelling males do not.

    Any adult man that is travelling knows how loneliness feels.

    Local females are not interested in meeting foreign males because the latter are not staying (ironically, this is what female travellers makes so popular among local men).
    In countries like Italy, local males lock out foreign males because of competition.
    Travelling females aren’t interested either in their male peeers because -most of the time- they are targetting local men.

  • #46Natalie

    In response to James’s comment – ” I have witnessed numerous violent acts, most of which occurred between people below the age of 30. All of them were also between men. I think that the safest (statistically speaking) classification of people would be men above the age of 30. Next would be women above the age of 30. Then would be women below 30, and last would be men below 30. There are women, I feel, who had it much safer than I did.”

    I hardly think that the ‘voilent acts’ that women are speaking about here are the type that you see inside a bar or out on the street. One would assume that they are referring to rape, and given the nature of rape it is perhaps not something that you are going to personally encounter, and is not the kind of story that one shares over a beer or two with any passing traveler.

    Whilst it is true that occasionally women can use their sexuality to ‘help them get a hand up’, this use of sexuality also comes with its own set of problems. Dave seemed to suggest that women with their ‘petite smiles’ flirt their way into gaining discounts, but frankly any solo female traveller with her head screwed on would not even dream of doing this, as arriving alone a country as a woman makes you especially wary of being seen as a sexual object. Being a Westerner already creates a bad image of us, we hardly need to further ingrain prejudices against us.

    Dave, you speak of female solidarity, but I think this is really pushing the boundaries of misogyny. The idea that women should share more of a bond than men is just ridiculous. It seems as though you are trying to say that we are all alike, but that men are all unique and different. There are only a handful of countries in the world where women could be considered equal members of society, meaning that the differences between solo women travellers and local native women are often extremely broad. Finding common ground with a woman who spends all day in her house looking after her children is just as hard for solo female travellers as it is for male ones. Which brings me to my next point…in many countries, women are confined to domestic duties, and it can actually be very hard to meet local women when travelling. I’ve spent a lot of time traveling through South/South East Asia and have almost always found this to be the case. It is easy to meet local men because they are out on beaches selling things, out in the bars drinking, etc etc. The women, however – well where on earth do you find these women? The only way you might meet one would be if a man invited you back to his family home. Now if you were a man you would probably say “oh yes! fantastic! I’d love to meet your family!” but if you are a woman and a strange man invites you back to his house…well that’s another story. What if he is lying about his family? What if he actually wants to take you somewhere and rape you? How can you defind yourself if something happens? Of course bad things can happen to men too, but its no secret that you are stronger than us women. For us to go anywhere with a strange man requires quite a leap of faith.

    That being said, I do believe there are certain advantages of being a solo female traveller. Dave you may be right with the idea that social integration is a little easier. I certainly get approaches a lot as a woman traveller, and I rarely ever feel alone. And you’re right, you do have to try harder to prove you are not a threat if you are a man.

    All this being said, the setbacks do not outweigh the benefits of being a solo female traveler. I always travel alone and I am proud to say I have done it. I think that as long as you play it safe, traveling alone as a woman paves the path for other women to help find strength and equality, and shows women that we can do anything just as well as men.

  • #47Robyn

    Being a solo woman traveller is much harder than being a man. Whilst I accept Dave’s points (and he is right that men have it harder in some less significant ways), I’d certainly trade the bad things about being a female traveller with my male counterparts (ie Michele, loneliness is bad but fear for your safety is worse). I doubt many men appreciate how hard (or impossible!) it is for women travelling in some countries alone. For example, there are some places women just can’t visit without a male family member escorting them. My boyfriend’s dad lives in Saudi Arabia and that is certainly the case there.

    One point that hasn’t really been mentioned as much is that men are able to be more relaxed and trusting when it comes to interacting with others than women, which really improves the travelling experience. Like Natalie said, whilst women may have more great offers, often you have to turn them down if you have to do them alone so as not to risk your safety.

    For example, if you’re a man couch surfing, you may get fewer offers than a woman but they’re likely to be genuine offers, rather than someone setting a trap for you. I would never stay alone with a man after some of the stories I’ve heard, including when I was training to be a journalist we had to do some court reporting as part of the course. One of the trials I witnessed was a rape trial involving a solo female traveller (I think from Hong Kong) and a male couch surfing host here in the UK, which many people consider a “safe” country.

    I’d also say that some men seem to underestimate how horrible it is to be groped (or worse) and the frequency of it happening. I can’t speak for everyone, but it can be traumatic and happens to a huge amount of female travellers. I’m sorry if that seems obvious but some people don’t seem to have grasped that. Depending on the experience it can be enough to put you off a whole trip or country (as it did to two of my friends this summer in completely separate incidents).

    I’m really happy for women who don’t feel like safety aspects affect their travels, but certainly after things that have happened to my friends in the past I am extremely cautious. I like travelling alone but I wish it was safer!

  • #48Craig

    In these days and times, woman especially, need to be very careful when travelling alone. As we all know human trafficking is a real threat when travelling as a woman. In so many countries woman get abducted and sold as sex slaves to the highest bidder. You might even be well trained in Martial Arts, but these guys can just slip you a drug in your drink, and it is all over.

    I do however believe that woman do get around travelling much easier than men. I myself would feel a bit suspicious picking up a male stranger and giving him a ride, than not being suspicious at all with a female a ride.

    Chivalry is not dead, some men still believe in being gentlemen.

  • #49Tanya C

    You’re both right! It’s so much easier to meet others when you’re flying solo but it makes it so much harder to pee too! It’s not so bad in general but it was particularly painful on Kilimanjaro. Great article!

  • #50Stella

    As a 30yo female who has travelled solo frequently over the past 12 years, I am glad to see Natalie and others taking off the rose tinted glasses. More than anything else, I wish to be able to travel as a male since being female causes more trouble than people admit. I have numerous points to make, but the most important of these is the lack of female solidarity. As a woman, especially in bars, female bonding does not exist as females tend to be competitive and many men only talk to you if they have an ulterior motive (iw. Sex). I
    The feFmale solidarity Dave mentions is a crock of shit. Just one ecample: tonight, in tokyo, in a hostel bar. 5 men, one other woman. Every Attempt of mine to connect is obliviated by the need to impress, not heartfeltness.

  • #51Audrey

    I agree that yes, as a female, we are seen as less ‘threatening’ than males so people tend to let down their guard more with us. But as a female solo traveller who’s also Asian, I can’t help but feel most of the times, I wish I was a guy! Maybe it’s just my own insecurities rearing their ugly head – it’s not easy to venture out alone at night and sometimes I just wanna go to a bar and get a drink but end up seen as looking for a hookup – paid or unpaid! And nope, it’s not the way I dress either. And while I have peed at some weird places – if you gotta go, you gotta go – venturing out often seems to be the most challenging for me.

  • #52Senior Female Solo Traveler

    This site and its contributors provide one of the more interesting commentaries on solo travel sites that I have visited. Thank you for a good read. From my perspective as a mature female solo traveler, I have to give a resounding “yes” to the “peeing” challenges females face. On the other side, the social integration advantages of being female is also a good point. I believe females do have an easier time being accepted by “strangers”. If I might add that being an “elder” also makes acceptance a little easier. I attribute that to the perception that we are less of a threat. I also believe that the vulnerability issue is present for anyone, male or female, who appears a good target.

  • #53Laureene

    I can totally see where both Dave and Jodi are coming from
    Its been 2years that i started travelling, and my main means of travel is hitchhiking
    My first stop was Georgia, the former soviet republic where i also stayed for 1.5years as an expat
    In Georgia, i could count the number of times that i ever used public transport, which really was because hitch hiking came easy for me there, either with a companion, but mainly alone
    Away from work, i spent my weekends seeing more of the country with just my tent and backpack, half the time the person that gave me a ride insisted that i came in to greet this and that relative, and ofcourse Georgian hospitality comes with wine, vodka and a supra that would last into the late hours of the night, ergo, i am staying the night
    I could count the times i ever got to spend a night in my tent, sadly the one time was to get away from a ‘helpful’ local that insisted that i cuddle with him, right!!
    nevertheless, my tent was un used because most of the time i was invited into some home or other

    There is also couchsurfing, which some people claim favors females in some countries like Morocco, Turkey, lets say most of North Africa.
    Recently in IRAN, i got invited by a male host , and seeing as my birthday was coming up, he proposed organising a weekend for me to celebrate my birthday…it was all going according to plan until i dropped that my friend was travelling with me too, a male..his response was ,’let me get back to you’…its not like i had suddenly mentioned there is a group of us travelling together and would he be able to make room for us all, no, just my friend and I, so he had ‘to check first’…

    I can say that travelling i have not used hotels except couchsurfing and i have had more offers from families and both males and females for a place to stay, but i know many males that have also received similar hospitality

    when it comes to hitchhiking as a traveller, i can say for sure that i have had more luck alone or with a guy when hitch hiking. In georgia, my male friends had an average waiting time of 15minutes before getting a ride, well as on the other hand, sometimes i car just pulled up without me even having to raise my thumb

    I can remember vaguely the number of females that gave me a ride, less of them than men. So while my male friends faced difficulty getting rides when hitchhiking, i bet they did not have as many sexual advances from their drivers as i faced…

    Female travellers have it easy,but at time at some cost or other

  • #54The Guy

    I think Dave and Jodi raise some very valid points and they are consistent with my perceptions based on over a decade of very frequent travel.

    As for the fight in a bar incident, I’ll be a lot more cautious of where and how I cough. What a crazy situation that was!

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