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Solo female travel: Top tips and insights from Scott Dunn travel specialist

Learn when to blend in or let loose while staying safe as you embark on your solo trip to unknown territories and even countries deemed dangerous.

Lady on a solo female travel trip, smiling at camera with a husky
Scott Dunn travel specialist Odele Seah on a husky sled ride during her solo vacation. PHOTO: Odele Seah

A solo grad trip that was supposed to last for a year became a life-changing two-and-a-half year of travel for Odele Seah. Since then, Odele has found a career living and breathing her passion for travel as a travel specialist at Scott Dunn, helping others live out their travel bucket list. To date, she has traversed more than half the globe solo to very different countries and continents, including Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, China, Sri Lanka, Finland, Germany, Switzerland, Netherlands, Belgium, France, Italy, Cyprus, England, Northern Ireland, Jordan, Dubai, Mexico, US, Canada, amongst other countries she visited with others.

So who better to seek advice on solo female travel, or solo travel for that matter, than Scott Dunn's Odele Seah? Yahoo Life Singapore got her to share top solo travel tips, allaying the fears of those hesitant about taking that first solo trip, male or female. So read on, be inspired and book that next flight, solo or not!

Backview of lady walking towards Banff Alberta Canada
Odele at Banff Alberta Canada. PHOTO: Odele Seah

Yahoo Life Singapore: You have travelled solo extensively to very different countries and continents, including Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, China, Sri Lanka, Finland, Germany, Switzerland, Netherlands, Belgium, France, Italy, Cyprus, England, Northern Ireland, Jordan, Dubai, Mexico, US, Canada. How do you decide which countries to venture solo in?

Odele Seah: I have a travel bucket list, so I work off it to plan my trips. This list is formed around my interests and experiences that I want to try. The list expands as I travel and hear more of the exciting adventures and recommendations of people I meet. Also, I often travel solo to a destination to meet up with friends, both new and old, who live there too. I enjoy discovering a new destination with a local to get a more immersive and authentic experience, especially when they invite you for a home-cooked meal, which I appreciate!

Don't feel like you always need to be honest about your details to anyone, especially people you have just met.Scott Dunn travel specialist Odele Seah on solo travel

As a solo female traveller, do you have any favourite country to travel to? Why?

There aren't any particular favourites. Every country has its appeal and nuances that make them attractive. I am very comfortable travelling in most of the major cities in Europe and the US/Canada, mainly due to the familiarity and comfort, be it the language, abundance of information about the towns, and infrastructure. For example, in Mexico City, they have a "Women Only" cabin on their trains. Given the statistics of reported (and unreported) crimes or assaults against women in public, it is comforting to know that a certain amount of awareness and steps are being taken towards actively protecting women.

As a solo female traveller to some destinations deemed dangerous, what advice would you give to women thinking of going on a solo trip? What are the essentials to take note of or items to bring or prepare to stay safe?

You can have fun, let loose and enjoy your trip, but it's crucial to be aware of your surroundings and look for an exit if you need to use it. Staying mentally sharp is imperative because anything can happen, so being situationally aware and vigilant is good. Some places are safe to explore at any destination, and some you should avoid. So do your due research and keep to that advice, especially if you are alone.

It’s also good to know where and when not to draw attention to yourself – it's all about blending in or sticking out at the right time and place. For example, in some circumstances, it's good to make your presence known to certain people, such as restaurant or hotel staff or security personnel, as they can help if someone is harassing you. And other times, it's good to blend in so no one knows you're a tourist.

I would recommend doing proper research and reading as many reviews as you can about the hotels or properties you will be staying at to see what other travellers have experienced so you know what to expect when you arrive (and if you need to bring anything additional if it's not provided for) or if it's a property to avoid altogether!

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Odele scuba diving with wildlife in Indonesia. PHOTO: Odele Seah

What are the most significant rewards of travelling solo?

A key perk is that you can do things at your own time and pace. As a result, you get to focus on yourself, allowing time for self-discovery and enjoying the journey on your own terms.

What are your travel must-haves?

  1. Always bring cash.

  2. A camera or a smartphone to capture memories.

  3. A smartphone to maintain communication back home and use as a GPS.

  4. A pair of sturdy and comfortable shoes for the upcoming adventure.

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Odele in Jordan in scarf and smiling at camera.
Odele in Jordan. PHOTO: Odele Seah

Which countries or cities have the greatest entry barriers for women travellers? What can female travellers do or any travel essential to bring along to minimise any travel obstacles?

I've found that as a solo female Asian traveller, immigration tend to get very curious when they process me and will ask more questions which are only natural. So my tip would be to answer as honestly as possible and prepare all your travel documents, hotel reservations, cash and supporting documents to show that you are there for a holiday.

Are there any women-friendly countries you would recommend for first-time solo female travellers?

Most Asian and European major cities should be ok. These tend to be well populated with good infrastructure and thus highly frequented by all types of travellers, so it's not uncommon for solo female travellers to visit. I've also encountered many other solo female travellers in these places. It does help you to feel safer and less vulnerable.

Learn to uphold your boundaries and be firm with your limits, especially those that keep you safe.Scott Dunn travel specialist Odele Seah on staying safe while on holiday

Travelling alone could be more expensive than having travel mates split the transportation, accommodation or dining cost. Do you have any money tips as a solo traveller?

That is not so true for me, as when I travel, I prefer to do and see things the local way. This means I usually take local modes of transportation, which are generally very affordable! Also, in this way, I get to meet the locals and make new friends along the way.

I recommend splitting or separating your cash into different bags or places. Also good to bring more than one credit card in case of emergencies!

Odele in Suomenlinna Finland buried in snow and overlooking the sea
Odele in Suomenlinna Finland. PHOTO: Odele Seah

Having been on so many solo trips, do you have any travel myths to bust or travel insights and top tips to share with fellow women travellers?

Don't feel like you always need to be honest about your details to anyone, especially people you have just met. Having that human connection when you travel alone may feel comforting, but not everyone has good intentions.

Learn to hold and stick to your boundaries. While you're on holiday/having fun, it's natural that you want to open yourself to new experiences, but you still need to uphold your boundaries and be firm with your limits, especially ones that will keep you safe.

For example, as a solo female traveller, you will get some unwanted attention from time to time, from men catcalling after you or people trying to be funny with you. Don't be afraid to say no, voice your discomfort, or look for help. Follow your instincts and gut.

Lady stretching out arm from window taking a selfie on a moving train
Odele on The Kandy to Ella train ride which is said to be one of the most scenic train ride in Sri Lanka. PHOTO: Odele Seah

What would you say to a female who needs that extra push to travel alone?

It's worth trying out a solo trip at least once. Allow yourself to draw your conclusions and perceptions about the experience instead of relying on hearsay from others. Solo travel can be an advantageous and fulfilling experience if you plan it right and take the proper precautions.

Happy to share that I've also inspired a few of my female friends to travel alone, and they, too, have thoroughly enjoyed their experience– I've had a friend embark on a solo trip to Australia and another to Europe, and both have come home with fantastic feedback and are already planning their next trips. So I'm hopeful that reading all this will inspire more women to take the step and try travelling solo soon!

Lady in the middle of the streets looking back towards the camera.
Odele Seah in Havana, Cuba. PHOTO: Odele Seah

About Odele Seah, Luxury Travel Specialist at Scott Dunn

Odele's passion for travel ignited during her graduation trip, where she went on a solo journey that was supposed to have lasted one year. Instead, it was an exhilarating and life-changing adventure that spanned two and a half years around the world — and she hasn't looked back since. To Odele, travel is more than just exploring and discovering a destination; it's also a form of self-discovery and learning about oneself. Not one to shy away from a location just because of what others say about it, the free-spirited Odele prefers to form her perceptions about every destination she visits.

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