Being a solo female traveler is always more questionable than being a solo man traveler. It depends on the destination you choose, on your skin tone and much more. I know many women prefer to travel with a boyfriend or a bestie and I love this way of traveling too. But two years ago I decided to do something different and I started the most important journey of my life. I spent two weeks traveling solo in Ecuador. I visited some European countries before on my lonesome, but spending 3 days alone in Italy has nothing to do with crossing South America solo. What did I learn? Was it safe? Would I recommend it? Yes and again yes! I can assure you that every second you doubt is a second you are missing on an incredible adventure.
Is it safe to travel in South America solo?
Whatever your concerns are, I can bet that the main reason stopping you from taking the first step Is your safety. Traveling South America alone as a woman is an exiting and unique experience.
Most of the places that I visited both solo and with my friend were safe, and if you keep close to your common sense and avoid any situation that may put you in problems, you will be completely fine. I think 99% of uncomfortable situations come from our own irresponsibility. For example, I spent 4 days in Rio de Janeiro with my friend and until now it’s been the most dangerous city I’ve even been to. I would never go out at night alone in Rio. I didn’t do it with my friend neither, but we went our with our local friend and thanks to him we could avoid any sketchy situations. Don’t do anything that your intuition is telling you to avoid, this is the only rule. Keep your eyes open wherever you go, especially in public transport.
The first thing I learned in public transport was to keep my stuff on my knees, no matter if you are in the centre of Quito or in a small uptown bus. Even the locals will give you a friendly look if they notice that you don’t take care of your baggage. Ecuadorians are the kindest people I’ve met and if they see someone strange coming close to you, they will make you know about it.
Another important thing to point out it to learn how to give up on some things. Traveling solo means there will be some experiences that you won’t be able to participate, unless you want to put your safety in danger. Regardless of being in the capital or in a small town, I never left my hotel after sundown. I preferred to miss a party or a night walk in the centre of Quito rather than expose myself for a potential danger. There is a lot of things to do in South America which are completely safe, so stick to them and leave the rest for another time when you are not alone.
The last thing has to do with the truth. Sometimes when I was sitting solo in a bus, people where asking be if I am traveling alone. They are curious about foreigners visiting their country and most of them are simply concerned about your safety if you’re a solo female traveler. As I said, Ecuadorians are very kind and hospitable. But there might not always be only good intentions behind this question. A person asking if you’re traveling solo may investigate a possibility to rob you once you get up from the bus. That’s why I was extremely careful, especially when a men was asking me this question. The best solution for me was to reply that someone was waiting for me on the bus station or that I was going to visit my friends. If you ask yourself where the true ends and where the lie begins, this is the moment. From my point of view it’s better to lie, because you never know who’s sitting next to you.
Few simple choices can make your traveling solo easier and safer. Scheduling a bus that arrives during the day instead of a night ride. Avoiding talking to the stranger who ask you too many questions. Booking a hotel room in advance, even if it means just one day before. I personally preferred to have my own room and never shared a bedroom with other people, even if I had to pay a few bucks more for that. Of course these were my precaution measures, each one of you is free to take any decision you consider the best!
You are not alone
If you are worried that you won’t meet any other women traveling solo, please forget about this fear right now. Everywhere I travelled, from Amazon Jungle to whale watching tour in Puerto Lopez, I always met another girl like me in a bus or in hotel’s reception. There were times when we talked for hours, sharing our experiences and plans for the upcoming future. Another women is the best source of information that you can find. There is a lot of incredible and inspiring women traveling the world alone, so don’t be shy and say “hi”!
It’s really easy to travel alone in South America if you let yourself guide a little bit by the locals. It’s all about trust. You might not trust a stranger in a bus, but a friendly receptionist or the owner of restaurant are the best guides. At the end, you are never alone because there are thousands of people sharing this journey with you. Be flexible with changing your plans as well because maybe you will receive unexpected invitation from people met on the road. The unexpected experiences are the best!
Learn to spend time with yourself
The best part of traveling solo for me was to learn how to spend time with myself and don’t get crazy. I had never spent so much time alone in my entire life before. I’m a very out&about person who loves to spend time with her boyfriend, friends and family. 2 months alone means a lot of time to think. There were moments when I was feeling a little bit “blue”, especially at the beginning. It was just me and my thoughts during hours and hours, something I wasn’t used to at all. Poco a poco, I learn to enjoy small things – having my meal alone in a nice spot, arriving into new place or watching the sunset with no company.
The things that were scaring me just few months before, started to be enjoyable. I realized it was pretty cool to do whatever I want and eat wherever I want without asking anyone for opinion. There were also days when I didn’t wanted to do anything, so I just stayed in the hotel room and charged my batteries for the next day. And next morning I knew I had to get up and follow my dreams because there was no one who would bring me to the next destination, no one apart from me. Exploring Ecuador solo was the most challenging and the best traveling experience of my life.
Another good thing about traveling solo is the fact that it teaches you quickly who is a good company and who isn’t. Maybe at the beginning you will be all about hanging out with anyone you meet, but sooner or later you will realize that some people are not exactly the company you need and you will choose yourself over them. This is actually the best lesson you will learn – no company is better than bad company.
Is there something that scares you to death and you would never try it in your home place? Do it during your solo trip! I overcame my greatest fear in Ecuador which is… water. Imagine visiting Galapagos Islands and being scared of water and here you have.. me. I never felt better in my life than taking on that challenge because I thought I would never be able to do it. You don’t know what you are capable of until you try it! Crossing your own limits is the best way to make your traveling unique and unforgettable.
Are you ready?
Like I said, traveling solo in Ecuador was the best experience I have ever had. Putting your safety on the first place is something that applies not only in South America, but all over the world. If you are like me, and you overthink a lot before you take any decision, my main advice is to follow your instincts and just do what your heart is telling you to do. Don’t expose your fear unless you really are in a dangerous situation, the less you show, the better. And remember that once you relax and start enjoying your trip, you will realize how easygoing it is to travel alone and make your own decisions. There might be no better opportunity to get to know yourself and enjoy your own company. I’ve been traveling since I was 10 years old and I visited many destinations with my family, my friends and my boyfriend, but nothing can be compared to this satisfaction of doing something that big on my own. Are you ready to do the same? I cross my fingers!