Top Tips for Solo Female Travellers Exploring Southeast Asia
Solo female travel is on the rise, with travel having become more accessible, affordable, and arguably safer than ever before – for the most part at least. Sure, it can be daunting travelling alone to unfamiliar territory – and questions and concerns may run through your mind like a high-speed freight train. ‘Will I make friends on my travels? Will I be safe? How will I know what I’m doing? What if I get sick?’ But rest assured, once you’re on the road somehow things have a way of working themselves out, and you’ll wonder why you were so worried in the first place.
Last year, I decided to embark on a career break for six months. I wanted to take the time to figure out what I wanted from life and what was important to me, but above all, to explore the world - experiencing incredible places and cultures starkly different to my own. Before I boarded my first plane to Bangkok, I had major butterflies and a fear of the unexpected (only natural of course), but, as I was soon to find out, it was possibly the best six months of my life to date.
So, if you’re a female traveller and adventurer considering a solo trip, don’t think twice, just book it. The world is your oyster and trust me, you won’t regret it.
Here are a handful of my top tips for while you’re on the road:
Look up the country’s traditions/customs before you go
When travelling to a new country for the first time, it pays to look up any local customs or traditions before you arrive. Otherwise you could end up in an awkward situation where you accidentally end up offending the locals without even realising it. In Laos, for example, you should refrain from taking pictures of monks. Don’t bear your teeth at monkeys in Indonesia, which is seen as a sign of aggression, and try not to expose any tattoos in Myanmar, particularly any religious or spiritual designs, as this can see you prosecuted. Mostly, it’s a case of common sense prevails, be respectful of your surroundings and the people and you should be fine.
Make sure your phone is unlocked before you go – local sim cards are super handy
Whilst it’s not essential, I found it super handy to travel with an unlocked phone. This means that every time you land somewhere new, no matter where it is, you can purchase a local sim card and have all the call time and data you need within minutes. I try not to be on my phone too much when travelling in order to soak up my experiences, but you never know when you might need Google Maps, to WhatsApp someone, or to take that all important Insta story. Wi-Fi can be limited in some countries in Southeast Asia, so I saw this as additional peace of mind.
Dress appropriately for the country or situation
As with researching customs and traditions before visiting a new country, it’s wise to adhere to any dress codes and advice while you travel too. Malaysia, for example, is largely a Muslim country – so respect your surroundings and cover up where possible. If it’s boiling hot, sticky and humid, which it often is, I’d recommend loose and floaty shirts and midi-length skirts, while a thin, floral shawl will be your new best friend. This essential item is also super useful for visiting temples anywhere in Southeast Asia where you’ll need to have your shoulders covered, although you can pick up beautifully intricate, embroidered versions from local markets as cheap as chips.
Don’t always follow a map – getting lost can be the best way to discover something new
Generally, I’m the type of person that likes to know where they’re going and how to get there, but sometimes getting a little lost and going off the beaten track can result in finding hidden gems and local spots away from the tourist trail. Sure, if you’ve got a specific destination in mind and need to get from A to B, follow a map, but if not, be open-minded and don’t panic if you get a little lost or end up wandering aimlessly – there’s always something cool waiting to be discovered.
Don’t be afraid to sit at the hotel bar – it’s the best place to meet new people
Fear of loneliness was probably one of my biggest concerns before travelling solo. Other than travelling for work, I’d never gone away by myself before and wondered if the solitude would get too much. Well, that was probably my biggest misconception. You are never alone; quite literally every step of the way I met other solo travellers and made friends at every place I stayed in. Some of the travellers I met ended up changing their plans to travel along with me for two months which was great. My top tip? If you’re up for meeting other travellers but, like me, aren’t the type to just bowl on up to a group of people, situate yourself at the bar – whether you’re out for dinner, or just chilling at your accommodation. You can get chatting to the bar staff about your travels and gain tips and advice, and naturally other solo travellers will come and talk to you. It’s how I met several new pals when travelling.
Go with the flow – don’t plan out every minute of the day
Before embarking on a solo trip it can be tempting to plan out every last detail of your day, from where you’ll be going to what you’ll be doing. By all means pre-book a couple of tours – here at Flight Centre all the stress of planning a trip and any day tours can be alleviated by our fabulous Consultants – but be open to leaving some free time to do your own thing. Half the fun of travelling solo is the ability to be spontaneous, after all - you never know when you might fancy heading off to that magical waterfall with friends you met at your hotel bar, or taking up a recommendation from an in-the-know local. Just imagine the incredible experiences you might have if you’re ready to go with the flow from time to time.
Top tip: If your plans do change last minute or you fancy throwing in a spur of the moment tour while you’re away, our lovely Flight Centre Consultants can easily sort it all for you, hassle free.