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Women on the Road

Travel Resources for Women Who Travel Independently

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When I started traveling on my own, the web didn't exist, and women rarely traveled solo. Many of us traveled in pairs.

There were few travel resources for women. I had to dredge existing guidebooks that dedicated a paragraph or two to women's travel, no more.

Solo travel is relatively newTravel has changed a bit since Augustus Egg painted The Travelling Companions in 1862

But today things are different.

We have the web, and it's crowded with information and advice for us.

Some of it excellent, some of it mediocre, and some of it simply wrong.

This website, Women on the Road, is the result of more than four decades of solo travel for pleasure or for my work as a journalist or aid worker (more about me here).

These women's travel resources and travel planning tips are my way of giving back to YOU - the independent traveling woman who wants to see the world on her own terms.

Every link I provide is either to a site I use or like, or to a page I've written. So please - shall we get started?

Where are you going?

This is your first decision.

When I travel I can prevaricate... and I want to go everywhere. Deciding is hard.

  • If you're like me, start with my Travel Destinations page to whet your appetite and get a few ideas.
  • Then head off to Lonely Planet for a bit of browsing and pretty pictures.
  • Round out your information with a more 'grassroots' take with Wikitravel.
  • And find out what other travelers say, especially those who are on the road right now or have just returned. I find travel forums hugely useful in my planning process (here's a roundup of my favorite ones) and then I read - blogs! Here are some of my favorite women's travel blogs.

If you prefer your information a bit more whimsical, you can always turn to Mother Google ...You can also search thematically: "best food destinations", "best art destinations" or "best unusual destinations". 

Or think in terms of types of travel: food tourism might be what you're looking for, or travel to sacred sites, or travel related to film locations like Harry Potter or James Bond tours.

If travel spending matters, try "best budget destinations" or "cheapest destinations" and if it doesn't, there's always "best luxury destinations".

And finally... ask around you! Where have your friends been that was wonderful? They are your friends, after all, so you might have similar travel tastes.

Before you leave

Once I know where I want to go, the questions really start and I need to organize it all.

First consider the length of your trip. If I'm off for a week or two, I'll stick to one country or if it's a big one, I'll focus on a region, like Provence or Sicily. For a month or more, I might group several nearby countries, for example Switzerland, Austria, Hungary and Czech Republic, or Tanzania and Kenya. Another option is to choose a larger country and enjoy some slow travel, as I did in South Africa, Brazil and Nigeria.

If you're considering long-term travel, you'll need to plan extensively and this travel checklist will probably help.

To get organized, I use two different free softwares. Evernote lets me clip maps and web pages, copy links, post pictures, record voice and put up pretty much anything I need for my trip, all in one folder. Coggle is the most fun mind map I've found so far. Try it and you'll see what I mean.

When to go?

So now you know where you're going, and how long you'll stay away.

This page will give you a good idea of the best time to visit different parts of the world.

To check long-term weather forecasts I use Weather Underground.

How to pay for it all

Armed with my destination, duration and season, it's time to look at that irksome thing called a budget.

To research costs at your destination here are a few excellent sites: Numbeo has plenty of cost examples; Budget Your Trip crowdsources its numbers; Expatistan (really!) compares one destination with another.

Travel Independent is a site I've trusted for years: they provide a great breakdown of expenses by country for you.

To watch your spending, start with my cheap travel page and go from there. If you're looking for information on cheap flights, this page will lay it out for you. And this detailed breakdown of airline fees itemizes what they charge for, and how much.

A chunk of your spending will go to accommodation and you'll have plenty of options, from couchsurfing to hostelling to housesitting to staying in a monastery or a homestay. I often use AirBNB when I travel - I like having the use of a kitchen and living in a 'home'.  

When I prefer to stay in a hotel I check HotelsCombined for the lowest prices. Fed up with paying single supplements? Find out how to avoid them.

To save money blogger Nomadic Matt suggests joining the Global ATM Alliance. I haven't yet but the concept sounds interesting. You could also look at the travel savings he passes on in his books and on his blog.

I've got many more travel money tips for you, especially if you're new to travel.

Finally, the whole currency thing... you can either figure it all out or go to this website to convert pretty much any currency into your own.

Now pull out your travel packing list - because you'll need clothesThis page introduces you to women's travel clothing, but I've grouped everything into my women's travel shop for your convenience. 

In addition to clothes you'll find travel accessories for women in the shop - things you might not have thought of, like a flashlight (read this page - you'll see why my flashlight and I are inseparable), or if I'm headed to mosquitoland, I always take a mosquito tent with me. 

Health matters

I'm very strict about travel insurance - I don't travel without it, period. I was once rushed to the hospital in the US, the most expensive country on earth for treatment. Without insurance I'd probably still be working off my $25,000 debt. 

My go-to insurance is still World Nomads although coverage stops somewhere in your sixties so I'm almost out of the ball park. If you've passed the World Nomads age limit (60-70, depending on what country you're from) Insure my Trip should help you find the insurance you need.

You'll have to deal with vaccinations if you're heading to countries with communicable diseases. Start here for an overview and go here if you're heading into a malaria zone. For specific country information visit the Center for Disease Control or the World Health Organization's International Travel and Health publication. 

Sanitation is an issue in many countries. You can start with my page on drinking water safety and the CDC fact sheet on diarrhea. (I always carry packets of ORS, oral rehydration salts, which are miraculous if you catch a stomach bug). 

For travel-related diseases, have a look at the CDC's travel health directory, which covers everything from African Tick-Bite Fever to Zika. Make sure you take repellent with you or better yet, mosquito repellent clothing.

In developing countries or in rural areas, I travel with a first aid kit. (I also often travel with a small inflatable lifejacket since I can't really swim, am terrified of water, and spend a lot of time on boats. But for you that might be overkill.)

If you still menstruate you'll need to plan for personal hygiene on the road - and I love this page on menstrual cups written by my friend Marianne Tellier. (These birth control travel tips might be useful too.)

We all have our own travel challenges so some of these additional resources might help:

If you suffer from motion sickness (I do), here are a few of my remedies

Two more things to watch out for, depending on where you're going, are jet lag and heat exhaustion (I've suffered from both so I had to look into them.)

Finally, I know a lot of women who suffer from phobias when they travel - here are some things you can do.

And the biggest phobia of all (for many) - fear of flying. I've had a strange history with this. I used to be terrified so I found ways around it - but a few years later the fear returned, so I got help.

Staying safe

I'm not a particularly fearful traveler (other than my phobias of heights, water and terrible motion sickness) and I tend to think nothing too bad will happen.

To be on the safe side, I work at it. 

I took a self-defence course before leaving for Africa. I never thought I'd use it, but it did make me feel a lot more confident about my ability to defend myself.

Make sure your hotel room is safe. This page is full of tips that will help keep you safe and this one will help keep your belongings safe.

I've outlined some of the major travel scams I've heard of - not to scare you but to convince you to pay attention to your surroundings.

If you're driving or using any kind of road transport, this page will introduce the topic gently.

You may face a natural disaster - there's a lot you can do to survive. This handy set of checklists from the Red Cross can be useful too.

While you probably won't be the victim of a crime abroad, there are a few things you can do to protect yourself.

What if you need extra money?

If you have enough money to see you through your trip, that's wonderful and I'm delighted for you! But if you're on the road for a while and you need to earn a bit along the way, here are some things you can do.

Possibly the most obvious is teaching English - if you're of English mother tongue (or sound like it). Not all places ask for accreditation, especially private lessons. For those who do, MyTEFL offers good, affordable courses (and if you use my code SCRIBE35 you'll get a 35% discount).

You can find odd jobs - odd because they're small but also sometimes because they're unusual. This page will start you thinking about what you might find out there.

If you have a professional specialty, you're in luck. As a journalist I freelanced and that paid for a year's travel across Africa and more than two years in Europe, Asia and beyond. So if you have training in something, you might well be able to put it to use.

You may be thinking of starting your own travel blog to earn money. If that's the case then run and join the Superstar Blogging course - it's part course, part support system, and the one place online where all the best travel bloggers hang out. It'll save you from making costly mistakes and make sure you get you started right. If you're not ready for a course but want to dip your toe in, a great starting point is Sharon Gourlay's How to Make Money from Blogging.

If you have writing skills and are contemplating freelance writing to pay your way, the absolute best course out there is Nomadic Matt's travel writing course - here's what I think of it and why. If you're not ready to pay for a course and have your writing critiqued, my own free travel writing course will give you a sound foundation.

And finally, if you already have a blog and are interested in increasing your income through affiliate sales, here's the affiliate marketing course I took - the teacher of the course actually makes tens of thousands of dollars a month from affiliate sales and the course is excellent for beginner-intermediate levels.

Give back. Be ethical.

I work in development so giving back is a given. I understand just how privileged I am when compared to most of the rest of the world. That makes me want to help. 

This page can give you a brief overview of the different types of volunteering and this one can help you determine whether volunteering is for you.

To find a good organization, head to the volunteer resource center put together by Another directory worth looking at is Go Abroad.

If you're looking to volunteer long-term, read this first for some solid suggestions.

If disaster relief is your thing - it's hard, physical work but so rewarding - head straight to Hands On Disaster Response.

A fabulous resource for volunteer information is Transitions Abroad, which I've been reading (and contributing to) for many years. 

A good book on humanitarian volunteering is the Underground Guide to International Volunteering by my buddy Kirsty Henderson.

Just beware that there is a difference between volunteering (which is free) and voluntourism (which you pay for). Some voluntourist outfits are perfectly fine but make sure you understand the difference before you book - and ask all the right questions.

Here are some possibilities of volunteering online with UN Volunteers.

And finally, here are two of the stickiest questions I often get asked:

Life on the road

As you travel, you might run into a few wrinkles - we all do - but they will pass. Whatever you're feeling, you are not alone. Solo, yes. Alone, only if you want to be.

Yes, you might get lonely, but you can beat it. We've all been there. It's part of solo travel, and it passes. Sometimes you might want to find someone to travel with - here's a list of apps and groups that match up female travelers.

If you're traveling a lot, or very quickly, you might suffer from travel burnout, when every monument begins to look the same. Don't worry - this is yet another travel syndrome that you can overcome.

This might surprise you but for many women, eating out alone is the scariest part of solo travel. I've learned to deal with it - and so can you. Or join a group and eat with locals.

A major hassle for women, especially younger women, is harassment so here are a few tips on how to avoid unwanted male attention. Often, culture shock is at the root of misunderstandings. A few notions of cultural etiquette could be useful, as is the debunking of stereotypes.

And eventually... you'll be going home. If you've been gone a long time you may suffer from reverse culture shock, which happens when you get home and nothing feels right anymore.