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Solo Travel Tips for Women in South America

Solo Travel Tips for Women in South America

Solo Travel Tips for Women in South America

Solo Travel Tips for Women in South America

Women-Friendly Hostels

Solo Travel Tips for Women in South America

Solo Travel Tips for Women in South America

South America offers some of the most exciting and interesting backpacking opportunities in the world, and women choosing to travel solo can certainly do it safely just by taking some basic precautions, staying alert, and learning about cultural differences ahead of time. The people of South America are some of the friendliest and most welcoming in the world, so don’t let alarmists scare you away from your intrepid explorations. Traveling alone here or anywhere is an amazing adventure, but it’s smart to bring a buddy or reputable guide to more remote areas.

Women-Friendly Hostels

Women-Friendly Hostels

One of the most popular gap year and backing destinations in the world, South America is full of super hostels like girl-friendly Capana Copa in Rio de Janeiro, where it’s easy to find new friends and travel buddies. Boasting two roomy female-only dorms and 24-hour security, CapanaCopa borders a gorgeous national park just three blocks from world-famous Copacabana Beach. This brand new hostel is housed in a big, beautifully renovated Colonial house packed with spacious dorms, plentiful bathrooms, chummy indoor and outdoor social areas, free Wi-Fi, and a games room. Chill with new friends over a dinner you’ve whipped up in the spacious communal kitchen, stuff yourself with a free full Brazilian breakfast all the way ‘til 11:00 pm or just snooze on the airy patio. Big lighted mirrors, make-up desks, and hairstyling gadgets mean you’ll look super whether you’re heading out to eco-hike, sample local grub, or pub hop.

Know the Places to Avoid

As in major cities anywhere, it’s smart to find out up-front which areas are unsafe. Get the local low-down on spots to avoid after dark or altogether, bearing in mind that even in the safest areas you need to be alert. Parts of Brazil’s larger cities are dangerous late at night, including the beach areas in Rio. Choose where to go carefully, look into joining a tour group or ask for hostel recommendations for respected local guides. If you’re heading to more remote areas, it’s wise to hook up with a travel buddy, especially if you don’t speak the language.

Male Advances

South America has a traditionally macho, chauvinistic culture, and you’ll likely get some unwelcome male advances. Single female tourists are seen as fair game, so be prepared and play it smart. Dress conservatively, don’t respond to catcalls, avoid making eye contact when you’re uncomfortable, and try to move past quickly. It’s smart to have an imaginary husband on call, and not a bad idea to sport a faux wedding band.


The main threat to single lady travelers is a crime, so try to fit in with the locals. Ditch the minis and plunging necklines and wear low-key attire, don’t hang alone at a bar or sporting event, and try to carry yourself with confidence. If you’re lost, don’t make it obvious by poring over a map on the street; stop into an internet café or restaurant to get your bearings. Always listen to your gut. If you think someone’s following you, wait to let them pass. If you have to be out alone at night, walk on the lighted side of the street or in the middle, and never accept free food or drinks on local transport or on the street.

If You’re Mugged

Restaurants, beaches, and tourist sites are all popular pickpocket locales, so stay alert, leave your backpack at the hostel, and don’t keep a lot of money in your pockets. If you’re mugged in spite of all your precautions, don’t resist. Stay calm and quiet, hand over whatever is required, and leave the scene as fast as possible. It’s not a good idea to scream or otherwise startle an armed thief.


Overall, if you’re short on cash, use the chicken bus rather than hitchhiking; there’s safety in numbers. If you really need to hitchhike, look for women drivers or trucks with an open cab. In a pinch, you can always jump out! When traveling by bus, keep your belongings in locked storage if available; otherwise, keep an eye on them out the window at stops and keep smaller packs with you. Don’t take a taxi cab late at night unless it’s been pre-booked with a reputable firm by your hostel.

Keep Your Belongings Safe

Whether you’re out and about or in your hostel, look out for your belongings. While on the street, keep purse straps on and wedge your pack between your feet in restaurants. In the hostel, use lockboxes if available and bring authenticated copies of documents rather than the originals. Pick a room on a less accessible top floor if you can, and make sure the door’s got a good lock. If not, push a heavy piece of furniture in front of it.


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