Black women travel solo too! Just because we do not pop up on Google images does not mean solo female travel is not for us.
Let’s Unpack That is a travel education series where we process and unpack our baggage of social identities, hot topics, and travel privileges to understand how they impact our travel experiences. We cover everything from dating abroad to voluntourism. Each post, we focus on a topic or social issue to dig deeper and reflect on our travel experiences. Whether in our own countries or abroad, understanding our impact can help us be more responsible and conscientious travelers.
Solo female travel is a growing, popular form of travel. This type of travel is how it sounds: women who travel alone on their adventures. And Black women traveling alone have also seen an increase. However, if you Google “solo female travel,” most people who pop up are white women. Therefore, there is not as much racial nuance as there should be, even though Black women, such as myself, do travel solo. Even though our experiences differ based on our social identities, different doesn’t always mean negative. Hopefully, this post shows you Black women travel solo.
Black solo female travelers – this one is for us. Let’s unpack that.
Things to be aware of as Black women traveling alone
People will have questions, stare, and may take your photo
Black people are not in large numbers in every city or town in the world. Not having many Black people means people in those countries may be interested in who you are and your country of origin. Thus, staring is very common and may lead to questions or even photos. Being a Black female solo traveler can be daunting and perhaps overwhelming if it is new.
Take a few deep breaths and think about how you want to respond. Sometimes those questions can lead to insightful and impactful conversations. Other times, they may lead to more discomfort. Solo female travel as a Black woman means trusting your gut and deciding what is best for you at that moment. You do not have to respond, but you can if you want.
Fetishes and hypersexualization comments
Being fetishized happened to me now and again when I lived in Europe. Unfortunately, men have told me, “I have always wanted to have sex with a Black girl” as I travel. Sexual stereotypes about Black women come from media and assumptions people have about Black women. You may even hear Black women get mistaken for prostitutes in various parts of the world. Colorism is also a factor in these experiences as well.
There are hubs of Black people around the world
Many people assume that if you pursue solo female travel in Europe or other predominantly white destinations, you will not find Black people. However, we are everywhere! There are communities of Black people throughout the globe, from Europe to South America to Asia. While, of course, we should travel to connect with new people of all backgrounds, you can sometimes connect with Black people of different nationalities and citizenships. Those connections create dynamic conversations about being Black in your respective countries and learning about the culture you are in too.
Racism is possible
You knew this was coming, didn’t you? Yes, racism exists abroad as it is a global issue. If you have experienced discrimination in your own country, you may already have some strategies to respond. However, remember you are still in a country that is not your own. You may argue with racists back home or take things further, without consequence. That is not always the case abroad, so be mindful of that if you choose to address it.
However, I do not want it to deter you from traveling solo. Black women travel solo all the time, and while racism abroad is possible, it is not the entire experience. I have experienced some uncomfortable moments of people shoving me into a picture without asking and touching my hair. It is not fun, but we cannot stop people from doing it. So it should not stop you from exploring the world.
Safety tips for Black women traveling solo
Lie, lie, lie
With solo female travel, safety comes first, so lie when you need to. I suggest lying because everyone you meet does not need to know that you are traveling solo. Yes, people are genuinely friendly and welcoming. I have had many great experiences traveling solo as a Black woman in Mexico and throughout Europe. Yet, some people may not have the right intentions. Be careful. Make conversations and connections to be friendly but not too familiar and tell people all of your business.
Pack what you need
Be prepared at all costs. If you are doing a protective style such as Marley twists or braids, it is safer to install it before you go. There are chances you will not have everything you need in the destination you plan to visit. Being prepared is crucial because Black women do not play about our hair. For Black hair while traveling tips, check out this post here.
Do not pull all your money out at once
This tip is an absolute no-no! Never pull all of your money out at once, nor have it flying around when you do pull it out. Take what you need and leave what you don’t in various areas. You can safely put your money in a bag in your locked locker at your hostel. Also, think of unique places such as your bra (if you wear one) or even in your shoe. Just in case of a robbery, the person would not take all of your money at once. We have to protect ourselves.
Why Black women need to travel solo
It boosts your confidence
Many times, and so many ways, Black women are told to make themselves smaller for other people to thrive. Even though we reject that notion, it can still affect you. Solo traveling breaks that down and shows us just how amazing we are. Being on your own boosts your confidence in ways you may have never imagined. You are your navigator and travel planner. No one is telling you what to do or where to go. You are more likely to be adventurous and meet new people. If you are on the fence about solo female travel, just go for it!
Encourages language learning
As mentioned previously, people often have questions about where we are from and the way we look. Though there is a thin line between curiosity, a fetish, and being uncomfortable, those interactions have an upside. Those inquiries make great conversation starters, and if you know the language, and are willing to engage, do it! It is a thoughtful way to practice the language and learn from the people in your destination.
As a more personal example, I had a stutter in English as a child showed up in Spanish as an adult. I became self-conscious about my language-learning abilities as a 20-year-old who was excited to learn a new language. Therefore, I tested myself! I booked a trip to Mexico for a week to travel solo. I was able to navigate my entire journey in my second language the whole time. I felt much more confident in my language skills, and it boosted my self-esteem, knowing that I can do it.
You meet more people than with group travel
When you are traveling by yourself, it is a way easier to make friends. Traveling solo encourages you to be a little more friendly than if you were in a group of people you already know. I had met way more people and built stronger connections traveling solo than I had when I was traveling with friends. While there is nothing with group travel, sometimes you want to go out and adventure on your own. Solo travel makes that possible, and there is no commitment to stick with someone you just met.
You cannot wait on your friends forever
Listen, it is time for some hard truths: your friends are not coming! Leave them! Sometimes our friends cannot get ready when we want them to book a trip. Whether they cannot get the time off or do not have their money together, solo travel may be forced into your future travel experiences. Time is of the essence, and sometimes you have to go by yourself. Sorry, but book that trip and see your friends later. You are now a Black female solo traveler.
Travel essentials for solo female travel
As you will be responsible for yourself on this trip, you want to make sure you have a charged phone. A portable charger is a travel essential. If you are taking photos by yourself or using GPS like Google Maps to navigate, that is a lot of charging to do. You will need a backup battery to keep all your juice. To have a portable charger is a lifesaver, literally.
Speaking of Google maps, it is the must-have app for solo female travelers. You can create lists of places you plan to visit in your destination. In the app, you can star these locations, and from there, you can create a list. To use Google Maps, you do not need to have wi-fi either. Just make sure you downloaded the map of where you are going beforehand, and it should pop up later.
Register with your government
Registering with your government is another helpful tip when you are traveling solo. The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is a program for U.S travelers. With STEP, you get alerts when there are significant travel emergencies to know about in your destination. It is completely free too! Thus, STEP is a great resource to stay informed on any emergencies that can occur abroad.
Get creative to take your photos
Where are all my photo lovers? If you are a Black woman traveling solo and want to get photos by yourself or those Instagram-worthy photos, a tripod is your friend. You can set it up as you stage your photo to get the shot you desire. You can also find somebody who has a DSLR camera that can signal they know how to take a solid picture. That trick does not always work, but it is a place to start if you do not have a tripod.
On the other hand, if you want a professional photographer, consider an Airbnb experience. I did one of these when I traveled solo in Amsterdam. I still use those photos today because the photographer did such a fantastic job. Airbnb experiences are also a great memory because most photoshoots double as a tour of the destination. Even as Black women traveling alone, it is obvious we are not always alone.
Bonus: join Black travel Facebook groups
For Black solo female travelers who want to connect with other Black travelers, do this! Join Black travel Facebook groups if you need more information on a destination from Black travelers’ perspective. There are tons of location-specific Black travel groups that are great for asking questions about what it is like being Black in various destinations. And you may even connect with other solo female travelers who are now looking for Black travel buddies. Again, if you put yourself out there, you never know what you will get.
Explorework is like homework, but better!
You don’t know what you don’t know. But now that you know learn more! Check out the following resources for more solo female travel tips for Black women and Black solo female travel inspiration.
– Ciara Johnson of Hey Ciara. Solo female travel is the life that Ciara lives, and she has all the tips for you! A few years ago, she quit her job to travel the world and is now a full-time travel blogger and influencer. From language learning to must-have travel essentials, Ciara is a fountain of solo female travel tips for Black women and beyond. You can read more in-depth information and helpful advice on her blog or her Instagram.
– Abena of Travelling Tuesdays. For all my Gen Z readers looking for solo female travel tips, Abena is who you need to be following. Based in the UK by way of Ghana, Abena’s Instagram captions are detailed and rich in insightful information she has acquired as a solo female traveler. She offers advice, including budget travel tips, how to take pictures traveling solo, and general destination-based advice. Abena’s photos are gorgeous as well as capture the essence of her destinations with ease.
Want more travel tips for Black women? Check out this post here!