Inspired by our International Women's Day issue last week, more readers share their best tips for independent travel.
If you're venturing out solo for the first time, explore your own country first. You'll feel safe knowing the language and culture, which will build your confidence quickly. Bonus: you'll meet people from around the world, people you can re-connect with when you travel beyond your home country.
Stay safe when alone on the road by planning where you're going ahead of time, knowing a few basic phrases in the local language, staying observant (no headphones), having a local emergency contact (the place where you're staying perhaps) and not showcasing any expensive electronics or jewellery (leave them at home).
Meeting like-minded travellers — get your nose out of your phone. Smile and initiate conversation with those around you. Stay in hostels but read their reviews ahead of time so you know which one suits your travel style. Seek out small tour groups suited to your interests (e.g., hiking, photography).
Have a fake wallet with laminated credit card copies with some of the key details crossed out and a small amount of real cash in.
If you are held up for your wallet give them the fake one. They will not check in detail, see the cash and run off.
Cruises are great for single women travelling alone. I like the idea of unpacking once and being transported to different destinations as well as feeling safe travelling this way. Most cruise lines offer solo traveller get-togethers which give you the opportunity to meet like-minded travellers. I have met some great friends this way.
When flying I always pre-book a window seat. This gives me a little more private space as well as providing a safe comfort zone for myself.
When travelling I also organise tours and/or activities by doing research before I depart. This gives me a schedule to utilise my time away.
I also meet other travellers by asking "Where are you from?" This generally starts an interesting conversation and I seldom feel alone.
Scan your driver's licence, passport, and birth certificate and email them to yourself and a friend or family member. If you lose your passport, it makes getting a new one much easier. Also keep spare copies of the scans somewhere else like a waterproof pouch in your suitcase, carry on, or bum bag, then if the worst happens and you lose the originals, you can show the copies to authorities if need be and explain your situation and prove who you are.
Always tell someone your itinerary. Email friends, family and leave your itinerary in an envelope at the hotel where you're staying, telling them when you'll be back and where you're going. It may never be needed but at least people know where you are and your ETA.
I love to travel solo. It's the best way to meet like-minded people, and do exactly what you want to do and see on your own time, and not worry about offending anyone. I recommend walking tours. As many as you can. You are among a group, so you can meet others easily - they are often very affordable, you have a guide telling you about everything and all the insider local tips. You can also ask all the questions you desire, and the local guides who are always passionate about their cities are more than willing to answer every one of them in detail.
They will tell you where to find the best offerings of food and drink, days on which exhibitions are cheaper or even free, and events that are happening locally that no guide book could ever tell you about. And with a walking tour, you are at a pace where you can be immersed, unlike being driven past sights in a tour bus snapping pics through a window.
If you are a female travelling alone and you want to avoid unwanted male attention, sometimes it is a good idea to have a handy "husband and child" back home. Take a few photos of yourself with a man and a child or two before you leave and create an instant happy family. If you are getting bothered, you can show your photos. Hopefully this will change their perception and attitudes towards you.
When travelling around India by train don't splash out on the expensive sleeper with 4-6 strangers, who may all be male - the general carriage is cheap as chips and you never feel vulnerable as a solo female traveller due to the number of families just waiting to adopt you into their fold. Such a great way to interact with locals, feel secure, and save money. Just book a semi decent room on arrival to catch up on sleep.
More travel-loving women share their favourite memories from girls' trips
JAN LOGIE, GREEN MP
I have one very good friend in particular, Jac Lynch, with whom I have had loads of adventures. I've dragged her undercover into a refugee camp on the Myanmar border to see first-hand what it is to live in a camp. We've enjoyed the on- and off-piste action in Queenstown at Gay Ski Week. We've zip-lined through the forests of Thailand in search of gibbons. We've accidentally ordered 10 things for breakfast in Mexico, trying out our non-existent Spanish.
In Guatemala, we had to crash a restaurant that was closed for a wedding, so she could access a toilet — unfortunately it only had a cloth door between it and the dining area, and she had food poisoning. On a brighter note, we've also free-camped and body-boarded for days at the heavenly Waipiro Bay.
JACINDA ARDERN, LABOUR DEPUTY LEADER
I will forever remember the trip to Belgium with my sister — for the waffles, and inappropriate footwear. We were both living in London when we decided winter was surely a more festive proposition in a place that had mastered such culinary delights as twice-fried chips. On that front, our trip to Brussels, Bruges and Ghent did not disappoint — our bodies' ability to circulate much-needed blood to our extremities most certainly did.
On day one I recall looking down at my sister's thin vinyl ballet slippers and wondering if they would be problematic in below-zero temperatures. Being sisters, we could complain bitterly to each other, laugh off our lack of preparedness, and eat our way around the city regardless. But maybe next time, we'll pack the possum socks.