Traveling as a solo female traveler can be an amazing experience, but also comes with its own set of challenges. Women must be aware of different social norms while traveling, especially in more conservative countries. However, the reward of traveling solo to less-visited countries is often worth the extra preparation! To help you get ready for your next solo adventure, we have put together this guide on solo female travel in conservative countries.
BEFORE YOUR TRIP TO A CONSERVATIVE COUNTRY
Making sure you have a great and safe trip starts long before you land in the country. There are several simple but important steps you can do to make sure you start your trip on the right foot.
ARRANGE YOUR SIM CARD IN ADVANCE
One of the most important tips is to make sure you have a working SIM card for the country you are visiting. While many people like to use their vacation as a time to unplug, having a working cell phone wherever you go is one of the best resources for both trip planning and safety.
Many US sim card carriers have an international plan, which might be easiest depending on how long you are traveling. For example, Verizon offers its international plan for $10/day which will cover you in 185 different countries. This is the easiest option because you can use your current phone and cell phone plan, but it can get very expensive if you are traveling for more than a week.
We recommend using a local SIM card depending on the country you are visiting. These are often much cheaper and more likely to work on the local network since you can choose which carrier you use in the country.
To do this, make sure your phone is unlocked before traveling. Simply call your cell phone provider and explain you are traveling internationally and would like to use your phone on a local plan while abroad. They will likely try to sell you on their own higher priced plan, but with enough insistence, they will provide the information to unlock your phone for international use.
Do your research on the best carriers depending on your country. One great website to find local sim card companies and prices is on the Prepaid Sim Card Fandom Wiki, but be sure to do your own research. Often times you can buy the sim cards at the arrivals terminal in the airport after you land. After doing this you will have a working sim card for your entire trip, often at a fraction of the price of using an international plan!
APPS TO USE WHILE TRAVELING SOLO
One of the main reasons having a working phone for your solo trip is so important is for the many travel apps you can use to make your life easier and safer. Sign up for an app like Find My Friends so a few people back home can track where you are. You can also set trusted contacts in apps like Uber to automatically notify selected contacts of when you depart and arrive.
For communicating on the road, Skype and What’s App are invaluable and will save you a lot of money on roaming phone charges. What’s App is also commonly used in other countries, so you will likely be able to contact your hotel or accommodation over their What’s App number found on the hotel website.
Of course, our favorite app to use while planning and booking your next trip is our very own Ubound App!
RESEARCH THE NEIGHBORHOODS
Doing proper research on which neighborhoods to stay in is always a good idea, and is especially important for solo female travel in conservative countries. Look up the city on various blogs and trusted websites like Lonely Planet by Googling “Safest Neighborhoods in [City]”.
Another way to find recommended areas to stay is to ask in Women’s Travel Facebook groups. There are dozens of groups with other women travelers who can offer their advice and guidance on the best areas to stay in a city. When traveling solo, it’s often worth spending a little extra money to be in a better neighborhood or at a slightly nicer hotel with a front desk and security.
LEARN THE VISA REQUIREMENTS
Many conservative countries have strict visa requirements which must be dealt with in advance. There would be nothing worse to show up at a new country after a long plane flight only to find out you should have arranged your visa in advance months before!
Make sure to do your research on the visa requirements as early as possible. Simply Google for the visa requirements for your country of nationality and destination country.
For example, Saudi Arabia used to have a notoriously difficult visa process, but recently introduced an eVisa to make it easier for certain nationalities to visit for tourism (though it still must be arranged in advance!). Keep in mind that some online articles are out of date, so it’s best to look at official government websites.
BOOK YOUR ACCOMMODATION IN ADVANCE
It can be fun and liberating to go on your trip with no plans at all, but we would recommend booking at least your first night of accommodation before arriving. You don’t want to land in a new country and have to figure out local transportation and worry about finding a place to stay, especially if you are alone late at night.
After deciding on a neighborhood, look up hotel reviews on TripAdvisor or Booking.com to find what other travelers recommend, paying particular attention to the “Location” scores. If possible, look for accommodation with at least a 9.0 on Booking.com with a minimum of 20 reviews (and the more the better).
In some countries like Morocco, it’s not uncommon to see big hotel chains slammed with negative reviews and unknown local places with suspiciously perfect scores. Local business owners may manipulate the reviews to direct travelers to local accommodation over the big chains, so simply use your best judgment. It can be best to stay with a big chain hotel in a new country for the first night or 2 to get your bearings, and then you can look at the more local options once you are already in the country to get a better feel for location and safety.
BOOK YOUR AIRPORT TRANSFER WITH YOUR HOTEL
Most hotels offer to pick you up from the airport. Though this can be slightly more expensive, the added cost is often worth it in certain countries.
Uber is not widely available in many conservative countries, and taxi meters are not always used. As a solo female traveler, there is a good chance you might get an exorbitantly high fare. Public transportation isn’t always reliable or safe in some countries, especially if you arrive late at night.
To avoid the headache and potential safety issues, it’s often best to book your airport transportation with your accommodation. That way you know you will have a trusted person waiting for you when you land so they can bring you straight to your hotel without being taken the long way or having to haggle on price.
PACKING FOR CONSERVATIVE COUNTRIES
Knowing what to pack for a trip to a conservative country can be difficult due to different environments and social norms. This is highly dependent on the country and even city you are visiting, so be sure to check reputable blogs and ask in Facebook groups. For example, what might be acceptable in Bali might not be appropriate in other parts of Indonesia.
There are certain things you should plan to pack. A scarf is an invaluable tool that can allow you to cover up and protect your shoulders from the sun. It’s easy to always throw a small scarf in your day bag so you have it just in case.
Plan to pack some long-sleeve loose blouses to cover your arms and not attract any unwanted attention. Similarly, a loose pair of linen pants is always a safe bet. And bringing a hat is always a good idea to protect you from the sun and for that perfect Instagram shot!
A good tip is to wear your more conservative outfits on your first day or 2 in a new conservative country. You won’t face any problems by being dressed too conservatively and you can always change your outfits for later on in the trip. Have a walk around the neighborhood and look at what other women are wearing for guidance.
FEMALE TRAVEL TO CONSERVATIVE COUNTRY WRAP UP
Traveling to conservative countries as a solo female traveler can be a wonderful experience if you do your research and take some simple precautions. As always, use your best judgment and talk to other travelers who have been to the countries you are planning on visiting.
If you are interested in traveling to a conservative country but would like all the details planned for you in a fun group, then be sure to look at the trips offered on Unbound! There you can find trips for women also interested in visiting conservative countries and make new friends while visiting amazing places.