Do you have the travel itch? Are you considering traveling solo to a new country? I have been traveling alone for several decades, and I don’t intend to stop exploring this world even as I get older. If you’re like me, you are well aware that you have to consider your safety while traveling alone as an older woman. I, of course, do my research before deciding where to go.
Some countries are considered safer than others to travel as solo female travelers. Of course, it’s obvious that it’s not a good idea to travel to a war-torn country or where civil unrest exists, but there are also other underlying factors to consider before traveling abroad.
Here are a few things I do before deciding on a country to visit.
Check the official travel advisories from several governments, including the US Department of State, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and the Canadian Government’s travel advisory website, to determine which countries they consider safe for travel at your moment of planning. They typically have a general sense of what is happening in the world and forward advisories if there is conflict or violence in certain countries.
Check the rankings and reports from organizations such as the Global Peace Index and the World Economic Forum’s Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report to identify countries with low crime rates, stable political situations, and strong tourism infrastructure.
Look at recommendations from travel experts and bloggers who specialize in senior travel to identify destinations that are safe and comfortable for senior women travelers. The AARP travel section and the Never Stop Traveling website are good sources of information.
Remember, the perception of safety can vary greatly from person to person, but some countries are generally considered to be safer for solo women travelers than others.
Later in the article, we have some helpful tips and advice from avid travelers and adventurers on how to stay safe while traveling solo.
Based on these sources, I compiled a list of countries that are generally considered safe for senior women to travel to, but please note that no destination is completely risk-free.
It’s important to exercise caution and follow basic safety precautions while traveling, such as keeping your valuables secure, staying aware of your surroundings, and avoiding any unsafe situations.
Switzerland is a beautiful and diverse country with a rich cultural heritage, strong economy, and high standard of living. Its stunning alpine scenery, world-class museums and galleries, and focus on quality and precision make it a popular destination.
It is a safe and comfortable destination for older women travelers because of its well-developed infrastructure, low crime rates, and welcoming culture.
Japan is a captivating and exquisite country with a rich cultural heritage, advanced technology, and a high standard of living. Its unique blend of ancient traditions and modern technology, along with its polite and hospitable culture, make it a popular destination for travelers from around the world.
Japan’s low crime rates, efficient public transportation, excellent healthcare system, polite and respectful culture, and senior-friendly facilities make it a safe and comfortable destination for senior women travelers.
Iceland is a mesmerizing and stunning country with a distinctive culture and breathtaking natural beauty. Its geothermal activity, glaciers, waterfalls, and other natural attractions make it a popular destination for tourists from around the world, while its vibrant arts and culture scene and rich history make it a fascinating place to explore.
Iceland’s low crime rates, well-developed infrastructure, accessible nature, high-quality healthcare system, and English-speaking population make it a safe and comfortable destination for women over 60.
New Zealand is a captivating and welcoming country with a unique culture and stunning untouched beauty. Its mountains, lakes, beaches, and other natural attractions make it a popular destination and fascinating place to discover.
New Zealand’s low crime rates, friendly culture, high-quality healthcare, well-developed tourism infrastructure, natural beauty, and English-speaking population make it a safe and comfortable destination for older women to travel to.
Canada is a diverse and welcoming country with a strong economy, rich culture, and stunning natural beauty. Its multicultural population, strong arts and culture scene, and range of outdoor activities make it an appealing destination for travelers from around the world.
Canada’s low crime rates, friendly culture, high-quality healthcare, well-developed tourism infrastructure, natural beauty, and English-speaking population make it a secure destination for older women travelers.
Finland is a country with a unique culture, stunning natural beauty, and a strong emphasis on equality and education. Its technology and innovation industries, outdoor activities, and unique attractions make it an appealing destination for travelers from around the world.
Finland is generally considered a very safe country for travelers, including solo older women. The country has a low crime rate, and the Finnish people are known for being very friendly and helpful to visitors. Finland also has good infrastructure, with a reliable public transportation system and plenty of English-speaking locals.
Germany is a captivating and eclectic country with much to offer visitors of all ages. Its rich history, vibrant culture, and beautiful landscapes make it a favored destination for visitors from around the world.
Germany is generally considered a safe country for tourists, including older women. The crime rate in Germany is relatively low, and violent crime is rare. German cities are generally well-lit and have good public transportation options, making it easy to navigate and stay safe.
Singapore is a modern, cosmopolitan country with a unique blend of cultures and attractions. With its vibrant culture, delicious cuisine, and stunning attractions, Singapore has much to offer.
Its advanced infrastructure, efficient transportation system, and low crime rate make it a safe and convenient country for travelers of all ages and a great destination for solo senior women travelers.
Norway is a Scandinavian country located in Northern Europe. It is a lovely and welcoming country with a wealthy cultural heritage and plenty to offer visitors. Its natural beauty, outdoor activities, and friendly people make it a popular destination for travelers seeking adventure and exploration.
Costa Rica is a Central American country known for its tropical climate, rainforests, and beaches. The official language is Spanish, and the economy is stable with a focus on tourism, agriculture, and technology exports. The country has a rich culture influenced by Spanish colonial heritage and indigenous and Afro-Caribbean populations and has a history of political stability and social progress.
Costa Rica is a popular tourist destination with attractions such as beaches, volcanoes, and national parks.
It’s important to note that while these countries may be considered safe, it’s always essential to research your specific destinations and take appropriate safety precautions.
Solo women travelers share their knowledge and experiences about traveling solo as women over 50.
Lynn Clare, an avid traveler and Sixty & Me contributor, shares her helpful tips and tricks to stay safe while traveling.
No matter where you are (airport, train station, restaurant, hotel etc,) it is always important to notice what is going on around you. If you are in a busy public place, you should know where the exits are and who is nearby that can assist you in the event of an emergency.
If you are traveling in a foreign country, make sure to learn some key phrases in the local language and what the emergency call number is.
People are very kind and helpful when they realize you are a woman traveling on your own. At the same time, you must be careful about giving out too much personal information.
I do not give my full – or even real name – to anyone, except the airline, hotel or car rental company. I like to be prepared with an alternative name and email address. This way, I’m not caught off guard when someone asks to stay in touch.
I keep my luggage tag reversed and only put my last name and email address on it. This way, it cannot be seen by anyone standing in the queue next to me. I also keep my personal documents in a closed location, out of public view.
At the hotel, after I have checked in, I memorize my room number and discard the sleeve. I like knowing that, if I lose my key, no one will know what room I am in.
While in your room, always use the do not disturb sign and keep all internal locks secured. I have been walked in on by housekeeping and even other guests, who were accidently given a key to my room.
I also carry a small, lightweight lock, for those doors that don’t have a good internal lock or, in some cases, none at all.
I prefer to stay at a hotel with a restaurant. This way, I can have my meals without having to leave the premises. Sometimes, especially if I’ve gotten in late and there’s bad weather, or it’s a dodgy neighborhood, I can just have my dinner and wait to go out the next day.
Do not go anywhere with strangers. The hotel should be able to arrange safe transportation for you when you go out and provide information on what is available for your return.
There might not be shuttle or taxi cab available when you come back, so, it’s best to plan your return transportation before you leave. I always take a card from the hotel so I have the address handy.
Do not post your plans or location on social media until after you have returned from your trip. Trust your instincts and use common sense anytime you are out and about.
I like to travel light. I only take carry-on baggage, one rolling backpack and one zippered tote. I can easily manage these bags without assistance and always know where everything is. The only purse or handbag I use is something small with a shoulder strap that goes under my jacket or sweater.
Always use the room safe or ask the front desk to store valuables while you are out. I keep a photocopy of my passport in a separate location and email a copy to myself so I can access it anytime.
Travel is a wonderful, albeit unpredictable, adventure. You need to be able to adapt and adjust to whatever happens. Some of my best experiences have come from circumstances that initially seemed like a problem.
Julia Hubbel, another Sixty & Me contributor, is a prize-winning author, journalist, speaker, and international adventure traveler. She shares with us her “self-defense list” that she has adopted and that has kept her safe over decades of traveling.
Never go out past 7 p.m. unless you are with a group that has a designated driver or a guide given the task to get you home. Entrust that to a group member or someone vetted by your hotel.
Adapt the Alien stride. If you don’t know what I mean, let me explain.
Sigourney Weaver is over six feet tall. In the movie Alien, she has the authority and command that brooks no interference. She’s my muse. So, when I’m in a foreign country – especially in developing nations – I affect a strong, powerful stride when I walk alone.
I look people directly in the eye until they look down, especially if it’s someone clearly searching for an easy mark. If someone grabs me, the way determined shopkeepers can, say in Kathmandu, I immediately swivel and release myself.
Then I ask in my best command voice (I’m ex-Army), “HOW CAN I HELP YOU?”
I don’t like being touched or grabbed by strangers anywhere. Most people don’t expect this reaction. They let go immediately. Now, if you need to, you can take off.
You might find this a bit aggressive. It has likely saved my life more than once. In my mind, people who grab, unless they are desperate for help, don’t incite trust.
Never look, act, or talk like a potential victim. Hesitance, stopping in the middle of the street to fumble with a map, clearly being confused, all telegraph that you’re an easy target.
Get a trusted guide if you don’t know where you are. Don’t advertise helplessness. This isn’t the same if you’ve had an accident. In those cases, I find people leap in to assist.
Make friends locally. For example, when I was in Chiang Mai a while back, I befriended the owner of an antique shop just across from my hotel. She became an excellent advisor for what to do and where to go. We spent untold hours of girl time which added immense value to my trip.
Trust, but verify. Before you hire someone, see if there is anything about them online. In many countries, the moment you are through customs and out of the airport you can be inundated.
Hoteliers, taxi drivers, and hucksters are often hired to dissuade you from your intended destination by telling you that your hotel is closed or some such. Never take a taxi from someone not authorized by the airport authority – just to save a few bucks. That might save your life.
You’ll note that nowhere did I recommend that you take self-defense lessons. While that’s a useful skill, I would rather you never put yourself in a position to need them in the first place. The whole point is to be safe, be joyful, come home transformed and eager to do it all over again.
Margaret Manning, Sixty & Me founder, debunks the usual “What if…” scenarios that most solo women travelers over 50 have.
Human nature being what it is, poverty will drive desperate people to do desperate things. I always make a habit of dressing comfortably but humbly when I travel. I leave my expensive jewelry at home and avoid talking on my iPhone in the middle of the street.
Second, I almost always find a local to show me around when I arrive in a new city. Sometimes, this means paying someone to give me a tour. Other times, I simply ask the hotel if there is someone who would mind spending an hour with me.
Not only is this a great way to get acquainted with a new city, but, I have also formed genuine friendships with many of my guides. As we are walking, I always ask about local customs and where the safe (and dangerous) places are to walk alone.
There are two ways to interpret this question. The most obvious is “What if I literally have no more money in the bank?” The second is “What if my credit cards stop working or I can’t access my money?” In most cases, the women that I have spoken to are talking about the latter scenario.
I’m sure that everyone handles money differently when they travel. I’m a have a “back-up-to-the-backup-plan” kind of girl. Here are a few things that I do to take the stress out of dealing with money when I travel alone.
First, I always have money stored safely in different places. I carry only enough money to cover my daily expenses when I go out. I keep the rest of my cash in the safe at the hotel, assuming there is one. I even hide some emergency money in a sock that I keep stuffed at the bottom of my backpack back at the room.
Second, I always make copies of my passport, credit cards and bank accounts and leave these with my adult children before I travel.
Third, I usually leave my debit cards at home when I travel and rely entirely on credit cards for electronic payments. As you probably know, getting your money back when someone goes on a shopping spree with your debit card is like trying to wrestle a banana away from an angry gorilla! Credit cards are much easier to deal with if the unexpected happens.
Finally, I enter all of the customer service numbers for my bank and credit card companies into my phone before I leave. There is nothing like being stranded with a blocked card and no access to wifi to help you practice all of those local swearwords that you shouldn’t have been paying attention to.
I totally get this fear. In fact, emotionally speaking, my travel pattern is pretty much as follows.
Weeks 1-2: “What family?”
Weeks 3-4: “I wonder what my family is getting up to?”
Weeks 5-6: “Wow, I didn’t realize how much I would miss everyone.”
Week 7: That’s it! I’m booking a ticket home.
Week 8+: (After a cry and a glass of wine) I’m so glad I decided to stay. My family will be there when I get back.
Everyone is different, but, when it comes to staying in touch, I find that technology really does make long-term travel possible. If anything, the video chats that I have with my family while I am on the road are more colorful and exciting than when I am in my apartment.
Sometimes, we’re not afraid of being robbed. We simply don’t like the catcalling, greasy stares, and inappropriate remarks that we encounter on the road.
The obvious advice is “Just ignore it.” But, this advice only goes so far. After all, the more you try to ignore something, the more you end up thinking about it.
While you can’t change people’s behavior, especially when you are in a country where cultural norms may be different, you do have some level of control over how much attention you draw to yourself.
Unless you are going out with the intention of attracting attention, it makes sense to pay attention to local customs regarding attire and to blend in a bit. When I traveled through India, I learned to love my colorful saris. But, even if you don’t dress like the locals, dressing conservatively is usually a good idea… at least until you really feel like you understand the cultural nuances of a place.
To be clear, getting hassled happens much less often than you might think. And, when it does, it is usually fairly harmless. But, if you do feel threatened, here are a few tips that I have learned along the way.
My first line of defense is just to keep walking. In most cases, people won’t leave their comfy spot to follow you. If someone does start to follow you, pick up your phone and call a friend. If you can’t get a connection, just pretend to have a call. Then, find a hotel or restaurant and pop in for a cup of coffee. 99.9% of the time, this will solve the situation. If you still feel nervous, you can always call a taxi to take you back to your hotel.
If anything, I find that I am less bored when I travel alone. Without the constant compromises that come with group travel, I am free to explore the world in my own way.
In my experience, the sooner you can get engaged with a local culture the better. I already mentioned that I try to hire a guide for an hour or two in every city that I visit. By the end of the tour, I always have a list of activities, restaurants, clubs, or other sites that I want to see. More than once, I have been invited to have dinner with the guide and his or her family.
Co-working spaces are also an excellent place to meet people – not to mention the Internet speed is amazing! Their target audience might be a bit younger, but, in my experience, they are very welcoming to women of all ages. Some of my favorite places to search for co-working sites are coworker.com and desksurfing.net.
Another technique that I use is language learning. When I am going to be staying in a country for more than 2 weeks, I look for a local language tutor. Learning how to order a cup of coffee in a loud voice is one of the true pleasures of traveling. I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to see someone’s eyes light up as a giant grin makes its way across their face when you speak their language – especially if it is an uncommon language.
Traveling alone as a woman is a unique experience. Even if you have a partner, I encourage you to set out on your own once in a while… even if you just take a bus to a new city in your home country.
Have you been to any of these countries? Are you planning a trip to some of these countries? What is the best country you have ever been to? Tell us about it in the comments below.
Tags Solo Travel