A writer, an entrepreneur, a theatre practitioner and a marketing professional – all these women have one thing in common. Their love for solo travel. They share few practical tips for women who wish to travel solo.
Amrita Das (Travel blogger & writer)
She is a freelance travel writer and professional travel blogger, based in Kolkata. She has travelled extensively in India and also internationally. Only a couple of months ago, she enjoyed a winter holiday in Germany – travelling solo. Her blog Travelling Ides of March has weekly posts of her journeys, and her portfolio includes Indian and international publications.
Amrita’s tips for women travelling solo
- Carry a light handbag. Mostly because we need to go to the toilet and most of the time the hook can’t take more than a couple of kilograms. And it gets worse if we’re travelling by train within India.
- Carry an extra set of necessities (clothes, toiletries) in the cabin bag, when flying internationally. Airlines can be irresponsible with our checked-in bags, and we don’t want to be stranded in a winter wonderland without fleece or moisturiser.
Don’t leave food or drink unattended. We never know what’s gone in while we went for a loo break.
- Ask before photographing people, because it’s polite and means we respect boundaries. Also, gives us a chance to talk to them to know their story and passion.
- Be charming and make eye contact because it makes us confident, allows us to enjoy our journeys and helps break the ice with strangers or negotiate better at local markets. Also, works against creeps.
- This is what I do before I initiate conversations with strangers. Usually, I study them before approaching them. If they’re smiling back or keen to have a conversation, their body language is open. My first questions are along the lines of ‘are you from here’ or ‘how long have you been here?’ If I’m at a restaurant/dhaba, I tend to ask, ‘If you don’t mind, what are you eating? It looks delicious.’ or ‘Is that local cuisine? I think I’ll get myself a portion.’
- And if I get into a sticky situation with strangers, I make it very clear that I am uncomfortable and aware of the situation. First I tell the person off. If it is a situation where there is more than a person, I leave the place without any delay. If there is a higher authority, I report to/seek help from them.
Nimi Ravindran, (Theatre practitioner & co-founder of Sandbox Collective)
This globetrotter travels both for work and for pleasure. So far she’s travelled to Japan, China, Australia, Korea, Chile, UK, France, Spain, Italy, Slovenia, Germany, Pakistan, Bangladesh, many countries in the middle east, and also in South East Asia. And the list is only growing by the day. Have feet, will travel seems to be her mantra.
Nimi’s wise words for solo women travellers:
- Accept the fact that you will constantly get lost, learn to make time for it, and enjoy it. You will discover something new every time it happens.
Make a list of 20-30 words and phrases in the local language, download Google translator.
- Your eating experience will be much greater if you ask for what you want. And, more importantly, let them know what you don’t want.
Read: Why staying still is important while you travel
Rimi Das (Sales & marketing professional)
Being an “army brat” travelling has been a crucial part of Rimi’s life from the time she was a little girl. It is Rimi’s goal in life to “see one new country every year and soak in the food and culture of that place not to forget getting to know the amazing people in every new country.” Her first solo trip was to Hong Kong and Macau in 2011. “It was one of the most wonderful experiences,” she says, “doing things on the spur of the moment made it so much fun that I decided to travel on my own and take solo holidays after that.” Till date, Rimi has travelled to Romania, Seoul, Singapore, Prague, Munich, Paris, Krumlov, Salzburg, Innsbruck, Vienna, Budapest, Amsterdam, Antwerp, Brussels, Bruges and more
Rimi’s words of wisdom:
- If you are new to travelling solo and don’t know where to begin, first pick a place that is on your bucket list. I take the help of trusted ‘travel-designer’ in booking tickets, getting a visa and boarding and lodging.
- Stay in places that are centrally located. That would mean easy access to local transport, places of attraction etc.
Learn to say “hello” and “thank you” in the local language. It helps.
- If there are museums that you want to visit or shows you would like to see then book the tickets in advance to avoid last minute disappointments.
- Doing a bit of research about eateries in advance would do you no harm or affect your spontaneity.
Malini Gowrishankar (Founder of F5 Escapes, voice artist & trainer)
A passionate traveller turned travel-entrepreneur, she says she hopes to see India become a preferred travel destination for women travellers from across the globe in her lifetime.
Her advice to women solo travellers:
- Just go! Pack your bags and venture out on your own.
- Being aware and mindful of the surroundings at all times, but not to the point of being guarded.
Experience a place without being paranoid about safety. Remember fear is almost always the fear of the unknown. (Get to know the unknown)
- Trust the locals. They know better, almost always.
- Don’t hesitate to talk to people. You may discover a whole new perspective about the place, people or the history of the place.
And finally, let me add a few more pointers to the above list
- Be kind. Smile and let it be genuine. Treat the ‘invisible’ people (waiters at hotels, cabbies, bell boys etc.) the way you want to be treated.
- When you feel deeply uncomfortable inside you or a chill running down your spine about a place or a person, pay attention. Your instincts are automatically fine-tuned when you are travelling solo. But you don’t have to hold hands with your instincts throughout your trip. Just learn to listen and trust ‘em.
Pack an extra-large plastic cup or mug (without a bulky handle) in your bag. Or even one of those disposable environment friendly paper-mugs would be ideal. Trust me, you’ll thank me for this at some point in your travels. We are a community that’s had a long-standing relationship with water –much more than toilet paper.
- Always carry a large lightweight scarf or shawl. It’s a multipurpose item.
- If you are travelling abroad, it pays to carry a small tube of toothpaste. Unlike in India, most hotels do not provide you with toothpaste.
- Carry a bandana. If you are travelling rough, you might not get to wash your hair often. Bandana comes handy when dealing with oily, unwashed hair. Even otherwise it can be a stylish accessory.
- Lastly, always remember that a place will treat you the way you treat it.
I wish for every woman to be able to travel solo at least once in her lifetime. Because solo travel can teach you amazing things about yourself and the world around you.