Travelling solo can get lonely. Now, a crop of innovative apps and online communities means you can meet up with like-minded women travellers for tours and activities.
Experiencing another culture at your own pace, on your own terms, can be an incredibly fun and insightful adventure. While such a sojourn is liberating, some worry about safety and solitude in unfamiliar territory.
Now, solo women travellers can easily ﬁnd a plus-one before and during their trips with the help of mobile applications and online communities.
These apps and sites have become must-have virtual passports that provide real experiences and tips in real time, using an identity-veriﬁed network.
Think of it as the Tinder of solo travel – minus the romance.
Tried-and-true methods include apps that help the solo girl traveller ﬁnd company for meals, social activities, guided tours or homestays.
As Michael Klumpp, founder of the German-based Tourlina travel app for solo women travellers, tells Her World: “Solo women travellers ﬁnd that having a female partner on their travels can help with many things, from breaking down of costs to safety and forging new friendships. Users have to create a proﬁle by logging in through Facebook, so the app admins can verify that the user is really a woman, and not a fake account.”
Tourlina has more than 10,000 downloads from 110 countries. The app’s newly released version also has a user chat function.
Katrin interacting with a Burmese child in Myanmar.
MAKING NEW FRIENDS ON THE ROAD
Katrin Nagel, 26, an executive, found travel mates through Tourlina when she took a six-month break from work a year ago to travel across Asia, visiting Thailand, Myanmar, Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia, the Philippines and Bali.
Of her plus-one experience, she says via e-mail: “I never felt lonely though I was travelling alone, because I met many wonderful girls who were smart, funny and courageous through Tourlina. My main goal was to make new friends. By listening to their life experiences and adventures, I got to know so much about their dreams, lives and passions.”
SOLO WOMEN TRAVELLERS FIND THAT HAVING A FEMALE PARTNER ON THEIR TRAVELS CAN HELP WITH MANY THINGS, LIKE BREAKING DOWN OF COSTS, SAFETY, AND FORGING NEW FRIENDSHIPS.
– MICHAEL KLUMPP, FOUNDER OF THE TOURLINA TRAVEL APP
Katrin, who hails from Munich, adds: “I met up with female travel companions who were with me for days and even weeks. In Bangkok, I met up with a Norwegian traveller to celebrate New Year’s Eve together! Sometimes, my travel mates and I chose the same accommodation, went on tours together or just met for coffee. I now have friends if I should ever visit their home countries.”
The avid solo traveller got to know the best tips for food and hidden attractions from the companions she met. She is planning her next trip to the United States, where she intends to explore Texas and Florida, then run the New York City Marathon, before heading for Colombia and Panama.
“I used the Local Search feature frequently while travelling. I contacted the girls who were closest to where I was staying. I found that female travellers on a ‘local tag’ always have great travel advice,” she adds.
Mingling with the locals is always on Katrin’s solo travel bucket list.
LOOKING OUT FOR ONE ANOTHER
Alternatively, solo gals can plan meet-ups for land tours with travel website The Solo Female Traveler Network (SFTN). Founded by Australian Amanda Black in 2018, the network started as a private group for her travel-loving friends and people whom she had met on her travels.
Amanda says of her vibrant Facebook group: “This (group) will be an encouragement to watch out for each other online, on the road… It’s a space for female travellers to come to for not just travel advice, but to ask questions if they encounter anything creepy or cultural, get support for homesickness, and show off amazing travel pictures and stories.”
The network has since grown into a 269,000-strong global community of women travellers, and now organises Global Meetup Tours for women only. These trips range between eight and 14 days, costing from $3,800 a person, excluding return ﬂight tickets.
On its 2019/2020 itinerary: Egypt, Bali, Morocco, Iran, Antarctica, India and Jordan – and two hugely popular cultural events in India, the Pushkar Camel Fair and the Holi festival – to choose from.
With company and tours come homestays via www.sheswanderful.com to complete the all-girl travel experience. Founded by entrepreneur Beth Santos in Boston, the site has a global community of 40,000 women travellers, and it works just like Airbnb.
The difference: Find, meet and stay only with women.
Pramila with a fellow hitchhiker she met in Scotland.
CONNECT WITH OTHER SOLO WOMEN TRAVELLERS
1. FIND A TRAVEL BUD
What: Tourlina app. Free to download, with in-app purchases.
How it works: It displays a global list of solo women travellers looking to meet up for tours and dinners – ahead of their planned vacation. To find your herd, fill in your age and travel itinerary on your profile page (for more accurate matches). Next, contact your potential travel kakis.
2. AIRBNB-ESQUE FOR WOMEN
How it works: Similar to Airbnb. Type in the city you’re heading for to throw up a listing of homes. Next, complete a five-minute video verification before you’re allowed to book. Join the site’s Local Chapter events, such as barbecue outings and pub crawls.
3. WOMEN-ONLY TOURS
How it works: Choose from an array of land tours happening this year and in 2020. Fill up an online booking form and you’re all set to travel with a small group of women from around the world.
BECOMING FRIENDS WITH STRANGERS, DINING WITH THEM AND EXPERIENCING A JOURNEY TOGETHER HAVE BEEN VERY FULFILLING.
– PRAMILA GANYE, AN EDUCATOR WHOHAS MET MANY SOLO WOMEN TRAVELLERS WHILE HITCHHIKING ACROSS EUROPE
Pramila and other solo women travellers who joined her on her trip.
SOLO WOMEN ADVENTURERS: A CAPTIVE MARKET
Indeed, the once-emerging community of women travellers has blossomed into an international sisterhood, proving that this has become a multibillion-dollar market for the global travel industry, thanks to a more affluent and connected society today.
Besides the slew of online travel services tailored to women, developers have been rushing to build more women-only hotels and resorts in recent years to boost tourism in the Middle East, Zurich, Japan, Spain, Bali and Finland, and soon, Kerala will have India’s ﬁrst women-only guest house – Hotel Hostess – a project initiated by the Kerala Tourism Development Corporation.
And solo travelling for women is on the uptrend.
According to a 2019 survey by travel and entertainment portal Culture Trip, which polled 10,500 respondents in Britain and the US, 93 percent of women who have recently travelled alone want to learn new things, while 74 percent want to explore different world views, beliefs and cultures.
And they’re heading to women-friendly destinations, says the 2019 survey by business magazine CEO World, which polled 85,000 solo women travellers and 9,000 travel agents in 82 countries.
Among the favourite destination cities, Malaga came up tops for its food and cultural offerings, and Tokyo for its friendliness towards women travellers.
A positive experience is what solo traveller Pramila Ganye is looking for. She has hitchhiked from Amsterdam to Berlin, and London to Scotland, with an Australian woman traveller she met online.
“Becoming friends with strangers, dining with them, and experiencing a journey together have been very fulﬁlling,” enthuses the 25-year-old Singapore teacher.
WOMEN GUESTS ONLY
We suss out the newest women-only hotels around the world for your next vacation, solo or otherwise.
Bliss Sanctuary for Women, Bali
No children, no couples, and only a handful of women allowed at any one time so they can experience serenity and exclusivity. The newly renovated villa offers five- to seven-day packages that include meals, with unlimited massage and spa treatments, and more.
Supershe Island, Finland
Wake up on an island to the gorgeous view of the Baltic Sea. Start the day with meditation after breakfast and have a facial at the spa right after. Since the luxury resort’s opening last year, this off-the-grid vacation spot has become an oasis for professional women to connect with one another over leisure activities.
Josephine’s Guesthouse, Zurich
It feels more like a cosy home than a three-star hotel. A breakfast buffet is served at a large table every morning for everyone, and there’s an open kitchen and laundry room. The recently spruced-up rooms with minimalist interiors are popular with leisure and business travellers. Lutherstrasse 20, Zurich, Switzerland
Hotel Zen, Tokyo
The latest capsule hotel looks like a craftsman’s workshop on the outside. Inside, expect minimalist wood panelling and traditional motifs. Choose from five types of rooms – each equipped with a lockable box and free Wi-Fi – from single-bed to semi-double-bed ones, and rooms with tatami mats that provide more floor space.
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