Tips on what to do, how to stay safe

I planned a girls’ trip last year to Costa Rica for my birthday. Literally everyone that I invited bailed in the span of three weeks. This put me in a precarious situation: Do I postpone my trip for another time when someone can travel, or do I book my ticket to a country I’ve never been to before and see what happens?

I chose the latter and had the time of my life.

I made new friends, tried new foods, partied, tanned – the works. While there was a lot of research that I did before I stepped onto the plane, as a first-time solo traveler I knew that there was so much that I didn’t know. Now that I’ve caught the travel bug, I wanted to ask some more experienced Black lady solo travelers what their tips and tricks were for navigating the globe and here’s what they had to say.

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Latrice, the creator behind @highontrice, has traveled to 12 countries and lived in three as an expat.

After her divorce, Latrice was encouraged to discover what made her happy outside of her marriage, so she started traveling to see her friends. Now, years later, those domestic trips have blossomed into a career that is helping to inspire women to travel and see the world.

Here are @highontrice’s top tips for solo traveling:

  • Date yourself before you go! Enjoy spending time with yourself so that you aren’t desperate to meet people. That’s how you end up hanging out with the wrong crowd.
  • Research your lodging situation before you go and know you’re nonnegotiables. Do you need a 24-hour front desk or on-site security? Do you want shared common spaces or not? Among others.
  • It’s OK to be nervous, especially if it’s your first solo trip. Feel your feelings and embrace everything that your trip has to offer because it will teach you something.
  • Latrice’s top choices for Black lady solo travelers: Puerto Rico, Thailand, Panama, and Bali (her No. 1 choice is Chiang Mai, Thailand).

Latrice’s top safety tips:

  • Don’t advertise that you’re traveling by yourself.
  • Don’t drink to the point where your judgment is impaired.
  • Learn some conversational phrases to help you navigate the country better.

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Kendra Okereke, the creator behind @ken10hollywood, travels the world to meet people and hear their stories so she’s the go-to expert on navigating the global hostel market.

Okereke has traveled to 20 countries and thanks to her infectious personality, she has made friends with other travelers and hostel staff members all over the world.

Here are @ken10hollywood’s globe-trotting tips:

  • If you’re staying in hostels, talk to the staff. They’re usually locals who know all the hidden gems of the area.
  • Many countries don’t have the most positive experience of travelers from the U.S. So, if you’re American, do your best to be as kind and courteous as possible so you don’t accidentally reinforce that negative stereotype. 
  • Know that the dangers that are prevalent in your country may not be the same elsewhere. Kendra said that “when (she) was in Helsinki, people made fun of (her) because (she) thought it would be dangerous to walk around at 10 o’clock at night.”
  • Kendra’s recommendations for your first solo trip: Germany, the Netherlands, Japan, Italy, the U.K. and Ireland, her top choice.

Kendra’s top safety tips:

  • Let someone know where you are. That could be a hostel staff member, your sibling back home, etc.
  • Try not to look like a tourist. If you’re lost, walk into a coffee shop, or find a bathroom, and use that space to find your bearings.
  • Use the country’s currency and don’t store it all in one place.
  • Reach out to your hostel/lodging beforehand and ask them the best way to get to your destination and how much transportation should cost. This can save you from getting scammed.

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Here are the three tips that both Latrice and Kendra shared:

  • Buy a portable charger and a good external battery. Kendra also recommends an outlet converter, a good water bottle, and an anti-theft backpack (if you want to be extra safe).
  • Make copies of your passport, birth certificate, immunization records, among others, and save pictures of them to your phone.
  • If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it! Learning to trust your gut is a huge part of being safe while solo traveling.
Shayna Conde

While I’m not as experienced in the solo traveling world as Kendra or Latrice, my one last tip for all solo traveling ladies: Don’t post the details of the location you’re staying while you are there (that includes pictures, videos and site-specific hashtags). Wait until you move from that location or come home to make those posts. Your #OOTD can wait for the sake of you traveling the world as safely as possible.

Shayna Conde is an NYC-based food, fitness and lifestyle writer who’s working on her first book. Her work can also be found in Allure, Food52, Greatist, Well+Good, Stylist magazine, and more.

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